Newsweek: Howard Fineman: Campaign Avoided Racial Warfare

Newsweek: Howard Fineman

Campaign Avoided Racial Warfare

You knew it was going to happen. I’m only surprised it took so long. 

In Pennsylvania, Sen. John McCain’s must-win blue state, local Republicans now are up with a TV ad linking Sen. Barack Obama to his former pastor, the corrosively race-based Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The ad plays Wright’s familiar “no, no, no” and “KKK” clips from incendiary sermons, and asks how Obama could ever have countenanced the guy. In fact, Obama no longer does. The split was final. 

The McCain campaign distanced itself from the ad, insisting that they didn’t approve of–but could not prevent–the spot being aired.

But here is the good news, and I don’t mean for either campaign but for the entire country: so far as I know, the ad was the first of its kind to be sponsored by a state party or other above-ground entity.

Obama’s longtime relationship with Wright–and especially the Illinois senator’s shaded and reluctant characterizations of it–may be valid topics of debate. But McCain and the GOP largely have stayed away from the subject. 

And that is a good thing. There are plenty of other topics to discuss.

I am willing–we all should be willing–to give McCain the benefit of the doubt on his motives. True, he voted against the Martin Luther King holiday a quarter century ago, and, in this year’s South Carolina primary, he allied himself with some of the same operatives who savaged him on racial grounds (over his adoptive daughter from Bangladesh) when he ran against George W. Bush in 2000.

But I know McCain and know that he does not have a racist molecule in his body, and that he is no fan, at heart, of the kind of politics that pokes at racial or religious sore spots in someone else’s life.

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