March 18th, 2008
03:15 PM ET
10 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. deb

    Historical speech. We as Americans need to be united and take a look within ourselves which will tell you that everything he said about race relations in his speech was on target. OBAMA 08.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. White, Female Boomer

    How can Obama cause a whitre vs black Presedential race when he is proudly black AND white??

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. bernj

    It seems that the reaction to Obama's speech is directly related to the intelligence of the evaluator. Clearly many folks commenting negatively on the Internet either did not listen to the speech or, unfortunately, lack the intellectual capacity to understand what the man was saying. Obama did not lie at any point. He has been candid and forthcoming. It is too bad that many of those criticising him are not honest enough with them selves to admit their bias.

    Yes we can. Still.

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

    You can't have a president of the United States attending sermons where they bash whites and jews. This is totally insane. Obama is finished. El Finito, Obama. Nice knowing ya chump.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. David Renolds

    As a secularist (apparently the only one left), I wonder why the irrelevant issue of race has appeared once again. More focus should be paid to the fact that these sort of speeches are ILLEGAL. While Rev. Wright should be facing indictment, we are instead once again reminded that (hold on to your seats!) Barack Obama is black. Way to go, Obama – you've now handed over the Democratic party to the religious right. Tell the Republicans that those of us on the outside say hi.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Tracy, San Anselmo, CA

    Bottom line... Obama mislead / lied to the public. I watched him tell Anderson Cooper on CNN last week that he did NOT witness any of these derogatory remarks made by Mr. Wright. Yet today, he states he has been present for these comments. Of course he delivered his speech very eloquently, as he usually does, but the fact remains that he was dishonest to the public. How can he claim his campaign is based on CHANGE, when he just proved today it's Politics as Usual...

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Alice Rea

    Senator Obama doesn't get that the speech had little to do about race.
    Pastor Wright spoke about the United States of America.
    Obama is running for President of the United States of America.
    He needs to separate himself from his pastor.

    Trying to minimize the involvement of this man is like Hillary saying that she will minimize her involvement with a KKK leader.

    He had a chance to do that today and still continued to endorse this man.

    It's a disgrace.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. M. Kelly

    Unfortunately Obama contradicted himself . . . Friday he denied 'hearing' these comments from his Pastor and today he appears to have heard some of them . . . that bothers me more than anything else . . . in addition, someone in support of unification wouldn't attend such a segregated church – integration is the opposite of segregation.

    March 18, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. ct

    cannot trust Obama. He chose a deep racist to be his closest one?
    Nothing to trust.
    He should step down. This issue and his 20 years involvement is over the limit.
    This is too much to digest, to believe, to trust. Too much hate was expressed.
    Man who hates whites and this country is his mentor, and spiritual leader.
    And people are still trusting him?
    How far people's naivete can go? To the point when they will be shocked of what they did not see and hear?

    March 18, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Harrison

    This board will fill up with Obama haters. They will try to tear down Mr. Obama with ignorance and prejudice. The reality is that they are upset that the tactics of their candidates have not had the effect that they would like and they are faced with their candidate losing a nomination and a presidency.

    Did he have to do this? No. Did it show leadership? Yes. Is it the last we'll hear of this – no. Rather than attack and discuss the true issues – race is the only divisive argument his detractors can come up with.

    By the way Wolf – has Hillary promised you a post as her press secretary?

    March 18, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |

    At this point those who have ALWAYS hated Senator Obams will never see anything but their own prejudices and continue to hate Senator Obama.
    If he walked on water...WOLF'S headline would read...'OBAMA CAN'T SWIM"! You're all small, sad, afraid and pathetic.

    March 18, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    Senator Obama's speech was one that will become part of America's history. I don't know how he could have more clearly or better answered questions related to Rev. Wright's ministry.

    The good senator came across as a thoughtful, articulate, honest leader. How he can appear so calm after all the vitriolic personal attacks ithrown his way is beyond my comprehension. It is hopeful to believe that this fine young leader may well become the president of our great country.

    Obama all the way!

    March 18, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Darlene

    March 18th, 2008 4:10 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    If CNN would stop playing into Hilary Clinton's divisiveness and nonsense under the guise that it is news we would probably not 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 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. BJ in Idaho

    In just reading the comments posted thus far, I realize how little most Americans know about real racial issues. In case jp in michigan missed it Clintons made this a black vs white presidential race a long time ago.

    Wake up people and smell the roses. The Clintons are taking the cameras off them and the mindset of Americans so they can cheat, lie and buy their way into another presidency and it appears many Americans will be ignorant enough to let that happen..

