This morning, the Romney campaign repudiated that plan being hatched by GOP operatives to run millions in ads tying Obama to Jeremiah Wright. But as I noted earlier, Romney himself used Wright to attack Obama during an interview with Sean Hannity in February.
Today, Romney was asked about his own previous quote. “I stand by what I said, whatever it was,” Romney replied:
According to a transcript circulated just now by the Obama campaign, this is the exchange:
QUESTION: “When you did an interview with Sean Hannity in February, you said that you believed that Obama is trying to make America a less Christian nation. It was responding to quote that he had just played for you on the radio. Do you stand by that? And do you believe that President Obama’s world view was shaped by Reverend Wright and do you see evidence of that in his policies?”
ROMNEY: “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.”
It’s fair to give Romney the benefit of the doubt here, and accept the likelihood that he doesn’t remember what he said. Presidential candidates say a lot of things. Plus, the question is a bit confusing; it didn’t explicitly say Romney had originally discussed Wright.
But even if you accept Romney’s word that he doesn’t remember what he said, this is still a mess. Folks on Twitter are pointing out that Romney appeared to stand by his use of Wright against Obama, only less than a day after repudiating the plan by GOP operatives to do the same. But what’s also interesting is that he stood by the claim that Obama is trying to make America a less Christian nation. Romney’s questioner above made that part of his original remarks, in which Romney did say that, very explicit.
As I said earlier, the attacks over Reverend Wright comprise only the tip of the problem. Republican leaders mostly know to avoid mentioning Wright, because it smacks too overtly of race baiting. But that doesn’t change all the marginally more “acceptable” ways that leading GOP officials and opinionmakers continue to feed a deeply paranoid view of Obama as someone who doesn’t really wish the country well and harbors secret hostility towards your patriotism and religious faith and values. The problem with Romney’s original quote was not just the invocation of Wright. It was the suggestion that Obama is deliberately trying to secularize the country. And today, Romney stood by that claim.