May 30, 2008 -- The job of uniting the Democratic Party after a long and divisive primary season just got tougher, thanks to yet another Chicago Christian leader who's a longtime friend and associate of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Priest Mocks Clinton's Tears
"She just always thought that, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white.' … And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama.' And she said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show,'" Father Michael Pfleger said at last Sunday's services at Trinity United Church of Christ.
The Catholic priest then parodied Clinton, pretending to wipe tears from his face with a handkerchief, evoking the famous moment on the campaign when New York Sen. Hillary Clinton welled up after the Iowa caucuses and before the New Hampshire primary.
"She wasn't the only one crying," he said. "There was a whole lot of white people crying."
Catholic Church Condemns Remarks
Pfleger, a well-known activist, was rebuked by both Obama and the Catholic Church for the sermon, which was delivered at the church formerly led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"The Catholic Church does not endorse political candidates," read a written statement from Cardinal Francis George, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. "Consequently, while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning."
"Racial issues are both political and moral and are also highly charged. Words can be differently interpreted, but Fr. Pfleger's remarks about Senator Clinton are both partisan and amount to a personal attack. I regret that deeply," Cardinal George added.
Obama was forced to say Thursday he was "deeply disappointed" by Pfleger's pulpit performance, but the Clinton camp was not mollified.
Clinton's campaign put out a statement decrying the "hateful language" and said that Obama "should have specifically rejected the despicable comments."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told reporters on Friday that "that kind of treatment of Senator Clinton is unwarranted, uncalled for and disgraceful."
Race Shadows Fight for Florida, Michigan
The timing of the latest pastor controversy could not be worse.
Precisely at the time when Obama's camp needs to be building bridges to Clinton supporters, Pfleger, who's known Obama for about 20 years, took to the pulpit of Obama's church Sunday and ridiculed Clinton, using racially divisive language.
The Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee will meet Saturday to hash out how to deal with the delegations of Florida and Michigan, which are going to be punished for ignoring party rules and holding early primaries.
Clinton supporters plan on staging protests, insisting that the committee count the votes as cast, even though no candidate campaigned in either state and Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan.
Clinton won the primaries in both Florida and Michigan, and she wants the delegations seated in full.
Obama originally had pushed splitting the delegations 50-50, though with a near-200 delegate vote lead, he now seems willing to have a portion of the delegations seated in such a way where Clinton nets delegates — though not enough to affect his likely nomination victory.
But hanging over the Saturday meeting will be the mocking comments made by Pfleger from the same Chicago pulpit that Obama's pastor, Wright, used racially inflammatory language about America to Obama's regret.
"This is going to hurt Obama's efforts right now to bring the party together coming out of the primaries Tuesday," ABC's chief political correspondent George Stephanopoulos said today on "Good Morning America."
"The feelings between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters are rubbed very, very raw. This makes that worse," Stephanopoulos said.
End of the Road
Clinton is expected to easily defeat Obama in Puerto Rico's primary Sunday, and he has made the South Dakota vote Tuesday surprisingly close. Obama is expected to win the Montana primary, which is also being held Tuesday.
Despite Clinton's determination to battle to the end, it is improbable — assuming that an avalanche of superdelegates and even some pledged delegates do not move her way — that she will overtake Obama in delegates, and party leaders want the campaign to end within days of Tuesday's vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and party chairman Howard Dean have indicated they will be pressuring uncommitted superdelegates to end their silence and quickly pick a candidate some time after Tuesday.