Is the Media Overdoing the <em>"Divorce"</em> Metaphor?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Apr 30, 2008 3:10 PM
A friend of mine makes a good point:  If you look at the transcript from yesterday Barack Obama never technically disowned Rev. Wright.
 
Headlines and pundits note that Obama "divorced" Wright, but that's not really true, either.  I'm not even sure he "threw him under the bus".
 
Quoting Obama from yesterday:  "I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this."
 
As my friend notes, he didn't actually say the relationship was "severed" ... he said it's "changed."
 
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love." [Speech, 3/18/08]

Narratives are funny things; once a catchy idea gets advanced, true or not, it often becomes part of the collective conscience.  I call this the "Bill Buckner" theory of political narratives.  As you may recall, Buckner gets blamed for costing the Red Sox the 1986 World Series against the Mets.  Of course, this is far from the truth (even if you buy the argument that he cost them the game -- which is questionable -- the Mets had to beat them the next night, too).  Still, everyone thinks that Buckner cost them the World Series -- and that's all that matters.

A lot of people think John McCain said "100 years war," too -- that's the danger. 

If something is simple and catchy, it's likely to catch on.  "Obama divorced Wright" can fit on  a bumper sticker.   So can "100 years war."  That's the problem.

My guess is that a lot of Americans think Obama was tougher on Wright than he really was.  It'll take a few more days of the media saying Obama "divorced" Wright before someone comes along and corrects the narrative ...