Don’t blame Obama for his mentor’s flaws

Barack ObamaThose of us firmly in the anti-Hillary, pro-Obama camp are fed up with it. “I can’t read about it any more,” one Obama backer wrote to me over the weekend.

But the endless press surrounding the inflammatory remarks pronounced by the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor of 20 years at Trinity Church in Chicago, just goes on. I’m sure you’ve heard how Wright has decided now is the time to tell us all that the American government was responsible for Aids among the black community, and that 9/11 was just the “chickens coming home to roost”.

As Obama heads into battle with Hillary Clinton in Indiana and North Carolina today, he is slipping in the polls – not much, but a bit. Wright’s insistence on continuing his inflammatory rhetoric could not have come at a worse time.

In several television appearances, Obama has done his best elegantly and calmly to deflect Wright’s views without resorting to personal abuse or giving too much information about what was once a close relationship. Obama chose a line from one of Wright’s sermons as the title of his book The Audacity of Hope, and Wright baptised Obama’s two daughters, but Obama has also pointed out that, like an “old uncle”, one can respect a leadership figure without agreeing with everything he says. Common sense suggests that Wright is a hurt, angry man who feels like his prodigal son left home without saying goodbye.

Obama’s campaign team know it screwed up last year by asking Wright to give the invocation when Obama announced his campaign – and then quickly disinvited him, realising it was sittingon a time bomb. Obama has been criticised for not denouncing Wright more forcefully when he first emerged on the media scene several months ago. Had the Clintons had a relationship with such a man, he’d have been silenced long ago.

Yet all of us have had mentors with flaws; that doesn’t mean we want to trample on them in public when we evolve into surer identities. Obama’s cool demeanour will eventually silence the din over this issue; even conservative pundit Peggy Noonan admits that she can’t get worked up over it.

Obama has already taught us that integrity and likeability can carry a man to unimaginable places. I find it unlikely that these qualities will stop working for him now.V

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