The Wright Stuff: Bad reviews from the Left

It appears that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright may have officially crossed over from partisan target to widespread embarrassment between the hours of 6 pm ET Sunday and noon ET yesterday. In response to the new media offensive (in every sense of the word) launched by Wright, the nation’s pundits on the Left have blown a big raspberry back in his direction. Finally, it appears, the audacity of lunacy has come to their attention.

Bob Herbert calls Wright a narcissist:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.

Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media — this reverend is never going away. He’s found himself a national platform, and he’s loving it.

It’s a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He’s living a narcissist’s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.

Eugene Robinson (correctly) says that Wright has no business representing himself as the center of the black church:

The reality of the African American church, of course, is as diverse as the African American community. I grew up in the Methodist church with pastors — often active on the front lines of the civil rights movement — whose sermons were rarely exciting enough to elicit more than a muttered “Amen.” They were excitement itself, however, compared with the dry lectures delivered by the priest at the Catholic church around the corner. And what I heard every Sunday was nothing at all like the Bible-thumping, hellfire-and-damnation perorations that filled my Baptist friends with the Holy Ghost — and even less like the spellbinding, singsong, jump-and-shout sermonizing that raised the roofs of Pentecostal sanctuaries across town.

Wright claims to represent all these traditions and more, but he does not. He also claims universality for the political aspect of his ministry. It is true that the black church, writ large, has been an instrument of social and political change. But most black churches are far less political than Wright’s — and many concern themselves exclusively with salvation.

I point all this out not to say that one tradition is better than another; as Wright said, different doesn’t mean deficient. But what Wright did was to try to frame the issue in such a way that to question him or anything he has ever said was to question the long, storied tradition of African American religion.

E.J. Dionne warns that Wright’s eruptions makes Obama look weak and vacillating at a moment he can least afford it:

No one benefited more than Barack Obama from this sense of historic moment. Change, not experience, was the order of the day. Sweep, not a mastery of detail, was the virtue most valued in campaign oratory. A clean break with the past, not merely a return to better days, was the promise most prized.

Then something happened. Specifically, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And he keeps happening, holding tightly to a spotlight that was turned his way by a certain politician whom the preacher dismisses for being a politician. First came his Friday appearance on public television with Bill Moyers, then his NAACP address in Detroit on Sunday, and his National Press Club speech yesterday.

Obama, once seen as a prophet, is now merely a human being capable of performing indifferently in debate and of making statements about bitter voters that made some voters bitter.

Even the editorial board of the Washington Post felt compelled to scold Wright:

THE REV. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary and controversial sound bites have knocked the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) off balance, strutted to the microphone of the National Press Club and made an audacious claim: “This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It is an attack on the black church.” No. The harsh spotlight under which the Chicago pastor finds himself is exactly where it belongs. …

Yesterday, the Rev. Wright was unrepentant. He refused to disavow his oft-repeated belief in the sinister myth that the AIDS epidemic is a genocidal government plot to exterminate African Americans. He stood by his blame-America-for-Sept. 11 stance, saying, “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back to you.”

Amazing how this Road to Damascus moment all came at the same time, although to differing degrees. All of these commentators came to see Wright as a narcissist, egotist, provocateur, and a shameless self-promoter in the last 48 hours. Why? In reading the pieces, their ire and scorn come exclusively because of the damage he does to Barack Obama, and with the exception of the Post editorial, not because what he says is ridiculous.

Not one of these columnists mentions his defense of Louis Farrakhan as misunderstood and his anti-Semitism as misreported. Not one of them mentions his strange views on neurology and the supposed synaptic differences between white and black brains. None of them offer even a questioning sentence on Wright’s theories on “tonality” or on the purportedly racial differences between marching bands, let alone his silly and offensive demonstrations of them on stage. Only the Post mentions his repeated assertion that the American government created AIDS as a means for genocide against people of color.

Why not? Because to point these out would be to confirm Wright’s status as a racial demagogue and borderline lunatic, which would really damage Obama. Either Obama agrees with all of this nonsense, which obviously has received detailed airings at TUCC, or he only belongs to TUCC in order to bolster his political credibility in his South Side power base, which is the most likely scenario.

The Left doesn’t want to force Obama to answer those questions. Instead, they’ll castigate Wright for damaging Obama while failing to explain why he damages Obama. They want to keep that a secret, but unfortunately, that secret’s been out for weeks, and it doesn’t bolster their credibility by pretending otherwise.