Roland Martin CNN headshot

Story highlights

GOP considered airing sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to attack President Obama

Roland Martin says economy seems to be fertile ground for attacks

Making Wright a campaign issue in 2008 wouldn't have kept Obama from winning, he says

Martin: Dredging Wright up in 2012 is silly, childish, shows desperation

CNN  — 

Shortly after President Barack Obama was inaugurated, he said that his re-election effort will be judged largely on the economy.

The overall unemployment rate is above 8%; fewer than 150,000 jobs were created the last month; student loan debt has hit $1 trillion; consumer personal credit card debt is on the rise; gas prices look like a yo-yo; the housing industry continues to be stuck in the mud; and Americans still are unsure what the future holds economically.

For Mitt Romney’s team, that should look like fertile ground to lay a serious line of attack against the incumbent president, especially in hard hit states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Nevada.

Yet for a band of GOP strategists, they somehow think trying to replay a bunch of old sermons by the president’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, will result in electoral gold.

Sounds more like fool’s gold.

When I opened up Thursday’s New York Times and saw a story at the top of the page about a proposal calling on Chicago billionaire Joe Ricketts to spend upwards of $10 million on a vicious attack on Obama with Wright at the center of it, I frankly laughed.

In fact, even President Reagan came to mind and one of the all-time classic debate lines he used on Walter Mondale: “There you go again.”

It’s as if the butt-whippin’ the GOP got in 2008 wasn’t enough. Now they want to try to go to the well a second time.


When Sen. John McCain declared tying Obama to Wright was off limits in 2008, GOP stalwarts seethed, angry that they couldn’t portray the then-senator as an acolyte of someone they considered to be a crazed, deranged pastor who hated America.

The revelations of Wright’s sermons caused a ruckus in the Democratic primary in 2008, dominating the news cycle for weeks. The only way Obama could quell the raging inferno was to deliver his speech on race in Philadelphia, which was hailed by some commentators as momentous.

Ever since then, some in the GOP believe that had McCain bludgeoned Obama with Wright, he could have stood a better shot at winning.

To all of you who love and adore the Republican Party, I’ll play your political priest and absolve you of all of your sins – said and unsaid – on this issue.

Making Wright a central campaign theme would have done nothing to keep Obama from beating McCain.

And while Republicans like Sarah Palin and countless mouthpieces on the right swear that Obama wasn’t properly vetted, just deal with the reality that your party lost in 2008.

Trying to dredge up Wright in 2012 simply won’t do it. It’s silly, childish, and frankly, shows a sign of desperation.

And this has nothing to do with riling Obama’s African-American base or ticking off independent voters. It just doesn’t make sense because what it does is remove the core message of Romney – the economy – and makes it about sermons from 20 years ago.

Obama’s weakness in 2012 isn’t a sermon by Wright called “Confusing God and Government” – that’s the one he was ripped for saying “goddamn America” – it’s the weak economy and him as its chief steward. When things are going well a president gets the credit, and when they’re not going so good, he gets the blame. And right now, he’s shouldering lots of blame for the economy.

Romney’s team was quick to disavow the plan, and even Ricketts had to come out and say that it was one of many proposals that he was presented, and rejected.

Now, Ricketts didn’t become a billionaire by making dumb decisions. But even allowing this plan to cross his desk is about as dumb as J.P Morgan continuing to employ the folks that lost the firm more than $2 billion in a colossal trading screw up.

Maybe we can just chalk up the Obama-Wright proposal as an attempt by these GOP strategists to pull a fast one on Ricketts and make a quick buck off of an unsuspecting billionaire.

Even that thought has me laughing.