April 29th, 2008
09:26 PM ET

How Wright won – and lost – in 72 hours

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/28/art.wright.jpg%5D

Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor
360° Contributor and Radio Host

"Why don't Rev. Jeremiah Wright just sit down and be quiet? Don't he know he's hurting Sen. Barack Obama?"

If I had a nickle for every time someone has asked, emailed or texted me that in the last three days, I could retire.

And trust me, I get it.

Wright has had a negative impact on Obama's presidential aspirations because of the constant playing of snippets of his sermons. And many believe that his interview with Bill Moyers on PBS; his speech at the Detroit NAACP; and the appearance at the National Press Club on Monday morning is all about him.

Yes, that is all true.

But what would you do? If your 36 years in ministry was degraded, would you go and hide?

If right wing radio and TV hacks like Sean Hannity, Lars Larson and others called you a bigot and anti-Semitic, and others who don't even realize that you served in the Marines and the Navy for six years castigated you daily as being un-American, would you defend yourself?

Of course you would!

But there is a fine line that you must walk. And depending on how you do could determine how you are viewed and whether the presidential aspirations of Obama are severely damaged.


The interview with Moyers, along with the Detroit NAACP speech, were perfect opportunities for Wright.

He came across as thoughtful, smart, theologically sound, and more importantly – human – than he has in the last month. He has been unfairly portrayed as a raging lunatic, courtesy of the YouTube clips, and that's not him.

It's so much easier in a one-one-one setting to have your views heard.

Even his speech on Sunday was pretty good.

At moments funny and hilarious, Wright shone a light on our differences, and how we need to overcome them.

There is nothing wrong with having different music and worship styles. Its when we try to impose one as being superior or favored over the other. That was an excellent point he made.

I got a lot of emails from folks who said they saw him differently based on this, and that's always a good thing.

Even the morning's papers spoke to his message of change. He got great reviews from a variety of sources.


I never thought appearing before the National Press Club was a good idea. I even told my radio audience a week ago that he should cancel.

One, it's not his element, and with there being questions, you never know which direction they are coming from.

Wright's opening statement was a good one, but it went all downhill from there.

The issue wasn't always just his answers. It was also HOW he answered them. He was too flippant, comfortable, cocky and arrogant in some of his answers. Where he should have expounded, he allowed a quip to simply end a statement. Where he should have been thoughtful, his histrionics and facial expressions led the way.

I'm sure someone will say that style over substance is silly. I concur. But Wright's style was a part of the substance, and he let it get in the way.

The one danger in being a smart ass person is that you come across as a smart ass. Wright was that way Monday.

Finally, he stepped on his own story! The headlines showed that his Sunday speech was well-received. Why let that moment not settle and folks get to savor it?

Now we're left with a different taste in our mouth.

Folks, perceptions matter. How people think of you, regardless of what you say, does matter.

Wright had a moment to rise above the "playing the dozens" statements and the "when they talk about your mama" rants. He could have presented himself as the learned man that he is. But he allowed the silly stuff to cloud his message.

Either his media handlers were incompetent, or he ignored them. That, folks, is a recipe for disaster.

As for Obama? Wright even more dismissed him as a politician, and that's not good. He did his member no favor with his actions, and Obama is going to have to bear down even more so to move beyond Wright.

If you disagree, fine. But Wright had an opportunity to elevate the conversation. His speech Sunday was damn good. But 12 hours later, that was dismissed, and he walked into the lion's den, thought he could tame it, and got mauled.

And with his member slamming him and forcibly pushing him off the front page, Wright has no one else to blame but himself.

soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Tita

    I AGREE WITH YOU 100%.

    Undecided voter, leaning towards Obama in Oregon.
    Rev. Wright doesn't scare me away fro Obama as he is
    not running for President.


    April 30, 2008 at 11:11 am |
  2. gail

    It seems to me that the dems don't walk the walk just talk the talk when it comes to having someone other than a white person as president, hope this is realing revealing to the black vote, to wake up and be independant and vote for yourselves not what someone it promising. dems count on your vote all the time and then vanish....we all have to work together for change

    April 30, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  3. John

    It will still take 100 Rev. Wrights to contaminate me to a point to vote for 1 Hillary Clinton. I was fairly optimistic that the voting public was intelligent enough to manage through the "noise" of political attacks and distraction. At the beginning, middle and end of our days, we still have $4 / gal gas prices, job insecurity, a horrendous mortgage and health care crisis...and the most attention I can give a "Rev Wright" situation is a 10 min entertainment diversion on YouTube once in awhile.

