The presidential campaign is turning ugly and race will become one of the most emotionally-charged story lines six months before the November election.
Here’s why: Republicans plan to spend as much as $500 million to oust Obama from the White House by mounting a series of racially-provocative ads linking President Barack Obama to his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose controversial sermons on race resulted in Obama denouncing him in 2008.
The proposal — “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good” — calls for flooding the nation with commercials that paint Obama as a radical who surrounded himself with an unbalanced spiritual advisor. The end game is to rally Republicans around Mitt Romney while also persuading independents to join the GOP.
“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 commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
The $10 million plan, according to The New York Times, includes a strategy for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting. The group also suggested hiring as a spokesman — an “extremely literate conservative African-American” — who can argue that Obama duped the nation by portraying himself as what the proposal calls a “metro sexual, black Abe Lincoln.”
So why is this proposal dangerous? Because it has the potential to be effective. Sadly, many Americans often fall for the GOP's smoke-and-mirror politics and racial ads that Republicans have perfected over the years. And with polls showing Obama clinging to a three-point lead over Romney, Republicans are desperate to devise a strategy to oust Obama from the White House.
The 54-page plan says that GOP leaders have already contacted a guy named Larry Elder, a black conservative radio host in Los Angeles, about serving as their spokesman, and the plan also calls for a group of black business leaders to endorse the effort, according to the Times.
Certainly African-Americans won't vote against Obama because of people like Elder, but the plan does give an unusual glimpse into the Republican campaign strategy and underscores how far the GOP is willing to go to unseat Obama. Moreover, Republicans will attempt to encourage more black people to attack Obama so their plan to take down the president does not appear to be orchestrated by an all-white political operation.
Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina called the GOP plan “appalling.”
“The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself,” Messina said. “It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics. Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”
Ricketts, meanwhile, a Chicago-based investor, tried to distance himself from the proposal, saying it was never intended to be taken seriously.
But that’s nonsense because, according to the Times, the proposal suggests that Ricketts believes the 2008 campaign of Senator John McCain made a strategic mistake by not using images of Rev. Wright against Obama. “If the nation had seen that ad,” Ricketts said in the proposal, “they’d never have elected Barack Obama.”
We’ve seen these GOP scare tactics before. Think Willie Horton, the black Massachusetts convict who was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole until he was granted a
furlough from prison and subsequently committed assault and rape. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush ran highly effective ads linking Horton to Democrats being soft on crime and sinking Gov. Michael Dukakis’ candidacy. But the subtext of the ads was all about race: A dangerous black convict preying on women.
And today, Republicans are repeating that same bigoted strategy from nearly 25 years ago in an attempt to frighten white voters, but this time the boogeyman is Rev. Wright.
“Throughout the course of the campaign, [Romney] has repeatedly refused to stand up to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party," Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in a new statement. "If this is the ‘leadership’ he has shown on the campaign trail, what can the American people expect of him President of the United States?”