by Robin Gerber | bio

My biggest frustration with Sen. Barack Obama’s minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is not with the reverend or Obama. It’s with the press.

I first paid attention to Wright after an op-ed by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post on Jan. 15 revealed that Wright had made Louis Farrakhan the recipient of the "Trumpeter award" in 2007, an honor named for Trinity United Church of Christ’s in-house magazine and awarded to a man who "truly epitomized greatness."

Cohen’s piece was titled "Obama’s Farrakhan Test," but the real test came in the weeks and now months after the piece ran.

I’m an American who hates racial bigotry. I’m also an American Jew who knows that "it can happen here," and that vituperative anti-semites like Farrakhan were pieces in the fascist puzzle of WWII. I know that if my rabbi gave an award in the synagogue’s magazine to Jesse Helms or David Duke, for instance, I would either force out the rabbi or leave myself. That’s why I was certain that Cohen’s article would touch off a deep examination of Obama’s connection to Wright.

But it didn’t. There was some chatter in the blogosphere, Cohen inexplicably decided to support Obama, and the whole thing just seemed to fade away except for my ranting to friends. If anyone needed proof that Obama’s had the freest of free passes, Wright-gate proves otherwise.

Imagine if Sen. Hillary Clinton’s pastor had Wright-ian behavior, spouting disdain for our country with divisive rhetoric. We would have known about it years ago.

Clinton has been under a 360-degree examination; she holds the "never free" pass, ensuring that she’s continually under the microscope.

Some of the hyper-scrutiny of Clinton is part of a sexist double-standard. Women have to jump twice the hurdles, and those hurdles are twice as high. It’s not fair, but it has allowed us to see that Clinton is extraordinarily tough and resilient. Obama faced a different, far more lenient standard. The result is that all we know about his toughness is how long he can hold his dazzling smile.

That’s all changing now that video of Wright is rolling on computer screens across the country. These videos were always available. You can buy them on the church website. Of course, a little digging, interviewing and visiting of Trinity UCC would have been helpful, too.

But somehow, the press failed to do any of that between Cohen’s article in mid-January and Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. And then another month and more went by and still mostly silent on the Wright front.

Now that Fox news has provided video to reinforce the Wright revelation, Obama is being forced to speak out on race and politics. He claims that he was not in church during any of the incendiary orations seen on the videos. He claims never to have heard Wright utter such comments as "God bless America, no, no, no, God damn America."

In 17 years of association with the man who brought him to Christ, married him, baptized his children and preached to him on a regular basis, Obama claimed he was unaware of Wright’s incendiary, divisive and racist comments. I find that claim incredible, and it becomes even less credible if you consider that Obama didn’t renounce the Trumpeter award to Farrakhan until confronted with it.

Obama’s "spiritual adviser," as he calls Wright, is deeply committed to an anti-white and anti-American worldview. Obama can’t detach himself from the man if he wanted to, and he claims that he does not. Instead he wants to cherry-pi.jpgck the parts of Wright’s message that he likes. I hope Obama does reject Wright’s vitriol, but it’s a measure of Obama’s vaunted "judgment" that he became so closely attached to this man in the first place — and thought he could keep that attachment hidden.

If Obama takes the nomination, I fear that the failure by the press to raise questions about Obama’s association with Wright will be his undoing. Republicans will have no compunction about "swift-churching" him. And Democrats will only be able to shake our heads and wish that the supposedly hard-nosed press corps wasn’t so easily seduced.

If only they had realized that Wright’s line that became Obama’s inspiring book title, "The Audacity of Hope," was part of an angry and ironic rant.

Robin Gerber writes about women and politics for Women’s Voices for Change. Her new novel is "Eleanor vs. Ike" (Harper/Avon January 2008). Visit her website.

Plus: Maggie Rodriguez talks to experts about the real effects of minority politics.

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