Home > Election 2008, McCain Hall of Shame > This Is Beginning to Get Scary

This Is Beginning to Get Scary

October 10th, 2008

At the beginning of this campaign, John McCain solemnly and repeatedly vowed to run a “respectful” and “honorable” campaign, taking the high road and refusing to go negative on his opponent, instead leading with the issues.

John McCain pledged a “respectful campaign” Tuesday against either Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, but said he is less confident about the influence of outside political groups.

I think we can safely call that promise broken. It’s gone way beyond being able to blame it on 527’s.

The thing is, McCain broke that promise long ago, maybe even before he started making up stuff like saying that Obama refused to visit wounded troops if no cameras were allowed, or that Obama would intentionally lose the Iraq War just to win an election.

Now, Obama is ahead in just about all of the polls. Fivethirtyeight.com has Obama so far ahead it’s not even funny–McCain now has less than a 10% chance of winning. A lot can happen in a month, but you’d be asking for a hell of a lot for McCain to turn things around.


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Of course, that’s not the scary part. Nor is the idea that the polls may not be taking into account Obama’s full power in the upcoming election–that high turnouts by minority voters and vast numbers of new Democrats registering are not being fully factored into the numbers we’re seeing. More and more, it’s beginning to look like Obama is going to win this one.

Nor is the scary part the economy, though that’s plenty scary; Obama is not a miracle worker, and what he will be able to do may be limited, especially if when Republicans go into full-out obstructionist mode, blocking every scrap of legislation in sight and then calling Democrats “do-nothing” losers, the exact technique they have used to good effect (for them, not the country) for the past two years. It’s not quite so scary that Obama won’t be able to do much there because (a) presidents usually can’t do much good, but (b) they can do a lot of harm and McCain looks to do that harm and more.

No. None of that is so scary. So, what is they scary part?

The scary part is that the McCain campaign is starting to look less and less like a campaign and more and more like a lynch mob.

Think I exaggerate? Think again. The McCain campaign has gone almost 100% negative, doing nothing but attack, attack, and attack some more, and the attacks are not subtle; they are playing the “terrorist” angle to the hilt, running ads linking Obama to Ayers as if Ayers bombed D.C. and Obama was right there with him burning a flag. They echo this on the campaign trail. Mentions of Obama’s middle name have re-emerged, and crowds are shouting “Obama, Osama!”

This is made more significant not just by the disrespect, but the utter, complete lack of any respect whatsoever; referring to Obama as “that one,” making thinly veiled racial references, and painting Obama as “dangerous.” McCain and his people know who they are talking to. They know they have the fundie base energized, that they are more and more appealing to the extremist crowd. And they are playing it up.

The question is, how far will they play it up? The answer is, apparently, almost all the way. Maybe not to 11, but damned close. Now it is not uncommon for McCain to ask his crowds, “What kind of man is Obama?” and the audience members shout back, “terrorist!!” Recently, Sarah Palin was stoking the terrorism fire when an audience member shouted out, “Kill him!” In another Palin crowd, someone yelled, “Off with his head!”

In no instance did McCain or Palin rebuke such a response; they just kept on going.

These are not just wackos in the crowd that can be ignored; after all, how often have you ever heard of people in controlled political events shouting death threats against the opposing candidate? And if they did, would you not expect the campaign to go out of its way to disavow and condemn such things?

That’s the scary thing: that McCain and Palin are unabashedly whipping their supporters into angry mobs lacking only pitchforks and torches, though maybe not ropes to hang from trees. They know what they are doing and yet they keep on pressing forward with the attack.

This has gotten so bad that even people inside the McCain campaign are starting to publicly question the wisdom of stirring up such hostility.

In response, a McCain advisor simply said that they were “happy” with how the campaign is going.

I certainly hope that Obama’s secret service detail is beefed up and hypersensitive to all threats, because John McCain seems to be just one short step away from losing it and shouting to his supporters, “Go lynch him!”

Update: Saner opinions in the McCain campaign seem to have prevailed, as McCain has just suddenly hit the brakes on the “Obama is a terrorist” car. At a rally in Minnesota where the audience booed Obama, McCain called for “respect,” apparently thinking this would do the trick and erase the last several months of McCain issuing severe disrespect for Obama, repeatedly calling him in all but name a terrorist and a traitor.

But as is often true after one lathers up an angry mob, the mob has a momentum of its own and is not easy to slow down. Even after McCain’s appeals for respect, audience members “pushed back,” asking McCain to tell the “truth” about Obama (“you know, tell us all about his Muslim terrorist ways!”), and telling McCain that they feared an America led by Obama. McCain tried to reapply the “respectful” brakes, but again to little effect–a subsequent speaker from the audience started by announcing that she is scared of Obama because he is an “Arab terrorist.” McCain actually had to grab the microphone away from her and state that Obama is a “decent family man.”

McCain is suddenly discovering that lynch mobs are not quite as easy to reign in as he may have thought.

Later Update: Here’s a video of the aforementioned rally, which shows that TIME slightly misreported, but that clarification just makes it stranger:

The woman did not say that Obama was an “Arab terrorist”; she said he was an “Arab,” and then stopped–maybe she wanted to go on to say terrorist, but she didn’t. She just said “Arab.”

What is strange is that McCain took the mic back and said, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not.”

Umm… “He’s not an Arab, he’s a decent family man citizen”? So, Arabs are not decent?

One can understand why the TIME blogger thought she said “terrorist”: because McCain answered as if she had. At least he’s in tune with his crowd that much.

Categories: Election 2008, McCain Hall of Shame Tags: by
  1. stevetv
    October 12th, 2008 at 12:31 | #1

    Check out this blog entry from Michael Crowley:


    I agree with him up to a point, but before we get to that point I think he’s dead on. As Bush retained his lead in the polls up to Election Day of ’04, the anger of the Kerry supporters was very palpable and overt, and for all we know it may have helped Bush get that slight edge. And it may be the final nail on the coffin for McCain.

    OTOH, the worst ultimatums the liberals made were to move to Canada. It never descended as low as it is now. But maybe that’s the difference between, not the left and the right, but the bigoted ignoramuses and the rest of us. There’s no way “my country right or wrong” is going to abandon their core beliefs and leave said country. Better they stay and change it… by any means necessary. If Obama gets elected, tensions will settle down as it did with Bush. But we have to get to that point first.

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