David Graham makes a useful observation about what has made Jeremiah Wright controversial:
Furthermore, contrary to popular perceptions, Wright’s most controversial statements — “God damn America” and a claim that 9/11 represented “America’s chickens … coming home to roost” — actually referred specifically to excessive incarceration and U.S. foreign policy, not to exclusively African-American concerns.
Yes, and this is why some Republicans reportedly wanted to use Wright in the campaign. The purpose of attacking Obama’s association with Wright is to promote the idea that Obama is just as radical as Wright in his views, and Wright’s statements related to foreign policy are some of the best-known of these views. The practical problem with such an attack is that there is no evidence that Obama agrees with any of the Wright’s condemnations of U.S. foreign policy. If he ever did at one time (and there’s no evidence of that, either), he long ago cast those views aside and embraced conventional hawkish views about U.S. “leadership” abroad. Viewed this way, the attack isn’t crossing a line so much as it is a rehashing of irrelevant trivia. Obama has not governed as if he were unduly concerned about blowback.
Promoting the false idea that Obama secretly agrees with Wright’s views is intentionally misleading, but it is no less misleading to go around the country spreading the lie that Obama went on “apology tour” or that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. Romney gladly tells these other lies, and he has had a role in creating both of them. The Romney campaign’s pretense that it is somehow taking the high road by not promoting one falsehood while enthusiastically repeating the other lies isn’t credible. All of these lies are designed to misrepresent Obama’s foreign policy record and his views of America, but only one of them seems to be particularly controversial.