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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Senator Barack Obama Confronts Race Issue; Inside African- American Churches
Aired March 18, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson is on assignment, heading for an exclusive day on the campaign trail with Barack Obama. He's going to have that on 360 tomorrow.
Tonight: how Senator Obama is confronting the controversy over what his former pastor said, the question of what Obama heard and when he heard it, but, also, the tougher question of race. We're going to be showing you large portions of his speech today in Philadelphia that everyone seems to be talking about.
We're going to talk about it, too, with David Gergen and not Roland Martin, members of the best political team on television, and conservative political strategist Bay Buchanan.
Also tonight, exploring the sometimes fiery message coming from the pulpit in America's black churches. The Reverend Joseph Lowery is going to join us.
Plus, the political impact on white voters, a crucial bloc in Pennsylvania, and across the country in the general election.
We begin, though, with the speech itself. Whether or not you agree with what Barack Obama said and whether or not it solves his immediate political problem, it was striking. And, in one respect, it was daring.
Instead of simply distancing himself today from his former pastor's offensive remarks, Senator Obama took the opportunity and the risk of doing much more. Quietly, but clearly with great passion, he walked the listener through a remarkable exploration of race from both sides of the color divide, from both sides of himself.
CNN's Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Incendiary sermons at his own church from his good friend and pastor threaten to undermine the premise of Barack Obama's campaign. He had to do this.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely. CROWLEY: The statement was designed to ward off both the sound bites that had been heard and those that may be still to come from the sermons of Jeremiah Wright, the fiery pastor of Obama's church. He called Wright's words wrong and divisive, but Obama says he knows a different man than the caricature whose sound bites endlessly play on the airwaves and across the Internet.
REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: ... living in a country and culture that is controlled by rich white people.
CROWLEY: For Obama, who rarely talks about race, the speech was as sweeping as it was specific, as politically risky as it was personally revealing.
OBAMA: I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother, a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
CROWLEY: The son of a white woman and a black man, Obama has said, bridging the gap is in his DNA. He spoke today of the history of America's racial divide, of black anger over generations of discrimination.
OBAMA: But the anger is real, it is powerful, and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
CROWLEY: But he also talked of white resentment, grounded, he said, in legitimate concern.
OBAMA: So, when they are told to bus their children to a school across town, when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed, when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudice, resentment builds over time.
CROWLEY: It was a powerful speech, part history, part personal, and very much on message.
OBAMA: And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care or education or the need to find good jobs for every American.
CROWLEY: The question is whether it was enough to put out the pastor's fire.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Already, some of the strongest pans and raves are coming in, and they're coming from conservatives. Rush Limbaugh said the speech now makes Barack Obama -- quote -- "the candidate of race," while Charles Murray, whose book on race and I.Q. set off a bitter controversy, called the speech -- quote -- "flat-out brilliant, so far above the standard we're used to from our politicians."
Well, CNN senior David Gergen weighed in as well today on the 360 blog, and he's joining us now. Also with us, CNN contributor and radio talk show host Roland Martin, and GOP strategist Bay Buchanan.
Welcome to everybody.
David, let me start with you.
On our blog, you said his speech was an eloquent expression of who Barack Obama is.
But was it enough to stem the possible fallout from his association with Reverend Wright?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Campbell, in my -- in my judgment, it was the best speech of this campaign by anybody, eloquently and thoughtfully addressing the issue of race, and also showing us a great deal about Barack Obama as a leader.
Ironically, in my judgment, the last person who could give a speech about race that was this good was Bill Clinton, who -- you know, who also understood it well and had an enormous insights into these issues.
Did it put out the fire, as Candy Crowley asked? No. It did not put out the fire with the right. He's going to continue to be harpooned by -- and held under enormous criticism by the right. I do not think it probably was enough to mollify some of the concerns of -- for blue-collar voters in places like Pennsylvania.
But I think it did an enormous amount of good for him in suburban communities among better educated. And there's one thing that's very clear. In a campaign that was dispirited, he has lifted the hopes and the enthusiasm once again of the people around him, his supporters.
One person told me in the campaign tonight, very high up in the campaign, nothing that has happened in this campaign has made her prouder to be a member of the campaign team than this speech.
BROWN: Bay, who was the target audience? Was it as David was suggesting, and did he reach them? Was it effective?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think it was extraordinarily effective for exactly what you just asked, the target audience.
