Mr. Troy is Professor of History at McGill University, and the author, most recently, of
The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, (OUP) and
Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents: George Washington to Barack Obama . His other books include: Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady and Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s. He is a member of the advisory board of HNN. His website is giltroy.com. His next book “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism” will be published this fall by Oxford University Press.
Quick Coaching: How Obama Should Get Right with Americans about Wright’s Wrongs
Now that Senator Barack Obama has denounced his pastor in clear, unequivocal language, he should make two more statements to put this unhappy episode behind him. For starters, Obama should apologize for not breaking with Wright sooner, and for failing to stand up to him over the years, especially after Wright’s hurtful “chickens coming home to roost” remarks after 9/11. In this apology, Obama could acknowledge what so many Americans in this nation of armchair psychologists seem to know already – that Wright served as a father-figure to Obama, who grew up basically fatherless, making a confrontation earlier very difficult. Americans love personal apologies – just ask the former apologist-in-chief Bill Clinton, or the nation’s most unrepentant celebrity, Pete Rose. Moreover, the one false note Obama made in his North Carolina press conference came in claiming that Wright had never been his spiritual mentor.
But the second and more important move Obama must make, is to resurrect the magic from his great national political debut, his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. Obama has to explain why he chose to reject Wright’s path. He should acknowledge how tempting it is to succumb to African-American anger or Ivy League cynicism, as so many people he knows have done. What makes Obama exceptional is that he chose a different path – and articulated it so beautifully in 2004. Obama’s Philadelphia speech was more intellectual and more guarded. If Obama lets loose emotionally and rhetorically, soaring past his controversial minister to again conjure up a compelling vision of a united America, we might be able to stop the cries for Obama to right Wright’s wrongs, and return to the heady days, just weeks ago, of “Yes we can.”