WASHINGTON -hopeful suggests he would have left his Chicago church had his longtime pastor, whose fiery anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations threatened Obama's campaign, not stepped down.
"Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church," Obama said Thursday during a taping of the ABC talk show, "The View." The interview will be broadcast Friday.
Let's make the working assumption that this excerpt is accurate and in context - time will tell, since the show airs tomorrow.
So, when did Wright acknowledge that what he had said was deeply offensive and inappropriate? The AP story recounts some of Wright's controversial comments but oddly omits to mention his apology, as does all other news coverage with which I am familiar. And I am strangely certain that a Wright apology would have made the news - unless he never made it publicly.
So what are we supposed to believe - that Wright apologized to Obama, who is now apologizing to the rest of us on Wright's behalf? For heaven's sake, this really does show that Obama is made of Presidential stuff - maybe he can do an Apology Tour, just as Bill Clinton did.
But why is Wright apologizing to Obama, who only heard these remarks second hand - well, "second hand" if we still believe Obama's insistence that he missed every service with these controversial comments (Huffington Post) but heard others (The Speech) but didn't hear anything at all (town hall). Shouldn't Wright be apologizing to those of us who took offense? Or after thirty years of delivering three sermons per week, has Wright developed a fear of public speaking?
Oh, well - even though this is clearly just extemporaneous BS from Obama, I suppose a few follow questions would be in order, if only to generate more extemporaneous BS.
Away we go - when did Obama give serious thought to leaving the church - presumably it was when he became aware of these ghastly comments from Wright and received an apology, but when was that? Per his Huffington Post Obama claimed, implausibly, that he only learned that Wright had attitude issues at the outset of his Presidential campaign.
When did Wright apologize, or explain, or whatever, and in what forum, and to what audience? Was this apology in response to a specific protest from Obama?
And how did it happen that this apology was not mentioned in Obama's statement at the Huffington Post or in the big race speech? Are we to believe that Obama only just decided to mention it now - why keep that helpful news about Wright's redemption and repentance in reserve? Or did Wright's apology follow "The Speech", which implies that Obama was considering leaving his church just last week, a month after Wright's retirement?
I suspect the MSM will be all over this one.
PROPS: To Don Surber:
When it came time to leave the church, Obama voted present.
MORE: Does Wright seem repentant in this back-and-forth with the Times, in their coverage of his disinvitation to Obama's campaign kick-off? Ponder this:
Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from a role in the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, “The Radical Roots of Barack Obama.”
According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.”
In a follow-up blast at the Times reporting, Wright added this:
I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out?
Repentant? How about in this Times story a month later:
Mr. Wright, who has long prided himself on criticizing the establishment, said he knew that he may not play well in Mr. Obama’s audition for the ultimate establishment job.
“If Barack gets past the primary, he might have to publicly distance himself from me,” Mr. Wright said with a shrug. “I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen.”
Barack is shoveling nonsense.
SPEAKING OF NONSENSE: Wright's new digs, a 10,000 square foot home in a gated community. In "Dreams From My Father" Obama recounts Wright urging someone or other not to take his family from the the 'hood for the suburbs; Obama offers that it might be safer, and Wright rejoins that a black man isn't safe anywhere. Well, that was twenty years ago.
CAPTAIN ALLAHPUNDIT TAKES A STAB at bailing Obama out:
Tom Maguire thinks Obama’s deceitfully trying to suggest here that Wright has apologized when of course he hasn’t. I don’t read it that way at all. I think he’s speaking purely hypothetically, if inartfully: If Wright was still pastor of the church and if he refused to apologize for the sermons, then Obama would have to quit. Since he’s not still pastor, there’s no need to quit irrespective of whether Wright has apologized or not.
Hmm - one of the most articulate politicians of this generation speaks inartfully (or very artfully!), inadvertently creating an impression helpful to himself. If it's that complicated, it's still misleading - listeners aren't sitting at home drawing Venn diagrams.
