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 Saturday, October 11, 2008

Editorial: McCain and Palin Appeal to the Ugly Side

  Editorial from San Francisco Chronicle

With just 3 1/2 weeks before the election, John McCain and Sarah Palin have decided against trying to swing votes through policy arguments or even character arguments. Instead, their idea of how to win an election that's not going their way is to incite the mob.

How else can they explain the scenes at their recent rallies, where they stood silent and smiling while supporters shouted "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" about Barack Obama? How else can they excuse their refusal to shut down rally speakers who thunder about "Barack Hussein Obama"; how else can they explain why their campaign rhetoric, which has been nasty enough over the last several months, has now sunk into McCarthyism?

"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," said Sarah Palin at a rally this week, before she went on to (incorrectly) accuse Obama of "palling around with terrorists."

McCain and Palin are wrong to use this playbook for two extremely important reasons.

The first one is that it will not help them win. As desperate as McCain is to distract voters from the economic disaster that's unfolding, voters understand what's at stake: their jobs, 401(k) plans, and standards of living. And they're terrified. The polls are showing us that their fright at losing those things far outweighs their fright at electing an African American guy with an unusual name. It has helped that Obama has calmly, steadily assured voters that he's ready to move forward while McCain has wasted time with attacks that seem more irrelevant by the day.

The second reason is that this is still America, and our fraught and violent past is never that far from our uncertain present. Inciting the mob is always reckless for everyone involved. At the very least, it will poison McCain's legacy and add to the divisions that have plagued our country during the Bush presidency.

If McCain is interested in keeping the "honor" he always talks about, then he needs to tone down his own rhetoric and stop inflammatory words as soon as he hears them. Palin, who likes to pretend that she's an "outsider," needs to understand that there are rules of decorum even in politics. One of them is that you don't stand by smiling while your supporters threaten your opponent.

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