Over the past several days, Senator John McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin has been attacking Senator Barack Obama for his association with a former American terrorist named Bill Ayers. This line of attack is in and of itself unremarkable. It was used by Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries to no avail.
There is, however, a disturbing difference between Clinton’s “Ayers attack” and that of Sarah Palin and the difference is the audience reaction. When Clinton invoked the Ayers connection, the audience response was one of “mmm, perhaps we should consider this?” Contrast this with Palin:
At one Palin rally, an audience member cried out “Treason!” with respect to Obama.
At a subsequent McCain rally, an audience member declared “Terrorist!” again referring to Obama.
Most disturbingly, at another Palin rally, a member of the crowd shouted “Kill him!” “Him” was Barack Obama. This latest incident was of sufficient concern that the Secret Service is investigating the matter.
In none of these cases did the candidates stop their stump speech and decry the crowd reaction. On MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”, Olbermann covered the phenomenon using the subtitle “Inciting the Mob”. How accurate that was!
Tonight, another chapter of this dark trend unfolded when during the Presidential Town Hall Debate, Senator McCain referred to his opponent as “that one.”
That one? Not “the Senator”, not “my opponent”, not “Mr. Obama”, not even “that guy over there”. “One”, a noun devoid of gender or even any trace of humanity. Perhaps a fill in the blank for that [terrorist, enemy, foreigner, negro]. It was an example of disrespect or worse, contempt.
Most importantly it plays into the menacing, ominous tone that the McCain campaign has taken in recent days. Not since Hillary Clinton’s careless reference to Bobby Kennedy’s assassination has a candidate played with fire in this way. McCain seems oblivious to the effect his words and those of his surrogates can have. Palin’s inflammatory remarks concerning Ayers come with the tacit approval of the top of the ticket. If McCain wanted to change the tone, he would. He doesn’t. Instead he wants to appeal to the darkest instincts of the underbelly of this country.
Let me be very clear. If any harm comes to “that one” between now and Election Day, the blood will be on the hands of John Sidney McCain III.