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April 13th, 2008
08:54 AM ET

Lanny Davis: Civil Dialogue on the Issue of Reverend Wright

Barack Obama

On April 9, 2008,  I had an op-ed column published in the Wall Street Journal that respectfully raised questions about Senator Obama's response to some of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons and urged the Senator to address (or re-address) these questions now rather than later.

The op-ed was also re-published here on the AC360 Blog, TheHill.com (the original host of my "Pundits Blog" commentaries), the Huffington Post.com,  and elsewhere.

It drew a considerable reaction, pro and con, sent to me by e-mail or posted as comments on these and other web sites.

One e-mail sent to me moved me the most, giving me a better understanding of Senator Obama's reaction to Rev. Wright's sermons.  While not answering all my concerns, it still opened my mind and heart much more than before.

It came from a highly respected attorney from New York City, Mr. Jeh Johnson, who happens to be an African-American.  Jeh is a strong and steadfast supporter of Senator Obama. I have known of and admired Jeh from afar for many years. He also admires Senator and President Clinton and served with me in the Clinton Administration.

After reading Jeh's e-mail, I responded and thanked him for sending it to me. I then asked him if I could re-publish it on the blog sites that published my op-ed piece, and he consented.

Please see below and take the time to read it carefully.

My simple reasons for wanting to publish Jeh's e-mail are:

First,  while I am still a strong supporter of Senator Clinton, I hope that others like myself, who consider themselves to be loyal, progressive Democrats but still have some concerns about the Rev. Wright issue, will read Jeh's comments and gain a better understanding, as I did,  of Senator Obama and his speech about Rev. Wright's sermons.

Second, I hope that, by reading Jeh's comments, thoughtful supporters of both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton will realize that continuing this type of respectful and civil dialogue helps, not hurts, the Democratic Party's chances in November.

Finally, I want to contrast Jeh's approach to the ugly haters and name-callers I also heard from in response to my op-ed piece.

Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain, unfortunately know about these kinds of critics – who demonize those with whom they politically disagree; who rant and name-call on daily radio talk shows and nightly cable TV programs; and who fill the blogosphere with personal attacks and character assassination, usually under a cloak of anonymity that precludes accountabilty.

The Jeh Johnson approach of civil and informative discourse, even where there is disagreement, should appeal to everyone – regardless of candidate or party preference – as the best antidote to these practitioners of the politics of personal destruction. Mr. Johnson proves we can vigorously debate and disagree on the issues – and yet, after the nominating process is completed and the next president is elected, we can still work together as a nation to get back into the solutions business.

– Lanny J. Davis, former Clinton Lawyer

------------
Message from Jeh Johnson:

Lanny-

I write this for myself, and not as a representative of Barack Obama or his campaign.  I was prompted to write you when I saw your question "Why did he stay a member of that congregation?" 

I think much of the debate over Rev. Wright and his statements overlooks the unique role of the black church in the black community. I've never been to Trinity in Chicago, but I've been to many churches like Trinity.  Historically, the black church is the one place for blacks free of any white influence, something blacks can call all their own. It's the fraternity, the funeral director, the marriage counselor, the lawyer, the tax preparer, the therapist, the AA anonymous. Black churches such as Trinity are often the center of the black community, the one place where people of different economic classes come together to see each other, worship God, engage in community service and outreach, and it is about much more than the pastor.

I am not biracial and I did not grow up in Hawaii. I did grow up in an overwhelmingly white community, and was constantly plagued by my minority status. I had no place to turn to find my own identity. My parents then had the wisdom and good sense to send me to Dr. King's alma mater, Morehouse College in southwest Atlanta, the only all-male black college left in the country, and that four-year experience basically made me who I am today.

While there, I started attending the Baptist church across the street (though I am an Episcopalian). It was a real, down-home black church. My very first reaction to it was shock and slight amusement.  The pastor was often over the top in his sermons, and he drove a Mercedes despite his poor congregation. I would listen to the good Rev. and often disagreed with much of his overheated rhetoric, but I kept going back to this church.  

Why did I do that? For the first time in my life I felt like a full participant in the black experience, with no conditions. No one questioned who I was, where I came from, what I had done before to prove my blackness. There was just an elderly lady with a big smile at the door who handed me a program and said "God bless you son."

While there I witnessed poor and uneducated black people shake off misery, poverty, addiction, alcoholism, death, sickness, relatives in jail and all the other stuff that makes life challenging in the big city. Women in white uniforms walked the aisle to catch people as they passed out from it all.  During the service, a deacon or someone else would describe all the different church-related activities for outreach, helping someone who had lost a job, or visiting the sick and shut-in who could not make it to church.

