In the past, politicians with honor would correct and shape the crowds who attended their rallies when they shouted things that were incorrect or unfair to their opponents. But in the past two weeks, McCain and Palin have been egging their crowds on in ways that are loathsome and potentially dangerous to Obama and his Democratic supporters.
Politico is reporting this morning about the frenzied mob that attended McCain’s recent rally:
My colleague Amie Parnes, with the GOP ticket today in Wisconsin, sends along an exchange at a town hall meeting:
A man stood up and said, “I’m mad. I’m really mad, and what’s going to surprise you, it’s not about the economy. It’s about the socialists taking over our country.”
“When you have Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the hooligans up there gonna run this country. We gotta have our head examined. It’s time that you two are representing us and we are mad. So go get ’em!”
The crowd erupted in “USA! USA! USA!” chants.
Then McCain replied: “Well, I — I think I got the message. Could I just say, the gentleman is right.” McCain then went on about how it was true that Americans are angry.
The crowds entering McCain rallies are no better than those inside:
At several Palin rallies over the past week, crowds also went crazy without being corrected by the politician:
Worse, Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
And another account at that same rally:
The reception had been better in Clearwater, where Palin, speaking to a sea of “Palin Power” and “Sarahcuda” T-shirts, tried to link Obama to the 1960s Weather Underground. “One of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” she said. (“Boooo!” said the crowd.) “And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,’ ” she continued. (“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.)
“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.
Palin also told those gathered that Obama doesn’t like American soldiers. “He said that our troops in Afghanistan are just, quote, ‘air-raiding villages and killing civilians,’ ” she said, drawing boos from a crowd that had not been told Obama was actually appealing for more troops in Afghanistan.
This behavior on the part of the crowds, and the lack of chastising by the candidates at the podium is really unprecedented. It’s an ugly change in tone for politics, and sets the table for something serious or violent to occur. McCain and Palin have a moral responsibility to object to violent, racist or misguided statements or behavior of the crowds at their rallies.
Obama has a great response to McCain’s crazy name-calling on the road: Say it to my face at a debate, Buster.
UPDATE: After I posted this, I found yet another article — Wednesday, McCain spoke to a crowd in Pennsylvania, where a crowd member shouted in reference to Obama — “Off with his head!” according to the Wall Street Journal.
That’s some scary stuff, yo.
Let me point out, since it briefly surfaced in the mainstream but no one has made a big deal about it — there have been TWO assassination attempts on Obama already. Twice the Secret Service has foiled an angry nut with a guy attempting to get near the candidate.
This sort of rhetoric on the part of the McCain/Palin campaign is dangerous and needs to end before it gets out of hand.