Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain Supporters Engage In Anti-Obama Hatefests

I hope that whenever Barack Obama meets the public, he surrounds himself with more big guys wearing shades and dark suits than any other political leader. That goes for the campaign and if, as I hope, he wins the election.

Suffice it to say that there's reason to worry about Obama's safety and well-being.

McCain's close adviser Mark Salter stated, "“I think there have been quite a few reporters recently who have sort of implied, or made more than implications, that somehow we’re responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama.”

No, Mr. Salter, we're not talking about an "occasional nut." The video above of McCain supporters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, makes it clear that many harbor ugly sentiments toward Obama. And the McCain campaign is indeed responsible for crowd control and for inflammatory comments, especially those made to supporters frustrated by sinking poll numbers.

I hate to make the comparison, but I'm reminded of the vicious epithets the Israeli far right, enraged at peace negotiations, hurled at former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin before he was assassinated. Epithets like "traitor" and "murderer."

Recently we heard "terrorist" and "kill him" in reference to Obama at McCain campaign rallies. These crowds were incited by statements like the following from Sarah Palin: “Our opponent … is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

"Palling around"? Palin refers here to former Weatherman Bill Ayers, with whom Obama has had fleeting contact on, for example, education reform–the same type of contact that Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago has had. 

One would assume that Daley is not conspiring with Ayers to bomb Chicago.

It's a small step from the the incendiary words Palin used to crowds calling Obama a "traitor" or "terrorist." We don't want to imagine the step after that.

Of course I was heartened to learn that McCain tried to calm an aggressive crowd by stating that Obama is "a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." The New York Times reports, "Republicans said [McCain] had been damaged by several rallies last week in which supporters shouted insults and threats about Mr. Obama, prompting Mr. McCain on Friday night to chide audience members."

So while McCain did the right thing in trying to tamp down the hatred, I do have two questions: Why didn't McCain say something immediately when his crowd started the personal attacks against Obama? Did he feel prompted to take a stand mainly due to political damage?

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