Obama’s Judgment

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Today’s WaPo editorial taxes Obama for bad judgment in L’Affaire Wright:

Did Mr. Obama climb out of that hole yesterday? It seems to us that the whole sorry episode raises legitimate questions about his judgment. Given the long and close relationship between Mr. Obama and the Rev. Wright, voters will ask: How could Mr. Obama have been surprised by the Rev. Wright’s views? How could he not have seen this coming? Mr. Obama didn’t help matters much by initially seeming to dismiss the furor building over the Rev. Wright’s Washington performance, just as he did with the initial uproar last month. At a media availability at an airport Monday afternoon, he displayed none of the anger and sorrow that etched his face in North Carolina one day later.

For my part, these are rather minor errors of prudential political calculation in a candidate who has never experienced the glare of publicity that shines on a presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton’s handling of L’Affaire Tuzla–her repeated false accounts, her mischaracterizations of her own accounts of it, the length of time she took to correct the record, and all by someone who is only too familiar with the presidential glare–shows a far more consequential deficit, not only in the realm of political prudence but of character.
In Obama’s case, the outstanding issue, so far as I am concerned, is one of moral, not political judgment. How could he have remained close to Rev. Wright, how could he have remained in that church, given how much Wright’s views on certain matters were repugnant to him. This question has been asked and answered in various ways over the past couple of months. In a sense, it all comes down to two questions, only one of which is subject to an empirical answer: What did Obama actually know of Wright’s various repugnant views? And, should what he knew have been sufficient for him to leave the church? Anyone seeking a good guess at what Obama found so appealing in Wright, beyond what he has himself written, should take a look at this, from The Plank’s Noam Scheiber.