Commentary by Gary A. Johnson
Rev. Jeremiah Wright has decided to speak for himself and in effect defend himself. People will debate whether Rev. Wright’s “coming out” is helpful or hurtful to presidential candidate Barack Obama, however, I don’t think Rev. Wright cares.
It is clear to me that the Rev. has decided to define himself and defend what he believes is his good name. I can’t say that I blame him. Who wouldn’t want to defend their hard earned name and reputation?
While speaking today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the Rev. was asked about his patriotism. Wright replied as follows: “I served six years in the military. How many years did Cheney serve?”
Rev. Wright has made it clear during his string of recent public appearances that he is a pastor and not a politician. He reminded the audience that Sen. Barack Obama is a politician and that he and Obama will do what they have to do in their perspective roles. This is a very important point of distinction and clarification. The role of a pastor and politician are different and Rev. Wright seems to be clear about his role.
“I’m not here for political reasons,” Wright said to a packed house last night of about 10,000 people at a NAACP gathering in Detroit. “I’m not a politician,” he told the crowd. He went on to say, “I’m not here for political reasons.” “I am not running for the Oval Office. I’ve been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I’m not tired yet.”
Perhaps the lines have become blurred for others. Wright seems to be clear, confident and at peace with his role as a pastor.
What Rev. Wright is doing is allowing the world to see him as he “really” is. Rev. Wright is not the character and YouTube phenomenon that he has been portrayed over the past several weeks. This is a very smart and worldly black leader. Wright also told the audience at the NAACP dinner that despite what his critics say, he is descriptive, not divisive, when he speaks about racial injustices.
In the view of Rev. Wright he is speaking out because of the media attacks on the black church. He stated his belief that the media attacks are about him.
Many in the mainstream media as well as Hillary Clinton and others will continue to link Rev. Wright to Barack Obama in the most negative ways. If I’m a strategist in the Obama camp, I probably would not be happy right now. Why? Watch the media coverage of Rev. Wright over the next several weeks. Rather than focus on the positive truths in his message, many in the media will actively look for negatives or attempt to twist his words to make him a negative force and deflect from the good that he’s done.
Commentators will focus on his body language, his gestures and his “attitude” instead of what he’s actually saying. That’s called distortion. The office phone lines here at Black Men In America are blowing up with calls from black folks who are mad at Rev. Wright for coming out now. One caller said, “Wright is giving Hillary and the Republicans more ammunition to deflect from the issues.” Whether you like him or not, Rev. Wright is here to stay.
Susan Rice, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign commented on MSNBC this morning after Rev. Wright’s speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. She described Rev. Wright as a “sideshow.” She went on to say the Rev. Wright was more concerned about redeeming his legacy. I see this as a problem. Outside forces both black and white will be calling for Obama to distance himself further from Rev. Wright and essentially pit these two black men against each other. The Clinton campaign will be in full attack mode about Obama’s judgment. This is politics folks. Obama campaigned that he has better judgment than his opponents.
Barack Obama said that he believes that Rev. Wright is a legitimate political issue. That’s the equivalent of a “green light” for Senators Clinton, McCain and others to deflect from other legitimate issues that should be discussed in this campaign.
You can watch Rev. Wright’s speech at the NAACP and his interview with Bill Moyer in our video section in the right-hand column on this blog.
What do you think?
Gary Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”