Commentary Magazine


Wright or Wrong?

Many are mulling over whether the race would have been any different had John McCain made greater use of Barack Obama’s association with Reverend Wright. Well, it depends to a large extent on what he did with it and when he did it, I suppose.

He could have incorporated Wright in a theme of Obama as two-faced–presenting different views and images to different people. He might have made the point that Obama’s credibility was suspect (e.g. lying about his ignorance of Wright’s views). Or he might have used the relationship, along with those of other left-wing associates and organizations, to explain Obama radical views and background.

All of these themes, minus Wright, were tossed out at one time or another. Some will claim they “didn’t work,” so using Wright wouldn’t have made any differences. Others say Wright would have provided the perfect amplification to make those character assaults stick. Everyone will draw their own lesson.

However, one thing nags at conservatives: they suspect that the decision to reject use of Wright was based, not on a cold, cost-benefit analysis, but because of McCain’s inconsistent sense of “honor” and unwillingness to take heat from elite critics (who ironically gave him no credit). This personal, emotion-laden decision making style is a familiar McCain trait. If these critics are correct, the decision on Wright was inescapable. It naturally flowed from McCain, who in many ways was a politician hampered as much by his own personal and intellectual quirks and habits as by his opponent or the tough environment of this campaign.