When major political events occur, half of the fun is checking out how various media organs react to it. After Barack Obama finally admitted what everyone else had already concluded — that his friend and pastor for 20 years was a racially-divisive demagogue — I expected some gale-force spinning from media outlets that had previously busied themselves carrying Obama’s water. Media anthropologists know to look at the New York Times first, and its editorial board did not disappoint. They earn themselves the Captain Louis Renault award along with Obama for being shocked, shocked! at Jeremiah Wright’s rhetoric this week:
Last month, Mr. Obama delivered a speech in which he said he disapproved of Mr. Wright’s racially charged comments but said that the pastor still played an important role in his spiritual life.
It was a distinction we were not sure would sit well with many voters. But what mattered more was the speech’s powerful commentary on the state of race relations in this country. We hoped it would open the door to a serious, healthy and much-needed discussion on race.
Mr. Wright has not let that happen. In the last few days, in a series of shocking appearances, he embraced the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. He said the government manufactured the AIDS virus to kill blacks. He suggested that America was guilty of “terrorism” and so had brought the 9/11 attacks on itself.
Why the shock? Wright has made these allegations for years. The 9/11 allegations go all the way back to 9/16/01, Wright’s first sermon after the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. The HIV/genocide accusations come from a speech Wright has given on many occasions, and he also includes the tired conspiracy theory that the CIA introduced crack cocaine into the US to undermine the black community. Wright honored Farrakhan in 2007 through Trinity United Church, and both then and now tried to assign Farrakhan’s well-established anti-Semitism as opposition to Israel, as if that made much difference at all anyway.
The NYT’s editors must have taken a Rip Van Winkel nap for the last 20 months, or so they must expect us to believe. What did they think caused the controversy in the first place? Wright’s prior rhetoric from the pulpit in the church where Obama brings his family to worship generated the questions about Obama’s judgment, the one quality he wants voters to consider when deciding between himself and his competitors.
Both Obama and the NYT want this to look like it became an issue only because Wright spoke this week and rehashed what he’s been saying from the Trinity pulpit for years. Why? If they can set the bar that low, it gets both Obama and the NYT editors off the hook for not acknowledging what the rest of the nation had figured out from Wright’s long history of demagoguery.
Had Wright been non-controversial for the last twenty years and suddenly dropped these bombs on the campaign, then the NYT/Obama argument would be perfectly understandable. However, the notion that both of them just awakened to the true nature of Wright’s lunacy is risible in the extreme. It’s a self-serving dodge, and a transparent one at that.