Rev. Jeremiah Wright continued to explain himself this week at the National Press Club. He gave a learned address on the prophetic ministry of the black church. He then answered questions about the controversial sound bites that have been looped in the press. His answers were, I think, plausible explanations of what he was and still is arguing.
When he quoted others saying that America's "chickens had come home to roost" on September 11, he meant that the U.S. government had committed terrorist acts around the world and on its citizens over its long history, and now terrorist acts were in turn committed on the United States.
When he said that the AIDS virus might be have been created by the U.S. government and might have been used on American citizens, he cited the Tuskegee syphilis experiments as precedent.
And when he said that God damns America, he meant that God condemns the government of the United States for its past unrepented-of bad actions, including slavery.
Each of these points one could hear from leftist pulpits, pundits, and press any week of the year. Jeremiah Wright is an old '60s university radical, and like many others of his generation he sees the current administration and today's political culture as not fundamentally different from what that generation railed against 40 years ago.
I don't agree with Rev. Wright. Senator Obama does not agree with Rev. Wright. Senator Obama has said so. That story should die now.
There is one important point that we should not let go. Rev. Wright's premise in his remarks to the National Press Club is that the criticism of his views was not an attack on Jeremiah Wright, nor was it an attack on Barack Obama. Wright maintains that the criticism of his views is really an attack on the black church.
That is just wrong. No one would be interested in the views of an old lefty if he were not pastor to a potential president. We can know this is true because we do not see obsessive coverage of all the other old lefties, even old prophetic black church radicals, who say the same sorts of things that Rev. Wright does.
The black church is not under attack. And the black church is not identical with leftist critiques of the U.S. government. By making this claim, Jeremiah Wright is claiming to be much bigger than he really is. He got his 15 minutes because he is pastor to a potential president. Wright could have poured oil on the waters. Instead, he made the controversy a fight about himself. As a result, Senator Obama had to denounce some of the more extreme views of his former pastor.
Let it go.