Late Monday night, in the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C., Barack Obama’s long, slow fuse burned to an end. Earlier that day he had thumbed through his BlackBerry, reading accounts of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s latest explosive comments on race and America. But his remarks to the press this day had amounted to a shrug of frustration.Yes, there really was something infuriating about Wright's smirks and mannerisms. You could bend over backwards and excuse the text — if you were so inclined — but on the video, it's unmistakable that Wright has contempt for Obama and fully intended to harm him.
Only in this hotel room, confronted with the televised replay of the combustible pastor, did the candidate realize the full import of the remarks, his aides say.
[The] long and painful falling out [was] marked by a degree of mutual incomprehension, friends and aides say. It began at the moment Mr. Obama declared his candidacy, when he abruptly uninvited his pastor from delivering an invocation, injuring the older man’s pride and fueling his anger....Read the whole article. There's too much to excerpt. One key point is that Wright blames David Axelrod:
Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate....
In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”
At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.
[Wright] repeatedly mentioned Mr. Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, saying that while he was expert at promoting black candidates with white voters, he did not know much about relating to the black community.And Powell and Kantor credit (or blame) blogs for keeping the controversy alive:
“They’re spiriting him away from people in the African-American community,” Mr. Wright said, “David doesn’t know the African-American church scene.”
Blogs, and a few print reporters, kept asking questions about Mr. Wright’s politics, his black liberation theology. Snippets of his fiery, soaring sermons began to appear on cable televisions and in blog posts.We learn that that the cruise, which had Wright out-of-touch at the time of Obama's Philadelphia speech, was long planned, not a convenient exile. Wright "returned to find his name a term of opprobrium all across the nation." (Don't cruise ships have TV and newspapers and internet connection? If you were Wright, wouldn't you be monitoring what people were saying about you?)
Mr. Wright... wanted only to explain himself.Not to punish Obama?
His first steps seemed to go well enough, particularly a relatively temperate interview with Bill Moyers on PBS. But at the National Press Club on Monday, Mr. Wright took a few questions, and his scholarly mien fell away.He got high off the crowd somehow. Manic. He thought he was doing fine.
“His initial statement was fine,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in Chicago and a friend of Mr. Wright. “But the questions caused a response from Reverend Wright that I wasn’t expecting.”
Mr. Wright seemed to sense nothing wrong. A friend said he appeared buoyant and relieved afterward.
But a couple hundred miles south, Mr. Obama was soon seething."Soon" is funny. It took him a long time to get mad. But it looks like a very personal kind of mad. It's not so much that Wright's ideas were anti-American and his politics were extremist and left-wing. Obama had to have known that from a 20-year association with the man (unless he only had the association for appearances and political advancement and never really cared what Wright thought). Obama got mad, it seems, because he could see that Wright meant to hurt him and was getting fired up moving for the kill.