Looking for Mr. Wright

Jonah Goldberg

4/30/2008 8:53:52 AM - Jonah Goldberg

God bless the Rev. Jeremiah Wright!

After Barack Obama gave his big race speech in mid-March, many critics noted that the Illinois senator had thrown his own grandmother under the bus to defend his controversial pastor. Well, Wright proved over the last few days that he would not be outdone. He not only threw Obama under the bus, he chucked much of the liberal and mainstream media under there with him. If this keeps up, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in "Jaws," he's gonna need a bigger bus.

For six weeks, Obama's supporters have diligently argued that to so much as mention Wright is, in effect, racist. When Hillary Clinton said that Wright wouldn't have been her pastor, Andrew Sullivan gasped on his Atlantic blog that this was "a new low" in the election. When Lanny J. Davis, Clinton's consummate spinner, defended her on CNN by describing what Wright actually said, Anderson Cooper lambasted Davis for daring to repeat Wright's comments. Time's Joe Klein chimed in, "You're spreading the poison right now."

Obama and his defenders have insisted that the bits from Wright's sermons that got wide circulation last month had been taken out of context. His infamous sound bites were grounded in concrete theological or factual foundations, they claim. He was quoting other people. He's done good things. Nothing to see here, folks.

And so God bless Wright because he's left all of these folks holding a giant, steaming bag of ... well, let's just call it a bag of "context."

Let's start with the news out of his speeches Sunday and Monday: Wright, Obama's mentor and former pastor, is worse than we thought. He's a bigot, at least by the standards usually reserved for white people such as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers or "The Bell Curve" co-author Charles Murray.

Sunday in Detroit, Wright explained to 10,000 people at the Fight for Freedom Fund dinner of the NAACP - an organization adept at taking offense to far less racist comments from non-blacks - that black and white brains are simply wired differently. Whites are "left-brain cognitive" while blacks are "right-brain" oriented. Each has "different ways of learning." One wonders why Wright opposes separate-but-equal education.

CNN carried the speech live, and anchor Soledad O'Brien reported from the scene that it was "a home run."

Then, Monday morning at the National Press Club, Wright attempted to clear the air about all of the supposedly deceptive sound bites he's been reduced to.

So, does he stand by his "God damn America" statement?

Well, yeah. He explained that until American leaders apologize to Japan for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as to black Americans for slavery and racism, we will remain a damnable nation.

What about that bit about America's chickens coming home to roost on 9/11? Yep, we heard him right. "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you; those are biblical principles," he explained.

Asked whether he stood by his assertion that the U.S. government created HIV as part of a genocidal program to wipe out the black race, Wright mostly dodged but ultimately offered this nondenial denial: "I believe our government is capable of doing anything." He also offered a zesty defense of Louis Farrakhan - "one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century" - and dismissed criticism of Farrakhan as an anti-Semite.

To cap it off, Wright threw Obama under the bus. First, the pastor explained, Obama himself had taken Wright out of context. Moreover, Obama neither denounced nor distanced himself from Wright. And, besides, anything that Obama says on such matters is just stuff "politicians say." They "do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls." So much for Obama's new politics.

On Friday, Wright appeared on Bill Moyers' PBS show, in which Moyers all but shouted "Amen!" every time Wright took a breath. The impression viewers were supposed to take away: Wright is on the side of the angels, not like those Swift-boating crazies at Fox News.

But then Obama himself told "Fox News Sunday" that he considers Wright fair game - as long as you don't quote him out of context.

It's a deal.

Wright is every bit as radical as his detractors claimed and explodes Obama's messianic rhetoric about standing foursquare against divisiveness. But, on Tuesday, Obama denounced Wright for repeating what the pastor had been saying all along, bolstering critics and diminishing himself even more. Which is why that chorus you hear rising up from the John McCain and Clinton campaigns sounds an awful lot like this: "God damn Jeremiah Wright? No, no, no: God bless Jeremiah Wright!"