Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain/Palin – King and Queen of Sleaze

Yesterday General Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President and then firmly chastised John McCain’s hate-mongering ads and robocalls as “nonsense” and “over the top” for political campaigning. General Powell is a statesman. John McCain and Sarah Palin are moral meltdowns.

In the past few weeks, the deplorable duo have descended into the political sewer, belching out the same kind of gaseous slurs and lies that George Bush and Karl Rove used to defeat McCain’s Presidential bid in 2000. Remember? The smears reached peak stridency in South Carolina. McCain was accused of being homosexual, fathering a “black” child out of wedlock, and having a “dope-addict” wife. All lies. Now, after his commitment to run a “clean” campaign, McCain is indulging in even more vicious smears against Barack Obama. Fear-mongering robocalls accusing Obama of being a terrorist are clogging people’s phones in Virginia and other states. Racist TV ads that begin with Obama’s face in dark shadow visually suggest that the black man is dangerous. In every way possible, McCain is trying to make people afraid to vote for Obama.

Sarah Palin’s major function in the McCain campaign seems to be as the mindless attack dog and she acts as if she relishes the role. Forget any attempt at eloquence or intelligence. Palin follows a script filled with lies casting Obama as un-American and in league with terrorists. But who cares about lies? Following Karl Rove’s script, George Bush and Dick Cheney have conducted their entire administration based on lies. Who needs facts or evidence? Reality can be a hindrance. McCain and Palin are no different. After all, isn’t the lesson that if you repeat lies often enough, people will believe they’re true? Bush/Cheney started a war based on lies. Surely the same technique can be used to elect a president. It worked in 2004, defeating John Kerry.

Thankfully, increasing numbers of Americans are smarter this time. They see that John McCain and Sarah Palin’s lies are inciting hate and fear. At their rallies, people have shouted “kill him” when Obama’s name was mentioned. John McCain even had to take the microphone from a supporter who said she was afraid of Obama because “he’s a Muslim.” McCain was forced to defend Obama from the hate and fear his own campaign has stirred up. It’s more than a sorry spectacle from two adults in public office who should know better. It’s offensive and dangerous – the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that once incited mobs to lynch black men and burn women as witches.

But if we can believe the polls, the McCain/ Palin lies are backfiring. In trying to paint Barack Obama as someone voters should fear, McCain has painted himself as the scary candidate, too angry, unfocused and impulsive to be President. In ignoring the economic and social issues that are the real threats to people’s lives, McCain is sinking his campaign ship in the slop of his own making.

I have never been a McCain supporter, but even I find it sad to see a man who heroically served the United States demeaning himself for political gain. In stooping to such sleaze, McCain shows his willingness to put his political ambition ahead of the country that he says he loves.

Then there is the matter of McCain’s judgment. In addition to condoning what may be the nastiest presidential campaign in American history, McCain’s selection of the pitifully unqualified Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, demonstrates extraordinarily poor judgment. I find it hard to believe that a man who truly loves his country could jeopardize it by selecting a running mate as ignorant as Sarah Palin. Should McCain become President and suffer a health crisis – or worse – elevating Palin to the Presidency would be like putting a not-terribly-bright high-school student in the Oval Office!

Finally, in the last debate, McCain betrayed a shocking contempt for women. With huffing and puffing and much head and shoulder jerking, he mocked Obama’s support of a woman’s right to abortion to protect the health of the mother. Using air quotes, McCain dismissed women’s health as the “extreme pro-abortion position.” In that exchange, McCain In effect, was saying that women don’t count. Like George W. Bush and the Republican right-wing, McCain wants to undo all the hard-fought victories women have won for their dignity, their privacy, and their right to control their own bodies. McCain, like Bush, would take women backwards to a time when there was no birth control, no reproductive options. McCain, like Bush, would overturn Roe v. Wade, have government invade the womb, usurp women’s bodies as state property, and deny women’s most intimate and fundamental right to exercise reproductive choice. This position should be unacceptable to every woman and every enlightened man. Returning Americans to the pre-contraceptive tyranny of the gonads is not a tolerable platform of a 21st-century president.

And that’s the biggest problem. McCain hasn’t moved into the 21st-century and he seems incapable of doing so. It’s not just his age; it’s his attitude, one which the younger Palin shares. McCain is hopelessly locked in the past and his presidency would drag us all back with him. Yesterday, General Powell spoke of America’s need for “a generational change.” McCain represents a past generation. Obama has the vision, the world outlook, the understanding of complexity, and what Powell called “the intellectual vigor” to address the wretched problems left by Bush/Cheney. It’s Obama who presents the possibility for change you can believe in.