The first thing you do when that blood starts to flow, when the campaign starts to tumble, is to firm up your base, to make certain they stay with you, that there's no erosion whatsoever. Then you can go and start to expand again later.
He did exactly that. And I think what David just said, that people are so proud to be with him, to be part of this campaign, he's reassured them that he's there, he's going to stay there, and that they can continue to be proud. I think he did a very good job today.
BROWN: Roland, Obama said race is an issue that this nation cannot ignore right now. Rush Limbaugh, though, said that Obama is now the candidate of race. How politically risky was his speech?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was obviously risky, but I think he pulled it off.
And, frankly, I don't think Rush Limbaugh is really an expert when it comes to the issue of race in America, so we should not be shocked that he would make those kinds of claims.
The reality is, I also -- for me as a Christian -- I'm going to speak from that vantage point, as the husband of an ordained minister -- what I also appreciate is the fact he operated in a sense where he said, I'm going to condemn my pastor -- I'm going to -- excuse me -- the comments that he made, but I'm not going to disown him.
I have really heard a lot of stuff today about disowning the pastor, disowning the church. His pastor and his church represents the spiritual covering of him, if you will. And, when you say disown, I start thinking about Peter disowning Jesus. I start thinking -- so, it amazes me when I hear Christians on the right and I hear some Christians on the left say, well, you should disown your pastor or disown your church.
Those are not words that, frankly, I, as a Christian, would use. And I think he represented the most fundamental issue when it comes to being a Christian. And you own up to your issues. You own up to your deficiencies, but you also say, we're going to move ahead.
I think that should also be appealing to blue-collar voters who are also people of faith.
BROWN: All right, David, I want to follow up on that. And let's listen first, though, to what exactly Obama did say about Reverend Wright.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptized my children.
Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect.
He contains within him the contradictions -- the good and the bad -- of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Now, he denounced the statements of his pastor, but he did -- he did not, rather, as Roland pointed out, disown him.
Do you think that he needed to go further with this?
GERGEN: I'm not -- are you addressing it to me, Campbell?
BROWN: Yes, David.
GERGEN: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
No, I don't think it would have been appropriate to dwell the entire time on Reverend Wright. This was a speech in which he -- he had no fear of bringing up -- in fact, one of the strengths of the speech was how direct he was and how willing he was to...
GERGEN: ... to take on tough issues and tough questions.
And -- but he talked about Reverend Wright. He must have mentioned him 10 or 12 times. But I think the importance of the speech was that, while he denounced the -- the views, he didn't throw him under the bus, to echo Roland, but he also used the speech as a way to -- as a springboard to talk about Reverend Wright as a walking representation of someone who contains both the love and -- and the resentment and the frustration of the people in the black community.
And, indeed, he talked similarly about the white community. And that's what made it extremely interesting.
BUCHANAN: And, Campbell -- Campbell...
BROWN: Quickly, Bay. We're going to take a break.
Going right to that point, too many politicians, as soon as a friend of theirs gets in trouble...
BUCHANAN: ... they embarrass them, they throw him under the bus.
And both Hillary's done it with Ferraro. And McCain is notorious for it. I think he was a class act. He said, this man is like family. He has made some mistakes. Who else hasn't?
So, he's saying, he's still a family member to me.
BROWN: All right. We have much more to say on the other side of the break. We are live blogging, too. And you can join the conversation at CNN.com/360.
For many people, this story opened a door to black churches in America. And, coming up, we are going to take you inside and look at the sometimes flammable blend of salvation and politics that make them tick.
Also, white men could hold the key to who wins the Pennsylvania primary. The question is, what do the candidates have to do to win their vote?
We have got that and more -- when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made; as if this country -- a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black...
OBAMA: ... Latino, Asian, rich, poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Senator Obama earlier today addressing the controversy that has threatened to do mortal damage to his campaign.
Well, we are digging deeper with our panel. We have got CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen back with us, along with CNN contributor Roland Martin, and Republican strategist and former senior adviser to Mitt Romney, Bay Buchanan.
And, Roland, let me start with you now.
For so long, Obama tried to transcend the race issue. Well, now he's really taking it head on. Where is this going to take the campaign?
MARTIN: Well, I think, clearly, by taking it on, what he is saying is, if you want to bring up more stuff, that's fine. I have already addressed it.
He plans on giving a major speech tomorrow on Iraq. He plans on doing it the following day. They're going to move on with this campaign. Surely, the questions are going to continue. But I think by sort of -- it sort of reminds me of the meeting that he had Friday with "The Chicago Tribune" and "The Chicago Sun- Times."
You put it all out on the table. You pretty much say, this is who I am. It's out there. Now, how do we move forward?
But, Campbell, I think the challenge also is on us. How do we then begin to cover these issues? Do we begin to keep playing the same bites over and over and over again? Or do we say, there's more to the man? Did Wright ever talk about marriage, and divorce, and children, and family? How do we cover the issue of race? Do we only focus on the hot-button items, or do we provide some depth and context, or, as you just said, do we dig deeper?
So, Obama challenged himself today, but he also challenged America to look inward at their issues.
BROWN: Bay, you know, Mitt Romney gave a speech in his campaign addressing voters' concerns and misunderstandings about his Mormon faith. Do you see what Obama did today to be sort of in the same light? And Romney didn't get the nomination, obviously, but he was successful, do you think, at addressing that issue in terms of the way he handled it?
BUCHANAN: In the case of Mitt Romney, or are we talking here about Obama?
BROWN: Mitt Romney. What -- did it work for him, to take...
BROWN: ... to tackle an issue like that head on?
BUCHANAN: Absolutely. Always does.
When something customers to a head and becomes, really, the focus of your campaign, and when it's something you don't want it to be the focus of, you do have to hit it straight on. And he did. I know that I believe that he really put it behind him, so that, in the future, if he chooses to run, that issue should not be an issue, will not be raised as a critical issue of people concerned about it.
But I will you, Campbell, the key here is the press, also, with Obama, with Mitt Romney. Are they going to continue to do these ridiculous polls? Blacks are voting for Obama.
BUCHANAN: Are whites going to vote for Obama? How about Hispanics? Are they going to? And like with Mitt Romney, are Mormons -- are you going to vote for a Mormon?
It's time to put all that to rest. And let's just talk about Americans are voting for Americans, and let's see where it flows from there. BROWN: But there are some divisions there.
And I guess, David, I mean, not only did he address the anger of some blacks, but he embraced some of the resentments that you see in those divisions of whites. Do you think that white voters would be swayed by this?
GERGEN: As -- again, I think white suburban voters are going to find the speech enormously appealing. And -- and they will have a -- we have seen these fiery speeches -- fiery speeches now by the minister.
But, when you look at Barack Obama speaking, you know, there's not a radical bone in his body. And when you recognize that Oprah Winfrey went to that church and attended that church from time to time, you understand that there's a range of people who go there. And Oprah Winfrey is anything but a radical in American society.
So, I think it's going to appeal enormously to suburban voters. I do think he's going to continue to have some problems. And I think this is a wound that's not going to go away quickly...
GERGEN: ... among some blue-collar voters and male voters, and I think the conservatives.
And it's -- it's notable, I think it's remarkable, to listen to Bay Buchanan tonight, because if she's -- if there are others like that in the conservative community, he really has made progress there. But there are going to be others who will continue to roast him.
But, you know, one other thing about the speech that I think really stood out, he's one of the rare figures -- figures who speaks to us as adults.
GERGEN: We have been so accustomed to our political leaders talking to us like children, that to have someone stand up and give a serious talk and face up to the issues that are on everybody's mind -- yes, he probably didn't cover everything that people will want him to cover, but it was a serious conversation. And it's -- that's refreshing.
And I -- you know, more power to him.
MARTIN: Great point.
BROWN: All right.
And more -- more of that on the blog as well, David. I know you wrote about that today. So, we're going to end on that note.
David Gergen, Bay Buchanan, Roland Martin, thanks to all of you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BROWN: Senator Obama will be in North Carolina tomorrow. And Anderson will be with him all day. You can see Anderson's in-depth interview with Obama tomorrow night on 360 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Also, right now, some of the top stories we are covering tonight.
Erica Hill has the 360 bulletin.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell. Nice to see you.
The State Department now saying the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was the intended the target of a mortar attack today. Thirteen students at a nearby girls school were injured. Now, that statement contradicts Yemeni officials, who say the school, not the embassy, was in fact the target.
