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Our colleague Jeff Zeleny tells us that associates of Mr. Obama said privately that his campaign was furious at Mr. Wright’s decision to step forward so publicly, but that they were unable to do anything to control this. They added, however, that the pastor’s actions prove that he and Mr. Obama are not that close, otherwise why would Mr. Wright do this now?

That's easy--because Wright has become embittered at Obama since the initial controversy last month, even if Obama never actually threw him under the bus. (Ambinder says the men have spoken once since then and that "the conversation was not especially pleasant.") Wright also now possesses a new level of fury at a media/cultural establishment he feels has demonized him, and that, too, might override any qualms he had about damaging Obama.

Substantively, there's no reason to think Obama shares Wright's views on anything, even if Chris Matthews is now saying that Wright is effectively coming across as an Obama "surrogate." But his performance in the past couple of days obviously nullifies the old argument that Fox News had taken a couple of Wright's unfortunate outbursts out of context and made the man into a cartoon.

The best hope for Obama here may be that Wright becomes so nutty--apparently his security today was provided by the Nation of Islam--that he allows Obama to perform the full Soujah he didn't execute in his race speech last month and flatly denounce him. He may lose the intellectual high ground that impressed us "elites" but politically it may be the necessary thing to do.

Update: Obama insists Wright's latest salvos "don’t represent my view and they don’t represent what this campaign is about."

More: On "Hardball" just now David Axelrod complained about the level of media attention Wright is getting--maybe he's hoping to replicate the post-ABC debate dynamic of anti-media outrage that softened a bad story somewhat (though not enough to salvage PA).

Michael Crowley