Wright Where It Belongs

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As John McCain's fallen in the polls, a question I hear again and again in D.C. is: When will he unleash the Jeremiah Wright ads? It's just assumed that, at some point, McCain or a 527 will remind voters that for 20 years Barack Obama sat in the pews with a pastor who said "God Damn America" and… other things.

Anonymous Liberal
, via Andrew Sullivan, wonders if we'll ever see the ads at all.

Given the way he's run his campaign, I'm convinced he would authorize any attack he thought would work. I think the reason we haven't seen the Wright card played yet is that McCain and his advisers are genuinely not sure how it would go over. Could it scare some voters away from Obama? Certainly. Could it look like an overt appeal to racism and generate a backlash, especially among the media? That's also a distinct possibility.

In other words, it's a big gamble, too big a gamble to make while you're within shooting distance in the polls.But big gambles start to look better when you're trailing by a lot and running out of time.

AL concludes that if a Wright ad appears, it'll appear in the 19-day stretch between the final debate and the election. I think it's possible a Wright ad would surface before the final (10/15) debate, just as a way to get a question in there about the rev. Nothing rattles Obama more. But at this late date I'm a skeptic about the power of Wright.

For starters, McCain's anti-Obama narrative has not been the one that makes Wright an issue. That would be the narrative of Stanley Kurtz, Jerry Corsi, and talk radio: Obama is a radical in disguise, and you may know him by the company he keeps. McCain has attacked Obama as a lightweight celebrity and a clueless liberal who's "not ready to lead." Not the same thing at all. The Wright attack would be jarring.

Second, I'd love to see the focus grouping on Wright, because I wonder if it's simply "baked in" to Obama's current numbers. At the height of the story in March (and again in late April), most of the country had heard and seen about Wright. Obama's numbers took a permanent hit, on "patriotism," on "who shares your values." And yet, he's still here. Compared to, say, Mike Dukakis, who never recovered after summertime attacks on his veto of a Massachusetts pledge of allegiance law and on prison furloughs, Obama recovered slightly.

There's no direct evidence that the Wright issue doesn't hurt at all, but compare it to the Bill Ayers issue. For a month, a conservative 527 has bought ads in Michigan and Ohio linking Obama with Ayers and his Weather Underground bombings. They've spent millions of dollars. But Obama has experienced no slippage in Michigan, and a little lost momentum in Ohio has been regained during the economic crisis.

Wright is a far more damaging friend of Obama for proximity and racial reasons, of course. But even when you're running a negative campaign, you try and point the plane up in the final week. You don't go out with an A-bomb. The backlash risk is too high. Maybe McCain will deploy Jeremiah Wright, but don't be surprised if the attack doesn't move the polls.

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  1. Damn. Wright and Barr, separated at birth?

  2. So associating with Wright hurt Obama’s popularity, but associating with Ayers didn’t. This suggests that the average voter is more willing to forgive bombing the Pentagon than making an offensive speech.

  3. Seeing as McCain’s campaign splits its time between doing seemingly brilliant moves (picking Palin at the end of the Dem convention) and pure idiocy (suspending the campaign to push a failed bailout), it could go either way. He’s a wildcard maverick, bitches!

  4. My bet is a 527 or equivalent does it, so McCain’s campaign can tut-tut about it if they need to.

  5. Is Wright dancing the Zembekiko in that picture? I’d guess there’s a bottle of uzo behind his pulpit.

  6. I thought that was Bob Barr, too. ha.

    If McCain brings back Wright, Obama brings back the Philadelphia speec – but this time, Obama wouldn’t need to handle Wright with kid gloves, but would do a full Sistah Souljah moment.

    Who would you want to be – the white guy whipping up racial resentment, or the black guy denouncing racial divisiveness and articulating a positive vision of understanding and progress?

  7. Epi, I must demur. Palin would only have been a smart pick if he vetted her first…she were a well-respected GOP pol…you could pick your vice-president one week before Election Day.

    Other than that, it comes off as monumentally stupid. Stupider, I think, than trying to shock and awe your way into a bailout package.

  8. What? We all look alike to you guys?

  9. You know, I do wonder where Obama really stands on all of this. I mean, politics aside, he did got to Wright’s church for a long time. Does he buy into that nonsense at all? We’re not going to learn the truth during the campaign, of course, so the entire importance of the issue is in whether it can be used to tar or reverse tar a candidate.

    I’d like to put a chip in each politician’s head, so I could know what he was thinking. The spin and lies is so much SOP that the truth is kinda hazy.

  10. LMNOP, she was a brilliant pick at the time. Now, for the long run, it seems not so much. But the pick (again, at the time) blew the head off of the zombie Dem convention.

