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 Thursday, October 09, 2008

McCain and Palin Turn to Risky politics

  by Mary Mitchell

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If John McCain LOSES the election, he'll have Sarah Palin to thank.

His VP pick may be good for a few laughs on "Saturday Night Live." She may have sold a warehouse of eyeglasses.

But her recent acid-tongued attack on Barack Obama in which she accused him of "palling around with terrorists" is not only a turn-off, but dangerous.

Although conventional wisdom seems to suggest that negative campaigning works, I noticed during Tuesday night's debate between Obama and McCain that CNN's likability meter sank each time Obama and McCain got personal.

And despite Palin's steady stream of hateful speech, Obama's poll numbers have gone up, while McCain's supporters are growing antsy.

During the final stretch of this long campaign, Palin has been unleashed like the pit bull she likes to compare herself to.

Together, McCain and Palin have managed to bring out the worst behavior that I've witnessed in a presidential campaign.

For instance, at a Monday rally in Fort Myers, Fla., Palin told her fans that Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist."

She was referring to '60s radical Bill Ayers, a man who, like a lot of people who came of age in the tumultuous Vietnam era, is now part of the establishment.

He teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago, lives in the trendy Hyde Park neighborhood and sits on several civic boards.

Obama was a child when Ayers was heading up a radical group known as the Weather Underground. Any excuse will do.

But Palin has good instincts.

As preposterous as her accusation was, it played to the fears of WHITE voters who believe that Obama is too different from them to win the White House, but don't want to admit that they are prejudiced against him because he is black.

A Washington Post reporter who was on the campaign trail also noted that Palin's attacks on the media have sparked some ugliness.

Dana Milbank reported that the press was taunted by the crowd after Palin blamed the mainstream media for her abysmal performances in interviews.

"At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African-American sound man . . . and told him, "Sit down, boy."

At another point during her rant, Palin cited a New York Times article that described Ayers as "part of a group that quote 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,' " she rattled off as if she was talking about 9/11.

That brought a loud "Kill him!" from an unidentified man in the audience.

Kill who?

Had Obama supporters behaved as badly, he would not have heard the end of it.

It should not be OK for a presidential or vice presidential candidate to incite people to engage in abusive behavior.

Who's crying now?

What I find ironic is it is often members of the Republican Party who accuse black people of whining and blaming their shortcomings on others.

Yet it is all right for Palin, who is clearly in over her head, to blame the media because she is not prepared to deal with the tough questions on just about every issue.

With her winks and her wisecracks, Palin has set the feminist movement back 100 years.

Don't take my word for it. Even conservative pundits, like Kathleen Parker, have urged Palin to take a hike.

Down in the polls, Palin and McCain are now playing a game that could backfire.

After all, there aren't many people, black or white, who feel they have to take verbal abuse from riled-up supporters.

By now, McCain and Palin must have heard about the racial slurs and inappropriate comments.

Had this ugly incident occurred at an Obama rally, the McCain camp would be asking him to apologize to voters and to denounce the hateful behavior.

So why are these candidates being allowed to act like nothing out of the ordinary happened?

That doesn't make them look like a team of mavericks.

It makes them look like a team of bigots.

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