Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crawling into the gutter

John McCain is turning on the slime machine because he and his staff have concluded they can’t win any other way.

John McCain and supporters (Dan Bennett)

YOU’VE SEEN it dozens of times in movies–the crook commits the crime, then turns around and says he saw the guy who done it, and…he went that-away!

Now, it’s John McCain’s latest strategy in the 2008 presidential election–with his claim that Barack Obama was the first to inject the “race card” into the campaign.

No one could really be surprised that John McCain–his high-minded talk aside–would climb down into the sewer. After all, he’s the presidential candidate of the party that spawned Karl Rove. The only question was how much of the dirty work McCain and his campaign staff would do themselves, and how much they’d leave to blowhards like Rush Limbaugh on right-wing hate radio.

But the other factors to recognize in all this are the lack of a tough response from Obama and the Democrats–and the willing connivance of the “impartial” U.S. media in repeating McCain’s veiled and not-so-veiled appeals to racism.

At least New York Times columnist Bob Herbert was frank about what the Republicans are up to:

Spare me any more drivel about the high-mindedness of John McCain. You knew something was up back in March when, in his first ad of the general campaign, Mr. McCain had himself touted as “the American president Americans have been waiting for.”

There was nothing subtle about that attempt to position Senator Obama as the Other, a candidate who might technically be American, but who remained in some sense foreign, not sufficiently patriotic and certainly not one of us–the “us” being the genuine red-white-and-blue Americans who the ad was aimed at.

Emphasis on “red-white-and-blue Americans.”

Last month, Obama was denounced in a McCain ad for allegedly passing up a visit to a military hospital in Germany to meet with wounded soldiers (reportedly, the McCain campaign had another ad in the can to run if Obama made the trip, which would have accused him of exploiting wounded soldiers for a photo op).

The absurdity of the charge came in the footage the Republicans used in their commerical–of Obama sinking a three-point basket…in front of U.S. troops. But even in that choice of imagery, there was more than meets the eye. “Consider this,” wrote John Heilemann in New York magazine. “Would the ad have featured footage of Obama on a golf course draining a hole-in-one? ‘No, it wouldn’t,’ laughs a GOP media savant. ‘The racial angle is the first thing I thought of when I saw that ad. It fits into the celebrity stuff, too.’”

The “celebrity stuff” was spewed into the airwaves last week in the form of another attack ad–using footage of two white women, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, with no conceivable relationship to Obama (in fact, the Hilton family are McCain supporters)–depicting Obama as a shallow fame-seeker.

“The Republican National Committee targeted [Tennessee Democrat] Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee,” Herbert wrote. “The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, ‘Harold, call me.’”

Then, to top it off, who gets accused of “injecting” race into the campaign? Obama.

How so? At a campaign appearance in an almost all-white county in Missouri, Obama said, “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.”

McCain and the Republicans have been complaining ever since that Obama was playing the “race card”–having done so themselves for their own purposes, while loudly denying they did any such thing.

Continued . . .

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