On the way out, someone else would say "come back again and see us young man" though they didn't know me at all. By attending that church, I felt part of the community around me, and it was quite uplifting on Sunday after I went back to the books. Barack has never explained it this way, but I suspect given the way he was raised he felt some of the same things when he first started attending Trinity, and why he found a home there.

In the course of my own life, I have encountered many very militant and angry elements of the black community, much of them as formative for me as the large corporate law firm in which I am now a partner, the Clinton Administration, or growing up in Wappingers Falls, New York. But, it would be an act of sheer hypocrisy for me to try to renounce any of this. For example, at Morehouse many educated teachers and invited speakers blasted the white man, black men who acted like the white man, and condemned our whole society as fatally racist.

When I graduated in 1979, Louis Farrakhan was our baccalaureate speaker and Joshua Nkomo, leader of the armed struggle to liberate Zimbabwe, was our commencement speaker. With Coretta Scott King sitting near the front row, I vividly recall Nkomo preaching "the only thing the white man understands is the barrel of a gun." I certainly didn't agree with that then, and I don't now. But I love Morehouse and would rather quit all involvement in public affairs before I had to sever my ties of support to the school.  Morehouse is part of what makes me a proud African-American.

A good friend to me from my parent's generation, a retired ivy-league professor who is like an uncle to me, was branded a dangerous radical and subversive by our government in the 1960s. J. Edgar Hoover wiretapped his conversations with Dr. King. But, if someone combed his books and found something he wrote with which I disagreed, I'd rather disassociate myself from my right arm than publicly renounce this man.

The reality is this: Those of us who participate in both the white and African-American experiences will very likely have a Jeremiah Wright in our lives – it could be our teacher, our uncle, our brother, our father, or our pastor. It is simply part of the American experience.

But, here I am, a patriot who – I can honestly say – harbors no "anger" or racial animosity toward anybody, including my white law partners, my white neighbors, or my white family members. I can't guarantee much about anything in life, but I can guarantee, from what I know about Barack Obama, that he feels the same in his heart and soul.

– E-mail from Jeh Johnson, a lawyer and Obama supporter, sent to Lanny Davis

Lanny J. Davis, a Washington attorney, is a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. 


Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Dianne

    As with the current situation in which Obama's words displayed who he really is as a person, the press will push these elitist comments under the carpet as they did the Wright situation.

    Obama is an elitist racist whose only reason that he is this far in the political arena because of CNN and the semi-color of his skin. Shame on CNN for continuing to twist this election.

    I am a democrat who will NEVER vote for Obama.

    April 13, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  2. gloria

    Lanny,
    If you really GOT, how fed up we are with you and BIllary, you'd break down and weep.

    April 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Claudia - Eugene, Oregon

    Lanny, thank you for printing this great response you received from Mr. Johnson. Frankly, I had been rather annoyed by some of the things you said about Obama on CNN but I very much respect you for sharing Mr Johnson's thoughts with us.

    April 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  4. marie

    Please Lanny back off.... more you talks more ugly you look.......

    April 13, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
  5. Chaz Washington State

    Can we please get past this? I'm looking forward to hearing the issues that Hillary, McCain, or Obama have to say or stand for. I'm so worn out on hearing about other people involved with these front runners. Let’s hear or report about real news for a change.

    I challenge CNN to step to the plate.

    April 13, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Judcan

    Thanks Lanny for publishing this letter. When I read your article last week asking for Obama to answer why he did not leave the church. My first thought was that you did not want an answer, for he already answer that questions. You just want to re-harsh this story to influence the voters toward your candidate hillary. I have a few reason why I think Obama stayed at the church.

    – Obama is not just a Church Goer, This man has a relationship with God and has proven it in the way he has handled all the controveries over the pass several months. He has never show ed any kind of anger or said any unkind words against anyone. I am sure you can attest to that.

    – When he said that the Rev Wright conducted his wedding, baptized his children, encouraged him in his faith. That is HUGE, you and many others, with all due respect, may understand it that way. But sir I have deep faith in the Lord, I have deep faith in God and I am a Leader in my church. Those words alone from Mr. Obama tells me that his reason for going to church is not all about Rev Wright, it is About his relationsip with God. The Rev Wright is only a man, he is in the flesh he is going to make mistake, say the wrong things. But he is just one of the reason for going to church, he is not ALL.

    I have been going to my church for 20 years. I love my pastors, he baptized me, it was a wonderful, uplifting experience. MY pastors said things that I don't agree with. I hate when he get to deep into politices and try to influence the congregation. However, would not leave the church for that. He is not the sole reason why I am there. I have made lasting friendship with member of the congregation. I teaches a Lifegroup etc., People has tides to the church just like to your work. It is hard for people who are not that engaged or involved to understand that but i hope as these dialogues continue people especialy in high places will come to know more about when goes on in churches (especailly the local onces) and have a better understanding of the commitment.

