By Bob Herbert
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.
Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media â€” this reverend is never going away. Heâ€™s found himself a national platform, and heâ€™s loving it.
Itâ€™s a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. Heâ€™s living a narcissistâ€™s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.
So there he was lecturing an audience at the National Press Club about everything from the black slave experience to the differences in sentencing for possession of crack and powdered cocaine.
All but swooning over the wonderfulness of himself, the reverend acts like he is the first person to come up with the idea that blacks too often get the short end of the stick in America, that the malignant influences of slavery and the long dark night of racial discrimination are still being felt today, that in many ways this is a profoundly inequitable society.
This is hardly new ground. The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why â€” if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks â€” does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.
On Sunday night, in an appearance before the Detroit N.A.A.C.P., Mr. Wright mocked the regional dialects of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Iâ€™m not sure how he felt that was helpful in his supposed quest to bring about a constructive discussion about race and reconciliation in the U.S.
What he is succeeding in doing is diminishing the stature of Senator Obama. A candidate who stands haplessly by as his former spiritual guide roams the country dropping one divisive bomb after another is in very little danger of being seen by most voters as the next J.F.K. or L.B.J.