From Jonathan Martin at Politico:
Pointing to Barack Obama's remark today on "Fox News Sunday" that his former pastor was "a legitimate political issue," John McCain this afternoon brought up two new controversial statements by Jeremiah Wright that have recently surfaced.
"I saw yesterday some additional comments that have been revealed by Pastor Wright, one of them comparing the United States Marine Corps with Roman legionnaires who were responsible for the death of our Savior," said McCain, responding to a question only about the North Carolina GOP ad, at a news conference in Coral Gables, Fla, He also cited comments Wright made that seemed to compare the United States and Al Qaeda.
But even while raising the Wright comments unprompted, McCain continued to say that he didn't think Obama held similar views. When it was noted that he had previously said Wright was not fair game, McCain again alluded to Obama's statement this morning. "But Senator Obama himself says it's a legitimate political issue, so I would imagine that many other people will share that view, and it will be in the arena," McCain said...
On Wright, McCain appears to be torn. He wants to avoid even the hint of exploiting the race issue, but he and his advisers (not to mention the North Carolina GOP) plainly recognize the political opportunity Obama's former pastor provides. Further, McCain's camp is not deaf when it comes to the anger expressed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives who have grumbled about their nominee's criticism of the North Carolina GOP. To many on the right, Wright is a gift from above, and for McCain to excoriate those who use it reminds them why they've always been wary of their new standard-earer.
Which may explain why, in addition to the cover of Obama's political permission slip, McCain eased off his criticism today and even brought up other Wright comments. "I can understand why the American people are upset about this," he said of Wright. "I can understand that Americans viewing these kinds of comments are angry and upset, just like they viewed Senator Obama's statements about why people turn to their faith and their values. He believes that it's out of economic concerns, when we all know that it's out of fundamental belief, fundamental faith in this country and its values and its principles. Again, Senator Obama is out of touch. I can't control and will not in the future control. I will voice my opinion and I will continue to think and to say that I think that ad should not be run. But I won't continue to try to be the referee here."