Thursday, October 9, 2008

John McCain and Sarah Palin- The Politics of Fear? An Opinion

For your consideration- suppose you are running for a seat on the city council. You have your party's endorsement; you have strong financial backing, and the support of many civic and religious leaders. You have a strong marriage and two healthy, happy, adorable kids. You are the perfect candidate.

Then one month before the election, your opponent hits you- and your supporters- with this "October Surprise"....

Fifteen years ago, while attending State University, you took American History 101 and 102, taught by Professor Eldridge Rubin. Forty years ago, in the spring of '68, Rubin burned an American flag on the steps of Old Ivy College, led a student takeover of the dean's office, and led a demonstration resulting in injuries to several police officers, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in property. Rubin went underground, and spent years advocating the violent takeover of the United States government. After years on the lam, Rubin turned himself into authorities, was sentenced to two years in prison, and upon his release became non-violent community activist. Years (and a master's degree) later, Rubin became a professor at State U., as well as a noted lecturer and educator. You knew Rubin, you liked him, you spent hours discussing topics varying from political action to movies and baseball with him after class.

Your rival for the city council seat sends out a press release that fingers you for "palling around" with a radical terrorist. The release never mentions that Rubin's activities happened years before you knew him, that there were at least 30 others in the class with you.

It becomes a situation where your judgement, integrity, even your patriotism, comes into question- all because of the actions of an acquaintance many years before you had met him.

This scenario sounds a little like an updating of Arthur Miller's
The Crucible- the difference being instead of the Salem witch trials (a metaphor for the 1950's Joe McCarthy "find the commie" hearings) we have the strategy of using the sins of an acquaintance to damn an individual for political gain, no matter how tenuous or casual the relationship might have been.

If this sounds unfair- and unAmerican- it is.

You betcha.

The connection between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers has been a favorite topic of right wing media gasbags like Hannity and Limbaugh, and has now been given the green light as fair game for discussion by John McCain and Sarah Palin. The Ayres connection has been called the Willie Horton of Barack Obama's campaign.

I shouldn't be shocked by this demonization- its a tried and true Republican tactic. It worked against Michael Dukakis, it plagued Bill Clinton during his presidency, it reduced Al Gore to a being a wimpy tree hugger, and, of course, it "swift boated" John Kerry. Make 'em look less American...more dangerous...and, God forbid, more liberal.

The tactic this time around, in trying to connect the dots between Ayers and Obama, and having surrogates repeat Obama's middle name (Hussein), and having Sarah (aka "Carribou Barbie") Palin play the role of Joe McCarthy's lost daughter, a designated attack dog.This strategy is sad, desperate, pathetic, and dangerous, not to mention it ducks the real pressing issue- an economy that is in the tank. Isolated cries at the McCain-Palin rallies have cried "traitor" and "kill him" at the mention of Obama's name. The crowds seem angry, and would rather vent than demand answers to the nation's economic down turn. They demand a villain, and McCain and Palin seem eager to deliver.

McCain and Palin are losing on the issues. And as one GOP handler said, they must get away from the nosediving economy, or the election is over. They have to get into the dumpster and get things to throw, hopefully finding something that will stick....because, sadly, it might be all they have left.

I respect John McCain for the brave patriot and public servant he is. I served during the Vietnam War, like McCain. Unlike McCain, I was assigned stateside, and skied in Utah and saw Deep Purple in Salt Lake City while McCain spent years being brutalized in the Hanoi Hilton.

In a sense, I love the guy, for that could as well been me in that Vietnamese prison.

And that is why his guilt by association tactics against Obama saddens me so much. I thought he, McCain, was a better man.


Sadly, the John McCain of an earlier time has left us. This new version appears to be a bitter and wounded man who, to paraphrase Joseph Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings, has seemed to have lost a sense of decency, and lost his sense of shame.

This John McCain brought in some of the same operatives who attacked him in the South Carolina primary in 2000, claiming that his dark skinned adopted daughter was actually his out of wedlock half black daughter. The same guys raked McCain's friend, John Kerry, over the coals in 2004, questioning Kerry's war record. So much for solidarity among war vets.

Senator McCain, please have the fortitude to make these allegations to Senator Obama's face.

Or go back to your glass house....but be sure to stand back a few feet.

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