Saturday, October 11, 2008
"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history," Lewis wrote in a statement first posted on Politico's website. "Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse." – John Lewis
The personal attacks of Governor Palin, calling Obama an associate of terrorists and stating he is "not like us" is what provoked the cries of "Kill him" and other venomous crowd responses at so many Republican ticket campaign rallies. John Lewis was right. McCain has a history of insensitivity to issues of racial justice. He even had the poor judgment and callousness to vote against the establishment of the Martin Luther King Holiday in his early years of the Senate, legislation which was begrudgingly signed by Ronald Reagan.
Last year McCain campaigned in Tennessee alongside Republican candidate Bob Corker whose campaign was running the most overtly racist campaign advertisement in recent memory against the Democrat candidate Harold Ford, an African American. It featured an apparently nude white woman speaking directly into the camera the words “call me Harold, Call me". McCain did not say one word about these nasty ads which were running as he campaigned alongside Mr.Corker. At the times these advertisements were being criticized by the media and some members of the Republican Party. McCain was silent.
John McCain's political hero is Ronald Reagan, who launched his first presidential campaign in the small town of Philadelphia Mississippi in 1980, the location of the murder of three civil rights workers. In that speech Reagan invoked the phrase "states right" the calling card phrase of segregationists. This speech was an obvious appeal to southern racists and was following the script of Richard Nixon’s infamous “southern strategy” of 1968 which led him to victory over Hubert Humphrey.
I am not saying that McCain is a racist. In his 2000 campaign however McCain dropped his earlier opposition to continued presence of the confederate battle emblem which was in the South Carolina flag and was and is a symbol of anti-black sentiment. McCain later apologized for this change of position.
John Lewis is speaking out of a historical context which is being confirmed by McCain's campaign in this election cycle. John McCain, like George Wallace will appeal to racism and racial fears if he feels it will win an election. He has done it in the past, he has supported others who have engaged in this type of behavior and he is doing it now.
Obama has distanced himself from Lewis's comparison of McCain to the venal George Wallace, fair enough. John McCain has not called for segregation but the difference between McCain and Wallace has historically been a difference of degree more than a difference in kind. We must ask is this the behavior of an American patriot? Is this acceptable behavior for an American Presidential candidate in the 21st Century? I think not.
John H. Armwood
What impact will the finding that Sarah Palin "abused her authority" have on the campaign?
This legislative finding of fact further illustrates what even long term conservative columnists have begun to say publicly, which is that the McCain's campaign has been run without the basic managerial judgment and skill required of any competent executive, let alone the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world.
The Sarah Palin Vice Presidential pick was a transparent, poorly thought out, impulsive attempt by John McCain to both attract disaffected Hilliary Clinton supporters and to solidify his conservative Republican base. What good manager or executive would pick their chief deputy or their Vice President without a thorough vetting process? Press reports indicate that John McCain only met Sarah Palin once prior to asking her to join his ticket at the Republican Convention.
What chief executive would hire a chief deputy who had an ethics violation investigation hanging over their head? It was not as if there were no other qualified candidates. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty were both widely discussed prior to the Palin pick.
What chief executive would pick as their chief deputy someone who changed undergraduate academic institutions four times in four years, two of them being community colleges? There is nothing wrong with attending a community college but four different academic institutions in four years. That alone should have raised a red flag concerning his choices intellectual ability.
Sarah Palin was governor for less than two years of a state with a population of 683,483 as of 2007. That is slightly larger than the population of the city of Baltimore Maryland. Mayor's of cities have to deal with more problems intractable than the governor of an oil rich state with as a result a large budget surplus
The finding of the legislative investigator, that Sarah Palin abused her office by allowing her husband to use government facilities to contact sixteen different state officials in an attempt to settle a family dispute by using her office to fire her former brother in law is a serious breach of the public trust and a violation of Alaska law. The McCain campaign has already attacked the report as a partisan politically based attack ignoring the fact that the release of the report was approved unanimously by a legislative committee comprised of ten Republicans and four Democrats.
The problem however is not really a Sarah Palin problem but more importantly a problem which illustrates a pattern of poor judgment by John McCain.
Mr. McCain has made light of the potential bombing of Iran by singing "bomb, bomb, Iran on videotape. Is this the demeanor of a potential American president? Does this type of behavior engender confidence in American leadership around the world, especially in light of the disastrous decision of the last American administration to rush into an ill conceived war in Iraq.
This past week McCain's campaign has disparately attached Obama falsely claiming that he knowingly chose to associate with a terrorist. McCain's Vice Presidential candidate has stoked the fires of McCain's supporters at campaign rallies to the point where they have called Obama a Muslim when he is not, a terrorist which he is not and repeatedly questioned his patriotism. McCain supporters have even screamed kill Obama at Palin rallies. Inciting mobs to hatred with thinly veiled appeals to race under the linguistic white sheet of Palin's "He is not one of us" and McCain's "Who is Barak Obama" is decidedly anti-American, at least the multi-ethnic modern America of the 21st Century. We all I hope and prey that the period of lynch mobs and racial bating are a thing of the past.
At the end of the week McCain was forced to rebuke two of his supporters at a rally Friday evening for calling him a terrorist and an Arab. This begrudging rebuke only occurred after a week of criticism in the mass media as well as criticism from some of his conservative Republican supporters who are quite frankly embarrassed by McCain's adoption of the Lee Atewater and Karl Rove school of smear campaign tactics. This wave of criticism hopefully will force McCain to face the issue he is so disparately avoiding, the free fall of the American economy. His erratic response to the economy over the past three weeks is clearly the reason for his recent precipitous drop in the polls as is demonstrated by the latest Gallup Daily Tracking Poll and Newsweek Poll which show Obama with ten and eleven point leads respectively. He has jumped from one position to another sometimes opposing position even claiming credit for a bailout deal which a majority of his on party voted against and defeated later on the same day. On the other hand Barak Obama has demonstrated a consistent, presidential demeanor allaying most fears that he is to experienced to run the county. At both debates Obama responded to McCain's rude refusal even to look at him during the first debate and his "that one" remark with his characteristic cool unflappable demeanorwhich has earned him the nickname in his campaign and among some members of the press as "no drama Obama".
It is heartening to see that the American public, in large part, is rejecting McCain and Palin's politics of fear and personal attack. This election cycle if nothing else, is demonstrating that the wheels of progress turn slowly, but they do turn. This may be the silver lining in this period of worldwide economic turmoil and insecurity.
John H. Armwood