A Civil War In The McCain Campaign

By Doug Mataconis | Related entries in Barack, McCain

The Politico reports today that John McCain is at odds with advisers and others inside his campaign who want to make Jeremiah Wright an issue in the final weeks of the campaign:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and several top campaign officials see a sharp attack on Wright as the best — and perhaps last — chance to rattle Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill. ) and force voters to rethink their support of him. But McCain continues to overrule them, fearing a Wright attack would smack of desperation and racism, the officials said.

With McCain unlikely to budge, GOP officials are hoping groups outside of the campaign will finance an ad attack on Obama-Wright ties. It is unclear if any conservative group has the cash to bankroll a serious effort, however.

“Wright is off the table,” said one top campaign official. “It’s all McCain. He won’t go there. His advisers would have gone there.”

The aides argue that the 20 years that Obama spent in the fiery Wright’s pastoral care — and his later assertion that he knew nothing of his former minister’s more extreme statements — provide an opening to challenge Obama’s judgment and honesty in a relevant and politically resonant way.


But McCain will not allow it, according to campaign sources.

“There’s a slippery slope in politics on the racial divide, and Sen. McCain made it very clear early on that he did not want to get into that area,” a top Republican official said. “I don’t want to be known as a racist, and McCain doesn’t want to be known as a racist candidate.”

This all started back in April when the North Carolina Republican Party ran television ads associating Obama, and two Democratic candidates for Congress, with Wright. McCain denounced the ads and asked the NC GOP to pull the ads:

I have been committed to running a respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America today. I expect all state parties to do so as well. The television advertisement you are planning to air degrades our civics and distracts us from the very real differences we have with the Democrats. In the strongest terms, I implore you to not run this advertisement.

This ad does not live up to the very high standards we should hold ourselves to in this campaign. We need to run a campaign that is worthy of the people we seek to serve. There is no doubt that we will draw sharp contrasts with the Democrats on fundamental issues critical to the future course of our country. But we need not engage in political tactics that only seek to divide the American people.

Now, one can argue about whether McCain has lived up to his promise to run a “respectful campaign based upon an honest debate about the great issues confronting America,” but his denunciation of the ad, and public commitment to not play the Jeremiah Wright card are on the public record, and have been honored by him and his campaign.

When you think about it, it’s rather extraordinary that Palin and some McCain advisers think that, at this late date with only 21 days left until Election Day, they can go back on this promise and bring the Jeremiah Wright story back to the center stage it occupied in early March as the Democratic race was heading into Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

Ann Althouse is right when she points out that it is simply too late for McCain to go back on the promise he made six months ago without it hurting him in the end:

Whether McCain made the right call initially could be questioned, but to go back to this issue now would open McCain to the most vicious attacks: He cared about being racially sensitive when he thought the appearance of lofty principle would win him votes, but now that he fears it hasn’t won him enough votes, he’s ready to try something else. So principle was never principle, just principle as a pose, useful to the extent that it was useful. What else in McCain’s much-touted “honor” profile is there only because he thinks it works?

Playing the Wright card now, after six months of saying no, would be seen, correctly, as a sign of desperation on McCain’s part and would do little more than tarnish his already damaged reputation.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 and is filed under Barack, McCain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “A Civil War In The McCain Campaign”

  1. Gaucho Politico Says:

    they are playing it. By telling everyone they are fighting internally about it wright comes into the discussion. by doing it this way they get the benefit of avoiding the backlash. the talking about talking about it defense is a pretty smart ploy.

  2. Ed in NJ Says:

    What possible benefit can the McCain camp derive from constantly leaking these stories about divisiveness within the campaign over these incendiary issues. Most of the electorate knows by now that if the name Jeremiah Wright comes out of Palin, McCain, or any surrogate’s mouth it is a stunt to try to distract from the issues. Just as Ayers was. Gaucho I have to disagree with your premise. By publicizing that there is a behind-the-scenes clash over this issue, it feeds the narrative that McCain’s campaign is erratic and in disarray, and that the only thing left is smears, not issues.

  3. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Gaucho is right. This is all “good cop, bad cop” strategery.

  4. Lovekraft Says:

    sooo they drop Palin, pick up “somebody” “cooler” and whamo, theres you’re October surprise. . . .
    well, sorry, I’m runnin outah ideas. When are these guyz gonna start eating each other?

  5. BenG Says:

    You’ve gotta give credit where credit is due, maybe these advisers will someday figure out that taking the high road can and will pay off in the end b/c it appeals to the broadest range of the electorate.

    Gaucho; I see where you’re coming from, but standing on the beach skippin rocks off the surface ain’t the same as diving in and feeding with the sharks on the bottom. McCain deserves a lot of credit if he stopped the ugly attacks and sticks to his word.

  6. Prose Before Hos Says:

    We Got A Black Person Trespassing On The White House…

    From the New York Times [For Some, Uncertainty Starts at Racial Identity]:
    “He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. …..

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