Barack Obama made what most people would consider an entirely reasonable claim:
“…Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Mr. Obama said in Springfield, Mo., echoing earlier remarks. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know.
To this John McCain responds by invoking the old “playing the race card” accusation:
“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, charged in a statement with which Mr. McCain later said he agreed. “It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”
What is interesting about the McCain campaign strategy is that they are pre-empting what had been the Obama campaign’s preferred tactic during the primary against Hillary Clinton. When she, or more likely her husband, made a statement perceived to slight Obama’s race or African-Americans, it was the Obama campaign that noted its opponents were “playing the race card.” This of course, was extremely effective in putting Clinton off her game. That’s not to say that her comments weren’t racially insensitive and worthy of such condemnation.
McCain’s people are seeking to deny Obama that cudgel to use against their candidate. Which means that when McCain DOES begin making racially insensitive remarks about his opponent (can you believe this isn’t in the offing?), Obama’s criticism will (they hope) be blunted by their own pre-emptive strike.
I think there can be no doubt that a Willie Horton style campaign is in the offing. Perhaps they can’t use anything quite as blatant as that considering Obama, unlike Dukakis, is African-American. But if they successfully used the Swift Boat campaign successfully against Kerry, there can be no doubt that there’s more where that came from–and it IS coming.
The Swift Boat campaign was extraordinary to me because it was a full frontal attack on what should’ve been one of Kerry’s strongest suits–that he was a decorated war hero. It was like a military campaign that decides not to probe for an enemy’s weakness, but rather to attack its strongest defensive position relentlessly until it crumbles. To me, this indicates that McCain will attack all of Obama’s strongest virtues and seek to lay waste to them: his ethnicity, his idealism, his youth, his eloquence, his policy wonkishness.
This promises to be a very ugly campaign. If you support Obama you do so because you think he represents some of the highest ideals of being an American. It is precisely those ideals that the Republicans will attack relentlessly trying to persuade the rest of America that they are suspect. This is going to be dirty. Really dirty.
It is beyond strange, not to mention hypocritical–considering they were his worst enemy during his presidency–to see right-wing Republicans jumping to Bill Clinton’s defense:
…We will not allow John McCain to be smeared by Senator Obama as a racist for offering legitimate criticism,” he said. “We have waited for months with a sick feeling knowing this moment would come because we watched it incur with President Clinton. Say whatever you want about President Clinton, his record on this issue is above reproach.”
Interesting that Republicans would consider themselves experts on Bill Clinton’s approach to black-white relations. It must be because of their own party’s stellar record on the subject and its especial sensitivity to minority rights.