Three lessons of Jeremiah Wright plan against Obama

When The New York Times broke the story about a proposal to use the Rev. Jeremiah Wright against President Obama in a GOP “super PAC” ad campaign, the political world combusted.

Charges of “race-baiting” flew, and suddenly the idea was an orphan. All involved, either directly or tangentially, have disavowed it, and it’s safe to say, the ads will never be made. But there is carnage in its wake, and lessons to be learned. Here’s our list:

1. Steer clear of race in the 2012 presidential campaign

Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, speaks at a breakfast at the National Press Club in Washington in this file photo dated April 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

To some conservatives, Mr. Obama’s past association with Rev. Mr. Wright – who was his spiritual adviser, officiated at his wedding, and baptized his children – merits more scrutiny than it received in 2008. Video clips of the minister denouncing America raised, in some conservatives’ minds, questions about Obama’s loyalty to the United States.

But John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, refused to use Wright against Obama. Some advisers were frustrated, including, the New York Times reported, ad man Fred Davis, whom the article says had produced an ad using Wright that never aired.

Fast-forward to 2012. It was Mr. Davis’s firm, Strategic Perception, that presented a proposal to the “super PAC” Ending Spending Action Fund – founded by Chicago billionaire Joe Ricketts – to launch a $10 million ad campaign using Wright to attack Obama.

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal said, according to the Times, which was given a copy.

Now Davis says the proposal was just that – a proposal – and nothing was ever implemented.

“The document referred to in [Thursday's] New York Times story was one proposal prepared and submitted by Strategic Perception Inc.,” Davis said in a statement e-mailed Thursday to Talking Points Memo. “The Ricketts family never approved it, and nothing has happened on it since the presentation. The vendors listed were as proposed, and had nothing to do with this proposal.”

Presumptive 2012 nominee Mitt Romney has disavowed the idea, as has Mr. Ricketts. And as a matter of politics, analysts say, it was a bad idea from the start: Obama is personally popular, and the only people to whom it might appeal weren’t going to vote for Obama anyway. A racially tinged attack could easily backfire and help the president – not only in building sympathy for him among swing voters, but also in driving up turnout among his base, including African-Americans.

1 of 3
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.