Imagine if Romney-Trump played out like Obama-Wright – and vice versa

On March 13, 2008, ABC News broke the story.

Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor, had said some rather nasty things in sermons in his church. The clips that played over and over again did not involve sermons delivered at services attended by then-Senator Obama.

In a piece in the Huffington Post dated March 14, Obama wrote:

I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

On March 15, Obama wrote an initial draft of a speech he was to give in Philadelphia on March 18. (Source of timeline). This speech, which was to be widely praised by individuals of widely varying political views, said of Wright:

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. . . [T]hey expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Rev. Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

It took five days from the initial publicity about Wright’s remarks to Obama’s speech, and Obama had already strongly criticized them.

If the Romney-Trump link had played out like Obama-Wright, Romney have condemned Trump’s birtherism by now.

Not only hasn’t Romney done so, he appears to have no interest in doing so. In fact, Romney has been happy to highlight and cultivate his relationship with Trump.

Last week Romney sent out a mass e-mail to his supporters, saying that if they donated to the campaign, they would be able to have dinner with the candidate and Trump.

Romney appeared with Trump at a major fundraiser, at a very important day in his campaign — the day Romney clinched the Republican nomination.

As Trump made multiple media appearances, Romney’s campaign lodged no criticisms of Trump’s statements.

In fact, the word is that the Romney campaign doesn’t want to get involved in the “repudiation game,” believing that it takes them off message.  They see these as “concessions” and “John McCain tried them, and they didn’t do him any good.” Said a Romney campaign operative, McCain’s statements criticizing racist supporters “contributed to an image of McCain in retreat.”

And if Obama-Wright played out like Romney-Trump, what would that have looked like?

Rather than condemning Wright’s words so quickly, Obama would have had Wright help him raise money.

Obama would have stood with Wright on the night he clinched his nomination.

And Obama would have brushed aside criticisms of Wright, saying he needed to win 50.1%. His campaign would have told a friendly reporter he wouldn’t play the “repudiation game.” Obama’s campaign operations would have based around the idea that he would look weak if he criticized any of his supporters.

What a contrast.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.