A new governor for New York State and new talk of marital infidelities. Governor David Paterson says he had a number of affairs after learning his wife, Michelle, had been unfaithful. The couple is still married.
And a little insight into one of our "What Were They Thinking?" shots from last month. You may remember the rather bizarre red carpet performance by actor Gary Busey at the Oscars, awkwardly embracing Jennifer Garner, a big hug she really didn't seem to enjoy very much.
Well, Busey now apologizing. He's saying he meant no disrespect, that he was simply greeting her -- quote -- "with joy and open arms," Campbell, how he would greet anyone he was excited to see.
HILL: So, if he see him on the street, you may get that.
BROWN: I'm looking forward to it.
All right, Erica, thanks.
Next on 360: a car chase ends with a fistful of dollars and a serious throw-down. "What Were They Thinking?" -- that's coming up.
Also tonight, race and religion -- in the wake of Senator Obama's speech, we are going to take you inside black churches to see how politics and the pulpit meet.
HILL: All right, Campbell, time now for tonight's "What Were They Thinking?"
You know, we see a lot of car chases, not many, health care like this one out of Houston, where a man didn't even bother to stop before jumping out of the driver's seat. His girlfriend then runs towards him, as you see there.
HILL: Well, that's when the cops come in -- yes -- taking both of them down.
HILL: Look at the way he's pinned under that door, by the way.
BROWN: That hurts.
HILL: Yes. It turns out this guy had violated parole. Then came the chase, during which time he was actually on the phone with his girlfriend, promising to get her the rent money she needed, no matter what. So, that's apparently why he jumped out before the car even stopped. In the end, he was arrested. She was released.
As for the rent money, that went to the cops. It's now being held as evidence.
BROWN: That's so romantic.
HILL: Isn't it, though?
HILL: Baby, I will do anything for you, and I will get you that rent.
HILL: Don't you worry.
BROWN: If it's the last thing I do. I love it.
HILL: Before I go back to jail.
BROWN: I love it. That's adorable.
Still ahead: Barack Obama's former pastor is getting all the attention, but what about other black churches? We are going to take you inside to hear the often fiery message.
Also ahead, the battle for white voters in Pennsylvania -- we have got the "Raw Politics."
HILL: And here is tonight's "Beat 360" for you.
Vice President Dick Cheney greeted by Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani on his visit to the Kurdistan prime minister's office.
The caption from our staff winner, Gabe: "I would like you to say hi to my imaginary dog, Buttons."
HILL: Think you can do better? Log on to our Web site at CNN.com/360. Send in that submission. And stay tuned. We will announce the viewer winner at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety -- the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gangbanger.
The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and, yes, the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Senator Barack Obama describing the Chicago church where he's worshipped for years.
In his speech today, Senator Obama rejected the racially charged remarks made by his former minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But he also tried to explain their roots by talking candidly about a corner of life few white Americans see, African-American church services. It's an important angle in this story.
Up close tonight, CNN's Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the heart of the controversy over Jeremiah Wright is a doctrine of faith. It's called black liberation theology.
REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country...
JOHNS: Black preachers we spoke to see an attack on Wright as an attack on their freedom to preach.
DR. GAIL ANDERSON HOLNESS, GREATER WASHINGTON COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: He is not preaching hate theology. And that should be a clear statement. It's not hate theology. It is a liberation theology. When Jesus was around, they didn't respect Jesus. They were angry with him. When he spoke the beatitudes on the mountain. They were angry with Martin Luther King when he was around, and they didn't respect him. And now he's a great hero.
JOHNS: What a lot of black parishioners hear on Sunday mornings was formulated as a response to the black power movement in the 1960s.
REVEREND RONALD BRAXTON, METROPOLITAN AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Christianity had to take up the flag of liberation, and that you could be black and Christian, because the black power movement was saying that Christianity was white, European. We can be Christians. We can follow Christ, because Christ is a liberator. He was and is a liberator.
JOHNS: The Reverend Ronald Braxton is pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, attended prayer services the morning of his inaugurations.
(on camera): This congregation has been here about 170 years. The building has been here about 120. I have attended services at Metropolitan since the mid-1980s. The sermons sometimes touch on social issues. But, like most churches, it's generally about faith.
(voice-over): The AME Church ascribes to a black liberation theology, and it can lead to some passionate sermons. But hate?