  11. A gimmick pick to grab the media cycle the day after Obama’s convention speech was a good idea. If that speech was the lead story Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, that would have been it for McCain. He had to do something.

    Making that pick Sarah Palin isn’t looking so hot right now, though.

  12. While the Wright controversy was in full swing, I had the following idea, sent it to Don King himself, and heard nothing.

    What America needed was, for the first time, a pay per view religious shout-off/cage-match between Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee. No holds barred, no subject off-limits, just let 2 loudmouth politi-preachers disagree with eachother, the more yellin’ the better.

    AFAIK, never in the history of pay per view TV has a show solely focused on religion garnered much audience, for good reason: IT’S BORING. But an hour-long shouting match between these 2? I’d STILL pay up to twenty bucks for that on my idiot box. And it’s not like I wanted (or expected…) a lot of loot from King for my idea — let it go to both respective idiots’ churches.

  13. I’m not sure what a media backlash would look like, compared to the coverage he is getting now.

    If he thinks it would be effective, he’ll until the last 2 weeks of the campaign, not use it up now.

    I mean, politics aside, he did got to Wright’s church for a long time. Does he buy into that nonsense at all?

    I don’t think so, Obama does not seem to have any really deeply held beliefs. He did it because he is mixed race from Hawaii, and he had to associate himself with someone hardcore to look more authentic to his Chicago constituents.

  14. meerdahl,

    Why assume that “associating himself with someone hardcore” to seem more authentically black was something he did purely for show?

    Guy grows up with no father.

    Guy grows up looking black and being treated as a black person, but without any real black community around him.

    Guy sees a powerful, charismatic black father figure, in charge of a tight-knit black congregation that he could be a part of.

    It seems just as plausible to me that he’d be drawn to that for reasons of establishing his identity for himself, as for the impression it would create upon other people.

  15. It’s just assumed that, at some point, McCain or a 527 will remind voters that for 20 years weeks Barack Obama sat in the pews with a pastor who said “God Damn America” and… other things.

    Fixed that bit for you Dave, but everything else looked fine.

  16. JMR,

    If you want to see that, go to Times Square and witness a shout off.

  17. New York Magazine wrote a few months back that Wright is attempting to release a book in October, which will probably get it back in the spotlight at least a little.

  18. I, personally, am anxiously awaiting release of the secret home video of a roaring drunk McMain, at a “Rocky Horror” party, in full costume as Tim Curry’s character. Blowin off a little ptsd steam.

  19. Wright won’t hurt Obama because the people who that sort of thing appeals to aren’t voting Obama anyway.

    Does he buy into that nonsense at all?

    “God damn America?” I have that thought about half a dozen times a day. It’s hardly shocking to hear it expressed out loud in a black church.

  20. Wright is attempting to release a book in October

    A little payback for Obama throwing him under the bus? Nice.

  21. The “God damn America” lines don’t bug me at all. The bible is shot through with the damnation of God being wrought on cities and countries that have turned their back on Him. Several white preachers have talked about 9/11 and various natural disasters being from God. A veritable buffet of God damning America.
    My personal feeling is that a resurfacing of those videos would be seen as a racist old maverick going full trig trying to win at any cost.

  22. “God damn America?” I have that thought about half a dozen times a day.

    Treason!

  23. I believe part of the calculus is that Palin has her own reverend issues and the McCain campaign doesn’t want to open those can of worms.

    Apparently there is video of her praying with some witch hunter priest guy. This guy was apparently responsible for having some innocent young girl expelled from her village for being a witch. He also seems to have a nice anti-semetic streak in him too.

    Some decent links here

  24. brotherben,

    There is someone around here selling a book disputing that maverick-ishness. Trying to remember who it was . . .

    Anyway, check your local library for a copy.

  25. GM, that’s funny stuff man.

  26. One question, Reasonoids: Aside from the claim that the US government developed the HIV virus and deliberately infected the populalation is there anything Wright said that was completely without a factual basis? Even with AIDS, given the misuse of medical research and African Americans (think Scottsboro), the paranoia was not totally irrational.

  27. “God damn America?” I have that thought about half a dozen times a day.

    Treason!

    Maybe, but can we really prosecute God for treason?

    “God is dead, and we killed him, because he tried to damn America”

  28. As a christian, the big problem I had with sermon pieces I saw was when wright was talkin about Clinton doing to the country what he was doin to Monica. The pelvic thrusts and ass spankin movements don’t really belong in the pulpit IMO. It was however, extraordinarily funny.

  29. is there anything Wright said that was completely without a factual basis?

