In a press conference today, Barack Obama pronounced himself “outraged” and “saddened” at “the spectacle” of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s recent remarks alleging that the government invented AIDS, equating U.S. military efforts abroad with terrorism, and defending Louis Farrakhan’s denunciation of Zionism . “I do not see the relationship being the same after this,” Obama said. On a personal level, it’s pretty sad—the presser looked painful. Politically, though, Wright may have done Obama an inadvertent favor. Obama won praise last month when he carved out a nuanced view of his relationship with Wright (“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community”), but as time went on, this ambivalence dogged him. Hillary seized the moment to assure voters that Wright “wouldn’t have been my pastor,” John McCain overcame an initial reluctance to attack Obama about Wright, and GOP state parties in North Carolina and Mississippi used the issue against down-ticket Dems endorsed by Obama.
Now Wright has forced Obama to put greater distance between the two men. If both the Rev. Wright and a bus had been on hand, Obama may well have physically thrown him under it. It will now be harder for Obama’s opponents to accuse him of making excuses for the excitable pastor. They’ll have to shift to asking why it took Obama so long to have this Sister Souljah moment. But that’s better than the alternative.