    I am also sure that Obama was not at the church every Sunday. I would think he attends occasionaly. I also don't think Rev. Wright preach these contraversal cermony all the time. In the broader text as we see (Roland Martin), these sound bites are part of titled message that he preached. I hope you get some more understanding out of this. Thank you... bless you.....

    April 13, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  7. jer

    Lanny I am proud of you as a Clinton supporter to open up your mind to this e-mail from Jeh. I always feel that when I see you on tv that you have a good heart. I was with you in support of the Clintons in the 90's but I am a Obama supporter and want to break from the past and want to believe that a new face can bring this Country back together with ourselves and the rest of the like thinking World.
    I'll be glad when democrats can all rally together behind one candidate. I am hoping that this campaign has made our candidate stronger to face the Fall election.

    April 13, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Don of PA

    Lanny,

    The Jeh Johnson comments are beautiful and helpful in elevating this discussion. I am a white male and I am surprised that you and others who have tried, and will continue to try, to make something different of the Rev. Wrights comments couldn't, or wouldn't understand without it being explained to you in this level of detail.

    We should be very grateful to the black churches for the role they have played in the development and adjustment of our brothers and sisters.

    April 13, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  9. Brian Pawley

    It is so refreshing to hear voices of reason well apart from all the rhetoric of campaign sniping. Senator Obama is first and foremost a compassionate human being, evidenced by the fairness and honesty of his own campaign. Secondly, he is a true African American, having a Kenyan father and a mother from Arizona. Like so many African Americans he is of mixed race but that has no bearing on the character of the man, his wisdom, his patriotism, his determination to fight for the rights of ALL Americans. These virtues are the stimulus of his amazing appeal to such great numbers of Americans. Mr Obama has benefitted from a culturally diverse upbringing, from world travel, from exposure to all manner of prejudices and from first hand knowledge of community problems. He has seen the need for greater understanding in all aspects of our daily lives, the need for more honest government and greater diplomacy towards our friends and enemies. These are some of the underlying issues that he knows must be addressed as well as the policies for health care, the economy, foreign policy and the multitude of other considerations to satisfy the needs of all Americans and not just the wants of some.
    In his rejection of the call to disown Pastor Wright he has shown faith in his Lord's pre-eminence in personal judgement and the dispensing of forgiveness, proving his true humility.
    It is reprehensible that so many of his detractors find it acceptable to constantly question Barack Obama's sincerity despite his more than adequate response to the initial concerns over the pastor's remarks. Irrespective of the injustice and immorality of taking isolated excerpts from different recordings and editing them for the express purpose of incitement, it has been ignominious of so many media pundits to shame their profession with such blatant attempts to smear Barack Obama by association. This, despite obvious abhorrence by the majority of voters, only proves a certain childishness permeates the media, who appear ever more hungry for demeaning scandal while blaming the public for demanding blood.
    Thankfully, Senator Obama has resisted any instinct towards ire or retaliation and has asked his campaign to follow his example, again showing the indomitability of this man and his worthiness of being the next President of the United States of America.

    April 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  10. D. Armo.

    Barack Obama does not even know how to pretend to be a loyal American or a God believing Christian he is so far left off the charts. Muslim training does not include much talk about democracy, Christianity, or honoring your country’s flag. As people wish for hope and change, be more specific in what your wishes are. You likely will regret what you get unless you have had his same Socialist/Marxist/secular brainwashing.
    D.A.

    April 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm |
  11. Jolene

    Lanny and Jeh: Thanks for sharing this. I do believe the key to understanding race as an issue is to acquire a better awareness of both the black and the white experience. Jeh Johnson's email has provided me that.

    I'm glad that when all is said and done, you both agreed to disagree without bashing each other. And, you both are still willing to work together as a party. What a great example you two just set. Thanks for that. It's encouraging.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 13, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  12. Mike Andrews

    I would urge all to go to NPR and hear the Dan Shorr piece on Rev. Wright and his patriotism as compared to that of Bush, Chaney and, yes, Clinton. He did not seek to avoid or evade his duty during Vietnam. He accepted it and then re-enlisted to serve as a medical corpsman.

    It is easy to cast stones and rant about pariotism, but what have the Bushes, Chaneys and Clintons of the world asked of us in this time of American angst in Iraq? The answer is simple – the only sacrifice required is from those who enlist (or are backdoor drafted through use of the Guard) and their families.

