For months we’ve been rightly warned that the only hope for the Rovian styled McCain campaign was to paint Barack Obama as an ‘angry black man’.
I see the charged comments about ‘palling with terrorists’, Ayers, not being a ‘real American’ as deeply offensive, but above all provocative. They want to provoke Obama. They want him to respond angrily, and then they can say he’s played the race card first, and thereby remind the electorate he is black, black, black and potentially angry.
Now we all know what happened yesterday
John Lewis, respected civil rights leader and apparently one of McCain’s heroes, wrote an impassioned piece for Politico this morning decrying the tone of the campaign, and reminding us of how violent words incite violent actions. I’m sure you’ve read it by now, but the sharpest point was this:
As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy.
Faced with such a trenchant criticism, what did McCain do? Did he try to tamp down the smouldering flames of hatred, or did he pour gasoline on them?
Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.
I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election.
To me this is pure Rove: blame the victim. Use any opportunity, even the historically explosive background of racial politics, to play the ‘who played the race card first game’.
So how can Obama respond? He knows Lewis has justice, history and personal experience on his side. He also knows from 16 years of elected political office how Republican strategists like nothing better than to turn elections into a polarising race and culture wars.
Given the box the Republicans are trying to put the campaign in, Bill Burton’s job was near impossible.
Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’ As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together.
To me, this is oil on troubled waters, water on incipient flames. But what else could he have said?
UPDATE: thanks for the frontpage, but it looks like this attempt to distract us from the credit crunch and McCain’s impetuous campaign hasn’t really gone anywhere. The primary wars explored so many of these issues, they’ve lost a lot of traction now. And most democrats understand the constraints on Obama’s campaign.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant. Next week we should be prepared for the rollout of the Reverend Wright Videos.
Meanwhile, here’s the New York State ‘Barack Osama’ ballot