Saturday, October 11, 2008

McCain Gets Freaked Out By Minnesota Conservatives

Ah, Minnesota. Just as I defend my home state as more progressive, more enlightened than others, some smalltown old lady tells Senator McCain on national television that she's scared of Obama because "He's an Arab."

This is the state that Tyrone Guthrie chose for his theater company based on the high level of education of its citizens. A state that had very high subscription rates for the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. That was a long time ago.

Yesterday, it seemed even McCain was startled by the dim wits of his fans. It happened at a town hall-style meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, a city of about 50,000 that lies 20 miles south of Minneapolis. "I admire Obama," McCain said amid boos from the crowd. "I want everyone to be respectful."

Later, one man said, "We're scared of an Obama presidency."

"I have to tell you," McCain said very seriously. "Obama is a decent person, that you do not have to be scared [of] as President of the United States." Here the crowd yells protests. "Now look, if I didn't think I'd be one hell of a better president, I wouldn't be running, okay?" he recovered.

But then it happened again. A wild-haired older woman in the crowd says haltingly, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him, and he's not, he's not, ah... He's an Arab." Here, McCain starts shaking his head vigorously. "No, no, no," he says. "No?" the woman asks.

McCain takes the microphone from her. "No. No ma'am. No ma'am. He's a... he's a decent, family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on, on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not," McCain admonished, waving his hand at her dismissively.

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, writing about the incident, noted that McCain "did not correct her false depiction of Mr. Obama." I think he was trying to when he called Obama a "citizen" and said at the end, "He's not."

But as Bumiller notes, this is not unusual for a McCain event:
Crowds in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have repeatedly booed Mr. Obama and yelled “off with his head,” and at a rally in Florida where Ms. Palin appeared without Mr. McCain, The Washington Post reported that a man yelled out “kill him.” At the same rally, a racial insult was hurled at an African-American television cameraman.
In McCain's frenzy to get elected, he's been ushering in the same unsavory fringes of the Republican party that William F. Buckley and other tried so hard to purge in the 1950s and 60s. He's encouraged this sort of behavior, and it's finally started to make him nervous.

“I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” his campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters. “I think political rallies have always attracted people who have an emotional connection to the outcome of an election.”

He's right, of course. People behave badly at these things. When Paul Wellstone died two weeks before election day four years ago, his funeral turned into an embarrassingly ugly display of liberal righteousness. Republican senators, in attendance at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus out of respect and held captive by decorum, were booed and made to feel like jerks for coming. And so the election was handed to the suddenly solemn and respectful Norm Coleman.

I don't think undecided voters ever really like negative campaigning. But as the economy worsens, voters start paying a little more attention to what the candidates are saying. They hear attacks and wonder where the solutions are. McCain's use of the Obama's tenuous association with 60s activist William Ayers as an attack tool simply doesn't sway anyone. If Senator McCain has an October surprise, he'd better present it quick.

Watch McCain defend Obama below:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Replace Arab with Jew and this becomes frighteningly familiar. Who's play book is the McCain campaign reading?

5:15 PM  

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