Ryan Chartrand

Everyone said that the Democratic race was going to be about race and gender. Just this past week in the Pennsylvania primary, 90 percent of black voters voted for Barack Obama and 59 percent of women voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton. However, for the most part, the race and gender issue has been somewhat of an elephant (or donkey) in the room. The general population seems to be talking about it but it hasn’t been brought front and center with the media – until now. In the past week, race has been talked about more on every news channel and it’s not doing the Democrats an ounce of good. The Republican party has only one man to thank for this: Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Rev. Wright, for those of you who haven’t heard, used to be Obama’s pastor. Obama was a part of Wright’s church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, for about 20 years. Wright married Obama and his wife and baptized both of their children. Obama drew the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope” from one of Wright’s sermons and included the reverend as a part of his African-American Religious Leadership Committee up until March of this year. Despite this, Obama’s advisers knew that the racially dividing content of Wright’s sermons had the potential to blow up in their faces and, despite all efforts to distance themselves, now it has.

Wright’s most well-known quotes include the anti-American “God bless America … No! … God Damn America … for killing innocent people … for treating her citizens as less than human” and referring to the U.S.A. as the “U.S. of K.K.K.” Wright has also made clear that he believes the “government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.” Wright also said America brought the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks onto itself. I can’t imagine why Obama wouldn’t want such a stellar individual on his campaign.

Obama first attempted to distance himself from Wright on Feb. 9, 2007. Wright had been asked to make a speech before Obama’s announcement that he would run for the nomination but was uninvited the night before. Apparently Obama’s advisers had convinced him it was best to not bring his close relationship with Wright into such a public arena, especially due to how much negativity it was beginning to stir up in the press. Not only were conservative talk shows and bloggers all abuzz, but Tucker Carlson of MSNBC was calling Wright and his church “racially exclusive” and “wrong.”

After the revoked invitation and Wright’s appointment to the leadership committee, where he was out of the public eye, everything calmed down for awhile. The Wright issue wasn’t getting much press and people forgot about it. Then came March of this year when videos were released of Wright’s inflammatory remarks (I think you can thank the Clinton camp for this one). Obama’s relationship with the pastor was once again criticized by not only conservatives, but largely Sen. Clinton. Obama, I have to say, did a very good job attempting to put this issue to rest with his “A More Perfect Union” speech. He strongly condemned Wright’s comments and spoke of how they led to divisiveness. This probably would have worked and possibly saved the day for the campaign except for one thing: Wright won’t SHUT UP. These last few days he’s been on a public relations tour, appearing in an interview with Bill Moyers, giving a keynote address at a NAACP event and holding a press conference.

In his press conference he restated America is to be blamed for Sept. 11, 2001 and said any attacks on him are attacks on the black church (obviously because they’re one and the same). Wright has continued to hurt Obama’s campaign and his chances for winning in November. If Obama gets the Democratic nomination you can bet that this won’t go away. Though conspiracy theorists believe that Clinton is behind a lot of the negative Obama press so that he will lose in November and thus help her get the nomination in 2012, this issue won’t disappear after the convention. Even if McCain doesn’t use this against Obama, and given his condemnation of North Carolina’s mud-slinging ads regarding the subject I don’t think he will, the press isn’t going to forget about it.

The question is no longer if Obama knew about Wright’s beliefs and whether he agreed with him while sitting in a pulpit in that church for 20 years (he did). The question is now how much damage Wright can inflict through his disregard for what he is costing Obama’s campaign while promoting his own personal agenda. As this negative press continues, it seems Wright is the one person who can put a smudge on Obama’s character and could be the Achilles’ heel of the entire campaign, costing Obama the presidency in November.

Jennifer Gilmore is a microbiology senior and a conservative columnist for the Mustang Daily.

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