    I see nothing in Hillary Clinton that will change this basic approach to governing. At least with Obama, I have some hope that it may change and that all Americans will be invited to the table to discuss the future that we should try to shape for all of us. It would be nice to see Bill donate his fees from Columbia dealings based on the influence of the sacred office he once held to feeding the poor of Darfur or even those Americans who live on the reformed welfare system he spawned.

    Hyprocrisy comes in many shades and forms aand I for one am tired of it.

    April 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  13. Tammy

    Gag me, enough, who cares anymore? Obama has shown himself over time to be a racist elitist influenced by Rev. Wright and Black Theology. End of discussion. I don't care if his church made him feel better about himself. Booze and pills used to make me feel great about me, but eventually I realized they were going to kill me if I didn't stop. Not all things that make us feel good about ourselves are actually good for us or anyone else for that matter. I think this little relationship Obama has with his former pastor is case in point. Lanny Davis, you just wimped out on your previous article. I guess the CNN Obama machine got to you. So much for a free thinking press.

    April 13, 2008 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Christines

    I would like to think that Barack Obama has some of the same feelings and experiences as Jeh Johnson, but unfortunately Obama’s words and actions do not allow me to believe that!

    April 13, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  15. Florence Shahbegian

    I thought Mr. Davis' article was specious. Also I was skeptical from the start that he didn't have the decency to admit he was B.Clinton's lawyer only H.Clinton's supporter.
    Mr Obama responded honestly to the Rev. Wright fiasco. Mr. Davis wants to keep the issue alive to cast aspersions on the character of the opponent of his favored candidate.
    He is following orders of the Clintons style of vicious and repugnant
    campaingning. What was so great about the Clintons? He was a serial sex fiend, he destroyed a very young interns name and reputation while he covered himself as honorable. He has cheapened the image of the Presidency with his greed since leaving office.
    She is an outright liar and runs a very sordid campaign. One illustration of her as Senator that gives an insight to the Clinton arrogance - anytime you called her office for assistance, you were treated with disdain and dismissed. It happened to me twice. I vowed then I would never vote for her whatever office she would seek.

    April 13, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  16. Cam

    I am still upset about the whole rev. wright issue! i feel that the media was irresponsible about the facts and played into the whole lets report drama so we can get higher ratings!!! If one go back and listen to his WHOLE sermon you can easily see that EVERY media station has damaged this man's reputation.

    1st sound bite: talked about how rev. wright said "god damning america", right?? the media wanted everyone to think that he wanted god to damn america because he didn't like america, but that not what the WHOLE sermon says, rev. wright was talking about how government changes but god doesn't. he then stated how the US government has failed its people... and it's true that the american government has failed her people go back and do the research.. (the american government has oppressed people from all ethnicities... black, japanese, hispanics, native americans, and whites..) look it up but to get back to the point rev. wright then stated that "if america continues to act as though she is god, then God damn america, not god bless america" and i don't see anything wrong with that... if you are a christian you should hold that has principle... Jesus came to heal the oppress

    2nd sound bite: the media said that he said the infamous line of Malcolm x, uh ?? well the TRUTH is that he asked the church if they watched on Fox news how a "white" ambassador was telling fox news that american chicken has come home to roost...

    But not one media station elaborated on the facts and tried to clear the inaccurate sound bites... it was very irresponsible and if i was rev. wright i would look into this this matter and take it to the court of law b/c he has all grounds to, the tv news stations have damaged his name for the rest of his life, he is getting death threats and all of this other nonsense... not ONE station was responsible enough to report on the facts... disappointing!

    April 13, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  17. David

    The real deal is Obama is leading Sen. Clinton and your trying to use anything against your fellow Democrat to convince the supperdelegates to choose her to back for the Nomination. As Sen. Clinton said, " words don't mean anything actions ." What about her actions pushing Nafta, and later stating, " it was good for America". Hillary Clinton has never owned up to that, she evades the question with, "I was always skeptical of Nafta". The truth is Sen. Clinton does give solutions and those solutions are the millions of Americans who lost their jobs because their job was shipped over sea's or replaced with illegal imigrants for cheaper labor. I've been following this election for several months now and I have never heard Hillary Clinton apologize for participation in passing Nafta and the effect it has on this country. It is well over due.

    April 13, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  18. Alexander P

    A word of advise to Sen. Obama. please move on. Do not keep talking about the issue. Follow Sen. Clinton on this. How she moved on after revelations that she lied on Bosnia issue and the hospital issue. He evasive demeanor on her tax returns and Columbia trade deal.
    If you stop talking about, others will also.

