Obama again refutes pastor’s comments, emphasizes roots

April 25, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama refuted controversial comments by his Chicago pastor again on Friday and sought to play up his own origins in an effort to combat perceptions that he is an “elitist”.

rtr1zvwz.jpgRev. Jeremiah Wright, who is semi-retired from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which Obama joined 20 years ago, has called the Sept. 11 attacks retribution for U.S. policies and condemned America’s failings on race.

Wright said in an interview this week that Obama’s criticism of those comments was “what he has to say as a politician.”

That led Obama to repeat his criticism on Friday.

“I have commented extensively … on my profound disagreements with some of Rev. Wright’s comments and, you know, I understand that he might not agree with me on my assessment of his comments. That’s to be expected,” the Illinois senator told reporters during a day of campaigning in Indiana which holds its primary May 6.

“He is obviously free to express his opinions on these issues. You know, I’ve expressed mine very clearly. I think that what he said in several instances were objectionable and I understand why the American people took offense. And, as I indicated before, I took offense.”

The controversy over his pastor and, later, remarks that small-town Pennsylvanians were “bitter” about their economic situation, have taken a toll on the Illinois senator’s image.

Obama, who was raised by a single mother and her parents, told reporters he came from more humble origins than rivals Hillary Clinton, a Democratic senator from New York, and John McCain, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Asked about his image by a local reporter in Indiana, Obama offered the example of his wardrobe as proof with a reference to his wife, Michelle:

“I haven’t changed my approach to dressing too much. Michelle has asked me to clean up because when she first met me I had one suit. Michelle always finds this funny because I basically buy five of the same suit and then I patch them up and wear them repeatedly. I have four pairs of shoes. Recently, I’ve taken to getting a haircut more frequently than I used to because my mother-in-law makes fun of me. So, you know, I don’t think people are too worried about what I’m wearing.”

On his bowling abilities, he said: “I know there was concern about my bowling score, and, you know, I have committed to practicing bowling so that I’m better.” 
Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

– Photo credit: Reuters/Frank Polich (Obama campaigns in Indiana.)


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Obama isn’t my first choice, but it’s worth noting that he has to live through this all over again which is pretty ridiculous. Wright’s recent comments weren’t really objectionable; I think most people would agree with Rev. Wright’s statement that people in different professions live up to different expectations and responsibilities.

However, saying that Obama was talking just “as a politician” needlessly puts Obama on the spot. Poor guys – on the one hand, Wright wants to defend himself, but he’s also putting Obama in a tough spot. If anything, this is only prolonging the Reverend’s unhappy notoriety.

Posted by Edwin Herdman | Report as abusive

If being an elitist means that you are better educated, smarter, quicker to assimilate facts, and have a broader view of the world I say that’s what I want.

If it means that you are articulate, cool headed and stateman like – I say that’s also what I want.

I wonder if Franklin D Roosevelt and JFK would be considered elitists this year. I think so!

Posted by Alice Levine | Report as abusive

How can Obama “seal the deal”?

Walter Shapiro writes in today’s edition of Salon.com: “Obama is the first insurgent candidate in memory who has not come up with a new issue to challenge the establishment favorite. [..] By predicating almost his entire campaign on inspiration and process [..], Obama has deliberately forsaken bread-and-butter issues as a means of persuasion”

I would contend that this analysis is a very powerful insight into the reasons why this campaign is often times at risk of being derailed by its opponents’ relentless attempts to redefine Barack Obama’s character, background, or values. By not putting the emphasis on a vision of concrete action, Obama allows his opponents to continue to exploit anything, even if remotely controversial, that can be dug from his words, deeds, or past associations.

Beyond its current uplifting, inspirational words and much-debated sweeping policy work in terms of health care, education, and ending the war in Iraq, this campaign needs to spell out a few, concise, original, defining issues that the candidate will champion and carry into the general election.

Failing to do so will mean allowing what Barack himself calls “distractions” to derail his message and ultimately endanger his run for the presidency.

Posted by Dossevi Trenou | Report as abusive

It’s sad that Sen. Obama has to repeatedly defend himself for something he never said. How can Rev. Wright’s words have any reflection on Obama’s character? I’ve sat in church every Sunday until I turned 18, but I never believed, followed or advocated EVERY word that came out of the priest’s mouth during mass. Just because I was raised a catholic doesn’t mean that I’m pro-life, or anti-gay, just as Mr. Obama doesn’t always follow lockstep with Rev. Wright.

But regardless, why is it so hard for Americans to grasp the concept that poor international relations and shady dealings with the Arab middle east have created a lot of hatred towards America, it’s citizens and it’s policy towards Islamic states? (Let it also be known that I do not condone much of what the Islamic theocracies have enacted upon its people). And similarly, why is it so offensive to hear that a black man is upset and angry over the repeated mistreatment of the black race?

As a white man, I can honestly say that I would very much like to disown my roots and ties to a race, and a country that has systematically purged the native population from their rightful lands, enslaved and kidnapped thousands of Africans for their own financial gain, and continues to only act morally towards others when it’s in their own interest to do so.

