When the first pushback came on the criticism over Jeremiah Wright, the Left tried calling it “Swift-boating” — which they took to mean false accusations based on thin evidence. When it turned into a real Swift-boating — which means discrediting through a wide body of testimony and evidence — one could predict that the next phase of the pushback would be to perform the quadrennial resuscitation of Willie Horton. Washington Post columnist Colbert King leads the charge:
Obama’s opponents in the media have done their best to make Jeremiah Wright a household name. And before this contest is over, Wright is going to be Willie Hortonized — that is, converted into an ever-present threat to white America.
When he was a media consultant to George H.W. Bush‘s presidential campaign in 1988, Fox News’s founder and president, Roger Ailes, speaking in jest about the Republican use of Willie Horton against Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis, said: “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it.”
By October, if Hillary Clinton’s Democratic rival is still in the race, look for a campaign ad with a menacing mug shot of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright holding a bomb and standing next to a smiling Barack Obama.
It’s come to this.
King tries to square the circle of acknowledging Wright’s responsibility for his meltdown and the objectionable things he said while somehow blaming the media — and Republicans — for sticking them on Barack Obama. King demonstrates nothing but hackery in equating the two, willfully overlooking many points in his efforts to blame the Right for Obama’s own failure. King wants to turn the Wright Stuff into a conspiracy theory worthy of, well, Jeremiah Wright.
The evocation of Horton is as dull-witted as it is predictable. First, let’s recall that Al Gore raised the Willie Horton issue first, in the Democratic primary — which is the only legitimate analogy here. John McCain has refused to use the Wright Stuff in his campaigning, but the Clintons have had no such scruples.
Next, even if one believes that the Horton ads were illegitimate — and I don’t — Willie Horton didn’t sit on the campaign staff of Michael Dukakis. Jeremiah Wright served on Obama’s campaign as an outreach director to the African-American community. In past interviews, Obama described him as a spiritual mentor and a political adviser, two roles that no one suggested for Horton with Dukakis, not even Dukakis’ worst enemies. Since Obama has no particular track record in national politics, he has chosen to run on his superior judgment. Aren’t voters entitled to vet campaign staff and advisers to evaluate that judgment for themselves — and doesn’t Wright’s rantings say quite a lot about Obama’s judgment for having Wright as an advisor?
Jeremiah Wright is no Willie Horton. Obama chose Wright in part because of Wright’s rabid views, as Obama wrote in his first book after hearing Wright talk about a “world in need” because of “white man’s greed”, and now those views have gotten wide exposure to the nation rather than just on the south side of Chicago. King wants to scold people for judging Obama’s judgment and accuse them of racism for doing so. It’s a tired ploy, and one that King doesn’t even bother to intellectually support.
What’s King going to blame when people focus more on Obama’s ties with William Ayers, including the time Obama worked for Ayers at the Annenberg Challenge? Lee Atwater?