Obama camp & Romney trade charges on racial ad campaign
WASHINGTON A PROPOSED $10 million conservative ad campaign seeking to revive President Barack Obama’s link to his controversial former pastor Jeremiah Wright ignited a political firestorm on Thursday, with Obama’s camp and Republican Mitt Romney trading charges of character assassination.
A conservative group backing Romney looked at but then rejected a plan to air television ads reminding voters of Wright, the Chicago pastor whose racially charged sermons prompted Obama to give a major speech on race during the 2008 presidential campaign.
The group is a “Super PAC” independent political organisation bankrolled by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team and an increasingly active force in US conservative politics.
After the New York Times revealed the ad plan in its on Thursday editions, the Super PAC released a statement saying the proposed ads reflected an approach to politics that Ricketts rejected.
But the newspaper’s report launched a heated exchange between the Obama and Romney camps that offered a glimpse of how personal the White House race has become.
Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge Obama in the November 6 election, repudiated the proposed ad buy and called it the “wrong course” before launching his own assault on Obama’s campaign for its recent video criticising Romney’s work heading the private equity firm Bain Capital.
“I’ve been disappointed in the president’s campaign to date, which has focused on character assassination. I just think that we are wiser to talk about the issues of the day,” Romney told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida.
Obama’s campaign and other Romney critics have accused Bain of plundering companies and ruthlessly cutting jobs to maximize profits.
Romney said his critics’ focus on his work with Bain was designed “not to describe success and failure but somehow suggest that I’m not a good person, not a good guy, and I think the American people will know better than that.” Obama’s camp said Romney’s reaction showed his timidity in dealing with the most conservative wing of his party. It also said the ad proposal showed how far to the right the party had moved since Republican presidential candidate John McCain rejected similar tactics involving Wright in 2008.
“Today, Mitt Romney had the opportunity to distance himself from his previous attempts to inject the divisive politics of character assassination into the presidential race. It was a moment that required moral leadership, and once again he didn’t rise to the occasion,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
“Throughout the course of the campaign, he has repeatedly refused to stand up to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party,” LaBolt said.
The Obama campaign also quickly sent out a fundraising appeal citing the proposal and asking supporters to help fight back. “This is going to be worse than we imagined,” campaign manager Jim Messina said in the appeal.