The Wright Comeback Tour

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 29, 2008; 8:54 AM

Jeremiah Wright's complaint -- and Barack Obama's as well -- has been that the media have been distorting the reverend's message through sound-bite snippets and missing the full context.

The more I hear the full context, the more I think the Illinois senator has a growing problem.

For one thing, Wright seems to be savoring the limelight -- Moyers on Friday, the NAACP on Sunday, the National Press Club yesterday -- meaning that the cablers and the pundits are debating black liberation theology, not Obama's jobs plan.

In yesterday's appearance, Wright demonstrated that he is smart, well-read, funny at times and a master rhetorician. But once he got to the journalists' questions, he came off as smug and arrogant. He repeatedly demanded to know whether the questioner had read such-and-such and to suggest that the queries were ill-informed or dumb.

As for context, Bill Moyers played a long clip from the post-9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" sermon. Wright said that America had taken its land by terror from the Indians; had enslaved Africans; had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki (weren't we in a death struggle with Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor?); had bombed Iraq, Sudan and Panama; and had backed state-supported terrorism against the Palestinians.

Moyers's question after this diatribe: "When people saw the sound bites from it this year, they thought you were blaming America. Did you somehow fail to communicate?"

Thought he was blaming America? Where did anyone get that idea?

"You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you," Wright said yesterday. For good measure, he also defended Louis Farrakhan.

I sure wish Moyers had found time during his hour to ask Wright why he's pushing the lie that the government created the AIDS virus to kill blacks.

Wright is obviously entitled to defend himself. But I have the distinct impression that he doesn't care whether he ruins his former parishioner's chances of winning the White House.

Which raises this question: Why does Obama keep carefully calibrating his answers about the man? He said yesterday that Wright doesn't speak for him. He said the other day that some of Wright's comments were "objectionable." Every word is so measured. Will there come a point where the senator will have to go beyond this balancing act and cut the reverend loose?

"The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery sermons as Democrat Barack Obama's former pastor set off a political firestorm last month, told reporters yesterday that he has been 'crucified' by the media and that attacks on him are really slams on the black church," the Los Angeles Times says.


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