Palin Off Message, or On a New Message

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For months, senior advisers to the McCain campaign have made clear that they do not want to go near the controversy of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor. This was a decision that appeared to radiate from the top of the campaign. Campaign leaders had two reasons: First, they did not want to be associated with the sometimes racially-tinged demonization of Wright. Second, McCain had his own problems with controversial pastors who had offered their support.

Back in March, Fox News’ Sean Hannity tried to get John McCain take up the anti-Wright effort. McCain refused, saying, “I think that when people support you it doesn’t mean that you support everything they say. Obviously those words and those statements are statements that none of us would associate ourselves with, and I don’t believe that Sen. Obama would support any of those.” (McCain never set the same rules for other Obama’s other controversial acquaintances like the once-violent anti-war protester, William Ayers, or the convicted felon, Tony Rezko.)

Over the weekend, McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, announced she has a different view. Either she never got the memo, or the McCain campaign is changing its strategy. She tells Bill Kristol:

To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.

This issue is likely to come up Tuesday at the next presidential debate. It will be telling to see how McCain responds