Barack Obama’s Crazy Pastor
McCain’s not alone, apparently, among our major presidential hopefuls in having associations with religious crazies. By far the hottest story on memeorandum today is an ABC News piece headlined “Obama’s Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11.”
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”
In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.
Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”
Obama’s association with Wright is, one might reasonably conclude, closer and of longer duration than McCain’s with Hagee and Parsley. But I have shrugged off all these stories along with those about Obama’s association with Tony Rezko and McCain’s relationship with Rick Renzi (indeed, I’ve conflated Rezko and Renzi in my mind and had to look them up) for the simple reason that they don’t seem to shed much light on the candidates.
Do any of us believe that Obama or McCain are secretly conspiracy theorists who have repressed a lot of whacky ideas? Or that, even if they actually believed this nonsense, they’d try to enact it into policy? Of course not.
Unfortunately, the process of building a winning national coalition means appealing to some unsavory types. Politicians walk a fine line when accepting endorsements from these people and expecting them to denounce every nutty idea any of their supporters might harbor is asking too much.
That’s not to say that the words of Hagee, Parsley, Wright and others aren’t worth looking into. They’re influentials who voice — and shape — opinions that many Americans have. Understanding that the shared consensus of polite society is not universal is worthwhile and illuminating. But we should stop short of assuming guilt by association.
Alex is in the process of digging into Wright and his relationship with Obama and I’ll be interested to see what he finds. My hunch, though, is that he’ll find that Wright is a whackjob and that Obama regards him as a crazy uncle. (Perhaps he’s related to that crazy aunt Ross Perot kept in the basement?)
UPDATE: Steve Benen quips, “I guess there’s a political upside for Obama: he can’t be a Muslim and a Christian with a radical pastor at the same time.”
Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty takes exception with Wright’s claim regarding Obama “he ain’t white, he ain’t rich, and he ain’t privileged” by pointing out “Obama’s mother was white, the Obamas’ income hit $1.7 million in 2005 and $991,000 in 2006, and he went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School.”