Was Clinton Behind Jeremiah Wright’s Resurface?

I knew something about this didn’t smell right. Initially, watching Reverend Jeremiah Wright on PBS was really useful and informative, and then seeing him in front of the National Press Club was, well, interesting.

I actually very much appreciated his opening (and scripted) remarks. But as the Q&A went on, I had to wonder, WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING? AND WHY NOW?

I know it must have been hard for Wright, or anyone, to be publicly thrashed the way he was in the media over the last month or so. I understand it must have been hard to listen to someone you helped acclimate himself to Chicago, baptized their children and preside over their wedding, to distance themselves from you in order to appeal to white voters. I also agree with Wright’s notion that the media attack on him was less about him per se, or Obama really, but was really about white America’s continued fear and anxiety that Black people really can’t stand them–and that the Black church, even after the Civil Rights Movement was long destroyed, still can be a place to radicalize Black people! And they really ain’t tryin to have no President who has anything to do with Black “radical-ism”.

In any case, Wright really seemed to be doing more than responding to his critics yesterday. He seemed to be both mocking the “press” and all its fakery of objectivity and fairness, and by extension, mocking the people who have tried to paint him into the box of the angry (and foolish) black preacher. But his mockery, in many ways, seemed to re-inscribe himself into that very box he seemed to want to move out of. He seemed to be caught up in the celebrity that the moment has given him, and less like someone who was really trying to redeem his reputation or that of his church, or the Black Church as a whole.

I am not arguing for a bourgie politics of respectability. I am not saying he should back away from his statements about the US, 9-11, HIV or anything of the sort (though in some places I wish he had more factual information and data to back up or re-frame his messaging in these issues). I am saying he has to know that the way he came off was cocky and at moments buffoonish– and really did very little to salvage his reputation of that of the Black church.

What’s interesting though, whether you believe he was trying to protect himself and the Black church, or that he was caught up in the moment or the idea of his own bravado and celebrity, he might have been a pawn in a political game, and did not see it coming.

Daily News columnist Errol Louis seems to suggest that Wright may have been set up by a Clinton supporter, who was the person who asked him to speak at this press conference. Errol writes:

Shortly before he rose to deliver his rambling, angry, sarcastic remarks at the National Press Club Monday, Wright sat next to, and chatted with, Barbara Reynolds.

A former editorial board member at USA Today, she runs something called Reynolds News Services and teaches ministry at the Howard University School of Divinity. (She is an ordained minister).

It also turns out that Reynolds – introduced Monday as a member of the National Press Club “who organized” the event – is an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a blog linked to her Web site- www.reynoldsnews.com– Reynolds said in a February post: “My vote for Hillary in the Maryland primary was my way of saying thank you” to Clinton and her husband for the successes of Bill Clinton‘s presidency.

If it turns out that Wright was set up, and this was a ploy to cost Obama the nomination, I wonder how Wright will reconcile this with himself.

Or worse even, as NYTimes columnist Bob Herbert expresses, was this Wright’s way to get back at Obama?

White Catholic Priest Gets Fox News Together

I enjoy nothing more than when I can step out of the way, and let the whites get other white people together. Case in point: A Fox News reporter thought they were going to sneak attack Father Michael Pfleger, a Chicago-based Catholic priest, about his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Well, that reporter  was shut down. I have to say it is quite enjoyable when I don’t have to intervene, and I can put my feet up and let’s the white duke it out.  (If you missed Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s interview with Bill Moyers, it is definitely worth watching.) Enjoy!

Rev. Jeremiah Wright & Obama Worked this Out A Year Ago

Because of a church news bulletin that re-surfaced from over one year ago, it appears that Barack Obama and his Pastor Jeremiah Wright had already negotiated the terms of his non-involvement in the Obama campaign.

Rev. Wright had published an open letter in the March 18, 2007 church bulletin to NY Times reporter Jodi Kantor as a response to her hit-job story on March 6, 2007 about Obama and Wright’s relationship. Her story leads with

“The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., senior pastor of the popular Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and spiritual mentor to Senator Barack Obama, thought he knew what he would be doing on Feb. 10, the day of Senator Obama’s presidential announcement.

After all, back in January, Mr. Obama had asked Mr. Wright if he would begin the event by delivering a public invocation.

But Mr. Wright said Mr. Obama called him the night before the Feb. 10 announcement and rescinded the invitation to give the invocation.

“Fifteen minutes before Shabbos I get a call from Barack,” Mr. Wright said in an interview on Monday, recalling that he was at an interfaith conference at the time. “One of his members had talked him into uninviting me,” Mr. Wright said, referring to Mr. Obama’s campaign advisers.”

That was one year ago, mind you. Rev. Wright’s letter to Kantor exposed what he thought was problematic about her initial story:

March 11, 2008Jodi Kantor
The New York Times
9 West 43rd Street
New York,
New York 10036-3959

Dear Jodi:

Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a “Spiritual Biography” of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.

I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn’t I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.

I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not just “in word only.” I talked about Barack being a person who lived his faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to hell if they did not believe what he believed.

Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack’s spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that. When I told you, using one of your own Jewish stories from the Hebrew Bible as to how God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?,” that Barack was like that when I met him. Barack had it “in his hand.” Barack had in his grasp a uniqueness in terms of his spiritual development that one is hard put to find in the 21st century, and you did not print that.

As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack’s taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed “sound byte” and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.

I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation’s first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.

Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama’s “Spiritual Biography.” Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of “Hannity and Colmes” is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.

The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or “spin” because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.

Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party’s national “blog.” The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.

Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Senior Pastor
Trinity United Church of Christ

So since Obama and Wright had seemed to work this out over a year ago it begs the question, how did this become “news” in the first place?

Moreover, this is one of the problems with journalism. You don’t have to allow your sources to approve the story you’ve written, but I think it is really unfair to ambush people. It’s happened to me (as recently as this year) and I never appreciate it. It’s fair to be honest about the story you’re writing, and your story should have some context–so taking Wright’s one quote about being disinvited without telling giving additional context was not only unfair, but disingenuous.

Obama Takes On The Race Issue

Today, Barack Obama did what he had avoided doing this entire campaign–take on the issue of race and racism in America. And if you ask me, I think he won.

I thought this was one of the best speeches of his career, and one of the most nuanced speeches on racism of any Presidential candidate with perhaps the exception of Shirley Chisolm. I think one people will be critiquing and debating for years to come.

One of the major things about this speech is that he doesn’t sell his pastor (Jeremiah Wright) out. He explains where he emphatically denounces some of his statements but he puts Wright squarely in the context of racism in America, and he doesn’t let white America off the hook.

He addresses the deep-seated white anger and resentment not only towards him, but Black people who harbor any anger towards Black people for still being angry about racism and white supremacy. I need to watch it again to give a more full analysis, but watch it for yourselves (or read the full text here). I totally welcome your thoughts (Huffington Post is keeping a running tab on the thoughts of the major blogs). NPR’s News and Notes also ran pretty interesting commentary, here.

What was Senator Clinton doing during Obama’s speech? Pop Gumbo explains it!