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The NC GOP has an ad attacking Barack Obama, playing a videotape of Reverend Jeremiah Wright saying, “Goddamn America.”

John McCain says he wants the ad pulled. Now. Because, ‘It’s degrading.’

And, no doubt, a lot of people will agree. Because the ad touches racial chords. So, a lot of people will want this debate to go away.

But it won’t. One of the stories of this election is Barack Obama is an African-American candidate for President. How can race not be part of his campaign? Even in the Democratic Primaries, we’ve seen how Obama’s race is one of the issues impacting how people vote.

And, just as to the point, even as the ads of Wright’s videos touch on a racial chord, the GOP is also raising a legitimate question that is on many people’s minds: Because the ad is also about Jeremiah Wright’s extremism. The videos are not just pictures of an unusual preacher. They’re shocking. They’re an extraordinary mixture of what Sociology professors would call ‘cultural diversity’ and radicalism.

John McCain may prefer to duck the debate and bow out by criticizing the ad.

But Obama can’t. Politically, he has to take this bull by the horns. A lot of people are asking themselves, What exactly does all this mean? And he has to tell them.

Right now, all people know about Jeremiah Wright is what they’ve seen in the videos. And, putting it bluntly, he looks viciously anti-American. Obama has to make the case that is not true. He has to explain, That’s not the whole story. For instance, in 1961 Wright gave up a student deferment, left college, and joined the Marine Corps. He served as a corpsman. His church lists dozens of ministries, including care for abused spouses, drug addicts, HIV victims, and prisoners. It gives dozens of scholarships. But, the same man also said, Goddamn America. There’s a story here. Obama has to make his case Wright, in spite of, or in addition to his statements, is a patriot and a good man. If he can do that he wins the debate, race and all.

But if he dodges and Wright remains the iconic figure in the videos, then it looks like Obama has no answer. And the ads’ charge – that Obama embraces an unpatriotic extremist – stands. And Obama pays the political price.

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