Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bob Herbert on Jeremiah Wright

I'm not a huge fan of Bob Herbert. I respect him for his passion and willingness to fight for what he believes in, but he's not the most interesting columnist around - too often I find myself reading his columns and knowing exactly what he's going to say. But sometimes I don't.

Today was one of those days. He has expressed some disappointment with Barack Obama, but would obviously be thrilled if Obama won the presidency. So his criticism is usually from the perspective of a concerned friend. Today, however, his target was Jeremiah Wright, and Herbert was not happy.
The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why — if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks — does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.

Herbert makes it crystal clear that he thinks Wright is acting like a narcissistic fool, preening for the cameras, all at Obama's expense.

This may be one of the benefits of this controversy for Obama - it is going to force African American moderates, like Herbert, to come out of the woodwork and denounce people like Wright. Not that Herbert would be coming out of the woodwork - he's got a fairly strong record to run on. But denouncing Wright will make it clear that Obama is right - it's time to move beyond the polarization left over from the 60's, and there are lots of people like Bob Herbert - deeply aware of and concerned about the legacy of racism in this country - who nonetheless will side with white people and "mainstream America" over a divisive figure like Jeremiah Wright.

Which disagreement might be a new experience for a lot of white people. Too many people see Jeremiah Wright and assume that he does, in fact, speak for the black church. This may be a great opportunity to Obama to make it clear that there are literally millions of people who agree with him, but not Jeremiah Wright, on some very important issues.

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