The only people possibly damaged by Jesse Jackson's "I want to cut his nuts off" remark about Barack Obama are John McCain and the Reverend Jackson himself.
This is not like the racial-theory sermons of Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger. Those clergymen were tagged as mentors and allies of Obama's at the time they were seen on tape giving extended diatribes about the sins of powerful white people. When you're a black candidate trying to convince skeptical heartland types that you really do love America, that sort of thing is a blow.
But when Jesse Jackson rips you for not being enough like Jesse Jackson, that's a blessing from the heavens.
Especially since the reverend's original, excellent question--why is Obama talking about faith-based initiatives instead of investment in African-American communities?--was lost when he added a comment that's arguably insensitive to the history of brutality against black men and at the very least had to sound crude to the ears of older church folk who make up his core following.
More striking, though, was the immediate denunciation of the reverend by his son and namesake, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.: "I'm deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson's reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama. His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee--and I believe the next president of the United States--contradict his inspiring and courageous career."
Junior no doubt wanted to do what he could to lay the controversy to rest. But it wasn't just Obama he was looking out for; there's no politician with more to lose when the reverend opens his trap than Junior himself.
Back in 2006, when the congressman was playing Love Me, Love Me Not with his own nascent mayoral campaign, one of his big worries was that voters would recoil from the name Jesse Jackson. He ultimately decided not to run because polls showed he couldn't win, and his name was a big reason why.
Junior does a dead-on impression of the reverend, but he isn't about to start blasting him in public . . . unless he can do it in the name of some bigger cause.
Though the congressman has been busy campaigning around the country for Obama, everything I've heard suggests he still has designs on running this city someday, either as its king or its kingmaker. That may seem improbable, but unless he can convince people he's way different from his dad, it's downright impossible.