BRAXTON: Yes and no. Yes, it's hate. It is hate of a system, of a society, of a politics that will not treat all persons equal, that will -- will spend billions of dollars to fight a war, but will not spend half of that amount of money to make sure that children have health care.
When you see, day to day, when people come into your office or come to your church looking for a loaf of bread, mothers come in: "Can you do anything for me, Reverend? I need some help." They come to your Bible studies. They come to your prayer services at night. And they stand at your door when you get there. It is hate for that kind of a system, because you know within your heart that this country, the richest country in the world, can provide for her people. But she will not.
JOHNS (on camera): Metropolitan AME Church is right down the street from the White House and around the corner. The pastor here is highly politically aware and careful with his words.
(voice-over): But he concedes, in the pulpit, preaching, he can get so emotional, so passionate, that even he might get carried away, like the controversial Jeremiah Wright.
While all black churches are different and most sermons are different, the debate over Jeremiah Wright may go on. But what many black churches share is a core belief that the preachers are there to stand up for social justice, even if that sometimes comes across as angry words.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: Digging deeper now, I'm joined by longtime civil rights activist and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Reverend Joseph Lowery.
Reverend Lowery, thanks for joining us.
REVEREND JOSEPH LOWERY, CO-FOUNDER, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: My pleasure. My pleasure.
BROWN: By now, we have all heard Reverend Wright's more controversial comments, that the United States brought the September 11 attacks upon itself, that Hillary Clinton has an advantage over Obama because she's white.
But you have called Reverend Wright a scholar, a profound thinker, an electrifying preacher. Now, Obama today called his comments divisive. Do you agree? Are they divisive?
LOWERY: Well, they certainly separate us from the people who are not from the community of faith and who do not subscribe to prophetic preaching. There are hundreds and hundreds of preachers in black churches across this country who may not use identical language, but they have a common theology with Jeremiah Wright. They're in the prophetic stream.
The prophets of old, the Jeremiahs, the Amos, and they spoke angrily and sometimes with cruel phrases and words, to the rulers and kings of their day. That's who they were talking to on behalf of the poor and oppressed of their day.
The black church has been a place where black people take their sorrow, their travail and their longing for hope and for deliverance. They expect the preacher and thank the preacher and say, "Amen, hallelujah," to the preacher, who takes their burden to the Lord. And then they join in a movement to help bring new order and a new day into being. That's prophetic preaching, and it's traditionally the black church.
BROWN: So are Wright's controversial statements something that's commonly heard in black churches?
LOWERY: No question about it. The gospel itself, Jesus called some folks in his day a generation of vipers, because they were cross- cutting, undercutting the message of faith and the message of hope and the message of love.
And I think in that magnificent address today that Barack Obama's most powerful statement I've heard since Martin's letter from the Birmingham jail. I think he set the record straight. And the theme running through that, which may not have been mentioned, was something we're overlooking, that he did not leave his church, just as a man doesn't leave his wife or you may not leave your country, although you have disagreement, but you stay and work it through. And that's the leadership he's offering to America.
Yes, we've got differences. But we're going to work it through toward the end of reconciliation and justice. And that's the message he offers the American people.
And the ball is in the American people's court to see if they're mature enough to respond to this kind of very mature, spiritual leadership.
BROWN: All right. Reverend Lowery, you say as the pastor of a predominantly black congregation that you've repeated most of the same words that we've heard from Reverend Wright. Why?
LOWERY: I'm sorry. I missed the last part of your question.
BROWN: You said that you've repeated many of the same words that we've heard from reverend Wright. Why?
LOWERY: Well, I said we might not use identical language, but we have a common theology. That is, thus saith the lord, to let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Jeremiah got in the street to preach to the rulers and kings. Amos and others, and Jesus himself, as you say, talked about he was called of God to preach the good news to the poor, to release the captives, to set the prisoner free. All of these in the context of justice.
One of the things I regret so much about what we're doing, particularly in media to Jeremiah Wright's message, we are hammering over and over and over the same sound bites out of context. We're not privileged to what he said leading up to and what he said following those phrases that might be controversial and might be objected to by some people, as they were objected to by Barack Obama.
BROWN: All right. Reverend Joseph Lowery, appreciate your time tonight.
LOWERY: Thank you.
BROWN: We'll continue the discussion next with Roland Martin, Faye Wattleton and then Jim Wallace.
