There has already been a lot of analysis and criticism of Barack Obama's speech on race. I, for one, thought it was a masterstroke. Obama was damned if he did and damned if he didn't -- if he completely disowned Jeremiah Wright, everyone would have said, "oh, well, Obama goes to this guy's church for 20 years and gets married there, and now, because it's politically expedient, he denounces his buddy." Obama would have been accused of hypocrisy or deception. If he didn't disown Wright, people would have said that he must agree with the pastor that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill black people, among other cringe-worthy opinions.
So what did Obama do? He admitted knowing that Wright had such views and that he vehemently disagreed with a lot of Wright's opinions. Technically he could have stopped there (like I'm sure Hillary did with Geraldine Ferraro's statements). But he didn't: Will he disown Wright? No more than he'd disown his white grandmother because of the racially insensitive things she's said.
Some might think that this was a poor move, to essentially equivocate his grandmother and this wacko. But I think he effectively garnered sympathy with this statement -- everyone has a relative that spouts wacko theories along with the occasional racial epithet. But we usually don't stop associating with them or publicly denounce them because of it. We deal with it. Why do we deal with it?
Because that's America.
With this statement, Obama's second checkmate, he essentially implies that one can no more disown a family member for their opinions than a President can disown any American because of his political views. This was, in my opinion, an outstretched hand to conservatives. I think what he's trying to get across is that America is full of cringe-worthy opinions, but it doesn't mean the people having those opinions should necessarily be vilified. By creating a dichotomy between ideas and identities, Obama's campaign is transcending the typical political game of divide and conquer.
That being said, should it give us pause that Obama considers this wacko part of his family? Yes, of course. But think about all the wackos you consider part of your family, and, well, if you're like me, you'll understand Obama's position a little better.