Imagine for a moment that a Republican presidential candidate claimed to have a spiritual mentor, and it turned out that that mentor preached and taught in racial overtones. Imagine the media giving that candidate, that pastor, and their relationship a pass. Imagine Andrew Sullivan not calling that candidate and his pastor “Christianists” or some other anti-religious epithet You can’t. It wouldn’t happen.

But if the candidate is a Democrat? Well, it’s happening right now.

Sen. Barack Obama attends Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The pastor is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man Obama credits as his spiritual mentor. But Wright dubs the US the “United States of white America.” The church’s website is definitely black-centric and not very welcoming to anyone of other races.

The subject of Obama and Wright came up on Hannity & Colmes Monday night. I’ve been pondering whether and what to write about it ever since. Predictably, Colmes took the position that to even bring up Obama’s relationship to Wright amounts to a smear. But it’s not a smear to point out that no Republican who belonged to an obviously white-centered church pastored by a man who focused on race as much as Wright does could ever get away with it. No Republican could get away with faking accents the way Hillary does either, but never mind that. Colmes is, as usual, just carrying water for whatever Democrat happens to be the subject on a given night. That’s his job, it’s what he does.

I’ll confess a tiny bit of ambivalence on this whole issue. Don’t get me wrong, Rev. Wright isn’t my kind of pastor. I believe in the New Testament teaching that race is irrelevant. That teaching doesn’t seem to get a lot of play in Wright’s church.

But here’s where the ambivalence comes from. It’s clear that the black community needs strong leadership and particularly strong male leadership. It seems clear the Obama has benefited from his relationship with Wright, and that Wright is a strong leader. But it’s just as clear that Wright is a demagogue with racist tendencies, and that’s not the kind of leadership anyone needs. We’re all imperfect and I don’t like the sensitivity police coming down on everyone, but Wright is by his own admission a radical, and not necessarily in a good way. He’s about an inch from being a black separatist if you go by some of his rhetoric. Wright’s relationship with a man who wants to be president is relevant, but it’s not hard to see why Obama might be reluctant to answer hard questions about Wright. Wright is his mentor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Obama agrees with Wright on everything. But as a presidential candidate, Obama does owe voters some clarification on where he does and does not agree with Wright. Does Obama agree with Wright that the US is the “United States of white America?” Is he running for the presidency of that country, or the one that actually exists? He needs to answer that and a few other related questions.

But I doubt he’ll have to. Obama is probably going to get a pass on this whole issue. His fellow Democrats kowtow to the likes of Al Sharpton. They’re not about to criticize the milder Rev. Wright. Republicans know the race card will get hurled at them at supersonic speed if they bring it up. So they won’t.