Friday, October 10, 2008

Are McCain's Attacks Going Too Far?

The McCain Camp has ratcheted-up the personal attacks on Barack Obama's past and character since Governor Palin's sudden "discovery" of the Bill Ayers connection last week. Do these insinuations of terrorist sympathies and anti-American behavior on the part of Senator Obama represent a new low in desperation tactics, or are they just par for the recent course of American political discourse? More frighteningly, are they dangerous? Some thoughts on the matter...

CasualT: Things are starting to get out-of-control in terms of the “hate” the McCain campaign is beginning to encourage. I’ve seen clips of McCain and/or Palin rallies where the audience clearly shouts “Kill him!” “Terrorist!” and more. Last night on Larry King, of the three republicans on the panel, TWO of the three expressed strong embarrassment at the tactics being used. To me, they were clearly concerned about possible hate acts resulting from getting people worked up in this manner, and wanted to distance themselves now from what they see as a potential hideous act.

How will Republicans feel if this hate-mongering results in an assassination? I think they need to think about this, and what this would mean for the COUNTRY, whether or not you agree with Obama’s policies. I think we can ALL agree that what happened to Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were bad for this country in a fundamental and extremely significant sense, whatever our ideological background.

BoxCar John:
It's truly pathetic what is going on. I would not have dreamed that McCain, who I previously saw as an honorable man, could run this kind of campaign. Obviously I was wildly wrong about his character.

But the really dangerous stuff is coming from Rush, and probably other Right Wing radio programs. I listened to a bit of his program a couple of weeks ago, and it was wildly out of control, even by his standards. Although he chose his words carefully, he was basically calling Obama a traitor who would sell out the country to foreign interests (economically and militarily), and make this country a socialist state. I couldn't even follow his torturous logic in making these claims, to say the least. And callers were not shy about using the words traitor and treason. And this was before McCain started talking about these supposed shady associations of Obama's. Nutjobs listen to Rush across the nation, so it would not be surprising that the result could be violence.

These comments suggest that Palin's arguments about Obama's associations amount to "fighting words" that are intended to incite an imminent riot, or worse - a political assassination. I suggest that is simply not what's going on. The only supportive example I've heard is the wacko at one of the rallies who said "kill him." I concur it doesn't matter whether the guy was referring to Obama or Bill Ayers - the comment was way way way out of bounds of civilized debate. Having said that, I don't see how McCain or Palin is going to control the thoughts and words of every nut-job in the crowd.

What McCain can control is the message. I may not have read everything you have, but my understanding of the offending comments is they deal with Palin's statements that Obama has close ties with Bill Ayers - an unrepentant domestic terrorist. This is not a lie. Bill Ayer's past deeds are well-documented. Further, Barack's association with Ayers is more than just a guy in his neighborhood. The importance of the comments go to two relevant issues: 1) Does having close ties to a number of questionable characters speak to the character of Barack Obama?, and 2) has Obama been truthful to us about those relationships? So, it goes to his character and his honesty. Those are qualities that are important to voters. And, they should be.

Here is a quote from a recent Palin speech:
Barack Obama remembered Ayers as just a guy in my neighborhood. Then the other day though his campaign claimed that for the first time that Barack wasn’t aware of Ayers’ radical background. Yet just two days later they’re that he knew about the background after that first meeting and then last night again, Barack Obama on ABC he left out some key details of his relationship and work with Ayers yet again so we got to try to keep this all straight, that he didn’t know that he launched his political career in the living room of an unrepentant domestic terrorist until he did know about it. (Palin; October 8)
I don't see why this and similar statements should be considered off limits. How does any normal person listen to the above and be motivated to violence? If Palin or McCain actually encourage people to do violence then they should not only be called on it - they should be taken off the ticket. But, these statements are not calling anyone to violence - they are calling people to look more closely at the candidate. Are there crackpots in this country who want to assassinate Obama? Of course there are. That would put him in the company of every other president and major party nominee - heck, even George Wallace got shot while running for president - and he WAS a racist. That's why we have secret service to protect our leaders. In short, my view is that too much is being made of what Palin and McCain are saying and any concern that their speech is inciting violence. McCain has gone negative. I don't care for it. But, that's what presidential politics amount to in the last days of a tight campaign.

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