Shorter John McCain:
John McCain is dishonest and dishonorable, and he is now crossing into truly dangerous territory.
In response to McCain’s own incitement, his audiences are crossing further and further into violent and eliminationist rhetoric. In response to McCain’s leading and dishonest question “Who is the real Barack Obama?,” an audience member shouted out “a terrorist.” At a Palin rally, the audience responded to Obama’s name by calling out “treason,” and later called out “Kill him!” At another event, a description of Obama’s tax policy was greeted with cries of “traitor.” At a townhall meeting in Wisconsin, an audience member “blasted the ‘socialists taking over our country’ and referred to Obama and Nancy Pelosi as ‘hooligans.’ McCain didn’t utter one syllable of objection. In fact, he nodded bemusedly at the ‘socialist’ mention. And at the end of the man’s rant, McCain said that the man was ‘right.’”
At a rally for Georgia’s incumbent Republican Senator, Saxby Chambliss, a mention of Obama was met with boos and an audience member’s demand to “bomb Obama.” The Pennsylvania Republican Party sent out a press release with the title “PAGOP: OBAMA ? A TERRORIST’S BEST FRIEND.”
The Secret Service is investigating the reports of calls to kill Obama, treating them as legitimate threats against their protectee. And the fault for these calls to violence rests squarely on the shoulders of John McCain. Josh Marshall is right to compare this rhetoric to that of Father Coughlin, an antisemitic fascist from John McCain’s childhood, who had a popular radio show in the ’30s where he praised the work of Hitler and Mussolini. His newspaper republished the classic anti-Semitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and he founded a group called the Christian Front, which the FBI shut down in 1940. J. Edgar Hoover explained the raid, saying that “The Christian Front was planning to murder Jews, communists and a dozen Congressmen. ? They advocated a dictatorship, similar to the Hitler dictatorship in Germany.” The cartoon above is Dr. Seuss’s take of Coughlin’s propaganda.
A few members of the press are seeing the danger here. David Gergen worries that this will lead to violence, and wonders why McCain and Palin haven’t reined in their followers. Joe Klein writes that “We are on the edge of some real serious craziness here and it would be nice if McCain did the right thing and told his more bloodthirsty supporters to go home and take a cold shower.”
But it hasn’t happened yet. And the situation is escalating. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank reports:
Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
The epithet was, apparently, “uppity negro,” though I wonder how that last word was pronounced.
This is bad news, and will only get worse, unless McCain and Palin display some sort of leadership. And if they can’t do that now, how can they possibly do it in office?