March 18th, 2008
03:15 PM ET
7 years ago

Blitzer: Obama had fine line to walk

Obama had a difficult task Tuesday.
Obama had a difficult task Tuesday.

(CNN) - Barack Obama had to walk a very fine line. He had to reassure the American public that he was strongly condemning the harsh words of his long-time minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. At the same time, he had to reassure many of his African-American supporters that he wasn’t simply ready to abandon Wright. It was not an easy assignment.

Obama said that Wright “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America.”

He also said this of his minister: “As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children.”

Obama had no choice. He had to deliver this speech as much as he has wanted to avoid the entire subject. The brief clips of Wright’s angry remarks about the United States could not be ignored. Even some of Obama’s most ardent and passionate supporters going back to the start of his campaign were deeply worried. They feared that those clips (and, potentially, many more that have not yet aired) could derail his presidential ambition unless Obama addressed the subject head-on. He needed to take pre-emptive action. He did.

Now, we wait for the reaction and the fallout.

– Wolf Blitzer

soundoff (289 Responses)
  1. ch

    He lied – On Friday he said he had never heard Rev. Wright make these statements and then today (when he realized that his original denial was ridiculous) he says “of course” he had heard Wright make his inflammatory and hateful statements.

    Why does he bring his two young daughters to hear this man spew his hate? Does he want then to grow up bitter, repressed and anti-Semitic?

    If he’s the “Change” agent – how come he couldn’t change his pastor’s views? Because he didn’t have the guts or the will.

    Change is just a word, obviously.

    March 18, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. dbacchus

    What a strange statement "Obama had no choice"! Surely he did have a choice. He could have ignored the issue (he already condemned Wright's statements) or could have pressed it further by "disowing" him. He could have done something what Hillary Clinton did with regards Gerraro's interviews (say that she "disagrees" and try to make media to "forget" about it). However, being a truly honest person of the highest integrity, Barack Obama did what only FEW PEOPLE HAVE DONE in the history of the U.S. and worldwide. He addressed the complicated and painful racial issue directly. He has proposed a true path to the nation unification.

    Blitzer, you are awfully wrong if you are implying that he had "no choice", because there WAS NO choice. Obama had no choice, because of his INTEGRITY of a truly great and honorable individual.

    March 18, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Darlene

    If CNN would stop playing into Hilary Clinton's divisiveness and nonsense under the guise that it is news we would probably have the mess that we have. CNN, which I watch just about everyday, has played right into her hands. First in N.H. when she put on the fake tears and secondly with the scare tactic ad of the little girl that has since grown up and is campaigning for Obama. Those clips were played nonstop leading up to the primaries in N.H. and then again in Tx. and Ohio. It is a shame that the American people are not seeing the division she is causing and how she is using her surrogates to say what she really wants to say. When her husband was running for President, they needed the African American vote in order to win, now she tries to act as if she no longer needs that constituency because she's going after the Hispanic vote. So she's trying to divide the election along those racial lines as if one group is more important than the other. She doesn't play by the rules and tries to change them to suit her fancy. The media needs to rethink what is really news before we elect someone worse than what we already have because people are listening to what the pundits and media are saying and not researching the facts for themselves.

    March 18, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. patricia

    I'm not pleased with his circle of friends (Pastor Wright & Mr. Rozino(?)

    Regarding Pastor Wright's remark concerning Sen. Clinton.......I live by the old cliche.....sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me!! I'm white but have plenty of black and Latino friends (lived in Fl. in the early 1950's). I was shocked when I got on my first bus in Miami and being a school girl, I went to the back of the bus...favorite seats for kids...then I saw the sign up front "blacks to the rear." I was horrified to think someone/ones could be so cruel. My father was in the construction business and often invited his black workers to our home for dinner....they liked my dad and knew his friendship was sincere. I'm extremely happy to report that my parents were not prejudice and made sure we did not get caught up in the "black/white" issue.

    Regarding Pastor Wright's remark concerning "God Bless America" should be sung "God D. America." Now that's what bothers me. The Pastor's sermon should be on religion and bringing people to the Lord. I was also extremely upset to see all the parishioners that were at the sermon where Sen. Clinton, whites in general, and the "God Bless America" took place ........they stood and applauded the Pastor; the pastor sounds more like a terrorist!! I would have walked out.....sorry. The media and Sen. Obama used to call Pastor Wright Sen. Obama's Pastor and friend......now, all I hear is Sen. Obama's former Pastor.....Pastor Wright. I'm also concerned with Sen. Obama running as an African-American. With all the problems he's been hit with......it seems he suddenly and openly confesses to being made up of many pieces of America. A black father, white mother etc. Make up your mind Obama......are you African American as you have been confessing to be? I'm French-American but when I'm asked, I offer I'm an American......AND PROUD OF IT!! His speech did nothing that would sway my vote in his direction.......he says "change"......sameo, sameo politics; tell the people what they want to hear. SORRY BUT WE'RE NOT IDIOTS....even if some of the political analyst are.

