Incessant Wright speculation

INCESSANT WRIGHT SPECULATION…. For a campaign that has allegedly forsworn playing the Jeremiah Wright card, McCain aides seem to talk an awful lot about playing the Jeremiah Wright card.

John McCain is at odds with many of his top advisers over launching a renewed attack on Barack Obama’s ties to his long-time pastor and mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, according to campaign sources.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and several top campaign officials see a sharp attack on Wright as the best — and perhaps last — chance to rattle Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill. ) and force voters to rethink their support of him. But McCain continues to overrule them, fearing a Wright attack would smack of desperation and racism, the officials said. […]

Conservatives who want McCain to focus on Wright contend that the omission is another sign of a campaign that is unwilling to play tough enough with the Obama juggernaut.

There are a few angles to this. First, the campaign is using an annoying tactic — by constantly dishing to reporters about internal division on Wright in the campaign, news outlets, on a nearly daily basis, end up publishing stories about Wright and the campaign. The Republicans’ defense is, in effect, “We’re not talking about Wright; we’re talking about talking about Wright.”

Second, my sense is some of the conservatives complaining about the lack of Wright talk might be overestimating its significance. Everyone in America has already heard a great deal about the former pastor of Obama’s former church. If McCain reversed course now, it would almost certainly backfire.

And third, the notion that McCain has been “unwilling to play tough enough with the Obama juggernaut” is absurd. McCain and Palin have spent months insisting that Obama is a dangerous pervert who “pals around” with terrorists, hates the troops, and is counting on “voter fraud” to “steal” the election. To suggest McCain has treated Obama with kid gloves just because he hasn’t personally raised the Wright issue is to overlook months of vicious lies and smears.

And yet, I guarantee that if McCain comes up short on Election Day, the far-right chorus will shout in unison about McCain not having the guts to play rough.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.