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article imageDid Obama Go Far Enough In His Speech To Stop The Damage Wright Has Caused?

By Susan Duclos     Mar 18, 2008 in Politics
The recent firestorm that ensued after certain comments were published from Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years, forced Obama to step up and give a speech today.
Video of Jeremiah Wright's controversial comments can be found here.
The speech was given at the Philadelphia's National Constitution Center and the transcript of the whole speech can be found here.
Obama's speech will, of course, be seen differently from a variety of people, die hard Obama supporters will see that he denounced specific comments made by his Pastor, moderates and independents might be left with some additional questions about his rationalizations almost excusing the more controversial aspects of the Pastor's "God Damn America" rantings, and the Republicans and conservatives will have definite ammunition to use against Obama if he ends up being the Democratic nominee of choice to run for presidency of the United States.
What Obama supporters will take to heart regarding the specific controversial remarks.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
What is already being called rationalization, that might give moderate Democrats and independents pause..
Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The portion that will give conservatives talking points against Obama.
For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
There is much, much more to the speech and should be read in full.
The take aways from these portions of the speech, for Obama supporters, will be that he did denounce specific comments.
Moderates and independents, who have only seen those snippets of Wright's speeches and do not know Wright separate from what has been plastered in every newspaper and throughout the world wide web, over the last week, will see Obama rationalizing and excusing Wright's behavior and words.
Conservatives will see that Obama admits to having heard divisive and controversial comments and political views he claims are not representative of his own views and yet he continued to have a close association with him, even stating in this speech, "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children."
The question that remains is, did Obama go far enough in this speech to stop the damage that has been recently reported where 56 perecent said that Wright's comments, "made them less likely to vote for Obama."
If conservatives were the ones polled there, that figure would not matter much at all because conservatives would not be voting for Obama in the general election anyway.... but 44 percent of Democratic voters were included in that figure.
Since 66 percent said they have seen, read of heard about Wright's comments, the takeaways from this speech of Obama's will be significant in scope, and time will tell if he went far enough in denouncing Wright or if the rationalizations will continue to damage him in the polls.
A very curious theme is developing in the blogosphere from those talking about this speech from Barack Obama.
All sides of the issue are happy with his speech, for different reasons.
Obama supporters are happy he denounced the specific Wright's comments and philosophy, Clinton supporters are happy that he rationalized and excused the man while only denouncing the rhetoric, giving them the opportunity to accuse him of "tap dancing", and McCain supporters are happy because they feel he opened himself up for criticism by trying to distance himself in a non distancing way and giving a "non-apology apology".
Very rarely, if ever, has one politician made a speech that gave all sides of the political spectrum something to use to their advantage.
After reading the whole speech, do you think Obama went far enough in denouncing just the comments but not the man?
[Update] -37 minute video of the speech can be found at Obama's site, here, and I will add the YouTube video of it below in the comment section.
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