(A NYT photo analyzed by BagNewsNotes.)
If you've been following the liberal blogosphere the past few days, you're bound to have seen video of angry, and in some cases bigoted, McCain-Palin supporters (BH and C&L have posted pretty much all of them, I think). You may have missed this gem though, from Friday 10/10/08. Here's Mark Murray at MSNBC's First Read:
Earlier today, Obama remarked on recent outbursts of "Traitor!" "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" at McCain campaign events. "It's easy to rile up a crowd," Obama said. "Nothing's easier than riling up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that's not what we need right now in the United States."
In response, McCain senior adviser Nicolle Wallace released this statement, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports. "Barack Obama's assault on our supporters is insulting and unsurprising. These are the same people obama called 'bitter' and attacked for 'clinging to guns' and faith. He fails to understand that people are angry at corrupt practices in Washington and Wall Street and he fails to understand that America's working families are not 'clinging' to anything other than the sincere hope that Washington will be reformed from top to bottom."
"Attacking our supporters is a new low for the campaign that's run more millions of dollars of negative ads than any other in history."
*** UPDATE *** McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers adds in another statement: “Barack Obama’s attacks on Americans who support John McCain reveal far more about him than they do about John McCain. It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about. He dismisses hardworking middle class Americans as clinging to guns and religion, while at the same time attacking average Americans at McCain rallies who are angry at Washington, Wall Street and the status quo."
Ben Smith at Politico supplied the next paragraph to that Rogers statement on Obama:
Even worse, he attacks anyone who dares to question his readiness to serve as their commander in chief in chief. Raising legitimate questions about record, character and judgment are a vital part of the Democratic process, and Barack Obama’s effort to silence and shame those who seek answers should make everyone wonder exactly what he is hiding.
'It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about' – like, I dunno, lynching the Evil Other consistently demonized by their parties' leaders and flacks. These campaign statements appear to have been issued before McCain defended Obama as a "decent man" to some of his more rabid supporters, but they're still pretty despicable (and apparently "Arabs" cannot be "decent men"). Yet while McCain deserves some credit for defending Obama, let's be honest – he really had to in these instances. Video of McCain affirming the most virulent and inexcusable of smears against Obama would be deadly to him with journalists and independents. The success of this sort of smear campaign depends on innuendo, code words and deniability when it enters the mainstream.
McCain's continued his long tradition of policy reversals, of course. This past Friday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis contradicted earlier McCain rhetoric by claiming that McCain 'blew up' the initial economic package (when McCain "suspended" his campaign). That's newsworthy on its own, but it deals with policy and McCain's shifting bullshit. Far more stark and more TV-friendly is the obvious contradictions in the rhetoric of McCain-Palin when it comes to smearing Obama. It's honestly hard to keep up with all the articles and posts on the subject, because they just keep coming. But here's a few samples.
Via the post "Rage" at Balloon Juice, we learn that CNN reported on Saturday:
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said that he didn’t know who those people were and if they were there as supporters or to disrupt the rallies.
I suppose those would be the same Obama agitators that Obama was "insulting" on Friday. Meanwhile, by Sunday, Rick Davis was using the P.O.W. defense. He was also demanding an apology from Barack Obama for remarks by Congressman John Lewis, who stated:
As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. 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.
During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.
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. We can do better. The American people deserve better.
So, to recap, Rick Davis demanded an apology from Barack Obama for a statement by John Lewis condemning language that McCain himself implicitly condemned... but Sarah Palin has continued. At this point, I guess the crowd aren't agitators anymore, they're back to being good, honest 'Muricans, and so is McCain. Man, that's one schizophrenic campaign. The "honor" line really doesn't wash. Time magazine reports:
If John McCain is as serious as he says about running a "respectful" campaign against an opponent he considers "a decent person," word hasn't yet trickled down to his newly opened storefront field office in Gainesville, Virginia...
With so much at stake, and time running short, [state GOP Chairman Jeffrey M.] Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he said. "That is scary." It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama's controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. "And he won't salute the flag," one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, "We don't even know where Senator Obama was really born." Actually, we do; it's Hawaii.
We also have:
Digby: Honorable Putz
TPM: "McCain Campaign Now Attacks Michelle Obama Over Ayers"
Obsidian Wings: "The GOP's Sorcerer's Apprentice Problem" and "His Love-Hate Affair With His Racist Clientele*"
Balloon Juice: "I Feel Like Rich Lowry" and "Beyond Ugly"
Sadly, No: The Right doesn’t merely promote violence when they’re about to lose power"
And that's exactly right – it's not as if this violent, bigoted, eliminationist rhetoric is anything new to anyone following the right-wing blogosphere for a few years. I recently re-read some older posts - "A Recap of the Sliming of Graeme Frost", Howard Kurtz' whitewashing of that shameful campaign, a "Torture Watch" post, and "That Damned Liberal Racism," which chronicled some of the early articles selling this Obama-is-a-Muslim crap. Other blogs have documented right-wing smears far more relentlessly. But the only thing new, really, is that more mainstream outlets are actually taking note this time.
I've seen many writers say the McCain campaign is "playing with fire," or refer to Pandora's Box, or wonder how to get "the hate genie" back in the bottle. It's hard to keep up with all of those pieces, just as it's hard to keep up with the shifting bullshit of the McCain campaign and all the examples that expose them as hypocrites, liars and dishonorable people. I suppose we should be grateful some of the press is noting that and reporting it (although if they could stop the ridiculous false equivalencies, we'd be better off). David Brooks has copped to his party's obvious anti-intellectualism and hatred of merit and competency (see the ObWi posts above), but his move reeks of an attempt to salvage his credibility by stating what's long been obvious to those in the reality-based community. I have to admit I'm pretty irked as well, and side with those who have intoned that should (god forbid) harm fall on Obama, it will be on the heads on McCain, Palin and the many hate merchants of the Republican Party. To them, I'd say, this shtick has gone far beyond annoying and mendacious – it's become genuinely dangerous. To the MSM, I'd say, the liberal blogosphere has pointed out this violent rhetoric time and time again, and you've largely ignored it or minimized it. The more you report it accurately now, the better.
As Digby points out, if Obama wins, he'll face tough challenges from the right-wingers and the press corps. Those challenges might be a bit easier with each victory now. But the challenges also cut in another direction – the McCain campaign, the Michelle Malkin wingnut crowd, and the angry mobs at the rallies all risk further alienating swing voters from the Republican Party. And you'll have to excuse me if I laugh at the McCain campaign complaining that the Obama campaign is intolerant of McCain's smears and appeals to bigotry and fear.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)