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Pastor returns to haunt Obama

  • Story Highlights
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright was one of Barack Obama's mentors at Chicago church
  • Pastor has become an issue for Democratic candidate in race to the White House
  • Wright has made controversial comments which have hurt Obama's campaign
  • Initially Obama refused to condemn Wright, now he calls pastor's words "divisive"
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By Jonathan Mann
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(CNN) -- Is there is a crazy old girlfriend, a weird uncle or a troublesome ex-husband in your past? I thought so. Most of us have someone that we'd rather not see again.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is known for injecting politics into his fiery sermons.

So share the pain and embarrassment that Barack Obama suffered this week, when someone he used to see most every weekend surfaced at a bad time, in a bad way.

It wasn't a girlfriend, it was someone worse: one of his mentors, the long-time pastor of the Chicago church where Obama went to pray and connect with his community.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright became an issue earlier in the campaign when excerpts of his sermons began appearing on the Internet. Instead of the familiar invocation "God bless America," he angrily said "God damn America."

Americans were shocked to learn that he and Obama had a relationship going back years.

Obama used that setback as an opportunity to give a moving speech about race and anger in America, refusing to condemn Wright and only gently distancing himself from his remarks. Bad idea.

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Wright retreated from the public eye, but this week he re-emerged, with a speaking tour and a vengeance. He reiterated and expanded on his remarks. He suggested Obama's criticism was the work of a hypocritical politician running for office. He danced and clowned for television cameras, virtually guaranteeing he'd be back on the evening news.

The campaign has changed since Wright first appeared. Obama is no longer a fresh face on a winning streak. Lately, he seems tired and wounded after being criticized daily by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain.

He's been unable to expand his base of support -- African Americans, affluent Whites and young people -- into a consistently winning majority. Obama hasn't been able to get enough working-class whites, in particular, to vote for him. Wright's televised antics aren't going to help.

After Wright's re-appearance this week, Obama didn't give another high-minded speech about big issues. He spoke like an exhausted and angry man, forced again to explain what he called 'the divisive and destructive' words of someone he once trusted.

Then he went back to the business of campaigning, probably hoping to keep his past... behind him. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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