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Wag the Blog: A Second 'Race' Speech for Obama?

Now that Barack Obama is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, it's easy to forget the withering gauntlet he ran over the last four months of his campaign.

Beginning with the revelation of controversial comments by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in mid March and spanning through Obama's own "bitter" comments about small town residents, the return of Wright to center stage and the emergence of Rev. Michael Pfleger as an issue, Obama has been battered on all sides -- largely over the issue of race and how it plays out both in his life and his campaign.

Obama sought to address these issues in a widely praised speech in which he refused to denounce Wright, choosing instead to put the Reverend and his comments in a historical context of race relations in the country.

While Wright, Pfleger and race never disappeared as an issue in the primary -- check out the racial divide in late-voting primary states -- it also did not hamstring Obama's march to the Democratic nod.

Case closed, right? Not so fast, according to journalist Juan Williams, who penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal on Friday entitled: "It's Time for Another Obama Race Speech."

"How does Barack Obama, fresh from claiming the Democratic nomination, put Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger behind him, before they ignite yet again and blow up his general election campaign?," asks Williams. "How does he pre-empt advertising images, sure to be circulated by his opponents, that link him to outrageous racial rhetoric and fears that he is open to the most radical left-wing ideas - including using the power of the White House to exact racial vengeance?"

The only solution, Williams argues, is for Obama to again tackle the sensitive issue of race -- this time with less soaring rhetoric and more blunt acknowledgment of the role race plays not only in his life but in all of our lives.

What should Obama say exactly? Here's Williams:

"This time he has to admit to sins of using race for political expediency -- by knowingly buying into divisive, mean messages being delivered from the pulpit. He has to say that, as a biracial young man with no community roots, attaching himself to Rev. Wright and the Trinity congregation was a shortcut to move up the ladder in the Chicago political scene. He has to call race-baiting what it is, whether it comes from a pulpit or calls itself progressive politics. And he has to challenge his supporters, especially his black base, to be honest about real problems at the heart of today's racial divide - including out-of-wedlock births, crime, drugs and a culture that devalues education while glorifying the gangster life."

Only by doing so can Obama fulfill his promise as a post-partisan candidate, according to Williams. "Only then can he convince dubious white voters that he is ready to move beyond racial antagonism and be their president."

For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to known whether you agree with Williams that Obama should deliver a second speech on race -- this one aimed at general election voters. And, regardless of whether you think Obama should or shouldn't give the second speech, do you think he will?

The most thoughtful/insightful comments will be excerpted in a post of their own later this week. Have at it.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 9, 2008; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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