I don’t have a lot to add to the uproar over Barack Obama and his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, other than to state that it’s clearly going to hurt Obama badly in a race against John McCain, assuming he gets the Democratic nomination. Wright says some things with which I strongly disagree but I still believe that the story has been blown out of proportion and fanned by the national media. (And often in an incredibly bizarre manner, like a Chicago Tribune story yesterday that said passively, as if it had no role in covering the whole matter, “News reports…have often employed the words ‘controversial’ and ‘bombastic’ to describe Wright’s sermons.” (I can’t find those words repeated in the online version, so perhaps someone had the sense to strike them.) That’s great–citing “news” reports” in a news report.
And even if some of Wright’s comments are objectionable, he’s clearly correct when he says part of the uproar is due to a perception problem. I’ve said for a long time that I thought the media should scrutinize Obama, but the Wright story and “Bittergate” are not what I had in mind. But this piece in the Los Angeles Times is worth a read:
After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2000, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama faced serious financial pressure: numerous debts, limited cash and a law practice he had neglected for a year. Help arrived in early 2001 from a significant new legal client — a longtime political supporter. Chicago entrepreneur Robert Blackwell Jr. paid Obama an $8,000-a-month retainer to give legal advice to his growing technology firm, Electronic Knowledge Interchange. It allowed Obama to supplement his $58,000 part-time state Senate salary for over a year with regular payments from Blackwell’s firm that eventually totaled $112,000.
Read the whole piece and see what you think, but either way it’s good political reporting.