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. Dan, NJ

    I will only say it is a shame this came in the context of a presidential campaign. Obama gave one of the most forthright and honest commentaries on race in America ever given by a politician in our country.

    It is very sad that instead of having to conversation about coming together to turn the page on race in America, the real point of Obama's speech, those with agendas will stick on Wright and comments that have been denounced.

    I wish we were having the frank conversation Obama encouraged. I do hope history judges MSM poorly for ignoring what could be the impetus of social change.

    March 18, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. LIz in ATL

    There will be many who are not ready yet to face the facts of racism and it ugly history. There thankfully will be some who will heed the challenge of Sen. Obama to move forward and acknowledge our history and our biases BUT move forward and acknowledge our 'shared challenges and aspirations' .... It's a NEW DAY in America and we can all choose to lock hands and move forward as Americans and as Obama said improve our schools, end the war and provide health care insurance to all Americans – oportunity for change STILL EXISTS – some will choose not to change.... I pray enough Americans are ready to move with the younger generation by moving together without as much bitterness we have shared in the past .... the time is NOW!!! O8ama

    March 18, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. Hailly

    America's great dilemma is the dilemma of race. Very few public officials have spoken of it as courageously as Obama has. Will the speech heal the racial wounds of 211 years? No. But it goes a long way in doing so.

    For those who never liked the idea of Obama's presidency, the speech will make no difference. For people who weigh matters and issues seriously, he has given as plenty to think about. It is a courageous thing to do.

    March 18, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. len

    If ever I heard a presidential speech, this was it. Obama was awesome. More is the pity if his ability to appreciate and respect the opposites that constitue the USA cannot be appreciated.

    March 18, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. El Dorado

    Obama: No I never heard these comments from Pastor Wright,

    Obama: Yes I have heard Pastor Wright make comments like this but I did not agree with him. More important, let me tell you about Pastor Wright.

    Sorry, WE (African Americans, Caucasians, Asians and Latinos) already know.

    FYI Senator Obama, you have not divided the country more, however, you have not al all united the country either. I do HOPE you understand this to be a true statement.

    March 18, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. mona

    I just wanted to say, In Obama's comparison of his grandmother to Reverend Wright. You choose your friends not your family. There is difference.

    March 18, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. James

    This is the most honest and sincere speech I have heard in my entire life. At first, I was hoping for him to take a side, but what he did was to acknowledge the root of every race problem in America. Many people would ask why did he not leave the church? The answer is that running away from a problem isn't going to solve it. The best way is to have a dialog, disagree to agree. For example, I was born a catholic. When I grew up, I found out that I was gay. The catholic church does not support my beliefs. However I still go to the church even though I disagree with the Reverend or other extreme members.

    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |

    I have a question, Why is all eyes focus on Obama? peoples saying RACE is not a issue but it is. Because McCain is another Bush this what people should focus on I

    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. Kim, Studio City, CA

    Larry Elder, a Black author and talk show host, was on the Hannity Show. He had a quote, with witnesses, from Revernd Wright on the day that the Reverend was asked not to appear on the podium with Obama when he announced his candidacy. This is the quote from the Reverend, " When Obama's Jewish supporters hear about my comments about the Jews, they will run from the campaign."

    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. abgsbca

    What the speech demonstrates is that Mr. Obama is a politician like any other, pandering to those he must pander to. Given his promise to unite us, and bring about change, what effort, if any, did he make to disbuse his pastor of even such a simple delusion as that AIDS was created by a government agency to kill black men. It was not important for Mr. Obama to disavow Rev. Wright, but it was important not to accept such mis-statements without protesting them to his friend. To bring about change. But it would have been impolitic to do so. If Mr. Obama had been in the Senate in 2002, he would undoubtedly have given Mr. Bush the authority to go to war if he needed to.



    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Chris McCarry

    The Senator moved the conversation today, he is a uniter, a fine American and god-willimng our next president.

    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. AJ, IL

    A brilliant speech written by himself (no speech or ghost writers Hillary or McCain). Obama has confronted directly the issue of race and politics.

    Now we will see if Hillary will confront the issue of gender and politics or McCain the issue of age and politics.

    March 18, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. Linda OH

    Best speech in political history!

    March 18, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. Gillis

    It would be nice if one could see the comment they entered. TODAY!

    March 18, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |

    The real issue is Old America is afriad that there will be a black President, it time to change .

    March 18, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. SR

    Sen. Obama didn't and doesn't have a fine line to walk. He fell off the cliff. You are dreaming if you think voters will forgive going to a racist church for 20 years.

    March 18, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. Chilled

    This is the first time I felt like a politician wasn't speaking to me like I was a child.

    March 18, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Mary Ann Miller

    If that Reverend has made comments like that, he should of quit that church and go elsewhere. I certainly would not have stayed. I think he enjoys listening to his sermons.

    March 18, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. dylan

    He is 100% right and we should all applaud his speech.

    He can truly say that he has seen and lived both worlds due to his mixed family. Unfortunately my parents are just like he said. They wouldn’t vote for an African American no matter how perfect he was. The only difference is that they can’t get up and speak about it so you don’t see their true expressions. Still, it’s the same thing.

    We really need someone like Obama in America. While he is not perfect, he is the real deal.

    As for the negative posts, we all know that you would have written something negative no matter what he said. If these same words came from your candidate, you would have praised the speech.

    This is why the younger generations are speaking up and appreciating a leader such as Obama. They are ready for something new and change, while some of the older generations are still fighting their fears.

    March 18, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. NK

    For those that actually listened to the speech, there is no denying that he did an amazing job of talking about race in a meaningful, unifying, and educational way. He challenged the accessibility of the American dream, and asked us to look at how that dream divides us along racial and socio-economic status. For people looking for sound bytes and just reading the snippets above the ticker, perhaps there could be a question about Obama, but for those that listened – there is no question he is the best candidate to address these issues in a meaningful, non-sound-byte-related, way.

    March 18, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Chris, GA

    Wait for the fallout? Nice...fair and balanced Wolf.

    March 18, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. Arkansas Undertaker

    You IDIOTS need to get over it!

    That man should not have to apologize for his Pastor's View any more that any of you. You just cant stand the fact that a African-American actually has a shot as becoming the leader of trhe free world.

    The Lord has a plan for America and you guys cant stop it! So just get take your two cents and shove it!!!!

    Obama/McCaskill 08

    March 18, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Kevin

    Obamas political buzz words:

    Change .. hope..denounce!!

    March 18, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Venus

    He lied he said he wasn't in the church when his pastor was making controversial comments now he says he was.

    March 18, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. bob friedlander

    It was a terrific speech for Unity. Only a man with his diverse background could have walked the fine line. Of course to Hillary supporters like Wolf Blitzer and other Clinton News Network, it was just a speech.

    March 18, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
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