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Saturday, October 11, 2008

John Lewis on McCain's tactics and my response

John Lewis on the McCain Campaign
"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


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