IHT : If Obama thought the Rev. Wright's comments were behind him, he was wrong

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If Obama thought the Rev. Wright's comments were behind him, he was wrong

The Associated Press | April 26, 2008

NEW YORK: Barack Obama's efforts to shift attention away from the fiery remarks of his former pastor were set back with the broadcast of an interview in which the preacher says his quotes condemning America were taken out of context by people "for some very devious reasons."

The interview comes as Obama, the front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is campaigning in Indiana, trying to bounce back from a defeat in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.

His rival, Hillary Clinton, has argued that she is better positioned and more experienced to withstand bare-knuckle Republican attacks ahead of the November presidential election. Her supporters have pointed to Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as one of his biggest vulnerabilities if he is the nominee.

Last month Obama made a well-received speech on racism in America in a bid to defuse the attention given to Wright, who has said in sermons that America brought the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on itself and is "damned" by God for its history of slavery and racism.

Obama's speech in Philadelphia described the history of injustice that fueled Wright's comments, while also condemning his pastor's statements and acknowledging white resentment of African-Americans.

But the issue hasn't gone away. Republicans in North Carolina, which holds its primary May 6, have already begun airing television ads featuring Wright in an attempt to taint the state's Democratic gubernatorial candidates because of their support for Obama. The ads call Obama "too extreme for North Carolina."

Wright's remarks were again receiving attention on cable news channels Friday — along with excerpts from the PBS television interview being broadcast that evening. The interview is the first the pastor has given since video of his preaching gained national attention in March.

In the interview, Wright said his sermon blaming U.S. policies for the Sept. 11 attacks was a warning against vengeance and the view that all American actions are perfect, according to transcripts released Friday.

Wright said he was in Newark, New Jersey, when the terrorist strike occurred and, from his hotel window, he said he saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Some of his congregants lost loved ones in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center, he said.

"We want revenge. They wanted revenge," Wright told "Bill Moyers' Journal." "God doesn't want to leave you there, however. God wants redemption. God wants wholeness. And ... that's the context, the biblical context, I used to try to get people sitting again in that sanctuary."

In the Sept. 11 sermon, Wright pointed to U.S. military strikes on Panama and Libya, American slavery and its treatment of Indians and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant?" he said in the sermon. "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Wright told Moyers that "the persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly." The pastor said that the video is being publicized by people who want to make him out to be a fanatic instead of someone expressing problems with U.S. policies.

Among the most remarked upon part of Wright's sermons was his proclaiming from the pulpit "God damn America" for its racism. He told Moyers that his message was that people shouldn't confuse the government with God, and that governments have "failed and how they lie."

Wright said he has never heard Obama repeat any of the pastor's controversial statements as his own opinion. Of the senator's Philadelphia speech, Wright said, "I do what I do. He does what politicians do."

Said Obama: "I understand that he might not agree with me on my assessment of his comments. He is obviously free to express his opinion. I've expressed mine very clearly. I think what he said on several instances was objectionable and I understand why the American people took offense."

Republican nominee-in-waiting Sen. John McCain has distanced himself from the North Carolina Republican Party's use of the Wright ads, calling them offensive. He has asked party officials not to air them, but they have refused.

Despite the ads, Obama is favored to win North Carolina, which has a large black, Democratic electorate. Black voters have strongly supported Obama, who is seeking to become the first black U.S. president.

The North Carolina primary offers 115 national convention delegates, the largest prize among the nine contests remaining.

Indiana, with 72 delegates available, also holds its contest May 6.

The two Democrats are running about even in Indiana, according to a new poll. Obama has 41 percent and Clinton has 38 percent, according to the WTHR-Indianapolis Star poll. That is inside the poll's margin of error. The survey also found 21 percent of respondents undecided.

Clinton and Obama both campaigned Friday in Indiana, while McCain was in Little Rock, Arkansas, getting an assist from his former rival Mike Huckabee, the ex-governor.

In the overall race for the Democratic Party nomination, Obama leads with 1,724.5 delegates, including superdelegates — unelected party officials who can vote as they please. Clinton had 1,593.5, according to an Associated Press tally. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

The count does not include delegates from Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of all their delegates because they held primaries too early. A Democratic National Committee panel announced Friday it will hold a hearing May 31 to consider a plan to award half-delegates for the two states, which were both won by Clinton.