    Patricia

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. Bill Jergens

    So Obama used race to his advantage today, basically saying that to heal the racial divide, you have to vote for him. So much for not making this race about race. he keeps doing the opposite of what he says. He made race the most important reason to vote for him. This man has lost the respect of many of his white supporters.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Grif

    Will Borack Obama, do just about anything to get himself elected ....???

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. KCBob

    Part of the problem is that the American public, in general, are a selfrightous bunch who rarley take responsibility for our actions. We see it throughout our society and currently in our leadership (if you can call it that).

    My point is, perhaps the Rev. is correct. Scratch that, I know he is. I for one do believe the current problems we face with Islamic extremists are of our own making. And I know that a Black man has it much harder in our society than a White woman. If youdeny this then you are as clueless as our president.

    I think most of the outrage over this nonissue are from the hordes of bored housewives and disenfranchised gays who feel that Hillary is the only one who can speak for them, well folks you are wrong. Obama will stand up for us all if you can look beyond the scare-tactics and distractions comming from the Clinton political machine.

    Hillary can not win just talking about the issues, thats why she is throwing all the mud she can...and trust me she will go lower before this is all done.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. William

    It's unacceptable that he hasn't quit that church and totally severed all ties to this pastor. He cannot be elected President and still remain a member of this church. It expouses hatred of whites, jews and israel. Mr. Obama, you will not be elected president.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. willis

    I can't stop crying! It is the most profound, open and honest message to all our people. It has touched me so deeply because everything I have felt was disected and exposed to constructive dialogue -
    MY HEALING HAS BEGUN - I DON'T WANT TO CARRY THE PAST ANYMORE!

    I know that GOD has sent this man to us - a man of many races and culturals - a man who represents the embodiment of truth, honesty, and change - a man who loves his country!

    Let's embrace the challenges he has put in front of us! This is not a competition of races, but a challenge of economic survival! We are running out of our basic foundation (i.e., jobs shipped outside the U.S., bridges and roads crumbling, poverty increasing, our social services being drained, schools and standards of education decreasing, etc.)

    We can all have the American Dream but we have to work together and stop fighting! I remember 9/11, for the first time in my life, I saw White and Black people jointly ready to defend this country! We shared a common enemy and we were ready to fight on the same team! I saw flags flying everywhere with the slogan "THESE COLORS DON'T RUN"! We need to recapture that fighting spirit! This time the enemy is "economic survival"!

    Politicans in the past have raped this country, raped our dreams and kept us separated in ethnic groups because it benefited their cause. We have been so busy fighting that we lost focus!

    WE MAY NOT KNOW THE ISSUES OF EACH CANDIDATE, BUT WE DO RECOGNIZE CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY! THE ONLY "DREAM TEAM" WE WANT IS CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY!

    WE HAVE SEEN HILLARY'S LACK OF CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY AS SHE BEEN CAUGHT IN TOO MANY LIES. JOHN MCCAIN KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT STRATEGIC ECONOMIC PLANNING AND IS NO LEADER BECAUSE HIS OWN PARTY DOESN'T WANT HIM.

    THE RED, WHITE & BLUE!!
    THESE COLORS STILL DON'T RUN
    LET'S VOTE OUR DREAM TEAM - CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY!
    VOTE OBAMA!

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. NEVEROBAMA

    Obama is going down!!!

    Nothing you can say anymore will matter. You are so worried about the African American community when you should care about everyone as a whole. You Obama are the biggest bigot there is!!!

    NEVER EVER,EVER ELECT OBAMA!

    HILLARY TIME FOR YOU TO CLOSE THE DEAL!

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. james

    March 18th, 2008 2:01 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Hillary's goose is cooked. As far as Mccain, once the american public find out that mccain gave up top secret info when he was in captivity his candidacy wont be worth the paper his betrayal was printed on.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Independent Don

    Wow,

    These comments above would be terrifying to read if they weren't mere posturing on an "open" forum. The comments reflect more upon the people making them than on the actual situation.

    The speech was well-received and honest. There were many things in the speech that he could have omitted to make the speech "safe". Instead, he exercised intellectual integrity in pointing out some things that makes one uncomfortable, no matter your background. Our country was made better today for this speech. Ignoring a festering wound like racism and pretending it does not exist does not help us move forward.

