They’re Coming for Pres. Obama
WASHINGTON – The ramp was in place when the birthers got the backing of Donald Trump, but that was a long time ago and these things take preparation and waiting for the right moment. Now Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, with Regnery publishing Edward Klein’s Obama book that was primed for the presidential election cycle with Rev. Wright factoids, which was trotted out by Sean Hannity on his radio and TV shows this week. So when Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg broke the blockbuster swift-boating story it detonated like a political I.E.D., except the people it took out were the ones who planted the bomb.
Townhall had an “exclusive” with Mitt Romney on Thursday that ran with a headline blaring “Romney ‘Repudiates’ Conservative Group’s Planned Rev. Wright Attacks.” But before I could see the post, a pop-up ad for Edward Klein’s swift-boating screed of a book against Pres. Obama blocked my view. Klein is the serial right-wing propagandist who Sean Hannity is hyping like a mad dog, which began with playing selected parts of Klein’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright interview for his radio listeners on Wednesday, followed by a performance on Fox News channel with Hannity the same night.
An inconvenient fact is that Mr. Romney has invoked Rev. Wright before.
“I’m not sure which is worse. Him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less than Christian nation.” – Mitt Romney, February 7, 2012
Of course, Romney “repudiates” is a gross exaggeration. Here’s the statement:
“I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they’ve described. I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity — particularly for those in the middle class of America. And I think what we’ve seen so far from the Obama campaign is a campaign of character assassination. I hope that isn’t the course of this campaign. So in regards to that PAC, I repudiate what they’re thinking about … It’s interesting that we’re talking about some Republican PAC that wants to go after the president [on Wright]; I hope people also are looking at what he’s doing, and saying ‘why is he running an attack campaign? Why isn’t he talking about his record?’”
“I repudiate the effort… I repudiate what they’re thinking about…” but Mitt Romney hopes people are looking at what team Obama is doing and “saying ‘why is he running an attack campaign.’”
Anti-Obama TD Ameritrade billionaire and Romney Super PAC man Ricketts has rejected the Hannity-pimped Jeremiah Wright swiftboating road, though that hardly means it won’t be deployed in places where playing the race card is thought could work. From Burns & Haberman:
“Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called ‘Ricketts Plan’ to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning,” Baker said in a statement. “Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take.”
It’s a long way from what Sen. John McCain’s choice, which was not to touch the subject. In fact, it just may be that because of McCain’s choice, team Romney will repudiate the “thinking” and the “effort,” but it will be unleashed anyway.
I’m not about to pretend that team Obama isn’t capable of the same. There’s an entire chapter in my book dedicated to the Axelrod-Plouffe strategy, which today Romney labeled “character assassination,” titled “Eating Your Own.”
Democrats have dragged everything they can up and over Mitt Romney’s candidacy, but Mormonism remains outside the acceptable for Obama and Democrats, while Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have no trouble invoking Rev. Wright and his religious ideas intending to adhere Wright to Pres. Obama.
Republicans are perpetually self-righteous, so feel entitled to go there, while Democrats are forever self-loathing after buying the right’s criticism that the left isn’t sufficiently religious. The entire faith competition having no place in American politics.
The problem with the Rev. Wright Super PAC ploy, if they manifest, is how the press will play it. That’s what will hurt Mitt Romney and his campaign, because if Chuck Todd’s reaction today is any indication Romney will be in for a brutal confrontation if he doesn’t make real efforts to stop the swiftboating of Pres. Obama through a Rev. Wright interview that dredges up issues of race, religion and 2008 issues that the press themselves didn’t see fit to focus on when they were relevant.
Pres. Obama was fairly elected, with the Rev. Wright discussed as much as the press saw fit to cover it, minus the dirt Edward Klein gets from Rev. Wright today, which Sean Hannity and his right-wing friends are too happy to regurgitate. Wright can’t get enough of the limelight after what he obviously sees as a betrayal by Pres. Obama, for not including him as his presidential pastor, though Wright’s behavior illustrates perfectly why the President did not.
The personal attacks on both Barack and Michelle Obama’s faith made by Wright in the Klein interview are particularly scurrilous and over the line. In the 21st century there are many ways to spiritually enlighten oneself, discover and even practice Christian faith that can go well beyond organized religion. Of course, that hits The Church, whatever denomination, in the pocketbook, which is one reason they fight against individual experimentation of faith so fiercely. The other is that most organized religions, including Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, believe women have no business leading anyone on issues of religion and faith.
As a feminist, organized religions leave very little freedom for a woman to own faith and participate equally with men. The Episcopal church has offered an open relationship for me, though that very much depends on the church, even if my main compass today is meditation.
The bribing allegation Wright asserts is not news at all. Given Wright’s hyperbolic rhetoric, the moneyed friends of any politician running at Obama’s level would have done the same thing.
Edward Klein’s charge that a black pastor told him that Hillary’s campaign allegedly wanted to pay him to say negative things about Wright is more of Klein’s swiftboating talent. It’s the same type of tactic Obama supporters utilized against Clinton in ’08, attributing a supporters actions to the campaign strategy itself, also covered in my book, which is as relevant today as when I wrote it, because it’s about recent political history that echoes today.
So far, the traditional and new media universe is buying the Romney “repudiate” campaign line.
One Politico post sucked it up: “Romney repudiates Jeremiah Wright plan.”
The New York Times headline read: “Romney Rejects Using the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Against Obama.”
Jake Tapper’s headline: “McCain, Romney Camps Decry Super-PAC Proposal to Attack Obama on Rev. Wright.”
The Burns & Haberman blog, in a Maggie Haberman post, over at Politico put “repudiates” where it belongs: in quotes.
The Rev. Wright swift-boating bomb didn’t work, because someone in Republicanland got wind of it and freaked, then leaked it to the New York Times. Next time Republicans might not be so lucky, because as you can see in the Eliot Spitzer interview with Rutenberg above, there’s a back story to this that hints people were fired up and ready to go yesterday, but then the dime dropped.
If Republicans think peddling Rev. Wright will rev up their base, they should beware. But if they think it would help Romney they’re certifiable. The blowback to such race-baiting from Democrats and Independents against Republicans would be fierce.
Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.