When word leaked that a conservative super PAC run by Joe Ricketts had considered–but had decided against–an advertising campaign highlighting Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with the incendiary pastor Jeremiah Wright, the mainstream media, and the New York Times in particular, went ballistic. The Times editorial page called it “Racial Politics, 2012-Style,” and said it represented racism among conservatives more broadly.
Today, however, when Obama’s own Priorities USA super PAC is running an outrageous advertisement–to the tune of $20 million across at least five swing states–accusing Mitt Romney, effectively, of killing the wife of a worker laid off from a steel company Romney tried to save, the Times is silent and the media is largely letting Obama off the hook.
While it is true that Obama cannot coordinate his campaign activities with those of his super PAC, that does not prevent him from commenting publicly on what it says and does. (The Obama campaign has, in fact, used the same individual in advertising of its own–who is wearing the same shirt, oddly, in both commercials–and provably knows the details of his employment and insurance history, despite disavowals to the contrary.)
The Priorities USA ad is more condemnable than anything reportedly contemplated by the Ricketts super PAC–firstly because while Obama has a long and deep association with Wright, Romney had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of the worker’s wife, which happened seven years after he left active management of Bain Capital. She even had health insurance after her husband was laid off. The whole ad is a lie, start to finish.
Second, the Ricketts ad never ran, while the Priorities USA ad is at the center of a huge ad buy. (There was no evidence the supposed Ricketts ad was even commissioned, much less made). The Priorities USA ad ought to tarnish everyone associated with it, particularly David Brock of Media Matters for America, who is now heavily involved with the super PAC. Even if there is no coordination with Obama, his own campaign has used similar smear tactics, including accusing Romney (again, falsely) of being a “felon.”
The Priorities USA ad is therefore emblematic of broader trends within Barack Obama’s re-election effort–in a way that the never-produced Ricketts ad is not emblematic of Mitt Romney’s campaign. In fact, if there was anything symbolic about the Ricketts affair, it was that Romney condemned a conservative effort to tell the truth about a controversial relationship that Obama himself called “a legitimate political issue” when it emerged in 2008. Romney has rejected such attacks in favor of focusing on the big issues in 2012.
But the New York Times editorial page has not condemned the Priorities USA ad yet–even though its own fact checker has pointed out that it misleadingly “compresses time in way that links the closure of the GST plant with Mrs. Soptic’s fatal illness.” That is because to the Times editors, it is not racist for a Democrat to belong to a hate church, but racist to point it out; and because super PACs are only bad when they help the GOP.
When the Ricketts story came out, the Times warned that “the dozens of super PACs can be counted on to find other ways to pollute the campaign” with false innuendo. Now that Obama’s super PAC has done exactly that, spreading lies that Obama refuses to disavow, the Times has evidently misplaced its conscience. Its silence is a damning testimony to the persistent double standards of the Gray Lady’s editorial leadership.