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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Oct 15th, 2008 - 01:25:40

Race poisons US campaign
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 15, 2008, 00:20

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John McCain�s sidekick Sarah Palin has proved to be more sound bite than substance, as we witnessed with embarrassment during the Katie Couric interview on CBS. There is also a side to her that loves to plunge the stiletto into where it hurts the most as we know from �Troopergate� as well as personal smears against Barack Obama.

Palin�s nomination just goes to show the desperation of the McCain camp, which is currently badly trailing in the polls. The lady from Alaska was roped in to add excitement, which she did admirably at first before the cracks in her perfectly groomed fa�ade began to appear.

Historian Simon Schama, who wrote the book �The American Future: a History,� has pointed a finger at McCain for running a campaign that is divisive and blasted Palin�s recent comment concerning Obama -- �Mr. Obama is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America� -- as being �morally repellent� due to its racist undertones.

Congressman John Lewis is likeminded. He has accused the McCain-Palin ticket of �sowing the seeds of hatred and division� and compared the ambience of some Republican rallies with those in America�s segregationist history.

Even worse, Palin has been making snide suggestions to her campaign�s supporters that Obama is �palling around with terrorists.�

This nasty assertion was based on the fact that the Democratic presidential hopeful had served on a charitable committee with one professor William Ayers, who had been an anti-Vietnam War dissident in his youth. She neglected to mention that Obama was only eight when Ayers and the Weathermen were plotting against the state, or the fact that Ayers has since morphed into a respected member of society. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest Obama and Ayers were ever close buddies. But when it comes to the general population, Palin�s smears have failed to reach their intended target -- the undecided voter. In many cases, they have been turned off by such low and dirty tactics, which have served to rile up McCain loyalists to the extent they are becoming mob-like.

Booing or screaming �off with his head!� or �terrorist!� at the mere mention of Obama�s name turn Republican rallies into bloodthirsty theaters where Madame Guillotine wouldn�t look out of place as a prop along with crocheting crones. But it seems that McCain is becoming nervous at this below-the-belt approach which could have major repercussions if nut-jobs get the message that a terrorist lover with dodgy antecedents is about to move into the White House. Indeed, were Obama ever to be attacked by one of the McCain-Palin faithful, it could be argued that statements from the wannabe president and his VP contributed to inciting violence against their competitor or at the very least nurtured fear and xenophobia.

Take a look at the words of the latest McCain campaign ad:

�Do you know Bill Ayers ran the violent left-wing activist group called Weather Underground? We know Ayers� wife was on the FBI�s most wanted list. We know they bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge�s home. We know Ayers said �I don�t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn�t do enough.� But Barack�s friendship with terrorist Ayers isn�t the issue . . .�

Things came to a head when McCain was driven to grab a microphone from a female supporter, who said she didn�t trust Obama because he is �an Arab.� It�s easy to understand how some feeble-minded person could construe this linkage from anti-Obama propaganda being regurgitated by the campaign and the Republican mouthpiece, Fox News, which never misses an opportunity to stick in the knife.

If you remember it was Fox that dredged up the story about Obama�s early childhood in Indonesia, while somehow converting a local school he attended into �a madrassa� and banged away for months at Obama�s connection with the fiery Rev. Jeremiah Wright whom they portrayed as anti-American.

But McCain�s response to the poor misguided woman who called Obama �an Arab� is even more telling. �No, no, no Ma�am. He�s a decent family man [and] citizen that I happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues . . . he�s not [an Arab].� Eh! What on earth is this supposed to mean?

The implication is Arabs can�t be decent family men or citizens. The woman used �Arab� as a derogatory label, yet McCain didn�t respond at all to this slur. For instance, he could have said, �No, Ma�am, he�s not an Arab, but even if he were you are here to judge candidates on their capability to perform the job, not their ethnicity.�

It seems to me that ambition has led McCain to recklessly risk his reputation during its pursuit. Already known as a man whose anger is volatile and unpredictable, he is heading a muck-chucking campaign. He was a victim of a brutal attack by the Bush camp when he ran in 2000 and should know better.

By contrast, Obama has kept his cool and refrained from going for the jugular and whereas McCain will always have to shake off the slime, Obama is likely to emerge smelling of roses, albeit faintly.

May the best man win! After all, what better answer could there be to racism�s ugly emerging head?

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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