In D.C. appearance, Jeremiah Wright remains controversial
David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Barack Obama, gets credit for understatement of the month with his comment on MSNBC this morning before the Rev. Jeremiah Wright wrapped up his media blitzkrieg of the last few days with an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
To the extent that voters attribute to Obama statements and opinions that aren't his, Axelrod said, "it's obviously not helpful."
Now, in the wake of a feisty Q&A session that followed a speech Wright delivered (see video below), Obama and his top aides can only sit back and gauge how "obviously not helpful" the man who was the candidate's pastor for many years continues to be to his presidential hopes.
Our colleague Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune was among those covering Wright today, and she reports that in his address, he provided "a learned lecture on the black experience in America and on the African American faith tradition, an attempt to put into context the controversial sermon snippets that have been airing in recent weeks."
But, as he answered questions after his talk, Wright did nothing to quell the controversy ...
that has enveloped him and, by extension, Obama.
Wright stood by a sermon he delivered at his Chicago church shortly after 9/11, in which he said “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” for supporting "state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans.” Snippets of that discourse have been among those making the rounds on YouTube.
Today, Wright repeated his payback argument, saying "“You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back to you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles.”
Similarly, he said there was a biblical basis for the sermon in which he said "God damn America" due to the stain of racism.
"God doesn't bless everything," said Wright. "God damns some practices."
As he did in his interview with Bill Moyers that aired on PBS on Friday night, Wright seemed dismissive of the much-hailed speech Obama gave in mid-March in which he denounced the preacher's catalog of inflammatory remarks as objectionable and not reflecting his own views.
"If Sen. Obama did not say what he said, he would not get elected," Wright said.
Defending his relationship with Louis Farrakhan, Wright said the Nation of Islam leader "is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery."
Wright may have done Obama one small favor, casting himself as someone who will keep offering scathing political criticism, regardless of the outcome of this year's election.
Wright told his audience: "As I said to Barack Obama, if you get elected, Nov. 5 I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people."
That's probably small solace to Obama as the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana approach.
As political analyst David Gergen summed up on CNN: "I'm sure Rev. Wright has many virtues. Loyalty to his former parishioner is not one of them."
-- Don Frederick