The flap over the pulpit remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright was disturbing on many fronts, but Barack Obama's handling of it certainly solidified my support for him.
Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong Republican, have worked for many Republican candidates, and have held positions of responsibility in my state's party organization. My interest in the Illinois Senator began before he announced his candidacy.
My reading has led me to believe he's the Real Thing. Such an interesting candidate for the Presidency is rare indeed; I believe that his potential for accomplishment in the White House is enormous and quite unlike any other person in living memory. Some of what he will likely do worries me as I am not liberal in my thinking on many issues. But in the main, he'll do great things.
But what I want to say here is that, in my opinion, the big media coverage of the Rev. Wright sermons has been unseemly and foolish. Playing the same snippets of disturbing speech over and over, almost gleefully, the coverage has been certainly embarrassing and slanted to reveal a sort of curious whiteness. Watching, it felt like being in the room when some dope says "hey, some of my best friends are colored!"
Many whites (certainly many CNN anchors) have never attended services at a church with a black congregation. The experience of Sunday services is quite different in many predominantly African-American churches than you'll likely find at the Lutheran church on the corner. Who says all church services have to look and sound like some white guy's ideal of quiet Protestantism? I got the feeling that the white media anchors were not so upset by Wright's sermons as they were surprised at what the service itself looked like.
There was never any question whether Barack Obama shared any of the regrettable opinions of his pastor. They went against the spirit and the letter of the Senator's written and spoken record. For me, the test came in how he might handle the controversy.
A garden-variety, say-anything-to-save-your-skin politician would have thrown his own mother to the wolves at the first hint of trouble. The easy thing would have been to completely distance himself from and "disown" Wright and probably call for an investigation into his private associations. But this pastor is someone whose heart Obama knows and should know. He conducted the Obama's marriage, baptized their children and provided the soaring inspiration for Obama's work in The Audacity of Hope. Rev. Wright, though the content of some of his sermons was certainly questionable, had a long and successful ministry. He deserved to be disagreed with respectfully. A candidate of character would do so. A politician more of Mrs. Clinton's stripe would find a way to keep her hands clean, while throwing him under the nearest bus.
To have thrown over Rev. Wright completely would have been an ugly demonstration of disloyalty, ambition over personal dignity and respect for those who have gotten him where he now stands.
Obama not only handled the situation correctly and gracefully, he used the occasion to demonstrate that his thinking on the state of the Union in terms of race relations is entirely balanced and reasonable.
He's the Real Thing. And he has shown that he has enormous strength of character.