Here’s yet another example of why I’m so pro-Obama. It’s hard, sometimes, to explain how his perspective is different from that of other presidential contenders. But it is. You can see it in his books and you can see it on display in this exchange with the Chicago Tribune.
Basically, he’s addressing not just the Jeremiah Wright dust up, but the Geraldine Ferarro issue. He does an amazing job of stepping back and looking at the big picture. Instead of ripping either person, he instead talks about where their particular views comes from and what we can learn from what BOTH have said.
For what it’s worth, neither campaign attacked these people. While the Obama campaign was upset by Clinton’s lack of action, they never called Ferarro a racist or a bigot. Specifically, Obama himself has only ever said that her comments were ridiculous and absurd. He’s never attacked her or Hillary.
And the Clinton campaign, much to their credit, hasn’t gone after Jeremiah Wright or Obama.
Here’s the passage from the interview with Obama:
Tribune: The issue of [former U.S. Rep.] Geraldine Ferraro’s comments on the role your race has played in this campaign. Then comes the video that has comments that your pastor Jeremiah Wright has made. How are we to look at these, what’s the best way to look at this and in what context do you put them to the American people?
Obama: Well, you know, I think they’re separate issues, but there is a relationship. I think you’re touching on something that’s worth talking about. I think, with respect to Geraldine Ferraro, I don’t think what she said was racist, and I was asked about this and I said I didn’t think that was what it was. I do think that what she said was wrong.
The implication was that I was an affirmative action beneficiary. I think you can make an argument that my race might have played a role in my selection for the 2004 convention, but it doesn’t account for the fact that it was a pretty good speech. I think that my persona obviously includes the fact that I’m an African-American, and so to the extent that how I talk about issues of race and how I present myself is attractive to some voters, I think is undeniable.
To suggest that I could have gotten through the gauntlet of the last 13 months against very experienced, very savvy, skilled politicians and find myself in the lead for the Democratic nomination, including against the dominant political machine in the Democratic Party over the last 20 years, seems pretty dismissive.
And not just dismissive of me, but dismissive of voters. This idea that, “Oh, you know, let’s get a black guy in there,” I think just doesn’t make sense. So I think that it was looking at an issue through a racial lens that doesn’t make perfect sense. I mean, she could have made a subtle point about the role of race in my candidacy that could have been interesting. This wasn’t it. All right, so that’s Geraldine Ferraro.
Rev. Wright. He preached his last sermon, he’s now in retirement. I’ve put out a statement today. Ill be honest with you, this is somebody who I’ve known for 20 years. I basically came to the church and became a member of the church through Trinity [United Church of Christ] and through him. He’s the person who gave me the line “the audacity of hope.” He is somebody who is a former Marine, a biblical scholar, has taught and lectured at major theological seminaries across the country and has been very widely regarded and admired.
And, you know, he hasn’t been my political adviser, he’s been my pastor. And I have to say that the clips that have been shown over the past couple of days are deeply disturbing to me. I wasn’t in church during those sermons.
The things he said and the way he said them I think are offensive. And I reject them, and they don’t reflect who I am or what I believe in. In fairness to him, this was sort of a greatest hits. They basically culled five or six sermons out of 30 years of preaching. That doesn’t excuse them, and I’ve said so very clearly, but that’s not the relationship I had with him. That’s not the relationship I had with the church, and if I had heard those kinds of statements being said, if I had been in church on those days, I would have objected fiercely to them, and I would have told him personally.
When some of these statements first came to light was right around when I was starting to run for president. He was a year away from retirement, and the church itself is a pillar of the community and a well-regarded, well-known church. I suspect there are members of the Tribune family that are also members of Trinity.
It is not what’s been painted as this separatist church or what have you, it is a very traditional African-American church on the South Side of Chicago. And most of the reverend’s sermons are the sermons of a traditional African-American pastor. And so my view was that it would not be appropriate for me to distance myself from the church. I put out a statement saying I profoundly disagree with these statements, and the fact that he is now retiring makes me not want to simply discard him. He’s like a member of the family, he’s like your uncle who says things you profoundly disagree with, but he’s still your uncle.
Tribune: Geraldine Ferraro, she’s asked to leave, she leaves the campaign, she should have left. And some people see that, legitimately so. Then how should we see . . .
Obama: I think people should raise legitimate concerns about it. And the fact that he’s retiring, and we’ve got a young pastor, Otis Moss, coming in, means that people should understand the context of this relationship. That this is an aging pastor who’s about to retire and that I have made and will make some very clear statements about how profoundly I disagree with these statements. I don’t think they are reflective of the church.
They’re certainly not reflective of my views. I do think there is an overlap in the sense that there is a generational shift that is taking place and has constantly taken pace in our society. And Rev. Wright is somebody who came of age in the 60s. And so like a lot of African-American men of fierce intelligence coming up in the ’60s he has a lot of the language and the memories and the baggage of those times. And I represent a different generation with just a different set of life experiences, and so see race relations in just a different set of terms than he does, as does Otis Moss, who is slightly younger than me. And so the question then for me becomes what’s my relationship to that past?
You know, I can completely just disown it and say I don’t understand it, but I do understand it. I understand the context with which he developed his views but also can still reject unequivocally. . .
Tribune: You reject his views, you won’t reject the man. Is that it?
Obama: Yeah, exactly. And this is where the connection comes in. I mean, I do think that Geraldine Ferraro, the lens through which she looks at race, is different. . . . She’s grown up in different times. The Queens that she grew up in is, I’m sure, a different place than it was then. Just as Chicago is a different place than it was then.
So part of my job is to see if I can help push the country into a different place with a different set of understandings. But as I said, it doesn’t excuse what the reverend said, and I’m very troubled by it. And if, as I said, if I had heard those sermons, if I had been there when those sermons were taking place, I would have raised that with him, and if I had thought that that was the message being promoted on a consistent basis within that church, I don’t think I could be a consistent part of it.