- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 7, 2008

After cutting ties with his controversial former pastor, Sen. Barack Obama received a word of sympathy from an unusual place: a Republican.

Former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee says the Rev. Jeremiah Wright wants to derail Mr. Obama’s bid for the White House for a simple tactical reason: Mr. Wright does not want Mr. Obama to prove we’ve made that much racial progress.

“His campaign is not being derailed by his race,” Mr. Huckabee told reporters following a fund-raiser in Montana. “It’s being derailed by a person who doesn’t want him to prove that we have made great advances in this country,”

Mr. Huckabee, himself a Baptist minister, added, “Jeremiah Wright needs for Obama to lose so he can justify his anger, his hostile bitterness against the United States of America.”

It’s hard to imagine Mr. Wright would turn on the rising political star whom he led to Jesus Christ two decades ago at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side, when Mr. Obama was a community organizer. Yet Mr. Wright has been offering enough evidence to indicate that Pastor Huck might have uncovered an awful truth.

Mr. Obama’s repudiation of Mr. Wright came after Mr. Wright blew an opportunity at the National Press Club news conference to smooth the nationwide feathers he has ruffled.

In stark contrast with the sedate, almost scholarly discussion Mr. Wright gave to Bill Moyers on PBS’ “Bill Moyers Journal” the previous weekend, Mr. Wright turned up the heat.

He reinforced repeated his assertions that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were American “chickens coming home to roost” after United States’ “terrorism” against minorities at home and abroad.

He defended the polarizing Minister Louis Farrakhan with enough enthusiasm to cause further damage to Mr. Obama’s rainbow coalition.

Instead of backing away from his implications in earlier sermons that AIDS was created by the government to kill “people of color,” he restated his suspicions. “Based on the Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country,” he said, “I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”

The horrendous Tuskegee experiments began in the 1930s, when government scientists withheld treatment from black syphilis patients in order to study to impact of the disease on their bodies. There hasn’t been evidence of similar atrocities since then, except in fringe literature that Mr. Wright unfortunately appears to believe.

At a time when Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign was desperately trying to make up for his soft support among white working class voters, he didn’t need this Wright hook. Maybe Mr. Wright is still bitter, consciously or not, over being asked to withdraw from Mr. Obama’s announcement ceremonies in Springfield, Ill., last year.

But a more powerful force may simply be fundamental differences in how Mr. Wright and Mr. Obama view the world. Mr. Wright is a man of the past. Mr. Obama is a man of the future.

I think Mr. Obama got it right in his Philadelphia speech on race when he tried to explain his former pastor’s words without condoning them. “The profound mistake of Rev. Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.”

But, as Mr. Obama added, we know that America can change — and it has changed. As our elders prophesied to my generation of African-Americans back in the 1960s, opportunities have opened up. It’s up to us to prepare ourselves to step inside, rather than stand outside the door complaining about it.

Instead of joining with Mr. Obama’s call for reconciliation, as he has done on other occasions, Mr. Wright flamboyantly issued a taunt at the National Press Club. With his finger raised defiantly toward the firing squad of news cameras, he recalled saying to Mr. Obama last year, “If you get elected, Nov. 5, I’m coming after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.”

Oh, really? After all that, I don’t imagine a President Obama would be eager to return Mr. Wright’s phone calls. Mr. Wright may have single-handedly done enough damage to make sure Mr. Obama never gets to the Oval Office anyway.

If so, Mr. Wright probably will blame the white man for the defeat, but the rest of us will know who helped bring about that defeat.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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