It was all a mistake! The “Wolf in the woods” ad, the “Weatherman” ad, the “Pedophile” ad, Palin’s “pallin’ around with terrorists” rhetoric, her failure to censure those in her crowds shouting things like “Kill him!”, McCain’s failure to strongly condemn these things…

What McCain should have done is focus on racial fear tactics.

From personal conversations, I know some leading Republicans feel this way (while others strongly disagree). Now Pat Buchanan has come out and said it. In a new article called a How To Handle Sonya, he writes:

“Had McCain been willing to drape Jeremiah Wright around the neck of Barack Obama, as Lee Atwater draped Willie Horton around the neck of Michael Dukakis, the mainstream media might have howled.

And McCain might be president.”

Nice, Pat. I especially like the sly lynching metaphor of “drape around the neck”.

What I find curious is the continued belief that the McCain camp didn’t use race as a weapon. I’ve commented about this before, in places such as the San Francisco Chronicle’s article Veiled Racism Seen in New Attacks on Obama:

“The key to Atwater’s success was that the candidates themselves remained above the fray. “They were friendly, like (Ronald) Reagan,” Forbes said. “Just like now, Palin is the friendly face, or George W. Bush was the guy you wanted to have a beer with. They’ll dance around it and say (these tactics) aren’t racist, but they are.”

This I’m-above-the-fray stuff really works. Despite all the offensive rhetoric that came from McCain’s party and his team, including the ethnically-tinged constant use of ‘Hussein’, and all the code words like ‘socialist’ and ‘community organizer’, and despite his own misleading references to Jeremiah Wright, since McCain never actually aired his TV ad about Wright (that mysteriously leaked to ABC), and he wasn’t officially connected to this Jeremiah Wright ad, and since he authorized an ad that was subtly rather than overtly racist, many journalists believe McCain ran a non-racially-tinged campaign. Frank Rich is a notable exception.

But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly “even-handed” journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

Posted: July 15, 2009 Comments Off