The New Attack on Obama and Jeremiah Wright Exposes the Right’s Rage

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May 17 2012 2:34 PM

The Wrath of Cons

A proposed super-PAC assault on Obama exposes the right’s rage.

Joe Ricketts.
TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts

By Kris Connor/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions.

Mitt Romney wants to make the 2012 election a referendum on the economy. Facing an electorate that likes Barack Obama personally, Romney has said again and again that Obama is a nice guy who just doesn’t know how to create jobs. The last thing Romney needs is a rogue, richly funded right-wing campaign to change the subject from Obama’s job performance to his character, particularly a rerun of the 2008 attack on Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But that’s what Romney will get, if Republican donors and operatives can’t control their rage.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

The latest sign of trouble is a proposal for a $10 million ad campaign, commissioned by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and drafted by advisers to John McCain’s 2008 presidential candidacy. The plan proposes to fund television, newspaper, and outdoor ads, starting with an already scripted five-minute video. The script and proposal, leaked to the New York Times—and subsequently renounced by Ricketts after the ensuing uproar—are politically insane. But they offer an instructive psychiatric portrait of the rage in Romney’s party. Too many conservatives are too angry to think straight.

The ad campaign proposal begins with a problem for Republicans: Voters “still aren’t ready to hate this president.” The word ready makes clear that this is where the plan’s authors eventually want to go. The dilemma with regard to voters and Obama, they write, is “how to inflame their questions on his character and competency, while allowing themselves to still somewhat ‘like’ the man.” The plan’s stated challenge is an emotional tension in the electorate. But the tone conveys an emotional tension among the authors: how to express their contempt for Obama in a way that doesn’t alienate the public.  

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Revulsion oozes from every frame of the video script, though the authors try to pin the hatred on Obama. “Week after week, year after year, he heard the hatred,” the script says of Obama’s attendance at Wright’s sermons. It says Obama “attacked and inflamed,” leaving us a world “wracked with hate-filled passions.” At one point, the script depicts Obama pushing a gurney (symbolizing Obamacare) past a family whose “eyes follow him with disgust.”

Why must we hate Obama? Because he hates America. The insertion of Obama’s middle name in the title of the video script booklet—“The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama”—signals the message. Beside a picture of Obama with Wright, the script alleges, “There’s simply a fundamental difference between his view of America and ours.” It adds: “He was taught for years that America WAS the problem, so how could he ever believe that America could be the solution?”

Beneath the hatred, humiliation boils. “Our plan,” the authors write, is to show how Obama and his left-wing mentors “brought our country to its knees.” Accompanied by images of Obama bowing to foreign heads of state, the script asks: “How can our president stand up for America when he’s bowing, begging, kneeling and apologizing for America?” Later, it repeats that Obama “compulsively bowed and apologized to foreign leaders.” Even on the economy, the script says Obama “brought us to our knees.” A caption placeholder calls for an image of a struggling American “literally on his knees in shame.”

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