Friday, October 10, 2008

A Classless Society

On the day Barack Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention a lot was being made of a secret advertisement John McCain had purchased time to run directly after the speech. The McCain campaign was describing it as the first of its kind. A lot of Democrats feared that it would be the announcement of John McCain's VP pick. I had a different idea.

My feeling was that announcing the vice presidential pick would be seen as a silly and disrespectful tactic. It was the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, and the first African American in United States history was accepting the nomination of a major party for the presidency. What kind of a douche would try and step on the historical significance of that achievement on that night?

As I told Sarah that day, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to use the moment to congratulate Obama and to personally recognise the history of the moment. Such an announcement would signal an end to what had been a fairly small and trite summer campaign, and a beginning to the dignified campaign both candidates had promised in the primary.

I'm not telling this story to brag about my foresight. In the end, though, what I thought he should do is exactly what he did do. He put aside all of the celebrity taunts he and his campaign had been spewing for weeks, and offered a singular note of congratulations to his opponent.

I bring this up to make a single point: It was the last classy move that's come out of John McCain's campaign.

Since then:

  • The next day, he announced his selection for VP: A female governor of a tiny (population-wise) state, who'd been elected only 20 months before, whom he'd met for the first and only time this year, and with whom he'd only carried on one telephone conversation before offering her the job.
  • He spent much of the next week trying to figure out how to exploit for political purposes what could have been, but turned out not to be, the catastrophic hurricane in New Orleans on the third year anniversary of Katrina.
  • The day after devoting a night of his convention to national service, he allowed Giuliani and Palin to openly mock community service.
  • After Obama likened placing the change label on generic Republican policies to "putting lipstick on a pig," the McCain campaign insisted that Obama was openly calling Palin a pig.
  • When asked directly about whether McCain thought Obama was calling her a pig, McCain said no, but that he did imply it.
  • The campaign released an ad stating that, by supporting a piece of legislation calling for comprehensive sex education that included teaching kindergartners how to avoid sexual predators, Obama, the father of two young girls, wanted to teach children about sex before teaching them to read.
  • After speaking with Obama and agreeing to release a joint-statement regarding the economic crisis and bailout plan, John McCain sabotaged that effort, went on television by himself and made the dubious claim that he was suspending his campaign until a deal was reached (paid campaign surrogates continued to criticize Barack Obama on television while during the so-called suspension, also during that period, thousands of McCain ads ran, and no deal was reached by the time McCain returned to the trail).
  • John McCain spent an hour an a half standing on the same stage with Barack Obama without addressing him directly or so much as looking in his eye.
  • Twice in the last week, people introducing Sarah Palin have referred to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama. The fact that this has begun to happen again at the exact moment Palin's begun to refer to Obama as somebody who pals around with terrorists, we're supposed to accept as coincidence.
  • "That One."

That happened. It all began the day after John McCain recognised the nomination of Obama as a good day for America. To make a long story short (too late), he's not saying that anymore.

At the same time that the tenor of the McCain campaign has made it's most recent and most drastic turn into the muck, a nice companion story has begun to emerge. Much is being made, for good reason, of the crowds gathering at McCain/Palin events. They've quite rightly been referred to as angry mobs. They dutifully connect the dots of "Hussein" and "palling around with terrorists" and the picture they get is the one intended:

They call him a terrorist. And they don't mean it ironically. They actually believe he's a terrorist. They believe that's even a possibility. Hell, I have family who honestly believe he's the Anti-Christ.

People coming to these events believe that Obama wants to do this country harm! And what do we do, I ask, with somebody who wants to do our country harm? The answer.

John McCain cannot be blamed for every word uttered by the folks that show up to hear his running mate speak (and file for the exit when he's introduced). That being said, this shit is going on. He knows it's going on. And, to this point, he's remained silent.

I understand that he's given up on class. That's fine. But it's high time that the man who uses the word "honorable" at least as often as he uses the word "maverick" began to remind the American people that he was once a man who valued honor as something more than an empty form of self-aggrandizement.

That is, assuming, the McCain brand was ever something more than just effective branding.

Update 1: This could be a good start. Again, you can only hold the man responsible for what he and his campaign say or do. While I certainly believe McCain and his campaign are responsible for the tone they've established of the last week, it's also true that a lot of foolish people are going to support him. That may indeed, be all he has left. Still, at the very least, he has the responsibility to set an example. Be a leader, if you will.

Update 2: I'm a little less impressed with the above given the talking points they were working with just hours before the candidate's supporters forced him into walking back the entire past week.

Update 3: Also from earlier in the afternoon, the McCain campaign has begun to direct their innuendo at Michelle Obama. Something tells me the Ayers and terrorist references are not going away.

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