Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Before last week, GOP strategist Fred Davis was sitting on an elaborate storyboard for a very expensive proposed SuperPAC ad campaign to be funded by billionaire and Republican conservative Joe Ricketts. The proposed campaign would feature the close relationship of President Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and remind voters what a scary radical Obama really is and why voters should flee from him.
The New York Times obtained the complete proposal from a leak, ran the story, and then all hell broke loose. Ricketts said he would not fund a political ad campaign like that. Davis said it was just a proposal, Obama’s campaign immediately launched a fundraising effort around this threatened, “racist” attack.
Mitt Romney, the ostensible beneficiary of the ad, distanced himself from and repudiated the proposed campaign.
Washington Post Columnist Kathleen Parker said poor Mitt didn’t know about it and was caught blindsided when the story broke in the Times, echoing what many political analysts have also concluded - that this was an idea gone off track by the leak to the Times.
How about this scenario? The whole thing was a carefully orchestrated drama that rolled out and ended just as it was intended to do. Everyone hit their marks in the studio state and played their role to perfection.
The story of Obama’s long-standing and intimate relationship with Wright got more play with this “leak” and “denial” sequence than it would have as a nasty political attack ad with racial overtones. Consider that Ricketts never had to pay a dime for the ad to run in every medium in the U.S. for free.
Consider that Fred Davis will be producing many more millions of dollars worth of attack ads for Rickett and other GOP campaign operatives as a result of these brilliant theatrics. I mean, Democrats and others may be outraged - I SAY OUTRAGED! - by this idea but most of the Republicans with whom I’ve spoken liked it and think Obama got off to easy the last time the Rev. Wright came up in the news.
Most people had forgotten about the phosphorous Rev. Wright, who believes that the U.S. government created AIDS as a means of genocide and as a way to keep down African and African-Americans. Wright also believes the 9/11 attacks against the United States were justifiable and merely “the chickens coming home to roost.”
These facts, long forgotten or maybe even unknown to most Americans were effectively communicated by radio, TV, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, and magazines and repeated in restaurant, coffee shop and bar conversations.
Most Americans probably forgot that the Obama’s had a very close relationship to Wright. He presided over their wedding ceremony. He baptized their kids. He inspired the title of Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.” And finally he led the family in prayer the day Obama declared that he was running for president.
So, the story of the SuperPAC ad campaign gone wrong may very well be baloney. These days politics is rarely about colossal mistakes. It’s often about diabolically clever schemes that are misread by the news media and by naïf analysts. Someday the truth about this story will be written in a history blog or book, if they still exist.