Obama, Wright and judgement

It is difficult not to feel sorry for Barack Obama. The whole Jeremiah Wright thing is a complete nightmare. I doubt that Obama’s late-in-the-day repudiation of his spiritual mentor of 20 years is going to do the trick. Wright will be an issue for the rest of the campaign.

And so he should be. Obama has responded to Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she is the candidate of “experience”, by talking about his superior judgement. But what does it say about his judgement that he chose Reverend Wright as his pastor?

I don’t believe that Obama ever gave credence to Wright’s nuttier theories – such as his flirtation with the idea that AIDS might have been created by the US government as a genocidal weapon against blacks. I doubt that Obama agrees with Wright’s opinion that Louis Farrakhan is one of the great figures of 20th century history.

No, I think the “judgement” that Obama made was much more colder and more rational than that. One of his advisers once suggested to me that when Obama was looking to build a career in Chicago politics, it made sense for him to associate himself with the Rev. Wright. Someone with Obama’s middle-class and elite credentials might otherwise have struggled to build a political base in black Chicago.

That is the most plausible explanation I’ve heard for Obama’s long dalliance with Jeremiah Wright. It is understandable enough. But it is a rather calculating act for a man who claims to represent a new sort of politics. And the calculation looks rather less shrewd, now that he has made the transition to national politics

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