And then later, can Barack Obama win over white working-class voters who have gone for Hillary Clinton in states like Ohio and are leaning her way in Pennsylvania? We've got that story ahead on 360.
BROWN: In his speech today, Barack Obama did not abandon his controversial former pastor. He did challenge Americans to help heal the wounds of racism and to resist framing the issue in simplistic terms. We are digging deeper tonight with our panel. CNN contributor Roland Martin joining us; Faye Wattleton, co- founder and president of the Center for the Advancement of Women; and Jim Wallace, who's the author of "The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America," is also president of Sojourners, a Washington-based Christian evangelical ministry.
Welcome to everybody. Roland, let me start with you. I know you've said this a number of times today, that you believe Obama's speech has made the controversy swirling around Pastor Wright sort of a secondary issue, and he's now challenged America at its very core. How so?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think by making it plain the lineage of race and how it is all connected.
He spoke today, of course, in Philadelphia, the cradle of democracy. But it's also the same city where the African-American Methodist Episcopal Church was born out of slavery, as well. So you have that whole -- that whole connection there.
I think it also means challenging us to say, are we going to keep running the same comments over and over, or are we going to go behind the story? Now, I go to Salem Baptist Church in Chicago, Campbell, and something amazing is going on there. This is the largest black church in Illinois, has hooked up with Willow Creek, the largest white church, and they're swapping services. They're swapping choirs. They're passionate, communicating. They're saying, "We're building a bridge between Christian churches and not having the 10 a.m. hour being all about race and being segregated."
We should be telling those kinds of stories, how America is moving away from its past and embracing a new future. That's what Obama, I think, was talking about today.
BROWN: All right. And, Faye, I know you wanted more outrage from Obama with regard to his remarks about -- about Pastor Wright's comments. Do you think that he missed an opportunity today?
FAYE WATTLETON, CO-FOUNDER, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN: Well, I don't know that I wanted more outrage, but I think that Mr. Obama certainly did not disown his minister and perhaps didn't put as much distance as he should have, if he is really to put this issue to sleep.
I think this issue is going to be with him for the rest of the campaign. The statements that were made by his pastor will be run over and over again, as the -- as the campaign tightens and the opposition uses it against him.
One other element that I thought that was very interesting is that Mr. Wright has made several comments about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East being, perhaps, not what it should be and that it has resulted in the kind of catastrophe that we saw on 9/11. And I think that that will be used, as well, as an incendiary statement that Mr. Obama will ultimately have to answer.
BROWN: Certainly, if he made it to a general election.
Reverend Wallace, Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review" said that Obama's address, quote, "did not put to rest the concerns of those Americans, who wonder just what he thought as he sat in Wright's church listening to the pastor's controversial statements."
Do you think he dealt enough with the specifics of some of his pastor's comments?
JIM WALLACE, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT AWAKENING": Campbell, this was an amazing day, as we all watched it unfold. We may look back on this as an historic day. Because before Barack Obama's speech, this was a test of him.
After the speech, it's now become a test of us. And I want to say very clearly, I think every American should watch this speech and watch the speech and watch it with their children. And ask if Barack Obama's vision of a more perfect union is the one they want for their children.
Injustice creates anger. And now a new generation, a young leader is saying, can we turn the page and move from anger and frustration to a vision of opportunity and hope and even unity -- and even unity?
And I want to watch this speech with my children, and that's the question now. This is an examination of us as a nation. Not about incendiary comments that are unfortunate. You know, anger does spill over and becomes self-destructive. But I've heard Barack Obama say, "I understand the anger. It's time for us to move to a new place."
Now, we either are going to let the past upend the future and prevent the future, or we're going to say, "This is the future."
A young African-American spoke many years ago and talked about a dream he had. And we've been arguing about the dream ever since. Today, another African-American leader talked about how to turn a dream into a more perfect union. And if that's the vision that we want, then I think something important changed today.
BROWN: But let me -- let me -- hold on one second, because I want to address this. These weren't just isolated comments, though, from what we're understanding, the ones made by Reverend Wright.
And, Faye, let me ask you this. I mean, from what we're hearing, these are comments often made in black churches, this is typical rhetoric. Fair? True?
WATTLETON: I think it's really important not to put all black churches into a basket.
BROWN: Into generalizations.
