With just two weeks to go, it’s clear that the 2008 presidential campaign is in it’s final phase: the kamikaze phase. This is the only conclusion I can reach after hearing McCain and Palin during their recent campaign stops.
They are pumping up their supporters in such a negative, hateful, and fearful way that they are, in effect, saying, “While you may win the presidency, your victory will not be worth celebrating. We’re doing our best to leave you a country deeply divided, suspicious of you and your friends, and fearful of your plans to put America back on track.”
To recap the last couple of weeks, the McCain/Palin rallies have become hysterical. People have shouted-out “traitor,” “terrorist,” and “off with his head.” This hate went unchallenged by either McCain or Palin. At one moment, McCain tried to calm audience fears when one woman said that she was afraid of Obama because he’s an Arab. After several attempts to calm the hysteria, McCain was booed. McCain doesn’t realize that the genie is already out of the bottle.
McCain’s scorched-earth policy towards Obama, Biden, and the Democrats leaves no room for understanding or compromise.
And now, with the bombshell endorsement of Barack Obama by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, McCain will become even more desperate.
General Powell was clear, direct, and unequivocal in his condemnation of the rhetoric, tactics and strategy currently employed by McCain. During his endorsement message on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tom Brokaw moderating, General Powell reiterated and rejected the fear campaign of his fellow Republicans.
Said General Powell, I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.”
The kamikaze phase started right after the third presidential debate when McCain realized he hadn’t delivered a convincing enough performance to change the campaign’s dynamics or direction. We all know he can read polls and crowds and he realizes that it’s now do or die for his presidential aspirations.
New vocabulary is emerging. Anyone not agreeing with his right-wing view of America is “anti-American.” Since America wouldn’t buy his attempt to make Liberals into terrorists, his fallback position is that Liberals are “anti-American.” Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann began making that case in earnest on cable television by saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were, in effect, anti-American. Why? Because of their support for Barack, the most Liberal senator in the Senate and whose running mate was the third most Liberal Senator.
To her, being Liberal is synonymous with “anti-American.” She wants these Liberal Senators to be investigated for their “anti-Americanism.” She kept emphasizing that Barack had some long-running connection to William Ayres, a unrepentant domestic terrorist from the 1970s, and his well-known connection to his “mentor,” the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Now, according to McCain and Company, Barack, Wright, and Ayres are Siamese triplets. (Barack was 8 years old when William Ayres was breaking the law and issuing terrorist proclamations.)
But General Powell would have none of it during his endorsement message. He confronted the issue of anti-Americanism:
“Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith."
"And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way.”
Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced in her new stump speech that she is bringing her political message to “real Americans.” Referring to those carefully chosen people who come to her rallies in selected geographical areas. And her point? Obviously, some of us aren’t real Americans; we “hate America.” Shame on you, Sarah!
John McCain’s “that one,” is being turned into those “other ones.” That evidently refers to anyone who is tired of George Bush and the total mess he has made of our country. My guess is that would be about 90% of the country.
And, those not agreeing with the conservatives, are being called “Socialists.” Boo! Scary, huh? We’re Socialists, it seems, in at least a couple of ways. First is the nationalizing of the banking system, which has been underway, incrementally, since the 1930s. But it took a real conservative, dear ol’ George Bush, to really move us towards nationalized banking. What else could he do after the almost collapse of our banking system? It seems to me that the conservative values-driven approach to banking has been a debacle.
Also becoming socialized, according to McCain, is our nation’s healthcare system. It doesn’t seem to matter that the healthcare system is out of control and in need of some rational government regulation. McCain is charging that Barack’s healthcare plan is a “Canadian/English” socialist health plan. That’s because McCain thinks health insurance is a “personal responsibility.” At the moment, the government has the healthcare system rigged in favor of corporations. Barack has it correct. Good healthcare is a right. And, actually, John, I don’t think the word socialist is going to scare people anymore. That is last century’s fear word. Get with it, John.
And finally, at the McCain rallies, shouts of “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” can now be heard and signs with the slogan “Country First” pepper the audience. As Samuel Johnson observed over 300 years ago, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for over 40 years. He is a former president and a current Board member of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America. He was editor of the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter and a former GLAAD National Board member. He has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
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