Racial Tensions Threaten to Divide Democrats

In the race to the Democratic nomination, tensions between the campaigns of rival Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., are so uncomfortable some party leaders are openly concerned Democratic voters will not unify after a nominee is chosen.

Much of the tension is based at least in part on racial divisions -- and into the dynamic walked the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor.

Speaking the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Wright called the recent criticism surrounding his sermons "an attack on the black church" explaining his emergence before a national audience, regardless of what harm it might do to the candidacy of Obama.

Defiant Wright Plays Defense

"This is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill or Chelsea, this is about the black church," Wright said, speaking before the Washington press corps and an enthusiastic audience of black church leaders at the onset of a two-day symposium.

Obama's controversial former pastor was defiant as he spoke to a room packed with non-journalistic supporters, defending himself, dismissing Obama's criticism of him as mere political expedience, and jokingly offering himself as a vice presidential prospect. He clearly was not doing Obama any favors, not only by reappearing before a ravenous media thus distracting from Obama's attempt to relate better to white working class voters in Indiana and North Carolina, but by implying Obama's condemnation of some of his sermons was not sincere.

"Politicians say what they say and do what they do because of electability," Wright said, arguing that Obama had not seen the sermons played in the media that Obama has called "offensive." "He had to distance himself because he's a politician...Whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God."

Wright: Media Twisted Sermons

Wright -- throughout his speech and a Q&A period -- argued that many of his critics had not heard his whole sermons and that the media had twisted his words.

But he didn't distance himself from any of the sentiments underlying the clips shown on television. Indeed, the former pastor embraced the most controversial items he has said.

Wright said he was quoting a previous U.S. Ambassador to Iraq -- in a quote that none of his supporters has been able to find -- and relaying Biblical proverbs, "whatever you sew, that is what you shall reap," and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you," Wright said. "Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright 'bombastic' principles."

On Cheney, Iraq and Bill Clinton

Wright also took on those who characterize him as unpatriotic, taking a dig at the vice president in the process.

"I served six years in the military," Wright said. "Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?"

Wright pointed to congregants at his Trinity United Church of Christ who have served in the U.S. military, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

"My goddaughter's unit just arrived in Iraq this week while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls to die over a lie," Wright said.

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