Political Animal


May 17, 2012 10:30 AM Will “The Vetting” Soon Appear On Your TV Screen?

By Ed Kilgore

Remember that special moment late in the 2008 presidential campaign when John McCain started getting confronted by angry “supporters” at his campaign events who were demanding he take off the gloves and talk about Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and ACORN and all the other sinister associations of that Alinskyite Ay-rab Barack Hussein Obama? I’ve argued that this, more than Rick Santelli’s famous Randian “rant,” represented the real birth of the Tea Party Movement as the latest incarnation of the grassroots conservative movement. Therein was born the conviction, gradually bought into by much of the GOP, that their electoral defeats in 2006 and 2008 were purely and simply the product of wimpy RINOs like McCain who refused to savagely advance their “conservative principles.”

I say all this by way of background to the news that we may soon see Super-PAC ads that re-run the 2008 campaign the way hard-core conservatives think it should have been run. Chicago Cubs owner and billionaire Joe Ricketts, emboldened no doubt by his successful intervention in the Nebraska Senate race, is said to be willing to finance a huge ad campaign revisiting Jeremiah Wright and other nastiness largely left on the cutting room floor by the McCain campaign. Here’s the essential story from the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg:

A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.
Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.
The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

Wow. It’s hard to know where to begin in evaluating the abnormal psychology of this toxic little initiative. It is rather plainly a practical, heavily financed application of the Breitbartian principle that Obama was not “vetted” properly in 2008. As Ricketts himself is quoted as saying: “If the nation had seen that ad, they’d never have elected Barack Obama.”

It’s especially interesting that the craftsman of the proposed ad, the famous creator of the “Demon Sheep” spot and other mock-ironic creations, Fred Brown, is fresh from the Hindenburg Disaster of the Hunstman campaign, which failed because it vastly underestimated the rightward lurch of the GOP.

But it seems that Brown’s handiwork is just one of several “ideas” competing for Ricketts’ checkbook. For all we know, it’s one of the milder lines of attack on the president. Perhaps there will be other ads delving into the vast ACORN conspiracy to destroy the housing market and the financial industry as an excuse to steal the 2008 election for the looters’ willing handmaiden, the Christ-hating secularist Muslim Hussein Obama! Who knows exactly how crazy Ricketts is? He’s got the money to put his delusions right onto your TV screen, and it’s clear there are plenty of hungry Republican “strategists” willing to help him make them as vivid as a nightmare.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • SteveT on May 17, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Coming soon to your teevee screen --

    Wealthy Republican donors with more dollars than sense let us see the TRUE face of the Republican Party as they let loose their inner Michael Richards . . . .


  • davidp on May 17, 2012 10:41 AM:

    Is it possible that the Citizens United decision has a concealed upside? Organizations that are not under the umbrella of the official campaign may put out material that, while intended to be helpful, may just end up embarrassing the candidate because it's pressuring him to campaign in a different way from what his official advisers are telling him. There's a potential train wreck here.

  • DJ on May 17, 2012 10:45 AM:

    Should also provide for some tense moments in the Ricketts family. Laura Ricketts, the president of the Cubs, is an Obama bundler.

  • c u n d gulag on May 17, 2012 10:45 AM:

    With all of the Sharia Law and tax increases on the wealthy that Obama's gotten passed, it's surprising that Mr. Ricketts is out free and can afford to spend any money on anything, let alone trying to take down that Kenyan/Communist/Fascist/Socialist/Heathen/Atheist/Muslim usurper.

    One thing we can be sure of about Mr. Ricketts, is that he didn't suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency and get 'rickets' when he was a child - because the bone in his head is not just fully, but OVERLY developed.

    And this is why we need to reimpose the 91% tax bracket.

    Let them spend money hiring accountants to try to hide their money, instead of using it to destroy representative democracy and turn America into a better-armed Haiti.

    And to think, I used to root for the Cubs to win a World Series.
    Now, last place is too good for them.