    Praise God for men like Obama.!!

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Vote Obama

    ALL FO YOU HEARD WHAT YOU WANTED TO HEAR-- He SAID that he was NOT in the church at the time that his pastor made the comments that have been circulating!!!

    HE SAID that IF he had been there he would have certainly would have made it a point to denounce such talk!

    HE SAID his experience and the fact that he was running for the presidency speaks to the advances that america has made!

    Unfortunately I see that americans are by far bigots and ignorant if all they got out of Obama;s speech is that he changed what he had said before- HE HAS NOT CHANGED WHAT HE HAS STATED BEFORE AND THAT SHOWS THAT HE IS PRINCIPLED!!!! The fact that he had the courage to stand in front of millions of people to talk about his experiences and his relationship with a contraversial figure and was able to state that although he vehemently disagreed with the statements Wright made about america, the man has made decent statements about God and the community he has helped while he reined as pastor!!!!!


    He's the only person in this race that has the ability to understand the plight of the poor and the minority and is the only one that has a chance at uniting us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Bright

    Obama has done a great job in confronting the issue. Of course there are those that will find fault no matter what. He showed what a leader needs to do and that is confront the issue head on even if it meant he won’t win. Unfortunately, this is not true of Clinton.

    Undoubtedly Clinton is doing everything to win. She has changed her messages to suit the ‘atmosphere’ kitchen sink strategy? I mean the democrats have a huge opportunity to take the white house yet, they are shooting themselves in the leg thanks to Clinton and her backers. Yes she would do anything to win including endorsing a republican over her fellow democrat. I wonder why the media never took her on this one.

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. end of obama

    CNN is fair in addressing this issue. Obama is a BIG LIAR. He has no way to survive the republican's attacks with his so many questionable backgrounds. Nobaody will believe his beautiful speechs.
    Step Down Obama. We beg you, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

    Senator Obama should have discounted these issues years ago when the Reverend first spoke. But he needed the black community's support to further advance in politics. The whole situation feels like he has used a lot of folks to get where he wanted to be. Unfortunately, it has magnified and intensified racial differences in America. Completely the opposite of what he speaks about in his speeches of uniting together to overcome problems and change America.

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Faye Marks

    Barack Obama's speech made me think of the children's book, "The Emporer's New Clothes". At last a political candidate truthfully pointed out to voters that there is still a system of racial inequality out there! He is pushing for unity among all races and ethnic groups and admits he alone cannot bring it about. Hillary can't, either -as much as she would like for Hispanics to think that she's the answer to their dreams and that Bill really didn't mean what he said about blacks. It's going to take all of America to keep trying for equality regardless of race and gender; I believe that Barack Obama can lead us toward that goal.

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. Jyh1920

    I know there are white americans who chose not to hear about race, but it is important that Barack addressed this issue.

    I have even more respect and admiration for Barack Obama.
    A distiguished man and our future President.

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. Dennis

    Sensitive and candid portrayal of Mr Obamas connection to integrity and his christian beliefs that all individuals really are created equal.

    The student has spiritually outgrown his pastor in a way reminiscent of the carpenter and the baptist. Christian philosopy at its best!

    March 18, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. Kimberly

    Obama has created division not unity. I don't beleive for one second he cares about white people or America.

    March 18, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Yodit

    A brilliant, brilliant speech. One for the history books.

    March 18, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Netta Young

    I will say this. I have read and read and read the many comments by waatchers and readers of CNN. I have cam to the following conclusion;

    *Most are afraid of change. We gotten so used to the shadiness of our country that it scares people to hear about a man that happen to be black that want to change the way things are done.

    *Last I checked when Ferrao made her comments it was people commenting on how "its a free country" " Freedom of Speech"! What happened? Is Pastor Wright any different?

    *I am a voter for Obama. But how can you hold him so accountable for words that another has said? Did you hold Hilary accountable for the words that Ferrao said?

    *Why is there a poll on his religion? What does that have to do with being Commander in Chief?

    Its getting real obvious people that we as Americans has grown accustomed to fragglenacklebull. It has been so much of it flying around its crazy!!

    **Hilary. Barack. You guys have at least a month. Let's get back to real issues and get our focus back on who will be the next President of The United States of America!***

    March 18, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. m brian

    It is true that the brief clips of Wright’s angry remarks about the United States could not be ignored.

    Obama is a LIAR, I don't trust him!!!

    March 18, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
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