Rev. Wright’s October Surprise?
Barack Obama’s one-time pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has a new book coming out in October, along with a national tour to promote it. The Spectator’s James Forsyth thinks this is “a huge problem for Obama.”
It means that the whole controversy over Wright’s racialist sermons and his friendship with Obama is going to be returning to the news agenda just as undecided voters begin to make up their minds.
Wright’s performance at the National Press Club back in April showed that Wright revels in the national spotlight and doesn’t care if his performances hurt Obama. If the Obama campaign and mutual friends of the two men couldn’t rein Wright in then, they have little hope of doing so in October considering that following Wright’s National Press Club performance Obama said that Wright’s views ‘rightly offend all Americans, and should be denounced’.
John Heileman, author of a long feature on “The Color-Coded Campaign” for New York magazine, goes further:
How Obama handles that moment may determine whether he becomes the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
For many Democrats, Obama’s eventual residence there has long seemed a foregone conclusion. But cast your mind forward twenty years and imagine looking back on this election. Would it really seem strange from that vantage point if the first black major-party nominee—a guy with a thin résumé, no foreign-policy credentials in an era scarred by terrorism, a background alien to much of Wonder Bread America, and the full name Barack Hussein Obama—lost? No, it would seem inevitable. That Obama has convinced us that the opposite outcome is even possible is testament to his many gifts. The next three months will show whether they include a talent that would serve him very well in the Oval Office: the ability to conduct a necessary, indeed vital, conversation that no one really wants to have.
The trouble with all this is that it’s not as if the Wright controversy or the broader question of race are just emerging. Obama has already weathered those storms once in defeating Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite with every conceivable advantage, for the Democratic nomination. He’s really deft at handling the issue. Further, race is a dual-edged sword. The Republicans have to go out of their way to avoid even the hint of using Obama’s against him.
To be sure, Obama would very much prefer not to have Wright, a loose cannon, getting attention in the month leading up to the election. But it remains his election to lose.
UPDATE: Essence magazine’s Roland Martin has Wright’s daughter emphatically denying that he has a new book coming out.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite via Houston Chronicle