The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. may have been Sen. Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years, but this week he was more intent on promoting his angry vision of race relations than supporting the candidacy of a man with a good chance of becoming the first African-American president. The senator's outraged retort to the minister's incendiary remarks at the National Press Club said what had to be said: They "contradict everything that I am about."
We believe the candidate when he says with some emotion that his goal is to bring Americans together, not divide them, as Pastor Wright's rhetoric would. Voters in Indiana and North Carolina should endorse that vision in next week's primaries.
When inflammatory snippets of a past sermon by Pastor Wright surfaced earlier, Mr. Obama condemned the oratorical sins but not the sinner. Yesterday, the candidate declared that his minister was "not the man I met 20 years ago." He said he was particularly angered by the minister's suggestion that he would say whatever he had to say to get elected.
What we heard from Mr. Obama reminded us of what powered his earlier speeches - an understanding that many Americans were fed up with the divisive politics that have dominated the past eight years. Now, the test he faces is whether blue-collar white Americans, whose economic and social frustrations he so eloquently empathized with in his speech on race in Philadelphia, will help him bridge a social and racial gap to secure the Democratic nomination. Pastor Wright's rage could pay off for the Illinois senator. In his primary sparring with Sen. Hillary Clinton, Mr. Obama had begun to look like just another politician to some. Now, he has been moved to an impassioned expression of his values, a testament to the resilience of his candidacy. The minister's negative vision offers a painful, but valuable, reminder of why Americans need to reject hate and come together.