Barack Obama looked pale and wan at what he called his "big press conference" about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Tuesday afternoon. Numb. Chastened. Defeated. Extolled for his eloquence, Obama stuttered and stammered his way through the question-and-answer session. It appeared he was having an out-of-body experience.
Who knew that the greatest threat to his presidential campaign would come from the preacher who married him, baptized him and prayed with him? Barack Obama should have known. That's who. Take that judgment and shove it on a pretty campaign poster.
"Yes, we can"? Try "Yes, you should have."
For the past 24 hours, Obama's campaign too slowly grappled with how to handle the aftermath of Wright's whirlwind tour of hatred this weekend -- from Dallas, where he decried his "public crucifixion," to Detroit, where he entertained NAACP bigwigs with impersonations of white people, mockeries of classical music and "white" marching bands, and lectures on racial brain theories, to the National Press Club, where he preened, strutted and head-wagged his way through an hour of bitter black liberation theologizing.
At first, Obama downplayed Wright's public appearances. But Obama now tells us he had to wait 24 hours to convene a press conference to denounce Wright's National Press Club speech because he "hadn't seen it." After all this time on the campaign trail, we're back to the Obama-as-clueless-naif narrative again. When he finally did view the Washington speech, Obama explained, he was "shocked" and "outraged" and "saddened" because "the person I saw was not the person that I'd come to know over 20 years."
What a load of pure unadulterated horse manure. Anyone with eyes can see that Wright's performances are finely honed, time-tested acts. His anti-white, anti-American, "imperialist"-bashing shtick was not developed overnight or over the past few years. He's been peddling AIDS conspiracies for decades. He's been grievance-mongering about slavery for decades. He's been flirting with the Nation of Islam, which provided security for his speeches, for decades. He's been a shouting left-wing radical for decades.
Obama's best-selling "Audacity of Hope" is named after the first sermon of Wright's that he heard -- decades ago -- in which the pastor of racial resentment inveighed against an environment "where white folks' greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere." Yet, only now has Obama concluded that Wright's sermons are "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth."
Welcome to the Jive Talk Express.
A reader of mine who is a clergyman e-mailed after Obama's press conference: "As a pastor, I have this take: It is inconceivable that Obama had no knowledge of Wright's views after 20 years as a member of that church. As a pastor, my heart-held, deepest beliefs and passions cannot be silenced. It is what I am. If I were given a microphone at the National Press Club, I would not speak on something that I had guardedly kept secret for most of my life. No, I would go to my main point, the center of my ministry, the core of my passion, to speak truth as I know it to be. How can Obama actually claim that this is news from his pastor? His mailman, butcher or plumber? No problem. His pastor? No way!"
It's not Wright who has changed his loony tune.
It was just last year that Obama was telling the Chicago Tribune that Wright was his sounding board for truth: "What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice. He's much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I'm not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that's involved in national politics."
It was just this March, in his Philadelphia racial reconciliation speech, that Obama was urging us not to dismiss Wright as a "crank or a demagogue" and protesting that he could "no more disown him than I can disown the black community."
Now, realizing how gravely his self-serving association with Wright has wounded his campaign, Obama himself has attempted to do both those things -- and expects the American public to believe him when he weakly and belatedly asserts that "when I say I find [Wright's] statements appalling, I mean it."
As those of us with non-European brains might put it: You be trippin', Barry.