    I’m pretty sure that the chickens, in fact, have not come home to roost.

  30. “God is dead, and we killed him, because he tried to damn America”

    “Well, you know, God – God doesn’t care how big your teeth are. Yes, you could go to a dentist and you could, whoo – you could grind off about – I don’t know – 30%. Maybe more. Yeah, I wouldn’t miss it.”

  31. Is Wright dancing the Zembekiko in that picture?

    That, or experiencing side effects from an experimental hair-growth drug.

    “He’s not taking the monkey drug anymore.”

  32. That, or experiencing side effects from an experimental hair-growth drug.

    Or, preparing to hurl a lightning bolt at an unbeliever.

  33. “What? No, Michael, you can. Don’t you…? You just won the gold medal at the sexual Special Olympics. She can’t ever find you again. Don’t you see that you’re so lucky? God, how do you not…?”

  34. “He’s not taking the monkey drug anymore.”

    Well, just along as there aren’t any “flipper babies.” *gestures*

    C’mon, Episiarch, don’t let me down.

  35. “Cat! Cat on my head!”

  36. Thalidomide

    O half moon–

    Half-brain, luminosity–
    Negro, masked like a white,

    Your dark
    Amputations crawl and appall–

    Spidery, unsafe.
    What glove

    What leatheriness
    Has protected

    Me from that shadow–
    The indelible buds.

    Knuckles at shoulder-blades, the
    Faces that

    Shove into being, dragging
    The lopped

    Blood-caul of absences.
    All night I carpenter

    A space for the thing I am given,
    A love

    Of two wet eyes and a screech.
    White spit

    Of indifference!
    The dark fruits revolve and fall.

    The glass cracks across,
    The image

    Flees and aborts like dropped mercury.

  37. That, or experiencing side effects from an experimental hair-growth drug.

    “So gentlemen, did you try out that foot lotion I gave you? The one with the gorilla on the front?” You know, that one…

    (see giant gorilla foot) “What do you think?!”

    “……YOU DID!”

  38. classwarrior: Black liberation theology, of which Wright is a major proponent, is mostly Marxism and racial grievance in a thin candy shell of Christianity. I’d say that claiming that Jesus was basically a black Marxist is rather ahistorical.

    Other aspects of Wright are more matters of opinion: the opposition to “middleclassness,” the belief that blacks can’t be racist toward whites, friendliness with Farrakhan (Nation of Islam theology says that white people are the result of an experiment by a mad black scientist), etc. It’s all pretty gruesome and goes far beyond “God damn America,” but it’s probably hard to put it into a 30-second ad.

  39. In media terms, the Wright thing is “old news” – that is, we already covered this, let’s go on to something more interesting. Besides, Sen. Obama has denounced Wright – which should be enough for everyone except those who, in the initial stages of the controversy, tried to pass of Rev. Wright as a regular guy being smeared by the Republican noise machine.

  40. Let’s see, Wright thing: “Old news.” 20+ year old stupid-ass newsletters: EXTRA!! EXTRA!!! Got it.

  41. Stupid-ass indeed. Perhaps you should ask your hero why he wrote them.

  42. Why assume that “associating himself with someone hardcore” to seem more authentically black was something he did purely for show?

    Because that’s the more charitable interpretation of his association with Wright?

    Otherwise, you have to believe that Obama believed at least some of that crazy shit because he was apparently somewhat mesmerized by a religious leader.

    You may not realize it, joe, but the little psychodrama you outline above is not the kind of thing that people are looking for in their President’s biography. People aren’t generally interested in a President who falls in with someone like Rev. Wright as a way of finding and defining themself.

  43. RC Dean:

    Ah yes, the “character” issue. That’s why things are now a-booming under the chaste George Bush after 8 years of the decadent Bill Clinton.

  44. People aren’t generally interested in a President who falls in with someone like Rev. Wright as a way of finding and defining themself.

    Thank god they don’t mind that in a religious figure.

  45. As someone familiar with the megachurch and church like United, I would be absolutely amazed if there was not more footage that we have not seen of crazy Pastor Wright. I would have to believe that the McCain campaign is sitting on these tapes for the correct time to release. some megachurch pastors are megalomaniac and love to video and tape record their sermons…I bet this has been going on for years and years and that there is A LOT more tape of Wright.

    Also, remember, back in February when Wright first appeared, most Indies and Repubs. were hardly paying attention, as they are in the last month of a campaign.

  46. Back when Obama was cozying up to Rev. Wright and “Bomber Bill” Ayres,
    McCain was partying with S&L swindlers like the Keating Five. Maybe the glass house boy can’t find any stones?

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