Friday, October 17, 2008

When All Else Fails, Race Bait...

A GOP (Republican) newsletter sent out last week, contained a fake food stamp, with Barack Obama in donkey ears, surrounded by images of fried chicken, watermelon, and ribs.

When the Republican who sent it out was asked why he didn't think it was racist, he asked the reporter why she thought it was. When informed that the watermelon and fried chicken reference negative stereotypes of African-Americans, he gave that most wonderful of all GOP responses, "Says who?"

Later in the same story, his daughter also defended the newsletter, saying "I eat fried chicken."

Meanwhile, Republican candidate John McCain admits, "I screwed up." His error? Picking Sarah Palin? Turning his campaign virtually 100% negative? No, it was canceling an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. The strange thing about this comment is that McCain's stated reason for canceling the appearance was that he has "suspended" his campaign so that he could try to work on the first iteration of the bailout bill (which was defeated, mostly due to House Republicans). He claimed at the time that it would be inappropriate for him to appear on a comedy show during a time of crisis. Fair enough. But now he says he "screwed up" in making that decision? Huh? Is he now saying it would have been appropriate and he should have gone on the show? Or is this a Freudian slip that perhaps reveals that the "screw up" was actually the ill-received non-suspension suspension that people largely saw as what it was--political grandstanding and an attempt to use the business of politics to score campaign points?

Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has some choice words about the turn towards race-baiting that the GOP has taken:

What scares me now is this: I don't think they're done yet. Just because I can't imagine how McCain and his surrogates could sink any deeper into the sleaze and the race-baiting muck doesn't mean that his strategists -- odious professional liars like Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis -- have reached the limits of their imagination. Each time one of their previous strategies has failed to gain traction, they have responded as though it would have worked had it only been more dishonest and just a bit sleazier. So they roll out the next plan and drag their campaign even lower and John McCain approves of the newest ugly message and Sarah Palin enthusiastically embraces the next inflammatory lie and Obama's lead in the polls gets even bigger.

Fred's always insightful and eloquent (and since when, by the way, John McCain, did the ability to speak eloquently and articulately become a character flaw?), but the thing that struck me was how many of the comments contained messages from people who said, "You know the most disappointing thing about this election is that I used to like/think well of John McCain...." I really believe that. It is amazing to me how over the course of a few months, I've heard many people who favored Obama or Clinton go from saying, "Well, I hope the [Obama/Clinton] wins, but either one [McCain or Democrat] would be better than Bush" to "I can't believe I used to respect John McCain." The most amazing thing about this election is how quickly and carelessly McCain squandered his good name and good reputation among Democrats and Independents by using all the smear tactics against Obama that Rove, Bush, Cheney and company used against him.


Howard said...

God Forbid anyone steps on the enormous ego of David Letterman ... who is obvously biased in favor of Obama. So far, all the conclusions by all the pundits are
totally based upon POLLS. Not a single actual vote
has been cast yet. Obama supporters gush at how
well their man has done in the debates, which proves
once again that Obama is a good debater and a good
speaker. It doesn't say anything about his character,
judgement, or what kind of a leader he would be.
I still would rather trust a man who would not sell out
his fellow prisoners, even during 5 years of torture,
than to trust a man who betrayed a 20 year friendship,
for personal ambition. And ... regarding this election,
until people actually vote ... it ain't over till it's over!

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

Actually, some states have begun early voting. Survey USA (reported at says that 12% of Ohio voters have already voted. Early voting began in parts of Wake County, NC, yesterday.

But that's quibbling over the precise accuracy of your far as the substance, yes, it is certainly too early to say it's over.

That said, I do think that there is a correlation between the (relative) proximity of the election, the polling numbers, and the decided "negative" turn of the campaigning.

It sounds like we actually (mostly) agree about the Letterman appearance. My point is only that I would have respected McCain more if he had owned his original decision than tried to walk it back. If he was sincere in his reasons for canceling in the first place, why was it a "screw up." Why not say, for example, "Look, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, and God knows I would prefer that you didn't use your platform to trumpet the other guy, but I had important things to do, and you're the one who looks small and petty by suggesting your show should be a higher priority than trying to do the actual business of governing."

Letterman probably would have continued to bait him by pointing out that he appeared on "The Today Show" while his campaign was supposedly suspended, but, as you say, Letterman would probably do that anyway. So it ends up just looking like McCain can be bullied into appearing on Letterman's show or that he's willing to pander. I still don't understand why he thinks canceling the initial appearance was a screw up.

ludovic said...

Want to follow this kind of race baiting? Visit to track the good, bad and ugly about race in the race.