I certainly agree that the presentation was not artful, but let's see - as AllahP presents it, it is clear that Obama's message was that Wright had to either resign *or* apologize, or else Obama would leave the church. So let's imagine this construction - this is Obama, in a hypothetical re-write; the highlighted sentence captures the current controversy:
I was only comfortable staying in the church if Wright either resigned or apologized. In other words, I would have left the church if he had not resigned and not apologized. However, he resigned, so it's all good.
Hmmph. As a matter of strict logic and deep charity we could agree that Obama's statement is not false. However, it is still very misleading, since it is (in my opinion and personal experience) likely to create the impression that an apology has been delivered when in fact it has not, publicly at least. This impression arises in part because Obama is describing both a reality (Wright's announced retirement) and a hypothetical (Wright's apology) as having equal weight in his stay/go decision, when in fact, Obama may never have sought an apology. As presented, Obama lays out a lot of detail for a hypothetical and factually irrelevant apology - why bother, other than to confuse the issue?
It is also neither unreasonable nor unprecedented to think that Obama might have wanted both an apology and a retirement, as when Samantha Powers got tossed under the bus. For example, this could be a hypothetical re-write of Obama:
I was only comfortable staying at the church if Wright both apologized and resigned. If he had not resigned and not apologized, I would have left the church; fortunately, he did resign and he apologized to me in a secret session, so it's all good.
In that construction Obama wanted Wright to satisfy two conditions, not simply order from the menu and choose one.
When a skilled speaker delivers a false-but-favorable idea wrapped in a true-if-parsed-favorably cloak, I still think is close enough to lying to be called that. These aren't depositions with legalistic wiggle room; in the court of public opinion we value straight talk. That said, now that I see Obama's comments both ways, I can see how someone might have seen it the other way first, or only that way. A very familiar feeling...
BONUS DETAIL: Jim Geraghty stoops to conquer by live-blogging The View:
Barbara Walters: "Had the reverend not retired would you have left the church?"
Obama: "Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church."
It looks like he was ready to say more, but *sigh* Hasselbeck interrupts.
Karl at PW delivers a savage beat down (I'm jealous...).
So the Captain sees Obama responding to Barbara with, roughly, had Wright not retired and, having stayed on, had he not apologized, I would have left.
I am reading it as 'had he not both stepped down and apologized, I would have left'.
Closer to the mainstream, Ben Smith of The Politico headlines the "Might have left church" and seems to be sniffing BS:
In a clip posted by ABC, Obama says: 'Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country -- for all its flaws -- then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church."
In Obama's speech in Philadelphia last week, he said: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."
At the WaPo blog, bafflement about what did Obama hear and when did he hear it, if ever.
Kate Phillips of the Times Caucus reports on The View revelations without comment, but adds this:
He also told the show’s hosts that he had spoken with Mr. Wright since controversy erupted over excerpts of some of the pastor’s sermons. “I think he’s saddened by what’s happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way, and people haven’t seen this broader aspect of him,” the Democratic candidate said.
Is that meant to be understood as some sort of private apology? C'mon, "saddened" is pretty broad - Wright might be saddened that Rush Limbaugh didn't choke on his microphone while covering this.
LAST WORD: The AP takes this up with Obama's press flack and gets the "it was hypothetical" defense:
WASHINGTON - Democratseemed to suggest in an interview aired Friday that his former pastor has acknowledged that his controversial remarks were inappropriate and hurtful, although there are no public accounts of the minister having done so.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the senator's remarks did not imply that Wright has expressed misgivings about his statements.
"was clearly saying that were Rev. Wright not retiring, he would need to be assured that the reverend understood why what he had said had deeply offended people and mischaracterized the greatness of this country," Burton said.
I question whether Obama was "clearly" communicating that Wright had not, in fact, apologized, but I understand the logic of the position they are promoting.