Weigel

Remember Jeremiah Wright!

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Conor Friedersdorf is being unfair to Victor Davis Hanson here, when he claims that VDH (and others) deny that “Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s controversial pastor, was exhaustively covered by ‘the media.’” Hanson, Doug Heye and the rest of the conservatives cited here are not saying the media didn’t cover Wright. As Heye writes, “news organizations such as The New York Times dismissed Barack Obama’s 20 years of faithful attendance at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ.” The paper did dismiss it: the Wright association, argued editors, should have been “none of the voters’ business.” The only part of Heye that I quibble with is the assertion that Obama’s attendance was “regular.” How do we know that? My suspicion throughout Wrightaquiddick was that Obama had to treat the story gingerly because he didn’t actually attend the church very much. He was, remember, absent during the sermons that made all the fuss.

Well, not all of the fuss. A weird, forgotten moment from Wrightaquiddick occured when reporters finally noticed that Obama, in print and audiobook, had joined the church after a tear-jerking Wright sermon called “the audacity to hope.” I say “weird” because the most controversial line in the sermon – “white folks’ greed runs a world in need” – didn’t actually appear in it. Similar thoughts appeared in the sermon:

The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt’s painting. Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character—a world more finicky about what’s on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what’s inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

Obama misremembered it, but he took a lesson from it that was applicable to his politics. That was worth covering! But I still disagree with VDH, because he seems to be saying that, because the media didn’t keep on Obama over Wright, it’s unfair for the media to use the same microscope on Bachmann. That’s just nonsense. The dam burst in 2008. This is a fair topic to ask candidates about, and to investigate. Back in 2008, Christopher Hitchens was one of the very few writers who was even-handed about this, a function of his consistent approach to religion.

Meanwhile, the Republican nominee adorns himself with two further reverends: one named John Hagee, who thinks that the pope is the Antichrist, and another named Rod Parsley, who has declared that the United States has a mission to obliterate Islam. Is it conceivable that such repellent dolts would be allowed into public life if they were not in tax-free clerical garb? How true it is that religion poisons everything.

Either a church is off-limits or it isn’t. Either what a pastor says is off-limits or it isn’t. Some reporters, and most conservatives, decided in 2008 that this was not off limits. Some reporters, and most conservatives, were right. Obama validated that when he left Wright’s church. And having left it, he’s been a pretty disappointing president for someone with Wright’s beliefs. I’d expect that in late 2012, we learn that Wright will have ended up voting for whatever Marxist dead-ender gets the Green Party nod.