The New York Times editorial board is appalled by the tone and content of the McCain/Palin campaign. And it takes an awful lot to appall a New Yorker…
It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.
They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.
It is a sorry fact of the news biz that editorialists too often attempt to balance the transgressions of one candidate by pointing to the transgressions of their opponent, even when there is no reasonable comparison. But in recent weeks the McCain/Palin campaign has simply slipped too far over to the dark side to make such journalistic equivalency even remotely believable.
Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.
That line follows passages in Ms. Palin’s new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama’s ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber. By the time she’s done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers — and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government. The Democrat, she says, “sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled “kill him!” as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.
They called the sound man a “nigger” and commanded him to “sit down, boy.” But then, that’s the sort of visceral response Palin is shooting for.
In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about. He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of “victory” in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.
But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger and hatred.
No, probably not. What we are seeing is the logical conclusion of the Rovian strategies that secured narrow electoral victories by exploiting the cultural tensions in an otherwise closely divided nation. As the failures of the Bush administration and his Republican Party have become too overwhelming to ignore, and have started to impact the day to day lives of average Americans, large segments of the electorate are shifting to the Democrats, even if only because they are not Republicans. Thus as the political divide widens, the obvious Rovian response is to turn up the divisive rhetoric in a last ditch effort to keep swing voters in line through their weapons of choice: fear, anger and hate.
It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to a second straight cycle of devastating congressional losses, and a likely Obama victory. It would be best for both them and the nation if they abandon Palin, and the dangerous fascistic streak she clearly embodies.