As Alana noted, this morning the New York Times reported a super PAC was weighing a “hard-line attack” against President Obama by “linking him 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 Romney campaign, and then Governor Romney himself, immediately repudiated the effort.
I should say that I’ve never felt raising the issue of Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright was somehow illegitimate. The relationship was obviously a long and important one to Obama. The Reverend Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, and was the inspirational force behind Obama’s first autobiography. That relationship was unquestionably a significant one and was probably quite useful in terms of understanding Obama. If a conservative had a similarly close relationship with a comparable figure on the right, especially a comparable hate-figure on the right, journalists would have focused on it far more than the press focused on Obama and Wright in 2008. There was an obvious double standard being applied.
Speaking of which, isn’t it interesting (as Ed Morrissey and Jennifer Rubin have pointed out) how media inquiries into Romney’s Mormon faith is deemed as not only legitimate but necessary, whereas inquiries into the Obama-Wright relationship was (and is) considered insignificant, unrevealing, and even unseemly? There’s a deep theological reason that explains this difference in approach: Romney is a Republican, while Obama is a (liberal) Democrat.
With all that said, Romney is wise not to pursue the issue of Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright, for two reasons. The first is that it’s precisely the kind of sideshow Obama wants this campaign to revolve around. Romney needs to focus like a laser beam on the economy — and Jeremiah Wright’s past sermons, for all their offensiveness, are of very little interest to Americans, particularly in a struggling economy. In addition, Obama is more or less a known quantity at this stage. People’s judgment about his past are basically locked in. There’s no particular upside to Romney in focusing attention on Wright.
Oh, and one other thing: The fact that Governor Romney and his campaign responded so quickly and emphatically to the possibility that an anti-Obama super PAC might resurrect the Obama-Wright relationship is a sign they are firing on all cylinders.