Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Wright Stuff

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: Oil is selling at $112 a barrel, food prices and inflation are on the rise because of oil, we’re five years and counting into a quagmire in Iraq with over 4,000 dead Americans, Wal-Mart is hoarding rice, schools are crumbling as states like Florida cut funding to education to balance their budgets, foreclosures are the biggest thing in the housing market, and the biggest story in the news is what Barack Obama’s former pastor said at the National Press Club lunch yesterday.

What is wrong with this picture?

Actually, this is no surprise whatsoever. Our political campaigns long ago forfeited any pretense of sober and civil discourse for the loud and outrageous long ago, and this fifteen minutes of diversion into indulging the narcissism of Rev. Wright is just another episode. Next week someone else will do something equally as silly and once again the pundits will flap and chatter like a flock of startled pigeons. Given the short attention span of the media and the blogosphere, six months from now Rev. Wright will, with any luck, be a footnote. (Just to refresh your memory, six months ago we were all talking about Graeme Frost. Who?)

As for what Sen. Obama can do about Rev. Wright, the question should be what more can he do? He’s already denounced and rejected his statements, both on his own and under duress during a debate. He did his best to make it clear that Rev. Wright does not speak for him, he is not a part of his campaign, he has never sought out his endorsement, and doesn’t want it now. Other than tar and feather the good reverend on Deal or No Deal, what’s left?

And no matter what Mr. Obama says, on top of what he’s already said yesterday and the day before and last month and the month before that, it won’t be good enough for some people, especially those who are in no position to render judgment on someone for being connected with an overzealous preacher. That’s the other component of this orgy of distraction: get the ones who most vividly demonstrate hypocrisy in all its glory to be the biggest mouths denouncing Rev. Wright, Sen. Obama, and do it on Hardball so you can interrupt everyone and make it all about your self-righteous outrage. Be the guy who carries on about flag lapel pins while not wearing one yourself. Be the jowl-shaking denouncer of elitism while wearing your Harvard tie. Tell the world that Barack Obama, a former community organizer in south Chicago, doesn’t understand poor people, and do it from the ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, where a night will run you $400 if you’re lucky.

This is going to be a test for Sen. Obama; if he can get through this kind of clownishness without losing it, he will have earned whatever prize is at the end of the trail.