Barack Obama gave a great speech yesterday, addressing both the specific controversy that has arisen over comments made by his Chicago preacher and the broad issues of race relations in the United States. The problem for Obama, however, is that he may have been playing the wrong game.
Listening to the whole speech, or even to lengthy segments of it, reveals that Obama makes strong arguments and says a number of things that many Americans know to be true but are reluctant to say. But a speech like the one he gave requires subtle phrasing and the building of logical arguments that don’t translate well into headlines or sound bites, so most people will never absorb the nuance of what Obama said and instead will form their opinions about whether he supports his preacher’s statements based on only a handful of words from the speech.
Without getting into whether I agree with Obama’s reaction to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s statements, much less those statements themselves, I do think that it’s unreasonable to judge a person based on what his minister says. As a Catholic, I certainly know that it would be both unfair and grossly inaccurate to draw implications about my opinions based on every word that comes out of the mouth of the pope or my parish priest.