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Editorial: A roadblock from Wright

In his own mind, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is running for the kingdom of heaven, and the fact that he’s sabotaging Barack Obama’s run for president is of little consequence to him. In reality, though, Wright is playing into the hands of people who would deny both men their quest if they could.
The initial controversy over Wright’s racially charged messages as pastor of Obama’s church in Chicago might have died down but for two things: First, the North Carolina GOP decided to cast Wright and therefore Obama as the bogeyman in televised political ads last week. Then, seeing a chance to spread his message further ó his book is coming out this fall, after all ó Wright went on a media blitz this week that put his comments before a national audience in full.
One of Wright’s contentions is that the federal government invented the HIV virus to attack the black community, likening it to the Tuskegee Project in which researchers secretly chose not to treat black patients suffering from syphilis so they could study the effects of the disease ó a horror for which the federal government apologized in 1997. (And for which it settled out of court in 1974.) Anything can happen. Considering the scourge HIV has been for people of all races at home and worldwide, that theory sounds preposterous. But it’s beginning to appear that another conspiracy might be at work here as someone with ill intent keeps nudging Wright into the spotlight for just such a counterproductive end ó ultimately defeating himself and Obama.
That may be too paranoid. Wright appears to have given in to the lure of self-promotion, nudging himself along as he pokes Obama in the eye. Supporters say he is bringing national attention to issues that should be discussed. This country does indeed have racial frictions, and dialogue would help. Everyone knew having an African American candidate of such prominence would raise issues. But Wright doesn’t sound like he wants to have a heart-to-heart talk. He’s into preaching, not listening.
This chain of events has been unfortunate for Obama politically and personally. Disavowing some of your preacher’s comments is one thing; finding yourself forced to repudiate him altogether ó the man who performed your wedding ceremony and baptized your children ó is a wrenching thing. Lots of people say Obama should have left Wright’s church long ago, but a church is more than the preacher ó much more. It’s all the people in the congregation, too, and a family can build deep ties within a church over 20 years.
If Wright proves to be Obama’s downfall, causing voters to paint the candidate with the “extremist” label that Wright courts so proudly, this could be a wrenching experience all around. Wright may find his place in heaven with or without an Obama presidency, but he has set up new roadblocks on the way to racial understanding.

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