- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is very easy to see why so many of Barack Obama’s supporters are enthralled and moved to action when they hear him speak. Yesterday’s “more perfect union” speech before community and business leaders in Philadelphia was a prime example.

While Mr. Obama’s remarks about race and the condemnation of his retired pastor’s bigoted rantings had the makings of a prolific orator, Mr. Obama said yesterday what he should have earlier on. Had he done so, the senator likely would not have found himself forced into this current position.

The speech went a long way toward painting the picture of a man moved toward racial reconciliation — with family members “of every race and every hue, scattered across all three continents” — but he remains a dichotomy of words. If Mr. Obama is for unity among the races, it stands to reason that there is no place for race-baiting. The senator said: “These people [Mr. Wright] are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.” But Mr. Wright has made it clear on many occasions that America is a country he neither loves nor has a desire to live in.

To say that the Mr. Wright had a “profoundly distorted view of this country” — as Mr. Obama did — is an understatement. “Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes,” Mr. Obama said. Controversial? Mr. Wright’s words go beyond controversial; they are hateful. Damning America is hateful.

Mr. Obama also highlighted many of the great things Mr. Wright’s church does in the community, such as providing day care, housing for the homeless and prison counseling. Well, so do Louis Farrakhan and Fidel Castro.

Alas, the discussion now needs to move beyond the rebukes to one about what is tolerable “free speech” in a presidential campaign and what is “political speech” in the pulpit. If the junior senator from Illinois, who wants to be president, insists on defending Mr. Wright, then the path to “a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America” will take a lot longer.

Mr. Obama conceded that he didn’t always agree with Mr. Wright. “Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely,” he said. Then why didn’t Mr. Obama walk away from the church?

Political views don’t belong in the pulpit. Just ask the IRS.

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