A reader writes:
This affair is as much a mystery as it is a scandal - why would Obama, who in every other time and aspect of his life has shown not the slightest trace of black racism or paranoid extremism, hang with this guy for so long?
I'm beginning to suspect a possible answer -- partly on the basis of Wright's original "Audacity of Hope" sermon. It's a damn good sermon on an extremely important spiritual and moral subject -- namely, the importance (repeatedly emphasized by Chesterton) of never giving up on the intention to try and improve this world, even when all the evidence from this world says that your endeavor is utterly hopeless -- and in which I could not find one word I disagreed with politically or can regard as extreme. I suspect that Obama had a genuine, honest-to-God "born-again" spiritual experience as a result of his first encounters with Wright; those happened at just about the time that Obama (given his early Chicago political experiences, as described by the Chicago Tribune) could be starting to get cynical and despairing about the possibility of ever really improving the world at all, even a small local patch of it. And I know from personal experience how extraordinarily emotionally powerful the born-again experience can be, no matter from who or what it comes; I had one at age 15 as a result of reading C.S. Lewis, and while I soon departed from Christianity I remain eternally grateful to the man.
Now, for a very long time after that, Obama apparently had no strong intention of ever running for any office outside his local neighborhood in Chicago.
If you read the biographies of him, it becomes clear that he got more or less backed into that position. As a state senator from his district he rapidly gained in popularity statewide (even among the state Fraternal Order of Police, despite the fact that he successfully bucked them and the Democratic governor on getting a requirement to videotape all interrogations!) It was apparently only around 2000 that he started to seriously consider running for statewide office at all, and even after he got elected US Senator he didn't originally plan to run for President until 2012 -- he got more or less nudged into doing that early, as well.
I suspect that he stuck with Wright -- and stuck with him, and stuck with him -- for years despite his belief that in many respects Wright had a screw loose, out of both personal friendship and a feeling of genuine personal gratitude to the man for enormously improving his own emotional and spiritual outlook on life. And when he started to consider running for anything other than local office, he figured it was too late to detach himself from Wright and his church -- he'd been associated with it for so long that he would probably get tarred with that association even if he did quit at that late date, and as I say his early plans even at that point seem to have been limited to running for US Senator, in which it wouldn't make as much difference as in a Presidential run.
As I say, it's only a theory. But I think it explains a genuine mystery as well as anything I've seen so far.