I hate to go 'I told you so' about Jeremiah Wright, but a casual stop by Trinity United on the day after the South Carolina primary has turned into a fairly dead-on portrayal of the egoism that has swollen Obama's "Wrightmare" to an unprecedented degree of tumescence. I asked then and do again: "Why wouldn't Wright take the hint that Obama seemed to be offering and quietly slink into the background, at least until November 2008?"
A refresher from "Far Wright":
That Sunday, I was struck by how much of the sermon was about--well, him. During the address, he let fly with a verbal fusillade aimed directly at his detractors: "I don't care what nobody in the 4-H club says. Y'all know what the 4-H club is?" The church roared, and he explained: "That's Hannity, Hillary, Hobbes, and Haters." Later, while discussing his opposition to South African apartheid, Wright seemed to take another shot at his enemies: "I was talked about then, and I'm still talked about now," he thundered. "But I'm not going to stop being me because of what somebody says about me. [Jesus] set me free to be me and he set me free to forgive stupidity." And here he gets in one more jab: "So I forgive you, 4-H club; I forgive you, confused journalists; I forgive you, nervous negroes--I forgive you."
That's right; he forgives you. Jesus would, too. Jeremiah Wright, it's clear, is pathologically narcissistic, unable today to retract even his most outrageous contentions about AIDS and the black community. While many--many--people in this saga have behaved badly, today Wright demonstrated, ironically, the real strain of fervid self-love of which Obama is sometimes accused. This narcissism is defined and amplified by a compete lack of self-awareness that is terrifying to observe. Breaking his silence to the DC press corps, Wright had the audacity to cite Proverbs: “It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
Consider my doubt removed. Of course Wright has touched lives, and changed many of them. I saw so, and he ought to feel good about that. He is also a very impressive orator, and I found the substance of his speechifying this week and in Chicago to be challenging, true, and important. Rather like Obama in Philadelphia, the man is standing on principle. But as I wrote in March:
It isn't just that Wright is self-centered, although that seems to be the case; it is also that his worldview doesn't recognize firm boundaries between religion and politics, or really between religion and anything.
And to live in that world, stand on that principle in the face of a purely political storm that could change an election is, I think, foolish.
But even before the sermons surfaced, Wright's friends and associates offered mixed opinions about the man's temperament and judgment. (We spoke on the record before the Fox News deluge, so I'll assume their remarks were credible and sincere.)
- The Rev. Michael Pfleger, another well-known Chicago activist, has made a strong case for his friend on television, but told me, “If there’s one thing Jeremiah is guilty of, he’s not politically correct.”
- Obery Hendricks, a friend who spoke at Wright's retirement in February, said of the surprise Qaddafi-Farakkhan-Wright revelation: "Jeremiah Wright is a deeply sensitive man, he really is, despite the bombastic talk and even bluster and I think he was hurt and stunned; he spoke out of that hurt and that surprise and it was not a considered statement."
- Charles Adams, a Harvard theologist who is also close to Wright, added that “he certainly wants the message of the campaign to get out and not be obscured by those who might use him as a lightning rod.” But when asked about outbursts that could be damaging to Obama, Adams admitted, “I really don’t think he enters into those calculations at all.”
But he ought to. And he hasn't. And won't, it seems. Further, he's threatening to "come after" Obama if elected--an ugly threat for such a learned man. Who else does he presume to be able to enact the values and precepts he so wishes were restored to American government? Hobbes is dead, and surely neither Hillary nor Hannity are up to it...perhaps McCain?