Wash. Times asserted McCain "doesn't intend to make" Wright "a political issue," but aides have reportedly distributed materials about Wright

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

The Washington Times' Andrea Billups wrote that Sen. John McCain's "low profile during the Wright flap suggests he doesn't intend to make it a political issue, even if others in his party do." But Billups did not report that a McCain campaign aide reportedly distributed a video that "splices together the most inflammatory language of Jeremiah Wright with a series of other issues that have arisen in the campaign."

In an April 14 Washington Times article headlined "McCain keeps his faith out of politics," reporter Andrea Billups, referring to the controversy surrounding comments by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Sen. Barack Obama's church, wrote that Sen. John McCain's "low profile during the Wright flap suggests he doesn't intend to make it a political issue, even if others in his party do." Billups also uncritically quoted Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus saying: "The Reverend Wright comparison might help McCain in the short run to gain political points, but it should not be surprising that instead, McCain is keeping his integrity intact and will talk about his beliefs and religion at a time of his own choosing." But Billups did not report that a McCain campaign aide reportedly distributed a video titled "Is Obama Wright?" that, as the Politico's Jonathan Martin reported, "splices together the most inflammatory language of Jeremiah Wright with a series of other issues that have arisen in the campaign," and "includes footage of Malcolm X, the U.S. Olympians who raised their hand in the black power salute and the song 'Fight the Power.' "

On March 20 Martin reported that "[a]n aide to John McCain was suspended from the campaign today for blasting out an inflammatory video that raises questions about Barack Obama's patriotism." Martin wrote that the staffer, "who works in McCain's political department, sent out the YouTube link of 'Is Obama Wright?' on twitter at 12:31 today with the tag, 'Good video on Obama and Wright.' It has since been taken down." Additionally, on the March 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN Internet correspondent Abbi Tatton reported that "John McCain staffer Soren Dayton" viewed the video, "then sent it out through the website Twitter," and "[t]hat got Dayton suspended today from the McCain campaign."

Also, the McCain campaign reportedly circulated to reporters a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which Newsmax.com chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler wrote that "Obama's close association with" Wright "raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country," which "deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far." On March 14, Martin reported in the Politico that the McCain campaign "included an op-ed from the WSJ written by Ron Kessler about Obama's pastor today in its morning clips." Subsequently, McCain's campaign reportedly said it sent the op-ed "in error."

Moreover, on the March 27 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Time magazine's Mark Halperin asserted that "if you talk to McCain people about it, they are -- you choose your metaphor -- licking their chops, whatever you'd like to say. They believe that, if this does not derail his chances of being the nominee, that it will be invaluable to them in gaining support amongst key constituencies -- that's code for white voters -- in the general election."

From the April 14 Washington Times article:

Don't expect any public testimonies of faith from presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who is not demonstrative about his religion but who embraces a Baptist faith that is based on salvation.

The religious intentions of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama were dissected after he publicly explained his decadeslong relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., but the senator from Arizona likely will talk little about the details of his own spiritual path other than to acknowledge that he is on one.

[...]

As the Obama pastor furor subsided, some political observers said voters may find Mr. McCain's disdain of overt religion refreshing. His low profile during the Wright flap suggests he doesn't intend to make it a political issue, even if others in his party do.

Mr. McCain's near silence also indicates that he is "wary of phony outward display," said Wilfred McClay, a professor of humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He added that such an action could be simply generational for the 71-year-old lawmaker. In his day, public discussion of the details of one's personal faith was considered inappropriate.

"The evidence suggests that his true religion is kind of civil religion, a religion of American patriotism and of sacrifice for the nation in the name of living for something larger than yourself," Mr. McClay said. "That general idea -- that you find your greatest fulfillment and purpose in dedicating your life to something more than yourself -- is in some ways very Christian, but McCain always expresses it in the secular terms of country."

Miss Jacobus said Mr. McCain's low-key approach to his faith ultimately may help him as the election cycle continues.

"His compelling, raw personal history may explain his reticence to talk about faith and religion in this current climate where Obama's choices with regard to how, where and with whom he practices his religion, and the churches he chooses to bring his daughters to, is so controversial," she said. "The Reverend Wright comparison might help McCain in the short run to gain political points, but it should not be surprising that instead, McCain is keeping his integrity intact and will talk about his beliefs and religion at a time of his own choosing."

From the March 27 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

HALPERIN: All right. You know that "Monty Python" thing where he says I want to answer that question in two ways, first in my normal voice, and then in a high, squeaky pitch?

[laughter]

HALPERIN: I sort of feel like that.

Look, on one level, I think this is a distraction. Reverend Wright is not running for president. Barack Obama is. He's answered. Voters can make of it what they will.

You know, Jessica [Yellin, CNN Capitol Hill correspondent] said that some of his aides think that this is only a press creation. Well, I was just dining across the street from the CNN Center here with one of Obama's top aides. And that's not the impression I got from him, although I do agree that some of his aides say that.

They see this as a long-term discussion that they're going to have to have, they assume, through November, because they think Obama will be the nominee, and that there's still more explaining to do with some voters who currently are very fixed in their -- in their view of what's happened and don't look more favorably on Barack Obama because of it.

But, over the long term, they think they can convince people. But it is the addition of these new facts, the new church bulletins, and perhaps additional new facts that are coming that make people think that the current polls may be a snapshot of what people think so far in some parts of the country, but that in parts coming up, maybe Pennsylvania, for instance, that this could be a problem.

ANDERSON COOPER (host): So, we don't know at this point. And what I'm hearing you say is the campaigns themselves, more importantly, they do not know how this is going to play out, the ramifications of this, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere?

HALPERIN: Well, I will tell you that the Clinton campaign believes that this will and should -- probably more should -- play out in the course of the nomination fight, and that, if it doesn't, they think it will be injustice.

They also think that it is a ticking time bomb. And, if you talk to McCain people about it, they are -- you choose your metaphor -- licking their chops, whatever you'd like to say. They believe that, if this does not derail his chances of being the nominee, that it will be invaluable to them in gaining support amongst key constituencies -- that's code for white voters -- in the general election. Now, they may be wrong, and the Obama campaign may be right that this will be resolved for them, and not derail his chances of being president. But I will tell you, it is one of the many areas of confluence of agreement between what the Clinton campaign thinks and the McCain campaign thinks. And they're pretty close observers of all this.

COOPER: All right, we're going to have more from Mark and from Candy [Crowley, CNN senior political correspondent] on this topic and also other topics coming up.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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