The Sin of the Reverend

Is Rev. Jeremiah Wright on the secret payroll of Barack Obama's political opponents?

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It's a reasonable question, given the potentially catastrophic damage he wreaked on the Illinois Senator's White House aspirations with his bombastic performance at the National Press Club this morning. At the precise moment when Obama is facing questions about his ability to connect with white working class voters, Wright chose to put himself back into the spotlight, resurrecting the controversy stirred up by widely circulated snippets from his impassioned sermons. At the very least, Obama will now be forced to waste precious time answering questions about his former pastor's absurd views. At worst, Wright's provocative utterances could cost Obama the election.

I'm not surprised. I've been writing that Wright is a loud-mouthed extremist ever since the flap about him erupted. He's obviously a well-educated, sincere man who has done good work in building Trinity United Church of Christ. But, to borrow a phrase that Wright might have used in one of his sermons, his rant at the Press Club demonstrates, that he is also a damn fool.

Who but a fool would use an appearance before the nation's press to claim that the questions that have been raised about him are in fact an attack on the black church as a whole, thereby associating the church as a whole with his views? Who but a fool would use this occasion to re-iterate his paranoid accusation that AIDS is the result of a genocidal plot because he believes "our government if capable of doing anything" in its quest for imperialism?

Who would use this most public of spotlights to re-associate himself with Min. Louis Farrakhan? Who would use this particular pulpit to claim that the only reason Obama has distanced himself from these sorts of comments is because "he's a politician," thereby leaving the suggestion that Obama, when he is off the stump, believes all the rhetoric and hype?

Wright, as he repeatedly noted today, is not a politician. But there's no way he can be blind to just how much damage he is doing to Obama, the first African American to have a realistic shot at becoming president. This is a political sin for which he should not be forgiven.

Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.

is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.