Sunday, October 12, 2008

John Lewis Warns McCain: You're "Sowing The Seeds Of Hatred And Division."

Georgia congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis has condemned the behaviour of John McCain and Sarah Palin, comparing the mood they are creating to that created by George Wallace, the former segregationist governor and presidential candidate.

"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign," Lewis said in a statement. "Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."

The veteran Democrat even invoked one of the most divisive figures in recent U.S. history. "During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama," said Lewis.

He warned, "As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."
As we all saw the other day, even McCain came under attack from his own supporters when he tried to calm down the anti-Obama rhetoric which both he and Palin have indulged in.

The McCain camp have reacted quickly:
Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.
So McCain immediately tries to make this about whether or not Obama will condemn Lewis' remarks. But why would Obama do so when Joe Biden has already gone on record condemning some of the comments coming out of Palin rallies? Indeed, even David Gergen has made essentially the same point.

No matter what fantasy land McCain is currently residing in, it is not normal in presidential campaigns to hear one side calling the other a "terrorist" or demanding the people should "kill him!" or wishing that they could remove his head.

McCain and Palin can try to spin this any way they want, but this is not normal political discourse.

Don't get me wrong, I am not implying that either McCain or Palin are in any way racist, but they are encouraging hate with their constant linking of Obama to "terrorists" and with their constant inference that he sees American differently than patriots do, which is a constant Palin lament.

Lewis is pointing out that such atmospheres can lead to violence.

The Obama camp have rebuked the George Wallace comparison but essentially agreed with Lewis' point that the McCain camp are encouraging hatred:
Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States 'pals around with terrorists.'
Lewis is right however in the main thrust of his argument. McCain and Palin are playing with fire. The anger amongst their supporters is almost palpable and it even turned on their own presidential nominee when he claimed that Obama is "a decent man."

You know you have gone too far when even that proposition is outrageous to your supporters.

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