It was probably wise for Mitt Romney to repudiate the attack ad campaign proposed to billionaire Joe Ricketts, which would focus on the President’s past association with radical pastor Jeremiah Wright. The most curious thing about the affair was the involvement of key Republican players from the McCain and Huntsman (!?) campaigns, which demonstrates how how convinced top Republican players are that 1) Obama is an illegitimate radical imposter, or 2) that there is a huge untapped market for that argument, whether those who make it believe it or not.
While I agree with Ramesh Ponnuru that a Wright based attack would not be “slime” or “character assassination”, it would certainly be extremely racially divisive, in ways that that wouldn’t benefit Romney, because most Americans believe the country as a whole benefits from relatively civil and harmonious race relations.(By the same token, racial divisions resulting from the Trayon Martin trial, particularly black civil unrest [aka rioting] would be an electoral disaster for Obama).
Most Americans understand at some level that Obama found it useful for his career to go to black mega church in Chicago, and for reasons they probably get as well, a lot of radical “social justice” rhetoric goes on in such places. Obama got from the experience the black community cred he then needed, and Michelle was happy, and it’s not a very big part of who he is. If Obama had been acting like some sort of race radical as President, believe me, the American people would be aware of it. Conceivably a Wright based campaign might have been somewhat effective four years ago, before there was pretty sustained record of Obama’s (sometimes irritating) race liberalism, a dish hardly different from that had been served up by Bill Clinton or any other prominent Democrat.
On a sidenote, it amused me that one of the most supposedly terrifying Jeremiah Wright statements to be exploited in the ad campaign was (citing Malcolm X) “the chickens came home to roost” after the 9/11 attacks. I’ve never met a Mid-east expert who didn’t make a linkage between America’s policies in the Mideast and anti-American radicalism in the region, despite the efforts to spread the fairy tale that an entirely and completely innocent America was attacked because of its “freedom.”
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy – before today, the most traumatic event for Americans in my lifetime – Malcolm X said “the chickens have come home to roost.” Malcolm was reportedly gleeful and rancorous, and his audience laughed at his words: he meant to convey that Kennedy’s death meant very little, compared to what whites had done to his people. But the phrase would not be inappropriate today – if said in sorrow – after thousands of innocents were killed in the worst terrorist assault in American history.
That anyway was the way one not especially radical writer saw the matter on the morning of 9/11, shortly after hearing that his wife who worked on Wall Street within a par-five of the towers was safe and would be evacuated to walk uptown within a few hours.