While I've largely stopped paying attention to the farce that the contest for the Democratic nomination has turned into, I can't help commenting on the Rev. Wright controversy and Obama's response to it.
The general consensus, at least among Obama's critics, seems to be that in finally coming out and explicitly condemning Rev. Wright for his ridiculous remarks Obama is going against his natural inclination in deference to public opinion polls. He is, in other words, playing politics - choosing to distance himself from a figure who has clearly become a political liability - and that his 'real' feelings were those expressed in his earlier response to the Wright controversy, when he distanced himself from some of Rev. Wright's more extreme ideas, but refused to condemn the man himself.
It seems to me equally plausible, however, that the opposite is true. In particular, it seems to me that the truth about Obama may be both better and (politically speaking) worse than the conventional interpretation would suggest. This is pure speculation, obviously, but my suspicion is that Obama is precisely the kind of person who's intelligent enough to be able to separate the content of religion from the power associated with it, and use the latter while ignoring the former. In other words, Obama may not have paid attention to / been outraged by Rev. Wright's ideas not because he agreed with them, but because he (Obama) is not the kind of person who takes anything a preacher says seriously. I mean, it's all nonsense, isn't it? How is believing that AIDS is part of a conspiracy against black people any sillier than believing in, say, immaculate conception? Obama wasn't sitting in that church because he wanted to get spiritual or moral guidance or anything like that, he was sitting in that church because being seen as part of that community would get him votes.
The trouble, of course, is that there's no way Obama could ever admit this, even if it were true. No matter how many votes he may lose by being associated with Rev. Wright, he'd lose a great deal more if he were to declare, for instance, that he isn't a religious person, that he sat in church because it was part of engaging with a community and he didn't give a toss what some silly preacher was saying. I personally find the idea of a US President who has no religious faith whatsoever extremely appealing, but I suspect that any candidate who openly admitted this would be dead in the water. So the myth of spiritual guidance and close ties to the faith must be maintained, even at the cost of associating with Rev. Wright.
Seen in this (entirely hypothetical) light, it's Obama's earlier response to the Wright controversy, however skilfully delivered, that is, in fact, the more 'political', which is to say the less sincere. What Obama was trying to do, under the guise of taking a balanced, measured perspective, was to play both sides - appease voters appalled by the specter of Rev. Wright without alienating those who might see a strong repudiation of Rev. Wright as an ungrateful betrayal, an attempt on Obama's part to divorce himself from the very roots that are the source of their support for him.
The irony here is that Obama may be the victim of his own eloquence: because his initial response to the Wright controversy - which may have been just a wishy-washy attempt to pander to multiple constituencies at the same time - came across as so genuine, his more recent stand on the issue (if one may call it that) has come to be perceived as weak and reluctant, a compromise driven by calculative necessity, rather than what it may really be - an expression of the man's true feelings, relieved of the need to try and soft-pedal the issue by either the realization that the more 'political' strategy was untenable, or a sense that the Rev. had made himself enough of a pariah so that he could be repudiated without causing much damage.
Again, I emphasize that this is all speculation - I'm not saying (because I obviously can't prove) that any of this is true, just that it provides a counterpoint to the usual interpretation of Obama's actions and an alternative storyline that fits all the facts but gives us a completely different picture of the man himself than the one the media has been giving us.