Sunday, October 12, 2008
John Lewis speaks truth to McCain and Palin
I've admired Rep. John Lewis for some forty years. It began when I saw him being prodded and beaten and treated like an animal in Selma, Alabama, as the cops ran he and his fellow protesters out of town. My admiration continued as he walked straight and stood tall, facing on a daily basis the terror of the white man's "law," to seek justice for his people. And I love that soft, slow, silky drawl with which, today, so many years after those terrible days, he continues to speak truth to power.
John Lewis is right to accuse the McCain campaign of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division." He was right to reference the atmosphere of hate that spewed from the mouth of George Wallace and his minions so many years ago, because that atmosphere of hate spawned a wave of violence throughout the South. Just as the atmosphere of hatred and division emanating from the McCain campaign is likely to create a new wave of violence.
The McCain hypocrites immediately called "foul," and said the Lewis' remarks were "shocking and beyond the pale." Old John and his camp tried to tie what Lewis said to Obama and insisted the Obama immediately repudiate Lewis' accusations.
But Lewis is only one of many who have shuddered in horror at the tactics of Palin and McCain over the past several weeks.
Mark Karlin of Buzzflash tells of an interview on "The Daily Show" of people gathered in a bar in Wasilla who were asked to respond to the vice presidential debate. "The Sarah Palin fans," write Karlin, "were racists, homophobic and one even wished for John McCain's death if he gets elected so Palin could become president."
Karlin, echoing Lewis, says that "Palin has been going around the nation inciting mobs with the kind of emotional appears (although in a more coded form) that one used to find at segregationist rallies ... it is hard to understand how the irony of a governor who has clearly documented close ties to a group that regards the United States as an 'occupying force' gets away with the ugly farce of basically calling Obama a terrorist. (Yes, it's in coded language, but that is what Palin and McCain are doing, inciting the fears of the 'dark other,' the man with the middle name of 'Hussein.') One of the bigots at the Palin Ohio rally said that terrorism was in Obama's 'bloodline.' This is the kind of talk that brought Hitler to power."
Frank Rich, and op-ed columnist for The New York Times, writes that there is a real danger some crazy person will decide that for the good of the country, he must do away with Obama. Rich notes that "At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of 'Treason!' and 'Terrorist!' and 'Kill him!' and 'Off with his head!' as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option."
But, as Rich points out, what can we expect when Palin especially has "pumped up the Weimar-like rage." Palin has said that Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." And Obama is "'palling around with terrorists (note the plural noun). Obama is 'not a man who sees America that way you and I see America.' Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops."
McCain steps up to ask "Who is the real Barack Obama?" Someone in the crowd yells, "Terrorist!"
John Lewis' fears were confirmed when "last week a Florida sheriff ranted about 'Barack Hussein Obama' at a Palin rally while in full uniform."
John Lewis' fears were confirmed when, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, the McCain campaign chair in Buchanan County, Virginia and correspondence secretary for the Buchanan County Republican Party, wrote a newspaper column to warn people that "the platform of Barack Hussein Obama" includes:
Illegal Immigration: "Learn to Speak Spanish";
Terrorist Threat to America: "Learn to Speak Arabic";
Reparations to Black Community: Opposes before Election Day and supports after Election Day;
Freedom of Religion: Mandatory Black Liberation Theology courses taught in all churches;
Homosexual Marriage: Coddle sexual perverts. Give tax breaks for NAMBLA membership.
Drug Crisis: Raise taxes for free drugs for Obama's inner-city political base;
The White House: Hire rapper Ludacris to "paint it black."
John Lewis' fears were confirmed when the Lee County Sheriff, Mike Scott, introduced Sarah Palin by saying, "On Nov. 4, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."
The McCain camp cannot say they didn't realize what was happening or they didn't know what was going on. Frank Rich tells us that the McCain campaign set up this character assassination program from the first. Palin, in her convention speech, used "an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler; the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago's mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was 'regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.' In the '60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: 'Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.'
"This is the writer," says Rich, "who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It's astonishing there's been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farakhan -- or William Ayers -- in Denver."
Sandra Miller writing at Open Salon, commented "that the anti-Obama taunts and jeers are noticeably louder when McCain appears with Palin. This is because," she says, "Palin is a conservative Christian, and conservative Christians follow the teachings of Jesus, a man who can frequently be found taunting and jeering his opponents throughout the Bible."
Miller notes that in Sarasota, Florida, someone in the crowd yelled "Kill him!," a reference to Obama. Palin showed no reaction, and said nothing. "And why should she?" asks Miller. "She is a follower of Jesus Christ, who can frequently be found stomping through the Bible screaming Kill him! Off with his head!"
So, no, John Lewis was not wrong or off base. As Obama spokesman, Bill Burton said: "John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night [a reference to McCain's put-down of some of his supporters, who then booed him].
No, John Lewis was not wrong. John Lewis was right on when he said:
"As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."
Quite frankly, I don't expect we are going to see many changes with regard to the tactics of the McCain campaign. Old John is desperate. And Palin doesn't understand things like honesty, integrity or honor. She's a vacuous, deceitful and dangerous pit bull who believes in her heart of hearts that God wants her in the White House and she, like John, will do literally anything to win.
Furthermore, as someone else said, referring to the McCain campaign's slogan: "'Country First,' my ass! It's John McCain first. It's always been John McCain first. It will always be John McCain first!"