We learned recently that Wright's defamatory comments published in church bulletins were, on occasion, also directed at Italians. ABC News reported on March 27th, “Trumpet Newsmagazine, of which Wright is the chief executive officer, published an article written by Wright in which he described the crucifixion of Jesus as ‘public lynching Italian style.’” He also wrote, according to CNSNews.com, “The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans.” Finally, CNN reported on March 28th that, “They [church bulletins] also quote a historian who said that ‘what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews.’”
Let me report on the mail I received after my commentary of last week criticizing Senator Obama and Rev. Wright. Some of that correspondence defended Wright's attacks on the U.S., whites and Jews and Obama. Here are some excerpts from three readers of my commentary:
1. "I have read your recent message re: Sen. Obama's speech and I find your attacks totally unconvincing. The fact that you disregard the Reverend's positive contributions to his community and the positive aspects of the relationship between the Reverend and the Senator demonstrates either ignorance or bad faith, either of which is unbecoming of a man of your influence."
2. "I disagree with all that [Wright's charges against America] and ALL his hate speech. But I have no problem concluding that it does not represent Obama and that Obama should not be deemed unworthy of being president because he embraced the good in Wright and did not walk away when he heard the bad."
3. "I thought Sen. Obama's race speech was one of the most inspiring, hopeful, uplifting speeches I have ever heard in modern politics. You and I have been in politics long enough to know that guilt by association is a great way to create doubts about a candidate, but I have no doubt Sen. Obama has the best chance of getting us beyond stereotypes."
These readers seek to excuse Barack Obama’s conduct, but I remain unconvinced. Obama told us in his brilliant and moving speech on March 18th that "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother," who engaged, he said, in racial stereotyping.
But now, on television talk programs, he tells us a somewhat different story. According to The New York Times of March 29th, "Mr. Obama, who has run the gamut of news shows in recent weeks to defuse the ado over his relationship with Mr. Wright, had no trouble finding longwinded words to demarcate his allegiance to his longtime pastor. 'Had the Reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws,' he said, 'then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.'"
Did something happen since his speech of March 18th when he, in effect, offered excuses for his pastor's hate speech and his own reaction? I think not. Rather, I think he decided his prior silence was unacceptable. So now he tells us that but for his pastor's retirement and "acknowledge[ment] that what he had said deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized," he would have left the church.
May I suggest Obama's sudden expressed desire to separate himself from his pastor came only after the media storm that followed the public outcry voiced at his pastor's remarks, particularly his having said, "No, no, not God Bless America. God damn America." If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee for president, he will be subject to withering attacks by the Republicans on this issue.
Does Obama's belated recognition of his minister's bigotry satisfy me? No, it does not. Indeed, I am surprised that Obama's description of his minister's hate speech, which he condemns, is limited to the words, "controversial," “inexcusable,” "inappropriate, "troubling” and “appalling.” Why hasn't he called it by its rightful name - hate speech?
I think what Hillary did in exaggerating the danger to her in Bosnia and seeking to convey a bravery that she did not exhibit in landing there years ago is to be condemned and not passed over as she and many of her supporters do, by saying that she "misspoke." Nevertheless, Obama's explanation of why he was silent until now and the manner in which he characterizes Wright's remarks are worse. Interestingly, he also refers to an apology by Rev. Wright, which I've not seen published anywhere. Have you?
And, more importantly, why did it take him 20 years to come to this conclusion?
Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.