Salon: The GOP goes back to its ugly roots

Salon

The GOP goes back to its ugly roots

McCain is resurrecting the GOP’s oldest tactic: Smearing Obama as a scary black terrorist sympathizer. But he may meet the same fate as Barry Goldwater.

The End of Days is approaching for John McCain and Sarah Palin, and at least one member of the ticket is not likely to greet this development with religious rapture. Their numbers are tanking. Their campaign has had to pull out of Michigan, and they are trailing in most of the battleground states they must hold onto. Even Karl Rove has predicted an Obama win if the election were held today. McCain’s hotheaded behavior during the Wall Street crisis and his numerous other erratic tactical swerves have backfired. And his biggest gamble, choosing Sarah Palin as vice president, is increasingly looking like a disaster.

McCain’s all-too-predictable response: get ugly, as he did on Monday is his disturbing rant against Obama in New Mexico.

The man who incessantly talks about “honor” has checked his own at the door. Back in April, McCain — himself the victim of a vicious, race-baiting smear campaign orchestrated by Karl Rove in 2000 — disavowed a North Carolina adattacking Obama for his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. “It’s not the message of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “It’s not the message of my campaign. I’ve pledged to conduct a respectful campaign.”

But none of those facts matter, because McCain desperately needs to paint Obama as a traitor, an alien, a defeatist, and un-American. The rhetorical question “Who is Barack Obama?” is not accidental: It is intended to raise fundamental doubts about whether he is a real American. It ties into the online smears that accuse him of being a Muslim, a terrorist, of not saluting the flag, hating the troops, attending a madrassa, hating Israel, and so on.

In a fear-mongering speech on Monday, McCain continued this Mysterious Stranger tactic. “Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there’s always a back story with Sen. Obama,” McCain said. “All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?” Cue a subconscious image of a dark, menacing figure planning to impose sharia law on America.

Sarah Palin, confidently pronouncing on Obama’s bona fides despite the fact that she has repeatedly revealed herself to a terrified worldto be someone who must be kept as far away from the presidency as possible, joined in the smear campaign. Citing Obama’s acquaintance with former Weatherman founder Bill Ayers, Palin said about the Democratic presidential nominee, “This is not a man who sees America as you and I do — as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.”

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