  • T2 on May 17, 2012 10:45 AM:

    can we say "racist" ? that's all this is. Most people on either side have, by now, figured out that Barack Obama is Black. Even though his mom was White. I sometimes wonder if Obama had been the son of a black man and woman, would the hatred be less. In the racist mind, the union of white and black is the worst of the worst...but the GOP can only go to the well on that one time...which they did. The TEAGOP would love to have you believe that McCain's refusal to get totally dirty in 08 caused his loss. Couldn't have been the ridiculous choice of Sarah Palin of course. Coupled with the fact McCain is not liked by anyone. Then there was 8 years of GOP wars and Recession....none of that could have caused it. Nah, they lost because their campaign wasn't dirty enough. yep.

  • Live in Chicago on May 17, 2012 10:47 AM:

    People who own enterprises like the Cubs that depend on the good will of the public are not wise to dabble in extremist politics.

  • Howard on May 17, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Cundgulag is on it: after this, nuts to the cubs. May they go 0-162 as long as he owns them.

    Meanwhile, I strongly urge reading jeffrey toobin's story on citizens united in the current new yorker.

  • c u n d gulag on May 17, 2012 10:51 AM:

    And she's also the only openly gay owner of a major league sports team in America:

    Nothing like a little sibling rivalry.

    Go Laura!

  • jjm on May 17, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Yeah, go ahead and try to re-inject Reverend Wright into this and you will see Mitt's religion become fair game. Of course this is about racism, but in actuality it attacks Obama for a former religious affiliation.

    I can't wait for the ads about Mitt's magic underwear, and the exposition of Mormonism's whackiest ideas.

    This will open the door, if it gets off the ground.

    And it also confirms the absolute looniness of the US' billionaires.

  • T2 on May 17, 2012 10:56 AM:

    talk of this Ricketts thing is all over this morning. Romney's camp says hands off Rev. Wright.
    I suppose that the plan is to keep any discussion of religion or "spiritual advisors" off the table for Romney lest he have to discuss his Mormon "spiritual advisors". Probably a good plan for him. Most Americans have no idea about LDS, and if they do, it's usually that they believe in polygamy ( which they don't- any longer). If the particulars of the LDS was front page every day, I'm not sure it would help Romney at all. If the public knew how hard the LDS is working to get a Mormon in the White House, that might not go over so well, either.

  • Mimikatz on May 17, 2012 11:04 AM:

    I'm with David P on the downside of Citizens United in the Presidential at least. As a veteran of a full season of spectacularly bad ads for Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in CA last cycle, I can tell you most people tune them out and many just dump the stations that run them. They have little to no effect. And when they are perpetrated by outside groups over which the candidate has little or no control, the blowback can be severe. People in glass houses and all that. The Mormon angle is just lying there waiting to be exploited, if news orgs haven't flatly prohibited it in order to help elect Mitt. And even if they have, there are plenty of other outlets.

  • Grumpy on May 17, 2012 11:06 AM:

    ...fresh from the Hindenburg Disaster of the Hunstman campaign...

    ...Which was still credited by the Left with generating the most pointed anti-Romney ads all year.

    The most delusional part about this "vetting" is that hardly any revelation about Obama's background is as relevant as his performance as the incumbent. If, as gulag was getting at, Obama was going to do horrible things, he would have done them in his first term.

  • Peter C on May 17, 2012 11:22 AM:

    As a liberal and an atheist, there is very little that I've encountered which makes it all the way to 'evil' in my mind. Plenty of stuff gets as far as 'wrong' and even 'dead wrong'. More and more gets lumped in with 'vile' these days. But 'evil' is a pole on a continuum which is difficult to reach.

    This ad is evil. Even those who touch it move large strides toward that pole. Any person who would intentionally weild it cannot be trusted. Those who created it ...

  • TR on May 17, 2012 11:24 AM:

    If, as gulag was getting at, Obama was going to do horrible things, he would have done them in his first term.

    Well, that's what a sane person would think, but much of the GOP base isn't sane.

    Wayne LaPierre of the NRA insisted in his last presidential address there that the fact that Obama didn't make any massive gun grab in his first term in office is rock-solid evidence that he's just biding his time until he can do so in the second term.

    It makes sense, if you don't think about it.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on May 17, 2012 11:39 AM:

    Back to Rev. Wright, I see. This has all the political excitement of, say, a warmed-over, dried-out turkey sam-ich four days after Thanksgiving... Whatever... Does anybody have any hot sauce?

  • Political Relief on May 17, 2012 12:00 PM:

    This ad campaign promises to be as effective as wearing a condom three months before the baby is due.

