Wrong Place For Wright Time

Obama's embarrassing Rev. returns

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In a classic case of horrible timing, the most embarrassing skeleton in Barack Obama's closet popped back into the news on Wednesday -- the same day as the fatal attack on the DC Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Obama's long-time pastor and the producer of many an inflammatory speech -- didn't exactly disappoint anyone looking for a controversial statement. 

To be exact, in answering a reporter's question as to whether he still spoke with President Obama, Wright horrified:

"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me," Wright said. "I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office. ...

"They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. ... I said from the beginning: He's a politician; I'm a pastor. He's got to do what politicians do."

Wright also said Obama should have sent a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not for fear of offending Jews and Israel. He specifically cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

"Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don't want Barack talking like that because that's anti-Israel," Wright said.

Even worse, Wright uttered these comments at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference -- a place for supposed spiritual reflection and discussion. Wright apologized today, saying in a statement that he "misspoke."

"I apologize to the Jewish community and all others who were offended by the way in which I framed my comments," the Reverend said.

Wright's history of earlier racist and anti-American speech either "inspired" or "forced" (depending on one's partisan and charitable perspective) Obama's historic speech on race. While the Philadelphia-delivered speech didn't win him the Pennsylvania primary, it was well-received enough to calm the concerns of many middle-of-the-road white voters. In the carefully nuanced address, Obama denounced Wright's comments.

A subsequent Wright appearance at the National Press Club where he launched more extreme invective was enough for Obama to renounce Wright permanently -- and leave Trinity United Church of Christ, his worshiping home for 20 years. Wright is correct that political reality makes it impossible for Obama to embrace him in any meaningful way. 

But, it's also the case that common decency precludes Obama giving Wright much of another chance to renew their relationship. They now live in very different worlds.

The sad irony  of these divisive words appearing mere hours before the DC shooting is that while Wright sounded much like James von Brunn, the accused white supremacist shooter at the Holocaust Memorial.  The man who ended up sacrificing his own life -- possibly saving many others in the process -- was a black security guard by the name of Stephen Tyrone Johns.  Unlike Wright, Johns didn't abuse his position to make ugly comments about Jews. Instead, he went about doing his job to protect all those who entered the museum -- be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, black, white, Asian or any other combination.  

Wright's one-time protege has taken an oath to defend the Constitution without respect to the religious, racial and ethnic variations in the country which that Constitution rules.  Let's pray that he remains as faithful to his job as Steven Tyrone Johns was to his.     

 Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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