Republicans Drool Over Wright

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 19, 2008 10:26am

The media, the punditocracy (liberal and conservative in some cases), and Obama supporters dug his speech. Now what do Obama’s potential opponents think?

The Republican reviews of Obama’s race speech are in…and they are good…for John McCain.

Jonathan Martin of the Politico surveyed three famous Republican knife-fighters out there.

1)  “For the first time, some Republicans are rethinking Hillary as their first choice," GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos tells the Politico. Republicans have an easy way to paint Obama as lacking patriotism, says the man behind Jesse Helms’ "hands" ad, not to mention DemocRATS.  “All the sudden you’ve got two dots and two dots make a line. You start getting some sense of who he is and it’s not the Obama you thought – he’s not the Tiger Woods of politics.”

2)  “It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission. Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest,” said GOP media consultant Rick Wilson, whose work includes the 2002 TV ad against then-Sen. Max Cleland featuring images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. “Not good enough. He wants the authentic black image but he also wants to keep all his safe, suburban Obamacans in line. Well, you can’t have both – they’re mutually exclusive. This is a guy who associates with some real haters."

3)  “It’s harder for people to say it’s taken out of context because these are Wright’s own words,” said GOP strategist Chris LaCivita of Swift Boats Vets and POWs for Truth.  

“You let people draw their own conclusions. You don’t have to say that he’s unpatriotic, you don’t question his patriotism. Because I guaran-damn-tee you that with that footage you don’t have to say it.”

"This is far and away the most damaging issue of the campaign for him, and his wonderful speech did nothing to make it go away," GOP pollster Whit Ayres told Newsday. "The problem is the contradiction between the fundamental message of the Obama campaign about bringing America together and Wright’s hate-filled, divisive message."

"I think it’s an obligation of any opponent to use this issue, to make Reverend Wright a centerpiece of the campaign," Rep. Peter King, R-NY, also told Newsday. "His speech was disappointing and shameful…This goes to the heart of who Barack Obama is. He’s trying to say he represents the 21st-century view on race and here he’s sticking up for this guy."

And conservative talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh had much to say on the subject.

"Do they really want the presidential campaign to be about race, because Barack Obama has made it now about race," Limbaugh said. "He has essentially, in not disavowing and distancing himself from Jeremiah Wright, who, by the way, I think the correct way to understand Jeremiah Wright, and the way people are reacting to him is not in a racial manner.  This is a man who hates the country.  Jeremiah Wright is a hatemonger.  He hates America.  It is patently obvious."

Continued Limbaugh: "Barack Obama sought to excuse that today in ways that I found a little bit troubling, blamed it on his generation.  Well, he grew up in the fifties and sixties, and that’s what America was then.  Well, there were a lot of blacks who grew up in the fifties and sixties who have not become Jeremiah Wright.  Just because you grew up in the fifties and sixties does not entitle you to hate the country and not try to move forward and build a ministry around it.  It’s essentially a political movement disguised as a ministry based on the hatred of America. 

"I don’t think he answered that question for a lot of people.  Despite the speech being flowery and fabulous and well delivered and so forth, if you’ve watched any TV commentators since the speech ended, you’ve heard that they are all gushing about it, so it is what it is as far as that’s concerned.  The superdelegates in the Democrat Party are going to have to ask themselves, do they want this presidential campaign to be about race?  Is that what they want the Democrat Party presidential campaign to be about?…"

Limbaugh then ran clips of the speech and commented on them, like so.

"I’ve already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy, and in some cases, pain," said Obama. "For some, nagging questions remain.  Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy?"

Commented Limbaugh: "Stop the tape.  ‘Fierce critic,’ my sizable rear end.  Yeah, it’s a little larger than it was a year ago, I gotta work on it.  But this was not fierce criticism.  This was hatred.  There’s a big difference between criticism and hatred, and Reverend J. Wright was immersed in hatred.  When I heard that, fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy, I said cut me some slack here."

"…Of course," continued Obama. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church?  Yes.  Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?  Absolutely, just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagree."

Said Limbaugh: "No, no, no, no, no.  No, Senator Obama.  Here we go with the moral equivalence.  Other pastors are not like this.  Everybody’s pastor is not like this.  Everybody’s pastor does not run around and make a career out of building an empire on a hatred of the country in which the empire is taking place."

What do you think?

- jpt

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