    April 30, 2008 at 8:15 am |
  4. evelina

    I just skimmed this list of comments and read something about Clinton's minister. Is she "getting a pass"? More importantly, does each of us have to be held accountable for where we go to worship? I have attended Catholic and Unitarian Churches for years. If I ran for office, I would not expect to be bawled out for pedophilia, church ownership of property, or what the Pope did during World War II, none of which I support.
    Can't Senator Obama talk about ending the war in Iraq and fixing health care without being hassled about his former pastor's opinions?
    Or would the corporate media have a problem with that? I hope not.

    April 30, 2008 at 7:42 am |
  5. Nestor, Austin, TX


    You say right-wing hacks, yet Hannity blows CNN out of the water ratings wise. I don't really care for Hannity (there are other conservatives who are better), yet you can't call him a hack. The bottom line is Jeremiah Wright's comments are Un-American. They are hateful, and the fact that Obama has been so close to this man concerns people...and it should. Stop using Hannity as a straw man, and address the real problem, the fact that Obama is a socialist.

    We know Obama never saw a tax he didn't like. Even Hillary is for lowering SOME taxes. Obama knows that lower taxes = increased revenues, yet he will still raise taxes. When people really get to know Obama, his record and what he stands for, they don't like what they see. Wright is a symptom of Obama's problem. But now because of Wright, Obama is being scrutinized. Even though no one in America really likes Hillary, they don't think she hates America, but Wright is making people wonder if Obama does.

    April 30, 2008 at 3:41 am |
  6. Travis and Cheryl Loz

    Stop giving Wright the power of the media! Enough is enough! If the media needs the ratings bad enough wait till this political fiasco is over!

    April 30, 2008 at 2:44 am |
  7. mramirez

    I find it difficult that anyone would be SATISFIED with what Obama did today. His speech is just politics. The fact of the matter is that he attended his Pastor's church and knew his pastor for over 20 years. Rejecting that he does not share his pastor's view, I don't buy it and will not vote for him in the General Election if he is the Democratic nominee. For the first time, our family will vote Republican if he is the Democratic nominee. If he did not share his Pastor's views, he would have never remained a member of his church for as long as he did. We are outraged. Not Obama!!!

    April 30, 2008 at 2:24 am |
  8. Chris

    My posts never get posted.

    For all those asking why Obama stayed in the church for 20 years and did not leave, I have one question – For the life long catholics why did you guys not walk away from the catholic church when it was found out that the priests had been abusing children for decades?

    Jesus said "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone".

    We cannot continue to hold others to standards we ourselves have not been able to attain.


    April 30, 2008 at 1:59 am |
  9. Patricia

    It is sad to see how well the republicans and the far right have such great control over the current political system. We have a chance to elect the first person in the US that truely can see both sides of the race issue. Obama is both Black and he is White and it is sad to see that most people in this county both blacks and whites are so blinded by their own racial issues that they cannot understand how Obama truely can see and has experienced both sides of the race issue. Most Whites do not want to accept his whiteness and many blacks do not want to accept his whiteness. Only a person who truely is both can really understand both sides of the black/white issue in America. Let's move forward put down our petty and fearful issues of the past and elect a president that represents what we all claim that we want in America.

    April 30, 2008 at 1:56 am |
  10. Tony

    I heard Obama say over and over that he had superior JUDGEMENT and he would be right on day 1. I have an issue with the whole Rev. Wright thing. Obama said that the Rev. Wright that he saw in the past couple of days was not the Rev. he met 20 years ago. I wonder if it was the Rev. Wright that he knew a couple of months or a couple of years ago. I mean Rev. Wright didnt just start having this view, it is within him not a new revelation to him. Obama had to know how Rev. Wright felt on these and many other issues. I have a real hard time thinking that this is all new information that Obama is just now finding out. If you have the same pastor for 20 years you just know things about him. I think Rev. Wright is right about 1 thing though, Obama is distancing himself and so appalled at his comments because he is running for President. If you listen to what Obama and his wife has said in the past they do seem to have some of the same ideals as Rev. Wright. In the clips that show Rev. Wright making all of these statements that are so appalling, the crowd is on their feet cheering, I think I even saw a man run up to him and kiss him during one of those clips. The people of that church must feel and think atleast somewhat inline with Rev. Wright. So much for the SUPERIOR JUDGEMENT on Mr. Obama's part. I mean if he knew the feelings of Rev. Wright then it goes without saying, but, if he didnt know about the spiritual advisor that he had been listening to, got married by, had his children baptised by, and felt he was like an uncle to for 20 years, what kind of superior judgement is that? How often did Obama attend this church? How often did the Obama family spend time with Rev. Wright? How close was Mr. Farakan to Rev. Wright or Obama. It is just amazing to me that this is brand new information coming to Obama about Rev. Wright.

    April 30, 2008 at 1:51 am |
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