How Toxic Was "The Ricketts Plan" on Jeremiah Wright? This Toxic.

| Thu May 17, 2012 1:10 PM EDT

On Thursday morning, the New York Times reported that a Republican super-PAC funded by wealthy conservative Joe Ricketts was considering a plan to turn Jeremiah Wright into Obama's running mate in the 2012 election. By early afternoon, the Ending Spending Action Fund was already repudiating "The Ricketts Plan" to defeat Obama. That was fast.

Here's the super-PAC's statement:

Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called “Ricketts Plan” to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning. Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take. Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.

In America today, really overt bigotry is toxic. It just is. If you want to exploit bigotry effectively, you have to do so with some kind of plausible deniability, and in 2012 just getting a "extremely literate conservative African-American" to narrate your racist ad just won't cut it. It's not clear, though, that Ricketts understood this before the Romney campaign started trying to distance itself from the "The Ricketts Plan" on Thursday. The third page of "The Ricketts Plan," presumably referring to the airing of a hypothetical Wright ad during the 2008 election, states "If the nation had seen that ad, they'd never have elected Barack Obama." If the quote is accurate, and Ricketts thought a Wright ad would have changed the outcome of the 2008 election, it's hard to believe he never seriously considered running one this time around.

UPDATE: Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy emails my colleague Nick Baumann with a response to Ricketts' statement:

We have done a post on his statement, and will report further on this.... That said, they're not actually denying anything in our piece. We reported that it was a proposal awaiting final approval. And yes, we certainly stand by our reporting.

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin Drum is on vacation.