This interchange on Fox News Sunday between Brit Hume and Mara Liasson is similar to what many conservatives are mulling over:
HUME: And what on earth are Joe Lieberman and John McCain talking about when they say that the long association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is off the table? Why is that off the table?
It’s an important part of Obama’s background and record. It’s one of the reasons people wonder about who he really is. My sense about it is that McCain is going to need to play rough, but it’s certainly within bounds to talk about Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko and the whole lot of them. And if the McCain campaign doesn’t do it, they’re out of their mind.
LIASSON: Somebody is going to do it. If it’s not the McCain campaign, a third-party group. His association with Reverend Wright was certainly more relevant than his association with Bill Ayres, which I think has been exaggerated by the McCain campaign and downplayed too much by Obama.
And why isn’t McCain willing to raise Wright? Fear (garnering the racist tag) and futility (it didn’t help Hillary Clinton) plainly play a role. But it is odd to leave out the one figure everyone agrees was closest to Obama and who expressed views which key voters believe are noxious. If you are going to make the case that Obama is a poor judge of character, was not honest about the extent of his affiliation with questionable characters (not his mentor, he claimed in unconvincing fashion), doesn’t “get” the values and sensibilities of average Americans, and used his position to dole out goodies (i.e. earmarks) to his bizarre collection of associates you would be hard pressed to come up with a better example. The aversion to doing so suggests the McCain camp — or McCain himself — may not be playing to win.