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I Still Don't Believe Obama

May 3, 2008

Aaron Goldstein
When the now infamous Reverend Jeremiah Wright video surfaced in March, I found myself unable to believe Barack Obama. ( I found it hard to believe that Barack Obama had never heard Reverend Wright utter a negative word about America. I found it hard to believe that Barack Obama would title one of his autobiographies from one of Reverend Wright’s sermons and then not know what he actually preached.

I was surprised this didn’t inspire a Saturday Night Live skit where Obama would be sitting in the pews of Trinity United Church. Wright would preach in a gentle, dignified manner and then Obama would excuse himself to go to the bathroom. As soon as Obama left the room, Wright would raise hellfire and brimstone and drive the congregation into an unadulterated frenzy with anti-American sloganeering all the while keeping a careful eye on Obama’s imminent return. Of course, as soon as Obama would arrive back into the house of prayer, Wright and Obama’s fellow congregants would revert to their former mild mannered selves.

I think it is safe to say that I was not alone in disbelieving Obama. Telling people he could not disown Reverend Wright anymore than he could disown African Americans did not help matters either. Reverend Wright is as much of an issue at the beginning of May 2008 as he was nearly two months ago. In the grand scheme of things it is a relatively short period of time. But when one is seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party it might as well be two centuries.

With Hillary Clinton gaining in strength and Reverend Wright becoming more visible and audible in the media, Obama had to take action and build a wall between himself and his former pastor. Unfortunately, I believe he constructed a wall made of paper mâché.

Obama insists the Reverend Wright that appeared at the National Press Club was not the person he met two decades ago. Reverend Wright is 66-years-old. Does Obama honestly believe that Wright had a mid-life epiphany and became a born again anti-American? Was the Reverend Wright who stated that “America’s chickens had come home to roost” five days after the attacks of September 11, 2001 not the person he met twenty years ago? Who does Obama think he is fooling?

But perhaps the most disingenuous thing he said was his response to the final question of the press conference. “Now, to some degree, I know that one thing that he said was true, that he was never my, quote/quote, “spiritual advisor,” said Obama, “He was never my spiritual mentor. He was my pastor. And to some extent how the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, was inaccurate.”

Yet Jim Lindgren from The Volokh Conspiracy cites a number of instances where Obama identifies Wright as his spiritual adviser or mentor. Indeed, a January 23, 2007 article from Investor’s Business Daily quotes Obama referring to Wright as his “spiritual adviser.” (

I also came across an interview Reverend Wright did with PBS. No, not the Bill Moyers interview. But an interview Wright did in February 2007 with Deborah Potter on the PBS program Religion and Ethics News Weekly. Here’s how Potter begins the interview:

Q: Barack Obama calls you his spiritual mentor and role model.

A: He’s kind in his use and choice of language.


Well, well, well. Potter specifically states that Obama referred to Wright as his spiritual mentor and Wright makes no effort to deny it. It is also worth noting that later in the same interview Wright stated, “Barack might be forced by the media and/or by supporters to be very absent from this church and to put distance between our church and himself.” When Potter asked Wright if he was “willing to distance” himself from Obama he said, “Yeah. I don’t want to hurt him.”

OK, so Obama and Wright won’t exchange Christmas cards - at least not this year. But I suspect that if Obama were to be elected President they would find it in their hearts to “forgive” each other and to let the healing begin. Time does heal all wounds especially superficial ones. Needless to say, I still don’t believe Obama.

Aaron Goldstein writes about the things that pique his insatiable curiosity. In addition to politics, he is an aficionado of baseball, poetry, music and ketchup flavored potato chips. Aaron satiates his various appetites in Boston.

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