Mary Katharine Ham

It was a pickle only John McCain could have gotten himself into.

What should have been a mostly uneventful weekend for McCain, two weeks before the increasingly ugly Democratic campaign culminates in a Carolina showdown, turned into a hurricane of bad press when the presumptive Republican nominee asked the state Republican Party not to run an anti-Obama ad targeted at North Carolina’s two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, both of whom endorsed Obama.

The ad, now quite familiar to anyone with a TV or radio suggested that Obama’s connection to Wright made him “too extreme” for North Carolina, and made Richard Moore and Bev Perdue too extreme by extension.

It was a mostly unremarkable ad, employing no more radical a line of attack than the Republican National Committee, now run by McCain’s own people, had been actively and openly hoping would resonate with voters into the general election. The N.C. GOP used the attack precisely because it is a legitimate issue that resonates with voters, even with regard to a candidate once removed from Wright. It was a validation of the GOP’s strategy, not a violation of it.

Then, in soared John McCain, determined to have his Sister Souljah moment at the expense of the wrong people. No one reminded him that effective Sister Souljah moments must repudiate extremists like Wright, not mainstream officials of your own party running rather benign ads.

In the most comically overblown denouncement of a campaign flush with repudiations, McCain called the N.C. GOP “out of touch with reality and the Party,” “dead wrong,” and suggested the ad introduced issues of “race” that were inappropriate, which it did not.

For his crusade, he earned himself no less than two and a half hours of bashing on Friday’s “Rush Limbaugh Show,” where the conservative host mocked the senator for teaching us all that being of independent mind is something to be prized above all else, except for when being a Maverick means ignoring the Maverick himself. “We’re all Independents now, Senator,” Limbaugh hooted during each call from an angry North Carolina Republican.  

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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