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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.
HOW HE WON
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.
HOW HE LOST
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.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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