Bloggers on Obama's pastor.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 13 2008 6:26 PM

Wright or Wrong

Bloggers respond to a fulminating sermon by Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and also to a new poll that suggests a majority of Americans think the war in Iraq is going well again.

Wright or wrong: Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright—who married the candidate, baptized both of his children, and who serves on his African-American Religious Leadership Committee—was caught on film delivering an inflammatory sermon to his Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Wright said the United States brought the 9/11 attacks on itself through its own "terrorism." And "the government gives [blacks] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America." And, in the most attention-grabbing line, that "Hillary Clinton has never been called a nigger." Obama has likened Wright to a kooky but lovable uncle whose words the family doesn't heed.

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Polimom at the Moderate Voice cuts Obama and Wright some slack but concludes: "I firmly believe that Barack Obama's feelings and views about race are precisely as he's presented them — both on the campaign trail and in his books. However, I also think Obama's going to have to draw very strong, clear distinctions between himself and Jeremiah Wright for the citizens of this country — much more than he's thus far done." "[W]e don't choose our family," writesRoger L. Simon, "but Obama chose this racist demagogue as his pastor for decades. It's not funny. Barack is running for President of the United States." Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute has two questions: "1.  When does Barack work his reconciliation magic on his minister? 2.  Does Barack actually bring his two young daughters to that church to listen to that stuff?"

John Cole at Balloon Juice wants you to know that he doesn't care what preachers think: "Why does anyone give a shit what Obama's minister thinks? Seriously? Why does anyone care what Hagee (McCain's gay-bashing BFF) thinks? They are religious leaders. Who cares what they think- they are paid to peddle mythology to the masses, so who cares what sort of nonsense they spout?"

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo blames Hillary Clinton for the fact that we're seeing stuff like this because it's of a piece with the kind of campaign she's decided to wage. Also, he writes, "I'm not sure there's much in [Wright's sermon] that doesn't come out of the sermon tradition of African-American Christianity with a 60s twist. … Particulars aside, the political relevance is to show Wright as angry black man; and to tie him to Obama." Jim Geraghty at National Review'sCampaign Spot scuppers the Obama camp's damage control, which consisted of its rejection of the kind of "personal attacks" Wright was supposedly peddling: "[N]otice the default setting of the Obama campaign, decrying a "personal attack." But this wasn't a personal attack. Wright didn't denounce any individual personally. He denounced the country. It was a national attack, if anything."

Chris Beam at Slate's own Trailhead submits one theory as to why the Clinton camp has stayed mum on Wright far: "Wright is right. However inflammatory his rhetoric, his basic case against Hillary—that she doesn't understand the American black experience in the way Obama does—is irrefutable. 'Hillary Clinton has never been called a nigger,' he said in one video. And it's something Clinton would rather not draw attention to. While his words were disrespectful, they weren't necessarily wrong."

Read more about Wright's sermon.

Iraq going well? A new Pew poll has come out suggesting that 53 percent of Americans think "the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals" in Iraq. Other upward trends include Americans who think the war is going "very well" or "fairly well." The same day, however, a USA Today/Gallup poll indicates that 60 percent of the population still believes the war to have been a mistake and want a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Abe Greenwald at Commentary's contentions notes: "Here is [Clinton's or Obama's] unenviable task: to tell the American voter that his or her confidence in America's ability to win at last is misplaced; to convince them what we need to do instead is pull our troops out and call for a troop surge in Afghanistan. Even more challenging for the Democrats is that time is not on their side. As recently as September 2007, only 42 percent of Americans believed the U.S. would succeed in Iraq. That number jumped 11 points in five months."

Donklephant asks: "[W]ho benefits the most politically if the situation remains more stablized? Conventional wisdom holds that a less chaotic Iraq would lift the fortunes of John McCain and the Republican party because fewer voters would be demanding American withdrawal. However, greater stability would also give credence to the Democratic position that it's time to begin our departure."

Steve Benan at the Carpetbagger Report sees only mixed messages and confusion in the American perception of Iraq: "Oh my. A majority want to withdraw, but about 20% want an immediate departure, while another 20% want to wait until Iraq is more stable. About 10% see the war as a disaster, but think we'll be stuck there anyway for at least five more years, while another 10% are opposed to the war but have given up thinking about it. Great."

Glenn Greenwald is, predictably, mad as hell: "[W]hat matters even more is that perceptions of 'progress' do not mean that Americans support McCain's position and want to remain in Iraq indefinitely or even until stability is achieved. Polls … have continuously shown that even when American perceive that the 'surge' has decreased violence, they still are against the war as much as ever before and support withdrawal."

Read more about the Pew poll.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.

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