Political Hay

Wright’s Revelation: Obama Is Just a Politician

The problem then becomes: Did Obama lie to Wright, or to the American people?

By 5.1.08

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In the tradition of Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright portrays himself a man who defies the white establishment by speaking truth to power, to use that old left-wing cliche. His political strength -- and his game is entirely political -- is bound up in his daring, his bravado, his swagger and anger and self-proclaimed truth-telling. And so it was on Tuesday, before a political audience at the National Press Club in Washington rather than before his congregation in Chicago, that he told the boldest, most consequential truth of his career. His former congregant, the man who rose from obscurity to become the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in only four years, is, Wright said several times, "a politician."

Tell it, brother.

Referring to Obama having distanced himself from Wright, the pastor said, "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls."

"He didn't distance himself," Wright explained. "He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American."

Wright said that he and some of his friends understand that in his Philadelphia speech Obama was deceiving the American people.

He explained, "several of my white friends and several of my white, Jewish friends have written me and said to me. They've said, 'You're a Christian. You understand forgiveness. We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.'"

Right there, Wright exposed Obama as a fraud. Wright might or might not know Obama's heart that well. But that characterization is consistent with an earlier Wright statement in which he explained that Obama had called him and told him that, for political reasons, Obama might have to create some distance between the two of them.

Here is the fun part. If Wright is telling the truth, then Obama has lied to the American people about his relationship with Wright. If Wright is not telling the truth, then Obama lied to Wright. Either way, Obama lied for political gain.

And that is why Wright is so damaging to Obama. It is not because of the specific content of Wright's crackpot beliefs. It is because Wright has revealed Obama to be not the savior of mankind, but another politician who, like all the rest, says what he thinks people want to hear so that they will vote for him.

THERE IS, PROBABLY, a beautiful irony at work here. Most likely, Obama joined Wright's church two decades ago for political rather than spiritual reasons. There is a reason politicians and businessmen tend to belong to the biggest churches in town, not the smallest ones. The networking opportunities are fantastic. Based on what you know about Barack Obama and what you know about Jeremiah Wright, does it make any sense that Obama would join Wright's church? The two profess entirely different worldviews and have entirely different visions of faith, community, unity, and politics.

That Obama would join Wright's church because of the message Wright preaches makes no sense. But that Obama, an ambitious young political hopeful, would join Wright's church to make the connections he would need to get elected one day, that makes perfect sense.

And so what was most likely a purely political decision 20 years ago is coming back to haunt the politician whose political career that decision helped launch. A marriage of convenience has become an intolerable inconvenience. Which has led to, as political marriages of convenience so often do, a divorce.

When Obama denounced Wright while campaigning in Winston-Salem, N.C., he denounced his former pastor for the exact same comments that drew only a soft distancing and a rationalization before, with a few new ones thrown in. At least, they were new to the rest of the world. Could they possibly have been new to Obama? Highly doubtful.

Not only has Obama lied to either Wright or us, but he also lied in his previous characterizations of Wright's beliefs. He suggested that they were the basis of Wright's having grown up under segregation. He said they were simply stupid statements taken out of context and not representative of Wright's true beliefs. Now we see that they are his true beliefs, and they are extremely radical and hardly representative of black Americans of Wright's age.

Obama's excuse was like Bill Clinton's explanation of Hillary's sniper fire comments. Oh, she was just tired after a long day. Oh, Rev. Wright was just taken out of context. No, both statements were repeated and were indicative of the people who uttered them.

That Obama could have been so close to Wright for two decades without having discovered that his friend and pastor held such outrageous beliefs is incredible. That is, it literally is not credible.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT HAS DONE Barack Obama great damage. He has exposed him as yet another lying politician. It isn't that others have not done so before. I reported after seeing my very first Obama campaign event in New Hampshire more than a year ago that Obama was untruthful. Others have reported Obama's spin and misleading statements in the past year. But most of us were conservative and white, and so we made no impact.

Now Obama's own former pastor of two decades has acknowledged, then reiterated in case we didn't get it the first few times, that Obama is a politician who lies to people in hope of getting their votes.

I am not an expert on the black church, but I believe the proper response to Rev. Wright's revelation is, "Amen."

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.