    We all knows that Sen. Clinton is a divisive opportunist and very shroud politician. She will sell her mother if it gets her to a better place

    April 13, 2008 at 2:53 pm |
  19. Christines

    I would like to think that Barack Obama has some of the same feelings and experiences as Jeh Johnson, but unfortunately Obama's words and actions do not allow me to believe that!

    April 13, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
  20. julie

    You know Anderson, I at one time watched your show ,not anymore, I believe you are too much like your friend Obama, a arrogant , wealthy snob, I have the hardest time with anyone who clearly supports this anti-american racist.....Someone needs to keep you honest!

    April 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  21. Theresa

    Thank you for sharing this, Lanny. I hope many read it and stop the the hate that is being thrown at my candidate. I heard a local talk radio host explain the black church experience, how it came to be what it is, and how it is very different from a white church. I wanted white Americans to be able to hear it, too. You've done one better.

    Your posting this changes my opinion of you. I've often seen you on CNN speaking praises of Hillary Clinton and doing what I felt was slamming Barack Obama. I thought you (like she and her husband are constantly doing) were narrow minded and willing to say anything to get Hillary the nomination and in turn damaging the party.

    I was wrong about you and I thank you again.

    Theresa Newago
    Princeton, Minnesota

    April 13, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  22. Molly

    At least this article by CNN shows RESPECT – for all parties.
    NOT Like the article by Bernstein Bears – totally trashing Hillary.
    Do you think CNN shows Favoritism??????

    April 13, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  23. Dionne Tyus

    Lanny,

    Thank you sooo much for posting this!! And please, send a thank you to Jeh for being so honest and open. He has made the most open and clear statement about why we relate so fondly to our black churches. I'm sending this to everyone I know right now!! Thank you again for posting!!

    April 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm |
  24. Greg

    White people died in the civil war. White people have been called traitors for defending civil rights. I know some Black leaders have gotten heat for supporting Clinton. Obama should have did a much better job separating himself Wright so, to me he is either a bigot or a coward. I've been called a n-lover and a racist because I try to stand neutral. When you are neutral you get hit from both sides. Obama should have taken a harder stance against Wright. I understand why Blacks were angry but things have changed because some people stood and stand for civility. Wright is not civil.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  25. Sam

    Thenkyou Lanny, this was bighearted of you. I cannot vote in your country but I have taken a keen interest in the campaigning and I have always believed what Jeh Johnson has outlined and in the sincerity of Senator Obama. ( I am a white female by the way over 60). The hate in the blogs has made me feel ill on many an occasion. God bless you both.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:40 pm |
  26. Maurice w

    Here we go again,! None of these issues are at issue, Isn't this America and as American citizens we do have the right to express our opinions whether we are rich or poor govt or citizens . How come the war mongers in the middle get respect when it comes to the media and American Candidates gets dragged through the mud as if they are dumb. When are the media reports going to show this great country for the great things it does here in the U.S and not be compared to leaders of countries that have failed to maintain stability and peace in the own country. Why should the middle-east warring factions dominate the top stories? Stop adding fuel to the fire and maybe the flames of anti -American sentiment may go out.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  27. Peggy Ledbetter

    Wow! What a beautiful informative letter from Jeh Johnson. These are exactly the reasons we stay committed to our churches, our schools, our friends, our extented families, our communities and our government even though at times we don't agree with them. But we believe that, while we differ, we are committed to a common good, a common ideal to help make life better for ourselves and those around us. Thank you Lanny Davis for giving us Jeh Johnson's letter, and thank you, Jeh Johnson, for giving us such a wonderful understanding of part of the black experience in America. I want to hear more from Jeh Johnson. We need more people like him speaking out.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  28. June in Canada

    Lanny...get a life! I'm a white woman and I happen to think the Rev Wright only said what a lot of people including Americans have thought from time to time. I've said "God Damm Canada" (meaning our Government) when I disagreed with some of their idiotic decisions. Going into Iraq was one of the times. I love my country and its people but I thank God I have the right to say and think what I like withour being persecuted for it. At least try to be honest, if Hillary was ahead in the polls and winning the nomination you wouldn't give a hoot. Perhaps the Rev just "mispoke" because he was tired, after all the man is an Octognerian, or are you only allowed to "mispeak" when desperately trying to regain your lead in the polls? Try not to be so transparent.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  29. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Two things.
    One. The first words of Wright that I heard was. 'the reason people hate Barrack', which made me think he was defending BHO against real or perceived attacks.
    Two. His comments, in my opinion, were irreligious and politically stupid and I hope they don't cause the downfall of the best candidate; but what bothers me the most is a lack of a public explanation and or apology from Wright. (It"s like the suspect who runs off.)
    Unless he has a medical problem, he should stand up like a man and defend his comments, temper them with reason, or flat ou apologise. <<< His choice, but there should be no choice that he hides out.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:26 pm |
  30. Claude Major

    Mr Davis, bravo to you! Please extend my thanks to Mr Jeh Johnson for letting you publish his letter, and again bravo to you for doing so! It is a lesson in honesty that some political candidates should study...