Despite all of this, I still maintain some hope that in the future, our country will be a just one, a tolerant one and one that looks after all of its citizens, black, white, asian, straight and gay because we are after all Americans, regardless of whatever modifier is placed in front of the word American (African, Asian, Italian, Latino etc).

Posted by Veritas | Report as abusive

Obama only needed Wrights church for local elections.
He doesnt need them for the national stage. Church affiliation may have been a bonus for the South Calorina primary but people in Indiana could care less.

Posted by hhkeller | Report as abusive

Wright is an umitigated walking, talking disaster. He should sit down and shut up.

Posted by allforchange | Report as abusive

The fact that Obama remained in Wright’s church for 20 years provides a strong character litmus test. If my pastor EVER denounced black people, I’d get up and leave his church FOREVER. I wouldn’t care if he was a decent man most of the time. To state that our government developed AIDS to eliminate blacks is a hateful racist statement, pure and simple. While I am impressed by Obama’s intelligence and charisma, I am deeply troubled by the fact that he should have left Wright’s church to demonstrate that Wright’s racist rant was unacceptable. I have had racist friends too – but I walked away from them; I expect the same from my President.

Posted by RonMc | Report as abusive

Your “Obama to fine-tune campaign” article isn’t posted on the blog, so I’ll comment on it, here.

Re: your comment… “Obama, an Illinois senator, said he would make adjustments after losing Pennsylvania’s primary election to Clinton on Tuesday. That followed another big-state loss to Clinton, a New York senator, in Ohio in March.”

Would it be too much to ask that you perhaps include the facts that Obama won more Texas delegates on the same day as the Ohio vote, along with a trouncing of Clinton in Vermont, and won two more states in the intervening space between the OH/TX & PA votes: Wyoming and Mississippi?

I know the Clinton campaign doesn’t want the states that Obama wins to be counted, but I would hope that the media has retained *some* autonomy and is capable of objectively reporting the FACTS, rather than selective filtering of the facts in order to fit a particular narrative. It’s the basic difference between journalism and commentary.

Posted by plooger | Report as abusive

Reverend Wright is a bogus point to continue focusing on. First there have been many ministers who have said or done some outrageous things yet people continue to attend these churches. In fact some of these ministers have been friends of various presidents. There have been thousands of children sexually abused by Catholic priests. The Catholic Church moved these sex offenders to other parishes where these priests abused again. This was a systemic problem within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Catholics continue to attend these churches. Should they all be accused of supporting the sexual abuse of children? They stayed with the church even though they new this had gone on. Many even felt the priests contributed to the betterment of their communities even though they denounced the priest’s behaviors. Accusing them of supporting child abuse is as ridiculous as accusing Barack Obama of believing in the ranting of his minister. Should we all be suspect when a catholic comes near our children? If a catholic runs for the presidency should we all fear that they believe in the sexual abuse of children thus promoting pedophilia?

Posted by nathan | Report as abusive

OMG, he disagrees “with some of Rev. Wright’s comments”! What a forceful expression! I imagine a white pastor or a rabbi ever being overheard uttering the N-word – all his congregates that have or just think they might ever have any political aspirations would’ve loudly and publicly condemn the guy (not just “some of … comments”) and leave the congregation. Well, this is yet another indication that blacks and whites are not held to the same standards, just not the way the blacks keep complaining about. If any white politician went so deliberately and openly after the white vote as Obama is after the black vote, he’d be branded racist, but for Obama it’s OK. I, for one, fear the very possibility this guy will be the next President – that means the likes of Sharpton and Farrakhan will rule over the policy-making.

Posted by Anonymous User | Report as abusive

Well I think that Michalyou are not being very honest if you do not see any fault in Obama and by calling Hillary and Bill Clinton “Billary” (sooo Childish) won’t change the fact that during Bill Clinton’s presidency our country did a lot better in terms of economical recovery and the protection to the civil and human rights for the American people (for instance Bill Clinton tried to have The CIA to be transparent about their activities)than with any of the “Bushes” and for those who think that just because Hillary is related to Bill Clinton shouldn’t run for the presidency I would say to them that they should get the facts first.
The Clintons both have done more good to the country than many Cheneys, Bushs,Kenedys,Swarsenegars,Powells etc.. and they have shown more patriotism and courage by staying in politics and fight for their country which for the second time is being trashed by another Bush. In this case it is important to take note that two members of the same family share not only the same last name but also, the same ambition which has nothing to do with serving their country as it should be for each and every elected president,( perhaps the fact that G. W. Bush doesn’t care is because he was not elected by the people but by a court) As for Obama I don’t think that he is totaly honest either when he said that he would backs General Petreious. Petreious who was not very transparent when he was asked to answer direct questions about the cost of the Iraq war and about an aproximate date of witdawal from Iraq for the American troops. All of which shows very little tactical Knoledge. How can you go to war without a plan? especially when we are told every day that The U.S Millitary is the most powerfull and better equiped Army in the world. Why is it that so many lives have to be waisted and so much money should be spent? why should we take so many years to get out of Iraq?
I think that the money being “granted” is reason enough to stay a hundred years if nescesary as Mc Cain stated. Now Does Obama wants to be part of that too? Hmmm Let me think why?

Posted by aurisspekshermind | Report as abusive