WATTLETON: I think we do not have an ecclesiastical plantation. I mean, the black churches run the full range and the spectrum of theology and in the way that they conduct their services and their -- and their philosophies.
So I think that there's no question that there is this kind of theology that is much more confrontational, much more emotional, but there is also theology in churches that are primarily attended by black citizens that is not. And so it runs the range, and it is a very complex issue. I think the danger in all of this is the temptation to oversimplify the depths of racism in our society and how far we have to go.
I remember -- I mean I was a nursing student listening to Martin Luther King's speech 40 years ago, and I was struck today by the lesson that has to be taught over and over and over again. And Mr. Obama was doing a lot of what Mr. King envisioned this country to be, was talking a lot about that today.
MARTIN: I think...
BROWN: Roland, sorry. I know you want to jump in. Save it for tomorrow. We've got to end on that note, guys. We're out of time.
MARTIN: All right. No problem.
BROWN: We're going to swing back into the political arena next and talk about wooing the white vote in Pennsylvania.
Also, welcome news from Washington if you are dealing with rising mortgage payments. That and more still ahead on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not have a chance to see or to read yet Senator Obama's speech. But I'm very glad that he gave it. It's an important topic.
You know, issues of race and gender in America have been complicated throughout our history. And they are complicated in this primary campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Saluting her opponent for an important speech. Senator Hillary Clinton today applauding Senator Obama for his remarks on race. She is launching a last-minute trip tomorrow morning to Michigan to push for a re-vote there.
She spent today in Pennsylvania, though. Congressman John Murtha endorsed her. The Pennsylvania primary is, of course, just around the corner on April 22. Senator Clinton appears to have the advantage among white, working-class men.
And tonight, 360's Randi Kaye looks at why this group is the new swing vote and what it's going to take for Barack Obama to win their support.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this Philadelphia construction site, workers are focused on building a better life, keeping their jobs, and keeping money in their pocket.
Steelworker Rich Czyzewski believes Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, can help him do that.
(on camera) What do you think it's going to take for Barack Obama to win the working class, white man's vote?
RICK CZYZEWSKI, CLINTON SUPPORTER: He's got to come out and talk to us and tell us what he wants to do with the economy. All's I hear is it's a change, it's a change, but what type of change has he got for us?
KAYE: Here in Pennsylvania, working-class white males represent about 27 percent of the vote. They may turn out to be the swing vote, simply because there's no obvious place for them to go.
The Republicans are looking at an older white male candidate, and the Democrats have Obama or Clinton. So the candidates have to find issues that appeal to them.
(voice-over) Obama and Clinton have been see-sawing among them. Most recently in Ohio, white men carried Clinton to victory.
DON KETTL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania's really Ohio on steroids, if you think about it. It is all the things that made Ohio so hot, but with all the heat turned up more.
KAYE: In Ohio, we now know more than a quarter of white men there said race was an important factor in their vote. So here in Pennsylvania?
KETTL: Racial politics are never very far below the surface here in Pennsylvania.
BOB MERK, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I don't believe race is an issue at all. If I knew more about him, knew more about his politics and he was backing what I wanted, I don't care if he's black, white or green. I would vote for him.
KAYE (on camera): What does Barack Obama have to do to win this voting block?
KETTL: It's not only the matter of helping them feel confident about themselves, but what kind of future are they going to have for their children? What kind of situation are we going to have with inflation? What kind of job opportunities are there?
KAYE (voice-over): Don Kettl thought he heard hints of that today.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To the larger aspirations of all Americans: the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off.
KETTL: White male construction workers looking for the kind of guy they can imagine at some point being able to have a beer with at the corner bar, and Obama, for all of his strengths, has not projected that.
KAYE: To fix that, Kettl suggests Obama show these men he can identify with them, having grown up poor and worked on Chicago's South Side. He must get specific about how he's going to help them, Kettl says. That will make the difference.
BROWN: Randi is in Philadelphia tonight.
And, Randi, does Barack Obama need to win this demographic, the white, working-class male vote, to win Pennsylvania? And how -- just how critical are they?
KAYE: Campbell, he actually doesn't need them to win this state. He can pull from African-American voters, young voters, maybe some of the female voters away from Hillary Clinton. Also, he can pull from the ring communities around the city of Philadelphia. So he can still win the state without the working-class, white male voter, but it's still so important that he does win this group over. Because it would send a message to the super delegates that he can win this group and pull them into the party.