    April 13, 2008 at 1:17 pm |
  31. Cynthia

    As an African American I totally understand what Jeh Johnson is saying and hope that the American public will read this with an open heart. I've learned a long time ago if I decide something with an open heart I usually make the right decision.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:09 pm |
  32. Carmen

    Mr. Jeh Johnson, I am glad you can see the forest for the trees. I attend church which have blacks and whites. It is hard sometimes to attend church in view that some whites steal hold grudges and don't particular care for blacks. This is a big problem for this country. We live in the same neighbors now, attend school, and shop together. There is still some places that don't want blacks in their restaurants, but hopefully this will all go away. We need a President that is not afraid to air his beliefs and make this nation united. I think that Hillary is uneasy with blacks people because of her actions on the campaign trail. Obama seem to not be uneasy on the trail and embrace more whites than black, because to me black still seem as a distance to him. I hope that America will get over Mr. Wright and focus on the issues in this world.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  33. Dave Was

    This is one of the most open, honest articles I have ever read. He sounds like a great person and role model. The sad thing is that with what he has admitted today, the American people would kick him to the curb if he ran for office.

    April 13, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  34. Carl Boyer

    Hillary Clinton, with her faults, shows more signs of being a normal patriotic American, unlike Barack Obama. It is becoming more and more clear that Barack Obama’s patriotism is questionable and that the views of the people around him, like his wife, and Pastor Wright undoubtedly are his real feelings about America and its people. A psychological profile of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would make it clear that Hillary Clinton would make a better President. Barack Obama has been psychologically scared by his issues with race. John McCain has been psychosocially scared by his service in the military. Hillary Clinton has her own psychological scares and most likely the most significant is the infidelity of her husband. But go figure, of the three candidates, whose psychological profile is best suited for the Presidency? If a profile like this had been used when considering George Bush and John Kerry – George Bush would never have been President of the United States.

    Carl

    Ogden, Utah

    April 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm |
  35. jeff

    I want to know why Mr Obama can say about his mother
    Typical white woman

    I want to know why he can say this and nobody in the media is asking him about this comment
    The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work - don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times

    If Anyone would say anything close to the typical black person they are bringing up the race card. If anyone said Mr Obama was getting the black vote because he is black they would be called racists.
    Why can he say the typical white woman, Why can he say white working clas ton't wanna work– don't wanna vote for the black guy

    April 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
  36. Celia Ann in Michigan

    Senator Clinton should have thought seriously about stating that "He would not have been my pastor," Because in fact, Rev Wright (or someone very much like him) is the pastor of millions of African Americans. I waited for the other shoe to drop and it did, The Detroit Chapter of the NAACP quickly made the decision to invite Rev Wright to be the Keynote Speaker of the annual Fight for Freedom dinner where both Clintons and Obama have been speakers.

    She will not win North Carolina because of her statements and Harold Ickes statements to superdelegates about Wright. If she becomes the nominee, the question in the black community to her will be "What is your position in Rev Wright?" Black radio listened for her statements in Memphis for the 40th anniversary of Dr.King's death and they were not adequate. She fails to realize that Rev Wright and Dr King run paralell on the issue of calling out American's ills as they are not as White America would like to believe they are. As a matter of FACT, Dr. King's last sermon was "Will America Go to Hell?"

    April 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
  37. ernestine mcglynn

    Good for Anderson Cooper, too.
    Ernestine McGlynn
    A Hillary supporter from Michigan

    April 13, 2008 at 12:44 pm |
  38. ernestine mcglynn

    Good for Mr. Johnson, good for Lanny Davis. Thank you both for your analyses and excellent insights.
    A Hillary Clinton supporter in Michigan.
    Ernestine McGlynn

    April 13, 2008 at 12:43 pm |
  39. Yvonne

    Thank you Lanny, this election has opened up a lot of opportunity for Americans to reconcile their differences. I personally am shocked at the way campaigns and the media have painted Rev. Wright and even the way they twist Senator Obama�s truthful words. I recently mentioned in another blog that if a white politician makes a comment about the plight of ghetto America, or devastated Louisiana and tells it like it is saying that residents of Ghetto America are hurt, bitter and turn to either drugs, crime, alcohol or faith as a refuge, no one complains? But when a black politician truthfully explains the plight of Small Town Rural America, everybody�s huffing and puffing, calling him elitist. Is there such thing as a black American being elitist? My overseas family and friends are shocked at American politics and the pundits. America has a lot of maturing to do. I thank God for the boldness of Senator Obama for embarking on this campaign journey. I am convinced that his candidacy is God ordained for such a time as this. No matter what the other campaigns plan to do or not to do, when something is written in heaven it�s already done.