    Let's elevate our intellect here, folks. Some of you can't seem to move beyond stereotype and a binary view of the world. Obama gave a tremendous, historically important speech today and challenged us to grow as Americans.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. KOR

    Obama has a history already of not addressing issues until he discovers he can't outrun them, and in the process he changes his story several times. He did it on NAFTA, and he did it with this. A president acts decisively...Obama is not ready.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. vj

    For 20 years,this pastor was his advisor....is that not a bad judgement.We dont need him.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Kenneth

    Go Ahead Obama! Unlike other politicians you faced a very difficult situation and are willing to tell everything about yourself and let Americans decide if they want you. Unlike others who don't hand over tax documents and all of their white house papers, you are willing to become totally vetted.

    March 18, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. Harry, Michigan

    Wolf, he did NOT have to give this speech! He could have just ignored the issue or trumpeted it as being one of the opponents' weaknesses. That is the Washington way.

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Slapshot

    Wolf, always looking to emphasize the divisive aspect in the hope of engineering a juicy story, misses the point once again: Obama's speech transcended the issue of Reverend Wright's rhetoric, and instead reminded us that if we are to survive as a nation, we have to reject those who would seek to separate us from each other for selfish reasons–whether it's Wolf, Reverend Wright, or Rush–and instead, take the higher road of working together to move this country forward. In the end, the real center of the speech was the message of unity; the need for a "more perfect Union;" the understanding that throughout our history, our best moments have been those when as a nation, we have chosen to come together for a higher cause that speaks to the common good. Today, Obama alerted us to the fact that we can seize the opportunity to make that choice once again next November, or, we can lapse back to the politics of division and hate that have been afflicting us for decades. He made it clear that in light of the issues before us, the high road is the only viable option if this great republic is to survive.

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. Jose

    Many posting on this blog will purposely see Obama's speech in a negative light. These folks closed their minds a long time ago.

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    My message to Barack Obama:
    As an African American, I will run the risk of plagiarizing Bill Clinton by saying, "I feel your pain."

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. ron

    Barack did a great job and anyone who takes something negative from this speech is not really ready for a better America. I will say this – if media and others continue to attack this pastor and church – this is going to get very ugly and become a much greater issue than Barack Obama and a major set back for this country

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. Walt, Belton,TX

    Obama's next book should be titled "How I Won the Presidency in Six Months and lost it by a 30 second tyrade."

    March 18, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. bakersfield

    92% IN MISSISSIPPI , REV WRIGHT VIEWS, HE KNEW ABOUT THEM HE LIED JUST ANOTHER POLITICIAN, NAFTA, HIS IRAQ PLAN. THE AA COMMUNITY HAS SCREWED THIS UP.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. LD

    go obama. you are the guy we are looking for a change in america.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. DJ, LA, CA

    Enough of the ignorance already. First of Obama is half black/ half white aka bi-racial. Secondly he gave a speech this morning that addressed this topic in about as elequently as anyone could have done under the circumstances.

    Basically his message was move on. Enough of the media obsession on race and it's time to move forward.

    The media complains "oh is he not black enough" and now he is criticized by words his pastor used for complaining about racism. Racism exists as does social injustice. No sense trying to sugarcoat it. Nothing like another wedge issue the media finds to daze/confuse voters into discussion about race and religion INSTEAD of the real issues that matter.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. elijah

    BARACK OBAMA TRULY MADE A INSPIRING, HISTORIC SPEECH TODAY!! HE INDEED IS THE "SPIRIT" THAT WILL UNITE US AS AMERICANS AND HELP REGAIN OUR RESPECT IN THE WORLD!!

    IT'S VERY SAD THAT MOST OF THE MEDIA POLITICAL ANYALISTS ARE COMPLETELY "UNCONSCIOUS" !! PERHAPS IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA FOR ALL OF THE MEDIA, AND THEIR NEGATIVE COUNTERPARTS TO FIND THEIR "CONSCIOUS" SPIRIT!! I WOULD SUGGEST YOU READ THE BOOK "A NEW EARTH, AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE" (AUTHOR, ECKART TOLLE)!! YOU COULD LEARN MANY LIFE'S LESSONS AND BETTER UNDERSTAND THE MINDSET OF BARACK OBAMA!! AND I KNOW WE, AS AMERICAN VOTERS WOULD BE ESPECIALLY GRATEFUL TO HEAR YOUR POSITIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT BARACK OBAMA, RATHER THAN YOUR BIASED OPINIONS!!

    BARACK OBAMA WILL INDEED BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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