Because the last thing the super delegates want is a candidate who will lose this group to the Republicans, and possibly John McCain.
BROWN: All right. Randi Kaye tonight. And we should mention Randi's post on the 360 blog generated hundreds of comments. You can read them at CNN.com/360.
Coming up next, the Fed cuts interest rates, but what does it really mean for you and your mortgage? We're going to break it down.
And coming up Thursday night, a 360 special on the war in Iraq. It's called "Shock and Awe: 5 Years Later." That's Thursday night at 11.
BROWN: We're back, and we want to get right back over to Erica Hill for a "360 News and Business Bulletin."
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: And lots of business to talk about tonight, Campbell.
Huge gains for the markets today, the Dow up 420 points after yet another emergency move to rescue the economy and give hurting (ph) homeowners a break. But is it really the break everyone needs?
Here to help make sense of it all, CNN financial guru Ali Velshi. Staying up a little late for us tonight. Ali -- Ali, here's the thing. If these cuts are normally put into place, we're told that it is to help basically stimulate the economy. If we lower rates, more people will be prone then to look for a loan, to look for lending.
But with, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, two-thirds of the American public saying they are very concerned about inflation, is this really going to get people to spend more?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly the question on everybody's mind. When you lower rates -- when the Fed lowers rates, it lowers the prime rate by exactly the same amount.
So the prime rate now, 5.25 percent, so if you have some kind of adjustable loan, it went down today. It got cheaper. But what are you going to do with the money you just saved?
Americans are so indebted and so fearful about the economy right now, as our polling with CNN and Opinion Research Corporation has shown, they may not spend that money. They may pocket it. They may pay off debt. That doesn't help the economy. So that's the question, Erica.
It seems like a good move. The market shot up, biggest gain in five and a half years. But will it help the economy? It remains to be seen.
HILL: Well, and the other issue, based on that, is the dollar, which as we know, has been so weak. There was a minor boost today. But even if -- like let's say that dollar doesn't continue to climb at all? That means prices on gas, food, all those things that we need, are going to continue to shoot up. So could this, in essence, backfire on the Fed?
VELSHI: Ignore that bump in the dollars. It is not going to be there for a long time. This is going to stoke inflation. It creates a demand. That stokes inflation. That means that the dollar is going to go lower. And that means that oil, wheat, corn, soybean, eggs, chicken, all that stuff, is going to cost you more.
So the unintended sequence of making interest rates lower is going to make the average person on the street pay more for these things. This, again, could backfire on the Fed. They mean to do the right thing; it just may not be the right thing.
HILL: All right. Well, we know you'll be keeping an eye on it for us.
VELSHI: I will.
HILL: We can, of course, all catch you early in the morning. Ali Velshi's day job, you can see him every day at 6 a.m. on "AMERICAN MORNING" -- Campbell.
BROWN: And time now, Erica, to check out our "Beat 360" winner. You know how it works. We put a picture up on the 360 blog and ask viewers to come up with a caption for it that's better than one of ours.
Tonight's shot, Vice President Dick Cheney being greeted by officials during his stop today in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
And here is the staff pick from Gabe: "I'd like you to say hi to my imaginary dog Buttons."
And this one from our viewer winner, Nicky, in Charlotte, North Carolina: "Why did we call it 'shock and awe'? I mean, aren't you shocked and awed that we're still here five years later?"
Touche. You can check out the other entries at CNN.com/360. And as always, feel free to play along.
All right. What happened to the wah, wah, wah?
All right. Coming up again, coming up, rather, it wasn't a tornado, but it was pretty close. High winds lead to a wild scene in Texas. It is our "Shot." That is next.
HILL: All right. Time now for "The Shot." A good rule in this business, you go where the story takes you. And as you saw by that quick camera move, instead of an interview about the weather, this turned into the consequences of this weather.
You can see that wind literally peeling a roof off a building in El Paso, Texas, where a dangerous storm swept through the city. The good news here, no one was hurt.
Of course, if you see some incredible video, we want to hear about it. You can just log on to CNN.com/360 to let us know where to find it -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Erica. Thanks.
And coming up at the top of the hour, Barack Obama's speech. The questions it answered and didn't, as well as the conversation it touched off about race and politics. That is next.
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