    April 13, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  40. lynn

    Unless Lanny davis has done three things he has no right commenting on Jerehmiah Write:

    1. Viewed the complete videos in question
    2. Studied the contributions of this man to his country and his community
    3. Studied the words of one of my heroes, Martin Luther King, in relation to the war in Vietnam and his feelings about his country then. There was an incredibly interesting video that did the same thing to King's words on Anderson Cooper only once. I wish CNN has the courage to repeat it.

    Thank you, Jeh Johnson...

    April 13, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  41. nate

    The issue of Rev. Wright underscores a deep level of frustration that has lingered in American society since the birth of our nation. Whether real or perceived, this frustration has serious consequences in the health and well-being of those who are affected. On a political realm, can government actually heal these wounds? If you look at the Presidential cabinets of the last two Presidents, Clinton and Bush, their cabinet members are multicultural and ethnically represent our nation's diversity although their ideology in both Presidential offices are different to one another. In the last 20 years, there has been a grown wealth base in minority groups which signifies positive economic potential and growth for those groups. It seems logical that most of the frustration is on a personal growth level and does not truly represent the mechanics of true economic opportunity. Many of my minority collegues including myself (a minority as well) has prospered academically as well as professionally and has provided opportunities for other minorities that have demonstrated high qualifications. Therefore the only role that government should play regarding the issue of race in America is to ensure that adopted policies do not infringe upon the constitutional rights of all Americans and that they do not impact the free social mobility of those individuals who work hard to acheive.

    April 13, 2008 at 12:11 pm |
  42. Chad Mitchell

    Mr. Johnson's comments, while eloquent, don't stand up to common sense. He is using his own experiences from decades ago to explain Sen Obama's inclusion of Rev. Wright among his advisors TODAY. Hardly the same thing.

    Chad
    Silverdale, Washington

    April 13, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  43. Carol

    I watch CNN and find it's very informative, but what I don't feel is fair is when Clinton does something wrong ( lie about situations like gun fire during her trip, and the lady and baby who died and did not have insurance). CNN did not keep talking about it, but when you feel Obama has done something to damage his campaign it stays on the air about two weeks or more, why is that.

    Carol
    Las Vegas

    April 13, 2008 at 11:25 am |
  44. James H

    In response to this blog I have to respectfully disagree with the theme and context of the open letter being delivered to Lanny Davis.

    After hearing of Senator Obama's recent statements in San Francisco at a private fund raiser I have to question his honesty and credibility about his faith which he considers the cornerstone and foundation that defines his values. Below is a snip of his statements.

    "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

    “They cling to guns or religion”. Obama has been trying to finesse his position on guns to appeal precisely to gun owners and thus we start to see that his repositioning is cynical to the core. No rural Pennsylvanian clings to religion more than Obama himself, who for 20 years sat silent in the pews, while a hate-spewing minister damned his country and most everyone else. The question is not why Pennsylvanians “cling to their religion”, but why do the Obamas still cling to the Trinity Church that seems far more extreme than anything I’ve seen in rural America.

    “Antipathy to people who aren't like them”—as in the case of Rev. Wright’s views of Jews, whites, Italians, or Americans in general? In short, Obama accuses rural Pennsylvanians of a racism that they haven’t expressed while contextualizing the racism that his own Rev. Wright has.

    Let me get this straight: Obama goes to the Bay Area to an affluent liberal enclave to give a condescending take on the supposed poor fools that he is currently trying to court. This is not just hypocritical, but abjectly stupid. All of Pennsylvania surely is asking today what is so hip and sophisticated about the Trinity Church and Rev. Wright?

    So here we have the essential Obama, a walking paradox between the postmodern hip-Ivy-Leaguer who sneers at middle-class America’s supposed prejudices and parochialism, while at the same time courting an anti-Enlightenment, prejudicial demagogue like Jeremiah Wright. For free trade or anti-free trade? For 2nd-amendment rights or not? Post-religious or pious and fundamentalist? For public campaign financing or not? A uniter of various groups or someone who sees America in terms of “they”? Straight-talking or someone who evokes "context" to explain away the inexplicable?

    Again, we will see more and more of these condescending statements of the Michelle Obama strain, more and more of Revs. Wright, Meeks, Lee and others peddlers of division like them, and more and more clues to a long hostility to Israel—in what will eventually become the most disastrous chapter in recent Democratic history.

