Barack Obama’s angry denunciation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright yesterday caught a lot of people by surprise. But it hasn’t been as surprising as Wright’s Magical Media Tour (as Shani called it), which seemed to defy any sort of logic.
I asked someone who works for the Obama campaign what they thought Wright was trying to accomplish. “Clear his name?” she said. Uh, he’s taken a pretty interesting tack to that end.
The press is usually very slow to self-correct, so the idea that Wright is not an anti-white, anti-American nutjob — the popular narrative, even though there’s little evidence to support it and there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary — is gonna be one that’s hard for him to shake.
That said, I want to be clear that I thought Wright acted a fool on Monday. There’s a lot of chatter out there claiming that Wright was trying to sabotage Obama. I don’t buy it. Like I said yesterday, I think Wright just wanted to say whatever he felt. But he made a few mistakes. Chief among them, as my friend Jelani Cobb has said, was not recognizing the difference between his pulpit and the lion’s den. This press lives to expose these sort of performances, and Wright just gave them low-hanging fruit.
Why he would do that, given what he’s been through the past few months, just boggles the mind. You can’t, on the one hand, attack the press for distorting you, and then go right to the press to communicate who you are to the American people. The saddest part of this to me, is that I don’t think Wright understood what was going on. There’s a lot of reporting now suggesting that Bill Clinton’s biggest problem is that he simply doesn’t understand how much media has changed since his White House days. His gaffes are not the product of a decline in skills, as I’ve written before, but the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what the press has become–a gaggle of cynics who sit around waiting for people say something stupid. Gotcha journalism rules the day. Wright’s mistake was much the same–he simply had no understanding of the press.