Sunday, October 12, 2008

His Love Hate Affair With His Racist Clientele*

An interesting bit of campaign-related gossip (via Newshoggers, my favorite home away from other homes):

With his electoral prospects fading by the day, Senator John McCain has fallen out with his vice-presidential running mate about the direction of his White House campaign.

McCain has become alarmed about the fury unleashed by Sarah Palin, the moose-hunting “pitbull in lipstick”, against Senator Barack Obama. Cries of “terrorist” and “kill him” have accompanied the tirades by the governor of Alaska against the Democratic nominee at Republican rallies.

Mark Salter, McCain’s long-serving chief of staff, is understood to have told campaign insiders that he would prefer his boss, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, to suffer an “honourable defeat” rather than conduct a campaign that would be out of character – and likely to lose him the election.

Palin, 44, has led the character attacks on Obama in the belief that McCain may be throwing away the election and her chance of becoming vice-president. Her supporters think that if the Republican ticket loses on November 4, she should run for president in 2012. [...]

“Sarah Palin is no fool. She sees the same thing and wants to salvage what she can. She is positioning herself for the future. Her best days could be in front of her. She wants to look as though she was the fighter, the person with the spunk who was out there taking it to the Democrats.”

Like Jim Henley (my favorite libertarian), I detect a whiff of self-serving McCain spin in this in that it neatly pushes all the negativity on to Palin. But that's not really the whole story is it. After all, Palin was not responsible for the nasty ad-buys, nor did she force McCain himself to pursue these scurriluos lines of attack.

Nevertheless, Palin does have a history of "turning" on her political benefactors, as Henley put it, when the opportunity for self-advancement presented itself. It is possible that McCain does want to try to contain the damage to his reputation at this point, and that Palin has other plans.

And above all, McCain chose Sarah Palin, so the responsibility for her prominence in this race, and the message she chooses to promote in that position, begins and ends with McCain. As John Cole (my favorite disenchanted Republican) put it:

Who could have imagined that if you take an ethically challenged know-nothing religious nut from backwoods America, have Bill Kristol and the Rove 2000 team whisper in her ear for weeks, that she would turn into a vicious political opportunist with no regard for the country and an eye on her personal future?

While we're on the topic, I found this piece from Kite Runner novelist Khaled Hosseini (my favorite Afghan-American novelist) instructive (via Thoreau, my favorite theoritician):

I prefer to discuss politics through my novels, but I am truly dismayed these days. Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.

Never mind that this evokes -- and brazenly tries to resurrect -- the unsavory, cruel days of our past that we thought we had left behind. Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama's middle name makes him someone to distrust -- and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama's middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there's something wrong with my name?

Perhaps, but regardless of what is true in their respective heart of hearts, they are both perfectly willing to stoke a vile racism that treats Arabs (and Muslims) as terrorists and morally inferior by mere virtue of being Arab (and/or Muslim), and then capitalize on the results electorally.

This reminds me of the tension between the lofty principles used to sell Bush's foreign policy, and the prevalent attitudes of the population that form its strongest base of support. According to Bush Doctrine spinners, we are, putatively, spending trillions of dollars, losing thousands of American lives, causing debilitating injuries to tens of thousands more Americans and incurring so many other sizable costs in the name of bestowing the gifts of freedom and democracy on...a bunch of mostly Muslim Arabs in Iraq. Many with the name Hussein.

I imagine this campaign-related storyline that emphasizes the toxicity with which Arabness/Muslimness is viewed by many Americans (particularly on the right) is doing wonders to improve our image throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. I can't imagine why so many Arabs and Muslims doubt our benificent democracy promoting agenda?

The Boys with the Arab Trap, as I termed it.

(*from my favorite song by said group)

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