Crossing The Line

Originally published  Sunday, October 12, 2008

I don’t know where to begin. The past week of presidential politics has been horrifying, to say the least. I’m a pretty cynical person when it comes to politics, but even I have been shocked at the depths to which the McCain campaign has sunk. McCain and Palin are inciting hatred and threats of violence with a reckless campaign aimed at smearing Barack Obama.

Their attacks against Obama go beyond the normal election tactics of distorting the opponent’s record and mischaracterizing his positions. McCain and Palin have crossed the line into character assassination and hate-mongering.

Palin says that Barack Obama doesn’t see America in the same way as the rest of us, implying that he is somehow anti-American. And she says that he pals around with terrorists. McCain is running an ad on television that accuses Obama of associating with terrorists—an ad that was approved by John McCain himself.

Never mind that the so-called terrorist is Bill Ayers, former member of the Weathermen who is now a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a respected educator who served along with Obama and numerous other people on the board of an educational charity supported by the Annenberg Foundation. Never mind that Barack Obama was just a child when Bill Ayers was bombing buildings with the Weathermen.

Pardon me if I’m flabbergasted that John McCain seems surprised to have discovered that his new campaign tactic has induced people who attend his rallies to call Obama a terrorist and spew racist vitriol.

This is really a sad day in American history, and John McCain should be ashamed of himself. He wants to be president so badly that he was willing to go down the low road of Rovean smear campaigning. He is now reaping what he sowed and it isn’t pretty. Hate-mongering never is.

McCain is not a racist, and I think he is genuinely surprised that his supporters seem to actually believe all the garbage that is bandied about in the right-wing media, in McCain’s and Palin’s stump speeches, and in McCain’s television ads. But he shouldn’t be. I mean, really, what did he expect? Apparently it never occurred to McCain that his supporters would take his characterization of his opponent as un-American, unpatriotic, and untrustworthy literally.

He seems to be genuinely surprised that people at his and Palin’s rallies shout “terrorist,” “traitor,” “treason,” “bomb Obama,” and “kill him” when Obama’s name is mentioned.

He seems a bit dismayed by the reaction of his supporters, enough so that he felt obligated to defend Obama as a decent man, a family man, not someone to be afraid of. He was booed!

When I was a senior in high school, there was a presidential election. One of the candidates was the infamous racist George Wallace. My social studies class went on a field trip to a George Wallace rally in Wheeling, WV, just a few miles away from our school. In attendance were some hecklers who baited Wallace and were bested by him. When the rally was over, we saw the hecklers get on the Wallace campaign bus. They were just part of the act.

Sadly, the man who expressed fear for his family if Obama becomes president, the woman who said Obama is an Arab, the people who shout “traitor,” “treason,” “kill him,” and “bomb Obama” aren’t just part of the act. They are genuine supporters of John McCain and they are a reflection of the current themes of McCain’s campaign—hatred and racism. John McCain has disgraced both himself and our nation.



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