Barack Obama, who’s now about 65 delegates shy of getting his party’s nomination — the final two state primaries come tomorrow in Montana and South Dakota — has quit the Chicago church that seemed to be a magnet for those who express prejudice and ill will.
“I’m not denouncing the church, and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church,” said Obama following his resignation from a 20-year membership in Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s clear now, Obama said, that the remarks made from the pulpit at Trinity United will be “imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views.”
Obama is right in a sense. The question he’s never answered is how and why he sat there for 20 years listening to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s brand of anti-Americanism. Wright contended that the remarks that were widely aired were out-of-context snippets.
His later remarks at the National Press Club, however, suggesting that the U.S. government had planted AIDS in the black community and his praise of Louis Farrakhan, amplified the messages that the congregation of Trinity undoubtedly heard. Pfleger, too, provides context. These are folks who go to church to have their hatreds and prejudices stoked.
Obama’s not responsible for what preachers there are saying now. But it is hard to get away from the fact that the incendiary comments that bring joyful noise to the congregation, whether coming from Wright or Pfleger, could not be suddenly different from those that Obama sat through for two decades.
The other observation about Obama’s retreat from Trinity is that it took him three weeks to distance himself from Wright and he departs now insisting that he’ll not denounce the church. This is a guy who’s indecisive or, worse yet, a potential President who can’t turn a bad idea loose. He’s been accused of turning his debate gaffes into foreign policy — the pledge to meet with scoundrels and dictators without preconditions, for example.