Friday, May 18, 2012

The Reverend Wright Kerfuffle

Yesterday’s political tempest-in-a-teapot over some Republican bigfoot’s supposed plan to sink $10 million into an ad campaign highlighting President Obama’s ties to hackles-raising preacher Reverend Jeremiah Wright was highly entertaining.  Not entertaining in any positive or instructive way, but entertaining in a look-how-idiotic-the-whole-process has become sort of way.

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this:
  • The New York Times, in its usual too-cool-for-school fashion, publishes a front page story about how billionaire Republican backer Joe Ricketts plans, through his SuperPAC, to air $10 million worth of negative ads about President Obama’s ties to Reverend Wright, The good Reverend, we recall from his brief moment of infamy four years ago, is famous for shouting out incendiary things like “God Damn America” to his cheering constituents (of which Obama was one for many years).
  • The Twitterverse erupts in a fury! Obama operatives demand that Romney control this rogue Republican before children start getting hurt! Romneyites tut tut about how the SuperPAC’s aren’t under the Romney campaign’s control and, besides, maybe the media should pay a little attention to Obama’s history this time around.
  • The cable news networks and the increasingly irrelevant nightly network news programs all make the kerfuffle the focus of the day’s coverage  – many of them trotting out the exact same damaging footage of Reverend Wright that the ads would presumably have featured.
  • Romney issued multiple statements condemning the idea and, eventually, Mr. Ricketts insists this was always just one approach being considered and that the ads probably would never have run anyway.

So, like some political version of the mayfly, the whole story lives and dies within one 24-hour news cycle, and with what result?

Is it a “win” for the Timesa case of good, old-fashioned investigative journalism making the world safer for mom, apple pie and apple-cheeked children everywhere? 

Is it a win for Romney, who was allowed to take a principled stand and deplore character-assassinating negative political advertising?

Is it a win for Mr. Ricketts, who gets to generate far more media coverage than his $10 million would have bought, all highlighting the President’s ties to a damaging part of his personal history?

Or is it just another sloppy day on the campaign trail, with the usual nitwits striking the usual postures, all in the hopes of tarnishing “the other guy” in order to make a handful of swing voters less comfortable with the idea of him as president?

And to think, we get to enjoy five more months of this daily insult to our collective intelligence.  

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