Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obama and Wright

Steven Stark of the Boston Phoenix

The press has begun to bury the Reverend Jeremiah Wright story, convinced by the polls that the issue -- for the most part -- has gone away. But the issue of Barack Obama's association with his pastor is unlikely to disappear completely because it so undercuts what made the Illinois senator's political appeal unique.


But what Obama will never be able to explain away is why, of all the people in the world who could inspire him on a weekly basis, he chose the one who was known to exclaim, "God damn America," and preached a gospel not particularly distinguished by an appeal to everyone's better nature. Alas, we are judged by the company we keep -- as well we should be, when the company is a chief spiritual advisor.

In truth, Americans are an understanding lot and can tolerate the thunderings of the Wrights among us. Professors, prophets, and priests have hurled fire and brimstone before, and now radio talk-show hosts do the same.

But political leaders in our system, going back to Winthrop, have a different role: we look to them to elevate and inspire the body politic. Until now, Obama appeared uniquely qualified to assume that role. After hearing his reverend preach, however, it's an open question whether a majority of Americans will ever look at him the same way again.

(to read the entire column click on the title for a link.)