CBS’s Smith: Jeremiah Wright the 'Pastor of Disaster'

Still Shot of Harry Smith and Joe Trippi | NewsBusters.orgIn a particularly dire analysis on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co- host Harry Smith reacted to the recent media tour of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and declared: "He's being called the 'Pastor of Disaster' for the effect he's having on Barack Obama's campaign. Why is Reverend Jeremiah Wright taking his case to the public now?"

Smith began the segment on Wright by observing that: "Well, the month of April has probably been the longest month of Senator Barack Obama's life. He started off this month by distancing himself from comments made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Now he's doing it again."

Smith then talked to Democratic strategist, Joe Trippi, who said of Wright’s media appearances: "It's a nightmare for the Obama campaign. They can't like this at all and they've got no control." Smith went on to comment on Obama’s initial speech in Philadelphia that addressed Reverend Wright: "The speech on race that was so lauded, almost forgotten now." He followed up by asking Trippi: "...is this a campaign killer, can this be a campaign killer?"

Near the end of the segment, Smith even wondered if losses in the upcoming Indiana and North Carolina primaries could mean the end of Obama’s campaign:

Because this is -- this keeps lapping up, lapping up. And we don't sort of see Barack Obama taking the lead and saying I'm above this or different than this. Look at this number from a "Newsweek" poll which suggests 40% of the people in the country say 'I not gonna -- I won't vote for you.' That's incredible....Sort of razor thin in Indiana. What if she [Hillary Clinton] does well enough to be close in North Carolina, or even wins in North Carolina. Is it done?

By contrast, on Tuesday’s NBC "Today," co-host Meredith Vieira and "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert were not so melodramatic:

VIEIRA: Alright Tim media distraction or a real issue? How much of a liability is Reverend Wright to this Obama campaign?

RUSSERT: Well I don't find anyone in either campaign, Meredith, who doesn't think that this is hurting Barack Obama. His own campaign says clearly his intent, the intent of Reverend Wright is not to help Senator Obama. We are a week away from North Carolina and Indiana, two pivotal primaries and we're talking about Reverend Wright and Senator Obama is being forced to respond to Reverend Wright. Clearly, Wright is dominating this political dialogue. The Obama campaign hopes one thing. That he's talked himself out and the media has talked itself out, so that by tomorrow other issues will be discussed and debated.

Here is the full transcript of Tuesday’s "Early Show":

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: He's being called the 'Pastor of Disaster' for the effect he's having on Barack Obama's campaign. Why is Reverend Jeremiah Wright taking his case to the public now?

7:18AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Well, the month of April has probably been the longest month of Senator Barack Obama's life. He started off this month by distancing himself from comments made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Now he's doing it again. Yesterday Wright talked about what he'll do if Obama makes it to the White House.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT: And I said to Barack Obama, last year, 'if you got elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people. Alright?' It's about policy, not the American people.

SMITH: And joining us is CBS News Political Analyst Joe Trippi. The Reverend Wright is the gift that just keeps on giving to the Obama campaign.

JOE TRIPPI: It's a nightmare for the Obama campaign. They can't like this at all and they've got no control. He just seems to be out there -- he did alright when it was sort of the speech that was written, drafted for him. But --

SMITH: The speech on race that was so lauded, almost forgotten now.

TRIPPI: Yeah and now you've got this Q & A with this -- with Reverend Wright that, you know, he just keeps digging in deeper and deeper.

SMITH: Yeah, is this a campaign killer, can this be a campaign killer?

TRIPPI: It's -- I think it's a big problem for them. And I don't know how they get past it right now. You've got Indiana and North Carolina coming up in a matter of days. And you don't want this on the front burner going into those states.

SMITH: Because this has been hanging around for weeks and weeks and weeks now. First in the little clips from the old sermons. Now in his comments that keep running over and over and over again. And you look at this brand new AP poll. And guess what? Hillary Clinton has leapt ahead of Barack Obama. He has led her in the national polls for months now. And now all of a sudden look at this. Against John McCain, she wins 50-41. Barack Obama beats McCain as well but a much, much, much smaller margin.

TRIPPI: I wouldn't look too much into these polls right now. I mean, again, if he can win Indiana and win North Carolina, this will all change again. You flip it again. And we'll be back to the Reverend Wright controversy didn't do anything to him.

SMITH: Sure, right.

TRIPPI: But that's going a -- that's going to be a tough road a hoe right now. He's got to -- he's got to somehow get this behind him and start talking about issues again.

SMITH: Because this is -- this keeps lapping up, lapping up. And we don't sort of see Barack Obama taking the lead and saying I'm above this or different than this. Look at this number from a "Newsweek" poll which suggests 40% of the people in the country say 'I not gonna -- I won't vote for you.' That's incredible.

TRIPPI: Well, that's another number though that people need to look at with some reserve. By the end of this, whoever the Democratic nominee is going to have 40 to 45% of the people saying they're not going to vote for them.

SMITH: 'I'm not going to vote for him.'

TRIPPI: And the same thing with McCain.

SMITH: Sure

TRIPPI: So, he's getting there a little quicker than you'd want to get there, but this isn't a killer yet. He's got -- but he now has to score in Indiana and I think he's got to win big in North Carolina.

SMITH: Sort of razor thin in Indiana. What if she does well enough to be close in North Carolina, or even wins in North Carolina. Is it done?

TRIPPI: I think it's a big, big problem and it could be done for him. I think -- I've always thought Indiana and North Carolina were going to be it. Whoever could -- if somebody -- if one of these candidates can win both of those states, it's going to be a big problem for the other one. And right now, Nothing's been going -- going the right direction for Obama for the better, as you pointed out, for the better part of a month now.

SMITH: It's a week from today, another Super Tuesday coming our way. Alright, Joe Trippi, always a pleasure, thank you sir.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC