Washington Babylon — October 2, 2008, 12:05 pm

A Revival of Reverend Wright?

The Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN), a conservative independent group, is running new anti-Obama TV ads in battleground states that feature the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. “Obama chose as his pastor a man who has blamed America for the 9/11 attacks,” says the narrator, as an image of Wright (with the words “God Damn America”) flash on the screen.

The JCN is headed by Gary Marx, who worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign this year and who served as coalitions organizer for the Bush-Cheney campaign four years ago. As an “independent” group, the JCN doesn’t have to reveal its donors.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reverend Wright soon appear in more ads from the GOP and McCain’s surrogates, especially if Obama’s momentum in the polls isn’t soon reversed.

Over the summer I spoke with Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant in North Carolina, where Obama and McCain are running neck and neck. “It’s so deep in the Republican DNA in North Carolina,” he said when I asked him if he though that race would become an issue during the campaign. “Race is the deepest question in Southern politics, it’s inescapable and it’s worked repeatedly against black and white politicians.”

Pearce worked for former Governor Jim Hunt, who lost a senate race in 1984 to incumbent Jessie Helms, in good part due to the issue of a national holiday for Martin Luther King. Six years later, the moderate African-American mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt, lost to Helms in a campaign also marked by not-so-subtle racial tactics. (Charlie Black, one of McCain’s senior advisors, worked for Helms during both of those campaigns.)

“If the Republicans get worried, we’ll see more of it,” Pearce said about the potential use of race in the current campaign.

They’re worried now. Stay tuned.

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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