I got to think Barack Obama is checking out a few books, books like Murder in the Cathedral, and Death Comes for the Archbishop. Perhaps he is repeating Henry II's lament, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"*
Or writing his own book. Obama's next roman à clef: "The Audacity of Some People!"
And now, as we prepare to swear in Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president, an invocation from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Rev. Wright:
"God damn America."
I mean "the U.S. of KKK-A."
"What we are doing is the same thing al Qaeda is doing under a different color flag."
"Our government is capable of doing anything."
Each of those is what Jam Master John Nichols in the Progressive Dane blog Tuesday calls "a seemingly offensive phrase." Seemingly?
Nichols uses the passive tense, that fig leaf of rhetoric (mistakes were made) to hide the true actor -- referring to "the controversy that has been generated."
Who needs Sean Hannity when Wright himself storms the lecture circuit for an interview with Bill Moyers, a speech before the NAACP in Detroit and a microphone at the National Press Club in just the last few days. That's a pretty active-voice job of cranking up his own controversy. Al Sharpton must be envious.
All by his lonesome, Wright is making Charlie Gibson's and George Stephanopoulos' conduct at the last Democratic presidential debate Pulitzer worthy (if Pulitzers were awarded for broadcast news). Words matter, especially to so erudite a candidate as Obama. The candidate had already apologized for dissing the belief system of working-class voters for being "bitter" over their economic circumstances and "clinging to guns and religion" as a result.
Neither JFK nor FDR would have been caught dead rolling a gutter ball or knocking back a boilermaker to make amends. But then, they never condescended to the voters nor did they trash the country they aspired to lead. True leaders talk of a new morning in America not an Index of Errors.
When he isn't giving it a Harlem Globetrotter spin, Nichols has been trying to tamp down the Rev. Wright story for the better part of a month. John wrote on March 18: "Pardon us if we think there are bigger issues out there." (That being -- drum roll please: Tibet! Sound of small cymbal crash.)
Fortunately, Barack Obama can source better advice on the Psychic Hotline. In North Carolina Tuesday, the putative front-runner declared "that's enough!" and denounced Tuesday as "appalling" and "ridiculous" the comments Wright has made in just the last few days, alone. (Just think what he might have said about the Nichols column, had he read it.)
In a press conference in North Carolina, Obama said:
"I am outraged by the comments that were made, and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama said.
That's the kill shot, isn't it? "A spectacle." A tie-loosened, lampshade on the head, your-barn-door-is-open, YouTube spectacle.
Obama stumbled in that infamous San Francisco fundraiser but he is not tone deaf about America.
But Wright isn't finished. He will take much of the hardcore, John Nichols/Ward Churchill/Ben Manski net roots of the party with him to that place, like Yassir Arafat, where they are more comfortable: the fringes. These people are big on the God Damn America thing, the two Americas, the us versus them of confrontation, the litany of grievances, the insatiable anger, the insufferable superiority complex.
Don't count Hillary out just yet!
*Credit to Rick Berg for the idea.