Today, Barack Obama vigorously denounced the words of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and said that his relationship with Wright had changed, but stopped short of explicitly disowning him.
So how is this any different than the last time, his speech in Philadelphia? This time Obama seems actually to mean his denunciations:
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: . . . Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.
You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.
They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.
Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He's built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people. And what attracted me has always been their ministry's reach beyond the church walls. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today. . . .
But what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am. . . .
And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan has — has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs. . . .
But the insensitivity and the outrageousness, of his statements and his performance in the question-and-answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me. It surprised me. . . .
Obama's sense of outrage over Rev. Wright's remarks now seems genuine.
Most of what Obama points to (AIDS, Farrakhan, etc.) was said before, as Obama well knew.
What pushed Obama over the edge seems to have been the insult to him personally, not the outrageousness of Wright's views:
OBAMA: And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that — that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the — the commonality in all people. . . .
I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. I don't — more importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people.
And obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that — well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me. . . .
But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's — that's a show of disrespect to me. It's a — it is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign. . . .
One more thing: Obama appears to attribute to the press the idea that Reverend Wright was his "spiritual adviser" or "spiritual mentor" (Does anyone know whether this characterization arose in the press?):
OBAMA: I know that one thing that he said was true, was that he wasn't — you know, he was never my, quote-unquote, "spiritual adviser."
He was never my "spiritual mentor." He was — he was my pastor. And so to some extent, how, you know, the — the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, wasn't accurate.
UPDATE: Two additional points:
1. Essentially, in the Philadelphia speech, Barack Obama used his rhetorical talents to make excuses for words and ideas with which he expressed genuine disagreement. Today Obama used his rhetorical talents to denounce those ideas. Before he was trying to justify his weak response to Wright. Today Obama seemed to be holding back from making even stronger comments than the vigorous and heartfelt denunciations he made.
2. I think that part of Obama's approach to Wright is a conscious "Christian" effort to "hate the sin, love the sinner."