    Before Obama's first term, the right could scare the country about what he would do if elected. But come November he will have served nearly four years, during which time he bent over backwards to try to get the right to like him.

    How does any amount of money scare voters into thinking Obama is a closet radical who hasn't come out of the closet during FOUR years of power but will somehow be activated during the FIFTH year?!

  • biggerbox on May 17, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I'm thoroughly excited about some right-wing nut spending tons of money to bring up issues that few people cared about four years ago in an attempt to convince the electorate that they somehow matter now. Better that then spending it on something that might actually HELP the GOP.

    I'm not even clear on what I'm supposed to think - even if Obama is a tool of the 'black liberationist' Wright, he's frickin' been President for the last few years, and last I looked, white guys were still losing billions on Wall St. and Obama can't even get his appointments past the Senate.

    Like many right-wing nutjobs, it seems like Ricketts can't conceive of the idea that others don't share his racist offense that a black preacher might be mad about the historical oppression of his race, and assumes that the reason more people aren't riled up about it must be that we don't know. But we DO know; we just don't think it matters.

  • g on May 17, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Isn't this a little 2008? I imagine the reaction is going to be "oh, that old thing again."

  • Jilli on May 17, 2012 12:31 PM:

    How did such a stupid man manage to get so rich?

  • delNorte on May 17, 2012 12:36 PM:

    Seems like a well-placed parody ad by a Stephen Colbert type PAC could expose these extremists as the extremists they are, and make their message moot.

  • j on May 17, 2012 12:40 PM:

    OK, now I want to know why the Romney fled to Mexico, was it because Romney's grandfather had 5 wives and his father was born in Mexico? Is it true that great grandfather Romney had 10 wives and was shot to death by the husband of the woman he was going to make number 11?
    How about this cult? started by a con man who says he dug up some old plates (probably had a metal detector) but they really came from heaven, and no one has seen them because an angel came down and took them back to heaven!

    Folks - in my opinion anyone who believes all this cannot be the sharpest pencil in the box.

  • TheOtherJim on May 17, 2012 2:06 PM:

    I assume that it would not be OK to shine a light on any of the Romney supporters, of course. We've all seen what happened when one Romney supporter from Idaho was listed as a contributor to an Obama PAC.

    But I can't help but wonder about one Ted Nugent. Now, sure, he's already threatened the life of the President of the United States. Nothing treasonous about that; free speech, etc. etc. and besides, he's a Repugnantcan. But what has me wondering is his song "Boom, Boom (out go the lights). As we are told by the lyrics, his "baby" doesn't "love him anymore," so he's going to find her and beat her into unconsciousness.

    That part is clear to me. What I don't understand is why his "baby" doesn't love him anymore. Is it because he routinely beats her? I know that would put me off. Should we perhaps devote ten million dollars to finding out why Ted Nugent's battered girlfriend doesn't love him anymore? I'd sure like to know the answer!

  • TCinLA on May 17, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Within the past hour, the "usual suspects" in this story have all issued announcements that the idea was merely "one of many" that were proposed, and that a good decent American like Mr. Ricketts would never have anything to do with something so divisive as this.

    Hopefully Chicagoans will tell him they'll finance the makeover of Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs become something besides a baseball club for losers.

  • smartalek on May 17, 2012 2:11 PM:

    Mom (of blessed memory) taught us that it's not polite to talk about someone's religious beliefs.
    One would think that people who profess to be "conservative" would understand that.

  • Hyde on May 17, 2012 2:13 PM:

    This character owns a baseball team in Obama's hometown? Methinks this is an unwise road for him to go down.

  • jhm on May 18, 2012 7:03 AM:

    I get it that the powers that be want to run away from this winner of an idea. The thing that I do not get is that in general GOPers do not feel the need to run away from The Crazy.

    I like to think of the various GOP tropes in terms of a quasi-rigorous ratio of the fervency of any given belief {0-1} over the odds that it is actually true {>0-1}. Ignoring the fact that the denominator usually inhabits depths fatal to real division, is their really any doubt that any of their other core ideas would have significantly lower ratios? how about the Laffer curve? Job Creators need more tax cuts/there is no issue with inequality? Climate change is a hoax? Marriage needs defending? The military budget is dangerously low?