"The Progressive" Defends Rev. Wright.--

In a magazine called “The Progressive,” Ruth Conniff writes this anti-progressive article in defense of Rev. Wright:

Watching Jeremiah Wright's speech to the National Press Club Monday morning was both cathartic and alarming.

Cathartic because, after weeks of the endlessly repeated soundbites from his controversial sermons, which have been used to tar his former parishioner Barack Obama, Wright got to speak up for himself. He spoke plainly about racism, his own leftwing political point of view, and what he called, wryly, "this unknown phenomenon of the black church."

Much of what Wright said was absolutely true--yet too hot for white America, for the National Press Club, and for a mainstream U.S. Presidential campaign. It was not great for Obama, whom Wright hinted has distanced himself from his former minister only because he's "a politician" doing "what politicians do.”

In his appearance on Bill Moyers' show Friday, as well as his Press Club speech, Wright blew away any hope the Obama campaign may have had that he would stay mum and let the storm of controversy he kicked up with his impolitic sermons pass.

Instead, Wright came out swinging, mocking the media for knowing nothing about the black church, for taking soundbites from his sermons out of context, and, basically, for being lazy and ignorant. . . .

At times he seemed cocky, clearly enjoying putting his Press Club hosts' noses out of joint and playing to the crowd of supporters. At times he seemed a little confused, saying both that Obama had and hadn't distanced himself from Wright within the space of a minute.

He talked a lot about reconciliation, but at the same time, in heated terms, he outlined the ugly history of racism in our country, from slavery to Jim Crow to the Klan to gross economic disparities today. There was a lot of anger visible under the surface of that tight smile. And, most alarmingly for the Obama campaign and its supporters, there was ample fodder for more endlessly recycled sound bites. Fox News will have a field day.

It was striking to hear the themes of Wright's speech: the criticism of U.S. militarism and imperialism, racial and economic injustice, the references to progressive figures from Cornel West to Jim Wallis, and watch the audience and the press corps react.

Most progressives, and even most Democrats, understand where Wright is coming from. Just as Bill Moyers made reference to his previous encounters with Wright and the friends they have in common, many of the touchstones of his politics are familiar to both black America and progressive America.

What will this mean for the rest of the nation?

To be sure, Wright's refusal to denounce Louis Farrakhan, his angry-sounding declaration that Farrakhan didn't put him in chains or "make me this color," his assertion that "yes, I believe our country is capable of doing anything" in answer to a question about whether he thinks the United States deliberately infected black people with AIDS will be held against him.

But the audience of his friends and supporters ate up his strikes back against what has surely been a racist and unfair campaign against him. Wright's 9/11 sermon, though it looks, in soundbite form, supremely insensitive, was actually a profoundly moving statement on the tragedy and on the desperate, destructive logic of revenge.