24 April 2008

Rev. Wright's Wrongs, Revisited

Jeremiah Wright has given an interview to Bill Moyers, who will broadcast it on PBS tomorrow night. Excerpts have been released to the news media, and ABC has one of the better collections of excerpts. As might be expected, the minister claims that the controversial sound bites have been taken out of context. In the interview, he attempts to re-establish the context.

"When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public," Wright says, "that's not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from the New York Times called me, a 'wackadoodle.'
"It's to paint me as something: 'Something's wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with this country…for its policies. We're perfect. Our hands are free. Our hands have no blood on them,'" Wright says. "That's not a failure to communicate. The message that is being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate."
And what does Wright think "they" wanted to communicate?
"That I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ," Wright says. "And by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That's what they wanted to communicate."

This seems correct to me, but if that represents the whole of what he has to say on the subject, he'll leave a lot of people unsatisfied. For many critics, the issue is not his general characterization of American history, but specific charges which the critics consider delusional if not outright lies. It will be interesting to see if Moyers will raise the specific issues of AIDS and crack with Wright, and more interesting to see how the minister responds outside the safety zone of his pulpit.

Meanwhile, Senator McCain continues his (perhaps conveniently) futile struggle with rogue elements in his own party who wish to slander Senator Obama by association with Wright. McCain plays the good cop by condemning the advertising, but since he has no power whatsoever to stop this particular group from doing as they please, their campaign continues with added publicity thanks to McCain's condemnations. I think that on some level the Arizonan is trying to do the right thing, if perhaps only because he fears reciprocal attacks due to his ambivalent association with John Hagee. I'm also fairly certain that McCain recognizes that the risk involved in assuming the rhetorical high ground is minimal, so let's not give him too much credit this time.

By the way, check out the discussion thread at the bottom of the ABC site. It's a raw feed of the twisted political and cultural consciousness of a nation and will prove appalling or amusing, depending on your vantage point.
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Update: 10:15 p.m. A sample of the prime-time talking head shows on cable news yields an early consensus that Wright is, intentionally or not, throwing Obama under the archetypical bus. What remains unclear is his presumed motive. Is he unconsciously undermining the senator by suggesting, in his comment that Obama responded "as a politician" to the controversy, that Obama was dissimulating in his Philadelphia speech and had concealed his true agreement with Wright's views? Or has he turned bitter at a perceived rejection by Obama the politician, and did he call the senator a mere politician to express his disappointment with the man? More answers, and perhaps more questions, await the full broadcast of the Moyers interview.

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