Thursday's New York Times off-lead by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg was intended to cause heartburn for the Mitt Romney camp: "G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighing A Hard-Line Attack on Obama."
The ad strategy, which was aborted after the Times ran with it on Thursday's front page, would have emphasized Obama's controversial Chicago pastor, the racially inflammatory Jeremiah Wright. But the Times as usual described Rev. Wright's anti-white jeremiads in bland terms, burying Wright's 9-11 quote that the attack was “America’s chickens are coming home to roost," and left out his notorious "God damn America!" rant completely. That distanced approach matches the paper's reluctant Wright coverage during the 2008 campaign.
Zeleny and Rutenberg wrote:
A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.
Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.
The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”
Another significant caveat was downplayed in paragraph 11:
The document makes clear that the effort is only in the planning stages and awaiting full approval from Mr. Ricketts. People involved in the planning said the publicity now certain to surround it could send the strategists back to the drawing board.
But it serves as a rare, detailed look at the birth of the sort of political sneak attack that has traditionally been hatched in the shadows and has become a staple of presidential politics.
Only in the fourth-to-last paragraph was Wright actually quoted:
The plan is designed for maximum impact, far beyond a typical $10 million television advertising campaign. It calls for full-page newspaper advertisements featuring a comment Mr. Wright made the Sunday after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he said.
Not content to criticize the strategy on political grounds, reporter Jonathan Weisman played the race card in a followup blog post Thursday, "McCain Rejects Racially Tinged Attack on Obama." So it wasn't Rev. Wright who made "racially tinged" attacks, only GOP strategists?
Senator John McCain, who refused to make President Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright an issue during his 2008 presidential campaign, repudiated a proposal by Republican strategists to “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do” -- open an incendiary, racially tinged attack on the president.