That seems to be a hot topic on talk radio these days, and in my view, the answer is no. At least, there is nothing in his words or deeds to suggest that Obama shares Jeremiah Wright’s extreme views. I still, however, think the story is a completely legitimate campaign issue.
For me, there are several possible conclusions to be drawn from the Rev. Wright fiasco, and none reflect well on Obama. If you take Obama at his word that he was unaware of Wright’s hateful views, it really raises questions about his judgement — how could he know this man and attend his sermons for nearly 20 years without being able to size him up? Another possibility is that he did know that Wright held inflamatory views, but simply looked the other way, which (combined with his relationship with Bill Ayers, the anti-Israel views of his advisors, his sluggishness in criticizing Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas, his eagerness to meet with foreign dictators, etc.) suggest he is overly tolerant of abhorrent behavior. A moral relativist of the worst sort. That is a scary thought for a man who could lead America in the war on terrorism. The other option is that Obama was just doing whatever was politically expedient. He used his membership in the Church to help integrate himself with the black community in the South Side of Chicago, which helped launch his political career, but now that his relationship has damaged him at the national level, he’s decided to distance himself from Rev. Wright. That undercuts the central message of his campaign that he isn’t a typical politician.
There are Obama defenders out there who keep insisting that Wright is not on the ballot, so he shouldn’t be an issue. But once again we get to the heart of the problem with Obama’s candidacy. Because he has such a thin public record that he could point to as evidence of how he might govern, Americans are struggling to take the measure of a man who remains very much a mystery. That’s why controversial personal relationships take on a magnified importance.
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