Barack Obama figures out two Wrights make a wrong

By Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg

The most important part of Barrack Obama’s interview on Fox News Sunday this week was when he said “I don’t get too high when I’m high and I don’t get too low when I’m low.”

What an excellent temperament for a president; what a hobbling one for a candidate.

Imagine if he were a man of melodrama, he might have parted ways with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright weeks ago. What if, like Bill Clinton, he’d held a finger-wagging press conference in red-faced fury: “I did not have spiritual relations with that pastor, Reverend Wright!”

Instead, he was cerebral and contained. For his restraint, he suffered almost as much guilt by association from his dalliance with a man of the cloth as Clinton did from his fling with a girl in a thong.

Watching Wright’s 72-hour media tear, there were two people. It’s easy to see why Obama was drawn to the Wright that showed up on Bill Moyers’ PBS television show. It’s just as easy to see why he was repelled by the Wright who appeared at the National Press Club.

On Moyers’ show, Wright, 66, displayed the qualities that built his tiny church into a cathedral serving the spiritual and temporal needs of thousands. The ex-Marine came across as a patriot who loves his country but sees its flaws, someone who could get carried away with his rhetoric but who embodied an ethic of service, a widely respected minister visited by Oprah Winfrey, courted by presidents and emulated by other preachers.

That’s the Wright that Obama knew, not the man of paranoid and outrageous remarks, which the Illinois senator hadn’t personally heard. Obama, 46, could denounce those words unequivocally but couldn’t sever the bond with the man.

Then came the risible figure at the National Press Club, a delusional egomaniac who claimed that an attack on him was an attack on the church, a bit player in someone else’s movie desperate to expand his walk-on with a scenery chewing performance that would fill several news cycles.

He shouted, he clowned, he danced. He ranted, he raved. He mimicked the buttoned-down precision of a white marching band versus the loosey goosey moves of a black one.

He reiterated his most incendiary remarks rather than put them into the context of two decades of sermons. He got lost in the cathedral of his own inflated ego, a tragic figure who couldn’t stand seeing his star eclipsed as his adopted son’s rose.

“The person that I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago,” Obama said after his staff showed him a tape of the event in which Wright contended that Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia was no more than political posturing. “Then he doesn’t know me very well,” Obama said. “And I may not know him as well as I thought.”

Most newspaper editorials found Obama’s reaction to Wright strong and forceful. The New York Times, which has endorsed Hillary Clinton, called it “the most forthright repudiation of an out-of-control-supporter that we can remember,” with the wish that John McCain would do the same to John Hagee, whose evangelical church is known for its hatred of Catholics.