Wright's 'So-Called' Inflammatory Rhetoric Could Help Obama

How's this for a balanced Today panel to discuss the impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's extremism on Barack Obama: two liberals who agree it shouldn't hurt him, with one suggesting the situation might even help Obama?

The panel discussion was preceded by a segment narrated by Lee Cowan, the NBC correspondent covering the Obama campaign who has admitted "it's almost hard to remain objective" about Barack. Cowan buttressed his case in that regard. After playing the clip of Rev. Wright using the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Obama and Hillary, Cowan claimed the words were "old." True--if Cowan considers December, 2007, when Wright uttered them--ancient history.

Then it was on weekend co-anchor Amy Robach's interview of Michael Dyson and Melinda Hennenberger. Dyson, who as Robach noted is an Obama supporter, is a Georgetown professor and MSNBC political analyst. He has in the past garnered headlines for his fierce criticism of Bill Cosby, claiming among other things that Cosby "battered poor blacks" with his calls for self-reliance.
AMY ROBACH: Michael, as we just heard, by Barack Obama's own admission two lapses in judgment. I know that you are an Obama supporter. But could this bring into question Obama's ability to pass judgment as president?

MICHAEL DYSON: No, I think not. I mean obviously it raises some questions, and he stood forthright, and was explicit, in denouncing and distancing himself from any sense of wrong-doing with Mr. Rezko, and certainly distancing himself from the so-called inflammatory rhetoric of his pastor.

"So-called inflammatory rhetoric"? Which part of the Wright's rhetoric, calling on God to damn America, accusing America of intentionally introducing the AIDS virus and being responsible for 9-11, wouldn't Dyson call inflammatory?

Dyson opined on in his patented windy style, but when he eventually wound down I assumed that Hennenberger of Slate might be there for some sort of balance. Wrong. After quoting from Wright's comparison betweeen Obama and Hillary Clinton, Robach then posed this question to Henninger.

ROBACH: Do Reverend Wright's words in a sense discount any setbacks Hillary Clinton has faced as a woman in this campaign?

MELINDA HENNENBERGER: I don't know about that. But initially it looked like this might be a problem for Barack Obama, but when he so strongly denounced these particular words by his former pastor now, saying he's appalled? Appalled is a pretty strong word. And I think most people have had the experience of not sharing every single word out of their pastor's mouth. I actually think now it might turn out to be a positive for Obama in a funny way, because it so completely puts to rest this notion that he's a secret Muslim.

Credit Hennenberger for the old college try in attempting to spin Obama's predicament into a positive. But would you call this a winning campaign line?: "Hey, I'm not a Muslim, I'm a long-time member of church with a pastor who's my spiritual advisor who is an angry, anti-American racial separatist who wants God to damn America!"

Note to Today: Check the screencap. One spelling mistake is a typo. Two in the same word is a cry for help.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.