Repackaging Rev. Wright for Obama’s White House Run

Does it seem the ultimate of political ironies that media are using the same strategy that helped Bill Clinton win the White House in 1992 to prevent him and his wife from returning to the Oval Office in 2009?

After all, even people that haven't been around the political block a few times should certainly find the following all too predictable press strategy all too familiar (picture courtesy Times Online):

  • A well-esteemed liberal candidate is caught in some controversy that could derail his chances of attaining the office he seeks.
  • Media initially pounce all over the typically salacious tidbit, knocking said candidate off his seemingly one-way express elevator straight to the political penthouse.
  • Candidate drops in the polls, campaign seems doomed, and media come to the rescue in the nick of time just before the train runs over the proverbial damsel in distress.

Sound familiar?

Well, in case it doesn't, this is largely what happened to Democrat presidential candidate Bill Clinton when scandals in early 1992 rocked his campaign to the very core, one involving a 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers, another his evasion of the draft.

Clinton dropped nearly twenty points in the polls following these revelations, but ended up, in the long-run, saved by a sycophantic media that quickly brushed aside these inconvenient truths as something the electorate shouldn't be concerned with.

Move along...nothing to see here!

Ironically, sixteen years later, the press have a new idol, and are using this same playbook to make Barack Obama's long-time connection to an anti-American, hate-mongering pastor as irrelevant as adultery and draft evasion were in 1992.

Of course, this comes weeks after a certain amount of media focus on the controversial statements of Rev. Jeremiah Wright triggered losses and poor showings by Obama in key primaries thereby threatening his nomination.

True to form, the press have flip-flopped their loyalties so much so that if Obama wins the White House, history might view as the turning point an April 25, 2008, lovefest between Wright and Bill Moyers much as posterity looks upon the January 26, 1992, "60 Minutes" appearance by the Clintons as their political salvation.

Before you think this too cynical, consider the fortuity of Wright being on PBS three days after Obama's horrible showing in the Pennsylvania primaries, two days before Wright's speech in front of the NAACP, and three days before his appearance at the National Press Club.

If you think these events transpiring so chronologically proximate is mere happenstance, you probably also believe Bill Clinton never inhaled marijuana, which, by the way, was the third revelation to rock his campaign in early 1992 that media nicely explained in a fashion that enough voters would eventually be unconcerned.

In the end, that's what's happening now with Rev. Wright, and the press are smack-dab in the middle of his makeover.

Why? Because media have been in Obama's tank since he gave a keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and they clearly just don't like Hillary.

Or, at the very least, they believe her negatives make it more difficult for her to beat McCain, and after helping the Democrats take back both chambers of Congress in 2006, the press will do everything in their power to get their candidate in the White House in 2009.

As such, after seeing Hillary cling her way back into this race in Pennsylvania last Tuesday, media realized they'd better do something, and do it fast.

This was especially important when the Pennsylvania exit polls indicated an extreme racial divide in voting patterns, with 63 percent of whites opting for Hillary, and nineteen percent saying that race was an important factor in their decision.

Further complicating matters was the release of a Newsweek poll on Saturday finding "Four in 10 registered voters (41 percent) say they have a less favorable opinion of Obama based on his association with his former pastor, Wright."

With this in mind, it shouldn't be at all surprising that media gave Wright fabulous reviews for his speech to the NAACP in Detroit Sunday evening.

And, although the early word on the Reverend's performance in front of the National Press Club Monday seems less enthusiastic, it remains to be seen how this is covered on television the rest of the day, and in the print media tomorrow.

In fact, as my colleague Matthew Balan reported Monday, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen is calling for the media to "move on" and stop giving Wright so much attention:

And it takes attention away -- we have huge, huge problems facing this country. The candidates are increasingly coming down on opposite sides. We're having no discussion of that. Instead, we're off on this sideshow, which is -- and I think that, you know, this good preacher, I'm sure he's a fine man, and if he had taken Bill Moyers on a walking tour of his parish, and shown people the good works that church was doing, you know, how it is helping the hungry, how it is looking after young kids, and the many other good things that church does -- that would have been totally appropriate. But to be on this publicity blitz, when we have to listen to his varied views, you know, I think it's time for him to get off the stage and frankly, for the media, I suggest, to move on.

You think Gergen would have said this if Wright did a good job on Monday?

On the other hand, it is still possible the Obama-loving media will figure out a way to spin what happened at the Press Club Monday in a fashion that evokes liberal guilt much as what my colleague Justin McCarthy reported transpired on today's "The View":

Are Reverend Jeremiah Wright's comments shouting "God damn America" comparable to Rosa Parks famous refusal to give up her seat? According to "The View's" Sherri Shepherd it is. Discussing Wright on the April 28 edition, Shepherd, with Joy Behar's backing, called Wright's anger "righteous" and compared it to Rosa Parks' famous protest.

Imagine that. Now he's Rosa Parks.

Maybe more telling, in a potential foreshadowing of how the print media will cover this speech, a New York Times article, apparently to be published Tuesday but already available on the Internet, also defended the pastor (emphasis added):

Attacks on him are really attacks on the black church, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. said in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, in which he mounted a spirited defense of views and sermons that have become an issue in the presidential campaign because Senator Barack Obama attended his church for many years.

Mr. Wright told the press club audience that the black church in America grew out of the oppression of black people, and that his sermons reflected that struggle.

That'll tug at some white, liberal heart-strings, dontcha think?

That said, though the position press members will take concerning his most recent speech might still be undetermined, the dye is cast: the goal now is to present the Reverend in as favorable a light as possible while suggesting that all this attention upon him is distracting the voters from more important issues facing the nation.

Of course, this exactly what we were told sixteen years ago about Bill Clinton's adultery, draft evasion, and pot-smoking.

Move along...nothing to see here!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.