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Obama: On Disowning Rev. Wright.--

Barack Obama spoke about Rev. Wright at the ABC debate on Wednesday night:

OBAMA: ... And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me, but somebody who is associated with me that I have disowned, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've disowned him?

OBAMA: The comments, comments that I've disowned.

[I have changed this quoted exchange to conform to the ABC transcript, linked by Bill Dyer in the comments below. This transcript did not appear in a Google search for the transcript before my original post, but now that it is available, it's best to go with a more accurate and complete text.]

Obama in his March 18, 2008 speech explained why he couldn't disown Rev. Wright:

Obama: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother . . . ."

It is odd that Obama would use the metaphorical word "disown" to assert the opposite of what he said less than a month ago, not correcting his misstatement until challenged by George Stephanopoulous. [Now that I have a fuller transcript, I see that Obama may well have been referring to disowning the remarks, rather than the person, all along. The transcript is ambiguous on this point.]

I don't envy politicians; they run the risk of being attacked every time they open their mouths.

huskerfan:
Don't see the point.
4.17.2008 1:44am
Commenterlein (mail):
I think the point is that something about Obama really, really freaks right-wing law professors out.

Or is there another explanation for all the substanceless posts about him? In particular in light of the absence of similar posts about the other candidates?
4.17.2008 2:01am
Fearless:
The point is that someone who has been a law professor should never be President. A law prof like Bernstein would know that best. =)
4.17.2008 2:06am
Gilbert (mail):
Good lord, get off it.
4.17.2008 2:28am
James Lindgren (mail):
Commenterlein:

Obama is by far the most interesting candidate (and phenomenon) this year, and thus is by far the most talked about candidate in the blogosphere. Further, people don't know much about him, so a lot is still being revealed. I don't know him personally, but we have some overlapping friends and colleagues.

I voted for Obama in the Democratic primary this year (as I have voted for him many times before). And I was hoping to vote for him again the fall, but as the campaign progresses, I am becoming more disenchanted.
4.17.2008 2:31am
Zed:
Now that is change black Obamaites can believe in.
4.17.2008 2:35am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I don't envy politicians; they run the risk of being attacked every time they open their mouths."

That problem comes with lying. Funny thing, the truth has its own consistency, and the people who stick to it rarely have to back track and spin. That's how you trip up a lying witness. See Wellman, Cross Examination of the Perjured Witness, page 66.

Like HRC BHO has a problem telling the truth and keeping his story straight.
4.17.2008 2:45am
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
I noticed that exchange, and even re-wound and watched it a couple of times on my TiVo. What you've reprinted is an incomplete and inaccurate transcription.

From the transcription on the ABC News website (which corresponds to my recollection as well) (emphasis mine):

OBAMA: ... And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me, but somebody who is associated with me that I have disowned, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've disowned him?

OBAMA: The comments, comments that I've disowned.


I think he was actually intending to stick very strictly to the distinction he made on March 18, as he's done fairly consistently since then. The phrase "that I have disowned" probably should have been set apart by em-dashes or at least commas, as an interjection; and from his phrasing, I understood him to be referring by that phrase to the comments, not the man — even before his immediate clarification (in response to Stephanopoulos' attempted "gotcha").

I don't find Obama's excuses and explanations for the whole affair at all persuasive, but I don't think he intended to "disown" Rev. Wright tonight. In my view, Obama contradicts himself frequently enough that there's no need to mangle quotes to prove that.
4.17.2008 2:45am
James Lindgren (mail):
Bill Dyer:

Thanks very much for the transcript. I searched for a transcript before posting -- to no avail. I'm glad that ABC has now posted one so I can get a more complete quote in context. I changed the post above.
4.17.2008 3:24am
Asher (mail):
The antecedent of the relative pronoun 'that' could be 'somebody,' but on a charitable reading, the antecedent could be 'comments.' (Also, if he meant Wright, he probably would have used 'whom' instead of 'that.') When I heard him say it, I thought he was saying he disowned Wright, but on rereading it, I think he meant the comments. Although that's bad usage, I don't believe you can disown remarks, especially ones that you yourself never spoke and therefore never had any sort of ownership of or relation to in the first place.
4.17.2008 3:26am
John McCall (mail):
Please don't parse grammar in unprepared remarks.
4.17.2008 4:07am
GP (mail):
This blog is much less interesting to read when it's grasping at straws. I think the Supreme Court may be up to something this week, how about more coverage of that?
4.17.2008 10:52am
Justin (mail):
Shorter Jim:

In an unscripted debate, Obama said something that could be uncharitably interpreted as inconsistent. I am disappointed in him. BTW, this is an unfair attack, and I am against unfair attacks.
4.17.2008 11:43am
FantasiaWHT:

In an unscripted debate, Obama said something that could be uncharitably interpreted as inconsistent. I am disappointed in him. BTW, this is an unfair attack, and I am against unfair attacks.


Yes, because it's only "fair" to judge someone based on remarks that they've had time to edit &rewrite? The only fair basis for judgment is scripts that have had multiple people go over with a fine tooth comb?

Right.
4.17.2008 12:28pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Like HRC BHO has a problem telling the truth and keeping his story straight."

He does? Care to present an example? As the corrected post makes clear, the Wright issue is not one of them.
4.17.2008 12:57pm
MXE (mail):
I'm not a big Obama fan, but just based on the transcript, I don't see that he misspoke here at all. The way it's transcribed above, he seems to be saying he's disowned Wright, but remember that he punctuation is all basically a fabrication of the transcriber. Look what happens when you switch around the punctuation:

"And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments -- not made by me, but somebody who is associated with me -- that I have disowned, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit."

I will also point out that, strictly speaking, if he were talking about Wright rather than Wright's comments, it should have been "whom," not "that."

But I agree, this is all more than a bit absurd.
4.17.2008 1:55pm
The Unbeliever:
"I don't envy politicians; they run the risk of being attacked every time they open their mouths."

As well they should be, no matter what party or identity group they belong to.
4.17.2008 1:55pm
hieronymous coward:
It depends on what the antecedent of 'that' is.

(With apologies to W.J. Clinton)
4.17.2008 1:58pm
Joe1239848209349:
IF you move the comma it is clear that he could be talking about disavowing the comments. very unclear indeed
4.17.2008 2:21pm
LM (mail):
This thread is a microcosm of our electoral discourse. Jim Lindgren posted an observation on what turned out to be an incomplete transcript of Obama's statement. I'll go out on a limb and say that that if Jim had had an accurate transcript in the first place, there would be no post above these comments. In other words, he made an innocent mistake, later corrected, which now refuses to die.
4.17.2008 4:41pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Hmm, as Daffy Duck observed, (Rabbit Seasoning, IIRC) "Pronoun trouble!"

After many many posts devoted to whether EV, (or anyone else besides me) thought that various "Bushisms" were funny and/or newsworthy based on their general muddle-headedness (or mush-mouthedness) or were mere hair-splitting, I really think that it's a bit of a reach to try and tease even a nuance of mis-statement out of this quote, which pretty deftly avoids having the mis-statement thrust on it. What Obama pretty much said finessed is "I said I had disowned the comments, not the man; if you're interpreting my remarks to mean the latter, you interpret wrong."

Unless Rev Wright figured prominently in Sen Obama's estate plan, it's not a lot more intelligible for him to refer to "disowning" him than it would be to refer, metaphorically, to "disowning" his views.

I'll concede that most Americans, including YT, on hearing any use of the more correct "disavow", probably first think of
". . . any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Hssssssssssss"


r gould-saltman
4.17.2008 7:13pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Or is there another explanation for all the substanceless posts about him? In particular in light of the absence of similar posts about the other candidates?"

There is a great deal of substance in asking if Obama supports the loony ideas of a man he identifies as a mentor and major influence on his life. It is also difficult to believe that a guy as sharp as Obama didn't know Wright was preaching that the US government created AIDS to kill blacks. Obama's initial claim that he didn't hear those ideas while "he sat in the pews" allows one to legitimately wonder if he learned of them while not sitting in the pews.
4.17.2008 11:41pm
Haberdash:
He has a strange record of giving these ambiguous, misleading statements on Wright which nevertheless are arguably true (even though they give they imply the opposite of the truth). For example, on The View he said that he would have left the Church had Wright not retire AND had not apologized for his remarks. This makes it seem, to the casual observer, that Wright has apologized when he has not and will not. But the construction, while awkward, could also be construed to mean that if Wright had not retired and IF he then refused to apologize, then Obama would have to leave the Church (this is what his campaign later said he intended). So, maybe he's just choosing his words consistently poorly, or maybe he's choosing them carefully to give a more favorable impression while maintaining later, under inquiry, that he was being truthful all along.
4.18.2008 1:28pm