McCain should change campaign tactics

Renee Rosenow

Terrorist! Traitor! He’s an Arab! He’s a Muslim! Off with his head! Kill him!

This is a short list of some of the epithets that have been shouted at McCain-Palin rallies within the last two weeks. Were they talking about U.S. efforts to capture Osama Bin Laden? No. These words were directed at presidential candidate Barack Obama. At least one of the threats made at these rallies is now being investigated by the Secret Service.

The McCain campaign stood by silently through all of this hatred, until finally, last weekend, when McCain responded to a woman’s insistence that Obama is an Arab by assuring her that Obama is a “decent man,” and asking the audience to be respectful. What a joke.

It is absolutely appalling that McCain could sit there with a straight face and attempt to denounce the very vitriol and xenophobic hatred towards Obama that his own campaign has been fostering and promoting in ads and at rallies for the last two weeks. The campaign hasn’t been shy about it either – McCain’s own aide’s admitted to reporters that they were “going negative” in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis.

The McCain campaign has gone beyond trying to defeat Obama as a candidate. They are attempting to redefine him as an enemy and a danger to the United States. They call him a friend of terrorists, unpatriotic and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has taken to saying “he’s not one of us.”

The New York Times Editorial Board recently pointed out McCain “once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics,” but noted a recent shift in the morals of his campaign, calling it “one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.”

Conservative writer Frank Schaeffer, who worked in 2000 to get McCain elected, wrote an editorial last week for the Baltimore Sun in which he admonished McCain, telling him “you have changed . your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.”

Our own state Sen. Russ Feingold, a longtime friend of McCain’s, pleaded with McCain to do more to stop his campaign from slipping into something “hateful and dangerous,” adding, “It won’t seem credible for the John McCain I know to say his campaign should be respectful, while seeming to look the other way as his campaign employs certain tactics and rhetoric which apparently are intended to appeal to the fears of some Americans.”

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing a very dangerous game, sowing the seeds of hatred and division that have led to increased hostility which only demeans the political process and our entire democracy, but more importantly poses a very real danger.

Most of you reading this article are reasonable people who can see through these attacks for what they are – the same old dirty politics – but there are a lot of very unreasonable people out there. As taboo as the subject is, we must not forget our nation’s history of violence. Our parents lived through it – it is real. The immense progress our nation has made when it comes to race and ethnicity does not eliminate these threats, because all it takes is one person, still imbued by hatred, to change the course of history with one unthinkable act.

Obama was assigned Secret Service protection earlier than almost any other candidate in history, and since February, has been regularly wearing a bullet proof vest to campaign appearances because of specific threats on his life.

Now, on top of all of that, his rival’s campaign is calling the leading candidate for the highest office in the world a friend of terrorists and “not one of us” – during wartime – causing their own supporters to shout “kill him” during their rallies, and standing by silently for almost two weeks without saying anything about how inappropriate those comments are!

Now don’t get me wrong, both campaigns are equally responsible for their fair share of half-truths and distorted facts throughout this election. Neither campaign has avoided going negative. However, there is absolutely no excuse for the seemingly complete inability of the McCain campaign to make any legitimate case for their election without resorting to dangerous demagoguery and fear-mongering.

McCain’s stunt of suspending his campaign in order to parachute into Washington and singlehandedly fix the financial crisis flopped when he left Washington after two days and we still have an ever-worsening financial crisis. And if the polls are any indicator, the campaign’s most recent stunt of trying to scare America away from what they call a terrorist-loving Obama is failing even more miserably.

Perhaps Sen. McCain should wrap up the final two weeks of this election with the most unexpected stunt of all . perhaps he should try talking about the issues.

Barnekow is a senior political science major and guest columnist for The Spectator.