The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.This is carefully phrased. He does not say he saw something new yesterday or how big a difference there was between yesterday's Jeremiah and the Jeremiah of the last few years. But you're meant to think that he suddenly faced new facts, so that there is no concession of bad judgment earlier.
Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before.See how precisely he's implying that he always made correct judgments on the facts he had at the time? (Presidents need to do this, by the way. Ironically, it reminds me of the way President Bush has justified his decisions on the Iraq war.)
I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people.... And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage, for three or four consecutive days, in the midst of this major debate, is something that not only makes me angry but also saddens me.Oh, how I wish I could have heard the way that feeling was expressed behind closed doors! What an outrageous betrayal Obama experienced! And I would love to have heard Wright's thoughts as he decided to wreak havoc on his protege.
Surely, we'll have a movie someday that will flesh all this out. Jeremiah and Barack. In my screenplay, Jeremiah the main character. He's the one with the fire and the complex problems and emotions, the jealousy that turns him to villainous betrayal.
Back to the transcript, we're up to the Q&A:
Q: Why the change of tone from yesterday? When you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday, you didn't have this sense of anger, outrage --Watch for a politician's verbal tics. I'll be honest with you. Let me make one thing perfectly clear.
SEN. OBAMA: Yeah. I'll be honest with you: because I hadn't seen it yet.
Q: Had you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?That — that — that.... What sets a man to stuttering? Here I must choose my words carefully. What might he have said that he needed to shape his words not to say? Look at sentences that follow the stutter. Obama is saying that his campaign is framed around carefully composed ideas about bringing people together, and those ideas conflicted with Wright's racialized "world view." Obama is not saying here that the racial critique is untenable only that it is not what he has chosen to present in his campaign rhetoric.
SEN. OBAMA: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance. And I thought at the time that it would be sufficient simply to reiterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a -- it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that -- that -- that contradicts who I am and what I stand for. And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that -- that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the -- the commonality in all people.
But it's not mere political posturing, and he's mad at Wright for saying it is. Now, why exactly is it not political posturing? Obama does not say that the racial critique of what's wrong with America is false. He hasn't said that. He's said that he's the kind of person who desires national unity — it's in his DNA! — and racial critique must be edited out to achieve that effect.
And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan has -- has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs.See what I mean? These ideas are not helpful to his agenda. Notice that he does not say that Farrakhan has been an odious voice or even that he's not a great voice, only that the idea of Farrakhan's greatness is not helpful to the country and is not an element that fits the Obama political persona.
Obama makes this point again in a long answer to another question:
You know, after seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard, for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems.Wright has intruded himself on the American public to say the things that Obama believes are not useful to be saying now. In my screenplay, which would give Wright center stage, Wright is a wounded and outraged egomaniac, but he also has righteous anger against the young man who wants to suppress racial critique and who has won favor from white people because of that.
You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together.
And that's what we've been doing in this campaign. And, you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him What mattered was him commanding center stage.
I don't think that he showed much concern for me. I don't -- more importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people.Oh, he's concerned for you. He just hates what you are doing.
And obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.That boldfaced line is something he did not say in his prepared remarks, as noted above.
[W]hat I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America -- of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part and we're all a part -- and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that -- that aren't grounded in truth, and you know, I can't construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the -- you know, people do all sorts of things.Now, he is combining a rejection of the racial critique with the insight that it is not helpful to his campaign. And "a bunch of rants" is a harsh insult to Wright, as Obama tries to package him away as a senile old man.
Now, here's an excellent set of questions:
Q: Reverend Wright said that it was not an attack on him but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that?Cop out. If he can't understand a black liberation sermon, how can it be preached? He's grasping at the word "theology" to distance himself from the very serious question.
And second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, you explained something about the anger, that feeds some of the sentiments in the church, in Philadelphia.
How important a strain is liberation theology in the black church? And why did you choose to attend a church that preached that?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, in terms of liberation theology, I'm not a theologian. So I think to some theologians, there might be some well-worked-out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation-theology.
I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I heard, and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches, there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness -- a social gospel.Okay. He's saying that whatever "black liberation theology" is, he and other parishioners hear it as a call to action for social justice.
So I think a lot of people would rather, rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel. And that -- there's nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King obviously was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching.Well put. The question is refocused on what Obama's politics are — and whether they are too left wing for Americans.
But you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn't see this as a member of the church but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed, that you lose sight of what we have in common; that it overrides everything else; that we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens. Then it doesn't describe properly what I believe, in the power of faith, to overcome but also to bring people together.Excellent! Back to his original theme. People who like to say he's terrible when he's off script should study this passage.
The last question:
Q: You talked about giving the benefit of the doubt before -- mostly, I guess, in the Philadelphia speech, trying to create something positive about that. Did you consult with him before the speech or talk to him after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction -- (off mike) --Aw, come on. I've never been on a cruise, but they get telephone reception, don't they? And why was he on a cruise in the first place? Too bad for Obama it wasn't a longer cruise.
SEN. OBAMA: You know, I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. Wasn't able to reach him because he was on a -- he was on a cruise.
Screenplay notes: What happened on that cruise? There is Wright is sitting on his deck chair, pondering his passivity. He's been put out in the middle of the ocean's nothingness, and back home, there's this upstart who's swathing America in comforting nothingness.... He must go back! He must speak! Suddenly, he's running from one end of the ship to the other. Wait. No. That's "Titanic."