Last night in the debate, McCain asked Obama to repudiate John Lewis’s comparison of McCain to Geroge Wallace. This is funny coming from a man who’s surrogates and campaign managers actively compare Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden. What McCain didn’t get and that Obama pointed out is that Lewis was not trying to insinuate that McCain was implementing Wallace’s segregationist policies but was utilizing the same tactics of fear and hatred.
Watch Obama Defend John Lewis Statement
Last August John McCain was asked by Pastor Rick Warren to name three people that he would confide in if he was president. The 3 people he named were former Ebay CEO, Meg Whitman, General Petraeus , and Civil Rights hero, John Lewis. Monday John McCain told CNN that John Lewis recent remarks were so disturbing that they stopped me in my tracks.
When contacted about McCain’s newfound admiration, Lewis replied that while he had worked with McCain for over 20 years, he had never confided in him. It is hard not to be cynical and believe that McCain had truly admired Lewis and wasn’t pandering to show he wasn’t a racist, but let’s believe what he said at face value. If he truly admired Lewis for his Civil Rights work, he would take into consideration Lewis’s statement that his rallies are ‘Sowing the seeds of hatred and division’ and that he needed to control the hostility of his crowds.
Rather than taking into account John Lewis criticism. McCain’s campaign has chosen to attack John Lewis as a Barack Obama supporter.
“Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.
“I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.”
Later McCain Would Tell CNN
“I say when anybody says anything like that that is so beyond the pale, that it stuns me, because that’s not what America and this debate should be all about, I will reject that kind of language, and again, I’m so disappointed in Congressman John Lewis.”
McCain called on the Obama campaign to denounce Lewis statements. The Obama camp responded.
“Obama does not believe that John McCain or any policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies but that he was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric.”
Watch McCain Address Lewis on CNN
Lewis was not condemning hardworking Americans who came to cheer but the ones who yelled ‘terrorist, traitor, socialist, treason, off with his head and killem.’ When Palin accuses Obama of ‘Pallin around with the terrorists,’ where’s the criticism of his record and positions? When the announcer before the rallies emphasizes Obama’s middle name to connect him to Saddam Hussein where’s the legitimate criticism of his policies? When people shout from the crowd ‘kill him’ or off with his head, are they really just cheering?
There are several similarities between Wallace’s campaign and McCain’s. Both have tried to link their opponents with enemies of America. Just as Palin has accused Obama of ‘Pallin around with the terrorists,’ Wallace would accuse Kennedy of wanting to ‘surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-Communists who have instituted these demonstrations’ While McCain rails against activist judges, the liberal media, socialists, intellectuals and elitists, Wallace would rail against ‘liberals, Communists, the Eastern press, Federal judges, ”pointy-headed intellectuals.’
Wallace would make it a point to make sure his crowds were fearful of integration and what ‘foreign,’ ‘different’ African Americans would do to the white way of life. Just as McCain makes it a point that the crowds are fearful of what an exotic, un-American Obama would do for this country.
What McCain doesn’t get, is that Lewis was not comparing McCain to Wallace’s ‘segregationist policies,’ but to his tactics of hate, fear and alienation. McCain has shown a good grasp of crowd control. Most of his ‘town-hall meetings’ are stacked with supporters. When asked by a reverend at a town hall meeting if he had ever called his a wife a cunt, McCain angrily stated ‘We don’t use that kind of language here.’ So McCain has some control of the language used by supporters at his events.
How come he can’t tell his crowd to chill out. The other day McCain responded to a question in which a man referred to Obama as a hooligan and as a socialist and said ‘You’re right.’ McCain had a woman removed from a town hall meeting for having a sign that said ‘McCain=Bush,’ but he lets in a man proudly displaying his Obama monkey and a man whose sign says ‘Obama Bin Lyin.’
When all of McCain’s ads are negative and they all paint Obama as a an unknown, foreign figure to be feared and brings up allegations of him being connected to terrorism, he is creating an atmosphere of fear, division and hatred. This is compounded with right wing talk radio, which is constantly using Obama’s middle name or calling him Osama, and trying to connect him to 60’s radicals and arabs right wing newspapers and blogs.
I am not accusing John McCain of racism. I am accusing McCain of trying to use racism, fear and hatred for his own political gain. George Wallace was not a racist at first. When he first ran for Governor of Alabama, he was endorsed by the NAACP. After he was beat by an opponent who used racist hatred and was supported by the KKK he said, “Seymore, you know why I lost that governor’s race?… I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.”
When asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace said ‘You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.’
In this way McCain can be directly tied to Wallace. After he has failed to invoke any passion out of his supporters by talking about his policies, McCain has finally managed to get some enthusiasm out of his supporters by turning to negativity and demonization of Obama.
Just as the racist opponents of Martin Luther King and his agenda attempted to portray him as Russian connected communist. McCain’s camp have tried to paint Obama as a foreign, un-American man with terrorist affiliations. McCain’s Virginia spokesman tried to connect Obama to bin Laden saying ‘Both Barack Obama and Bin Laden have had friends who’ve bombed the pentagon. Isn’t that scary?’ McCain would not disown or condemn those statements.
The smearing of Obama is bigger than the McCain camp. It comes from right wing newspapers, FOX News, right wing blogs and talk radio. If McCain wants Obama to condemn Lewis for what I believe is a legitimate criticism of McCain’s supporters, McCain should condemn every right wing radio show, blog or newspaper that smears Obama. While there are several difference between Wallace’s political campaigns and McCain’s, at the core they both are driven by negativity, fear of something different, and division.