    References:
    James H (April 13, 2008)
    Victor D. H. (April 11, 2008)

    April 13, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  45. Annie Kate

    Lanny,

    I am glad you shared this with us. Mr. Johnson explained a lot more in his answer than just why Obama still went to Trinity church. His respectful and eloquent email is a wonderful example of the meaningful dialog we need to have with all Americans – to share with each other our experiences and reasoning so a chance for true understanding and appreciation exists. Once we can talk with each other the way Mr Johnson did in his email we may finally overcome the racism that divides us in this country.

    It is rare that I find a piece of writing that moves me and that lingers with me long after I have read it. This is one I will remember for a long time. Thank you.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 13, 2008 at 11:04 am |
  46. Daniel Malcolm

    You guys have a story up about why Obama's remarks about bitter is wrong. I have this to say:

    I am involved in the media (albeit not in the US), but you people make me sick. What makes you think that people who have lost (and are loosing) their jobs, can't pay their bills, can't buy gas, can't take their families on an outing because of financial reasons; what makes you think that these people will be 'happy and optimistic'?

    If I was going through what they are going through, I WOULD BE BITTER TOO.

    The media, the politicians, and the wealthy do not seem to be listening. Clinton has no right to tell anybody about how the poor feels – she is stinking rich!

    Senator Obama is the only one who is actually IN TOUCH with the voter's feelings. He is correct in his assessment of that demographic. I'll say again, you people make me sick.

    Finally, someone has the balls to stand up and tell it like it is without fear of the politician's status quo bearing down on him.

    Clinton looks like she is a Republican on this one. She is a hypocrite and willing to say and do ANYTHING to win the nomination with complete disregard to professionalism, integrity and party loyalty.

    I am starting to understand why more and more people are hating the United States and I am starting to understand why Obama wants to reverse that trend. McCain and Clinton are doing everything in their power to keep it just the way it is.

    April 13, 2008 at 10:52 am |
  47. Donna R.

    I think that what the American people are concerned about is not so much the issue of his staying with the church that carries these negative views. I think what they are concern with is the fact that we have a Senator running for the highest office of the land, but who may have taken in these same views which in the long run may come out and affect this country in a negative way. He may not have shown this side of himself yet, because he is very guarded with his words. But there have been a few slips that have given the American public some questions as to how much his teachings from Rev. Wright have affected his views towards certain sections of our population in a negative way. These slips are like pieces of a puzzle that when put together have put some serious questions in the minds of the voters. And this will only be more profound in the general election. I myself can not get the statement of "typical white person" out of my mind. Now that these latest statements have come forward I feel that there is a reason to be concerned. If another candidate had said statements like this about another race, the voices claiming racism would have been loud and clear. I do not see that with the views he has, no matter if they were misspoken or not, that Barack Obama should be hired as our next President. They were misspoken because that is how he truly views things. I feel that he is carrying some of the Reverends views with him. Is this country ready to risk this?

    April 13, 2008 at 10:33 am |
  48. B. Matlin

    . . . .As a white person, I have to agree with the sentiments of Mike Huckabee who said it best: "A black Mike Huckabee would have been
    much more angry than Jerimiah Wright." I'm sure that a black Lanny
    Davis would have been more angry than Rev. Wright. Wouldn't we all?

    April 13, 2008 at 9:32 am |
  49. Daniel Materu

    In my humble opinion, I would like to commend Anderson Cooper 360 blog for identifying the significance of this occurrence and sharing it on the site. The mere fact that Lanny Davis, a Clinton supporter, is able to look past his political interests and allow the email from Jeh Johnson to inform on his better judgment, is testament that this movement truly transcends partisanship.
    By "this movement" I am not referring to what some call ultra-liberalism, or conservatism for that matter, not to anything black or white, male or female; it is a movement of hope. I think the reason Barack Obama is so effective with permeating party walls is his message of hope that not only appeals but also appeases all people. It is one of our most basic needs as humans, and his genuinely principled campaign has it at the very core of all issues.

    April 13, 2008 at 9:28 am |
  50. Jo Hill

    Hillary Cllinton, My hero!! Once again convinced me to vote for Barak Obama. After fabricating a blantant lie about sniper shots, she takes Barak Obama's comments about PA residents who are bitter, or anxious( choose your language) about their situations, completely out of context and make a big deal out of it. I am one of those bitter people who turned to my church for comfort after loosing my house and working many years without health insurance. So all the work she has been doing for so Many years didn't help me at all. Hillary, there is nothing attractive about being petty, and desperate. But then again it's Hillary..........................

    April 13, 2008 at 9:14 am |
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