The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's defense of himself ought to be welcomed as an exercise of his rights. We have no idea how it will actually play into the campaign. But as pundits suggest, any mention of Sen. Barack Obama's pastor leads to the media's Pavlovian response: Run sensational video loops, check ratings, charge advertisers. Repeat.
As predictable as that may be, it's up to voters to decide how to respond, especially in deciding what, if any, significance the whole overhyped subject has to the Democrats' primary battle. Most will never like the excerpts but many already view them in a wider context of African-American history, religious and civic. A wider acquaintance with Wright and his work may neutralize the discussion.
We're certainly no experts on Wright, his congregation or Chicago. But the narrative of a wild, angry anti-American extremist doesn't ring true. As some have noted, Wright volunteered to join the Marines in the early 1960s, went on to become a Navy cardiopulmonary technician and earned letters of commendation for his White House service. A white congregant recently wrote about how Wright took hours to talk his African-American fiancée out of breaking their engagement over concerns about marrying outside her race. They've been married 25 some years.
Over the course of a long public career, Wright has misspoken a time or two. Americans can listen to him directly address the criticisms and go on to have a presidential election that revolves around greater matters.