EARLY THIS MORNING, after a long day of campaigning, aides showed Barack Obama extended excerpts from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's jaunty and freewheeling press conference in Washington. Obama, the aides said, was deeply, visibly angry. Two said he "insisted" that he hold a second press conference today to unequivocally denounce Rev. Wright's conduct and sever himself from Wright's fulminations. Obama did not want to let Wright hijack his campaign any longer. Five days was enough.
Judging by his square jaw and his posture -- rigid -- and his tone of voice -- elegiac and sad at points, and hard and resolute at others, Obama felt aggrieved and disrespected, especially by Wright's implication that Obama's speech on racial politics in Philadelphia was mere politics.
"I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed, he said. "I don't think he showed much concern for me ... and what we are trying to do in this campaign."
"My reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about.... in some ways, what Rev. Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how i was raise and the setting in which I was raised; it contradicts my decision to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically."
In Philadelphia, Obama said he "can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." Obama has changed his mind, even to the point of insisting that Wright was not his spiritual mentor.
OBAMA HAS used the power of his rhetoric to end controversies before, and the campaign hopes now that Obama's angry soundbites will now replace some of Wright's more radical utterances on the cable news. The campaign won't say whether, in their North Carolina tracking polls, they discovered any fall-off among white voters. The bet they're making is that by extending the active phase of a story for at least one more day, they can prevent its long tail from influencing too many votes next Tuesday.
ALREADY THOUGH, the cable news coverage of Obama's speech is off on a different tangent: psychological pornography. They're scrutinizing the thoughts behind the thinking; whether Wright felt Obama was an ungrateful upstart; whether Obama felt betrayed by Wright; whether Obama is more embarrassed than ashamed.
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