Bain Capital vs. Reverend Wright: the silly season begins

The phrase “silly season” was coined by candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 primary season. It is the period where the electorate is not focusing , the opinion polls are fluctuating, speculation about choice of the vice presidential candidate of the challenging party is rampant.

It also is a period where political sideshows, and talk about what is fair game in the campaign take place. It is likely that none of this will have any bearing on the showdown in the autumn. The latest flap about what is fair game in a campaign signals the start of this year’s version of the “silly season”.

Some pro Romney donors seem willing to revive Reverend Wright’s past association with President Obama as evidence that Obama was not properly vetted in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Fox News host Sean Hannity and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin actively encourage such an initiative.

Not to be outdone , the Democrats had a controversy of their own involving a prominent Obama supporter, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. This past weekend Mayor Booker criticized the Obama campaign for attacking private equity funds, notably Bain Capital of Romney fame, as being “nauseating” to him and drew a parallel with the GOP rekindling the Wright controversy of 2008.

Obama operatives were not pleased. As a result liberal pundits have been merciless on Booker’s deviation from the party line. Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod even added that the pro-Obama mayor was just “plain wrong” in his criticism of the Bain attack ad .

The truth is this presidential campaign will be long, arduous, highly negative in tone and largely funded beyond normal means because of the Citizens United decision.

Democrats can claim that the Reverend Wright episode is off limits just as Romney’s Mormonism is supposed to be, but it will not prevent pro Romney supporters from using it if needed. Obama’s campaign has clearly decided that Romney’s Bain Capital record is fair game, and will not rescind the website entitled Romney Economics to dispute the former Massachusetts Governor’s claim that he was a job creator at Bain.

So we might as well get used to these personal attacks in this campaign. It is fair to say that we are far from “Change we can believe in!” and are closer to “corporations are people” along with the mad dash for campaign “over financing”.

It can be argued, as Democrats are doing, that Romney has made his business career and job creation the centerpiece of his campaign, and Obama has every right to make it an issue. But it can also be argued that the Obama-Wright issue is indicative of character. However, at the end of the day, these sideshows will not replace what will be the main issue in the campaign – the state of the economy.

In the Bain ad versus the revival of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy, it is possible that Obama may have the edge. Reverend Wright is past tense, and actually served Obama well in that he made his historic speech about race at a crucial moment in the 2008 primary season.

Romney’s Bain Capital record was initially raised by rival Newt Gingrich, and it has been flaunted by Romney as a showcase for economic savvy and competence. This is why the Obama campaign is exploiting it directly as opposed to letting a pro-Obama Super Pac do the work.

Ultimately, however, the voter will expect more from the campaigns. They will decide whether the candidates are over the top with these personal attacks, and which is more worthy of their trust. By November, Bain and Wright will be faded memories of the silly season.

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