Commentary: A Stupid Plan Gone Bad

The ill-conceived and juvenile episode displays a cynicism about African-Americans that is insulting.

Posted: 05/18/2012 01:15 PM EDT
Michael Steele

Cue the high-priced strategist Fred Davis with PowerPoint in hand ready to convince the Super Pac formed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts that this was it.

The subject is President Obama: “The metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln [who] has emerged as a hyper-partisan, hyper-liberal, elitist politician with more than a bit of the trimmer in him.”

The plan as laid out in the New York Times is direct and deliberately controversial: “To do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama's opinions of America and the world were formed. And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president's formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.” Furthermore, “it’s a phenomenally powerful argument that’s never been properly exploited. It dramatically extends the reach of $10 million, and should be a key, visible ingredient leading to the defeat of Barack Obama.”

This time the relationship between Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright would be “properly exploited and explained;” seared into the public debate for all to see and understand. Sure there would be some blowback from “the usual suspects and some of their weak-kneed Republican co-conspirators” but maybe they could give themselves some cover if they had as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American.” Yeah, that’ll work.

Mitt Romney made it clear he wanted no part of the proposed $10 million campaign ad campaign. “I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign,” said Romney, while even Mr. Ricketts found himself rejecting the proposal he had just paid a lot of money for. Brian Baker, president of Ricketts' Ending Spending Action Fund, said the plan "reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects." To that point, Ricketts, who has also financially supported Democrats, has weighed in either personally or through his Super PAC on a number of campaigns over recent years in support of small government and the free-enterprise system.

I don’t know if either Romney or Ricketts were one of those “weak-kneed Republican co-conspirators” the consultants had in mind but both were at least smart enough to know this whole “plan” was just plain stupid.

To be clear: I’m no fan of Wright’s Black liberation theology/politics which appears to border on a deep Anti-Americanism. I believed during the 2008 campaign that Obama’s association with the good reverend and his views was fair game. Their 20-year friendship could have given the public some insight into understanding and contextualizing the virtually unknown Obama’s philosophical and political orientation and views on the weighty issues of the day. But that was then. We now know Obama from his words and policies. To re-litigate the musings of Wright or what Obama heard while sitting in his pew to me is an unnecessary distraction when what the president has done while sitting in the Oval Office offers us so much more on which to challenge him.

From nationalizing our health-care system to amassing $5 trillion in new debt, Obama is politically exposed, but the plan produced by Fred Davis and his team exposes how Romney and the GOP can lose this fall’s elections. On a day the Romney campaign should have been talking about catching up to the Obama campaign in fundraising (having raised $40 million to the president’s $43 million last month) the national discussion is about a proposed $10 million campaign ad by a Super PAC.

But more important, this ill-conceived and juvenile episode displays a cynicism about the American people and in particular African-Americans that is quite frankly, insulting. It’s bad enough to approach the president as a “metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln” — I don’t even know where the hell to begin with that one, but then to think that an “extremely articulate conservative African-American” would somehow be the coup de grâce in making the case against both Wright and Obama — well, that tells me just how out of touch this team is with reality. Clearly there were no Blacks in the room advising on this one.

Well, let’s hope not.

Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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