The presidential election this November may be the most important in decades. As has been the case during the past two elections, focus has shifted in the final stretch of politicking from the important issues facing the nation to issues that will be long forgotten within the next five years.

The public decided that the most important person in the race is not Sen. McCain, Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama but Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago’s Trinity United Methodist Church.

Wright – whose speaking engagements in Temple Terrace this weekend were, according to the St. Petersburg Times, canceled because of the “media circus” surrounding the reverend – became the focus of those campaigning against Obama after footage was released of a post-Sept. 11 sermon in which he blamed America for the terrorist attacks.

What has been conveniently forgotten during the media storm is that Obama is not the only person who has had to do damage control because of comments made by a religious leader.

George W. Bush needed to separate himself from two major figures of the Christian right shortly after the events of Sept. 11.

Just days after the infamous attacks, Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and an avid Bush supporter, said on The 700 Club, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians … the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen,'” referring to the events of Sept. 11.

Bush’s denouncement of Falwell didn’t last long, as the New York Times reported that Bush invited the reverend to a memorial service in Washington, D.C., three days later.

McCain also has ties to Falwell. Originally calling him an agent of intolerance, McCain recently retracted those sentiments on Meet the Press. McCain made amends because the Christian right is a powerful group. However, he clearly stated that he does not need to agree with everything the group stands for.

The ease with which certain politicians are able to distance themselves from former indiscretions or relations should be extended to both sides of the political spectrum.

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with American voters to decide what is truly important. It should be a five-year war in Iraq that has cost the United States its reputation, the lives of 4,000 servicemen and $12 billion a month, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, as reported by CBS. It should be a struggling economy, or education, or health care. It should be all of these things – not whether a candidate can control the words and actions of another person.