Obama Throws Wright Under the Bus, Runs Him Over, Puts the Vehicle in Reverse and Repeats

Yesterday, I outlined why the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "revenge tour" wouldn't necessarily hurt Obama's shot at the nomination--namely, because it forces superdelegates into the politically uncomfortable position of appearing to vote against the Illinois senator because of Wright (and, by extension, race). But there's another reason Wright's reappearance might not inflict as much damage as the pundits predicted: it gave Obama the opportunity to do what he did this afternoon in Winston-Salem, N.C. Which is throw Wright under the bus, run him over, put the vehicle in reverse and repeat.

Holding a press conference after a town hall at the Joel Coliseum, Obama ripped into Wright for yesterday's remarks, delivering a "far sharper disavowal than he gave in Philadelphia last month." Twice saying his was "angry" with the grandstanding Wright--"what mattered to him was commanding center stage"--Obama characterized his former pastor's speaking tour as "a show of disrespect to me [and] an insult to what we're trying to do in this campaign." Obama's basic message: Wright's musings were not only offensive but antithetical to his own views and politics. The transcript, via Ben Smith:

"I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am, that's what I believe, and that's what this campaign has been about," Obama said. "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday."

"The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago," he said. "His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs... If Reverend Wright thinks that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well and based on his remarks yesterday, I may not know him as well as I thought either."

"I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church," he said. "But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism – then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today."

"It is antithetical to my campaign. It is antithetical to what I'm about. It is not what I think America stands for," he said.

It's worth noting that Obama's has denounced Wright's remarks before. But in the past, Obama gave Wright "the benefit of the doubt"--i.e., said he considered such remarks aberrations, outliers, deviations not in keeping with the sermons that he himself had heard over his two decades at Trinity. Now, according to Obama, Wright's willingness to repeat such "ridiculous propositions"--in effect, "caricaturing himself"--has led him to the conclusion that either Wright has changed or that he was wrong about the minister all along. "Based on his remarks yesterday," said Obama. "I may not know him as well as I thought." By acting nutty in public, in other words, Wright has given Obama license to say, "I now see why all of you think he's nutty." The question going forward is whether the voters inclined to worry about Obama's 20-year association with Wright will consider this a sincere revelation--or a political maneuver.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: According to Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic, Obama's response was sincere:

EARLY THIS MORNING, after a long day of campaigning, aides showed Barack Obama extended excerpts from Rev. Jeremiah Wright's jaunty and freewheeling press conference in Washington. Obama, the aides said, was deeply, visibly angry. Two said he "insisted" that he hold a second press conference today to unequivocally denounce Rev. Wright's conduct and sever himself from Wright's fulminations. Obama did not want to let Wright hijack his campaign any longer. Five days was enough.

Of course, Obama's aides provided Ambinder with that information. To put my closing question another way, then: Will the footage of Obama's tense, elegiac and, yes, angry soundbites replace the clips of Wright on the cable-news shows, quelling the controversy--or will it be shown alongside his famous line from Philadelphia ("I can no more disown [Wright] than I can my white grandmother") to suggest some sort of hypocrisy?