A weak attack made weaker by the prominence of the guys it’s coming from — Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, and TNR publisher Marty Peretz. It’s offered to show that Obama misrepresented Wright’s background in last week’s Checkers speech. Did he? Klein:
I attended Central [High School] a few years after Rev. Wright, so I did not know him personally. But I knew of him and I know where he used to live – in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. This is a lovely neighborhood to this day. Moreover, Rev. Wright’s father was a prominent pastor and his mother was a teacher and later vice-principal and disciplinarian of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, also a distinguished academic high school. Two of my acquaintances remember her as an intimidating and strict disciplinarian and excellent math teacher. In short, Rev. Wright had a comfortable upper-middle class upbringing. It was hardly the scene of poverty and indignity suggested by Senator Obama to explain what he calls Wright’s anger and what I describe as his hatred.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.
I’m not going to throw stones at Wright for being righteously outraged at how blacks were treated just because he was lucky enough in certain ways to escape that treatment himself. I’m neither Jewish nor Israeli nor have I ever visited the Middle East but my outrage at jihadist atrocities and invective against them is real, I assure you; you don’t have to be an Obama apologist to believe that Wright’s indignation at Jim Crow was real too, just as I’m sure it was real for that “typical white” grandmother of Obama’s. The question was never whether, as he not so memorably said, “the anger is real.” The question is why, given that it’s real, he now presumes to lecture America about it as if he cares when he was only too happy to keep his mouth shut for 13 months lest it hurt his electoral chances. And of course why the realness of that anger should somehow justify 20 years in the pews of a church where it’s taken the form of celebrating the chickens coming home to roost on 9/11 with a quasi-orgasmic relish.