October 9, 2008

Politics first, America second

Tom Friedman in the Times:
Criticizing Sarah Palin is truly shooting fish in a barrel. But given the huge attention she is getting, you can’t just ignore what she has to say. And there was one thing she said in the debate with Joe Biden that really sticks in my craw. It was when she turned to Biden and declared: “You said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic.”

What an awful statement. Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Indeed.

And what about the many, many, too many casual lies dropping off the tongues of McCain and Sarah Palin? The disingenuous and irresponsibly inflamatory deceptions?

The unprecidented spectacle of the wife of a candidate stepping forward to take a cheap shot at an opponent, such as Cindy "the Trophy" McCain did recently in trying to suggest that Barack Obama PERSONALLY is responsible for putting her son at more risk as he serves in the military (because he voted against some multi-billion dollar authorization for the war.)

She said it sent a chill down her spine to think of this apparently deeply anti-American act. "I would suggest that Sen. Obama change shoes with me for just one day." said Miss Cindy, conjuring up the decidedly bizarre image of Obama in one of her dozens of pairs of $750 designer heels. (Or her wearing some black wing-tips.)

This even though Obama voted against it because it didn't include any provision for a timetable to begin to withdraw troops from Iraq, and not telling the rubes that HER OWN HUSBAND voted AGAINST a similar bill because the bill DID include a schedule to begin drawing down troop numbers.

Accusing Obama of "paling around with "domestic terrorists" (a phrase which I figured would immediately make some men to say, "Obama's paling around with my wife??!)

That's stupid talk, out of a desperate desire to get people to "look over there!" and take their eyes and their minds off the real problems the next President will have to address and their proposals to do so.

Obama, to hear them tell it, was thick as theives with Bill Ayers, a guy who formed a seminal and important protest group during the 60's. He was accused, but never convicted, of planting bombs at government buildings, all in protest of the Vietnam War.

Bad stuff. Not too productive to say the least.

Obama was 5 years old and about 2000 miles away at the time this happened. Yet Palin is convincing what the press has now politely dubbed "low information voters", in other words, uninformed and unintelligent Republicans, that Obama lit the fuse to the bombs.

The reality? (not that they care.) Ayers went on to hold the title of Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois and established himself as a valuable civic minded citizen who Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Jr. praises for his contributions to Chicago, which awarded Ayers the "Citizen of the Year" award in 1997 for his years of work on reforming Chicago's education system.

He happened to live near Obama. They were both INVITED to serve on the board of a charitable organization founded by the Annenbergs, a decidedly conservative Republican billionaire couple, for the purpose of reforming and improving Chicago's failing school system.

So they served on the same board, which as you know, is not exactly like the weekly poker club. These people barely get to know each other, and only attend infrequent board meetings together.

Later, an Illinois state senator named Alice Palmer was retiring. Obama had finally decided to enter politics and was going to run for Palmer's seat. Palmer did the ordinary thing, and introduced Obama to some of the more prominent and politically active residents of her district, which is perfectly ordinary. In doing so, she introduced him to Ayers and his wife. The civically prominent Ayers saw something in Obama and was willing to pitch in when the relative unknown decided to launch his race for state senate. He, like many people, decided to host a small fundraiser at his home.

This event probably lasted an entire 3 to 4 hours, IF that.

After that, the two may have spoken occasionally, but Ayers never played a role in advising Obama nor did he hold any position in any Obama campaign.

Obama has denounced Ayers actions of 4 decades ago.

Now Palin and McCain are trying to describe this as "paling around with a "domestic terrorist", and saying Obama, "launched his career in the living room of a "domestic terrorist".

Uh-huh.

Then apparently, the Annenbergs, pals of McCain and stauch conservatives, must be even more suspicious, since they not only "palled around with" but INVITED "domestic terrorist" Bill Ayers to serve on the board of their foundation's organization.

And hosting one of dozens of informal fund-raising events at his home suddenly sounds like Obama is some secret robot-like creation of the fiendish Bill Ayers. That Ayers "launched" Obama's career and therefore, it's suggested to the rubes, must be the evil American hating evil-doer behind the scenes secretly pulling the strings for every move Obama makes. A vote for Obama is a vote for a "domestic terrorist."

Which is of course, so preposterous that only a right wing loon would fall for it.

But there's millions of right wing loons. And many are truly unhinged and well armed.

Which makes it all the more anti-American, reckless and deeply irresponsible and unethical for Palin and McCain to feed such bullshit to these nut-cases, who truly feel, thanks to such things being pumped into them from the right constantly, that Obama actually represents a dire threat to this nation's very survival.

This of course is a psychological outlet for the seething racism that many Republicans embrace. Intertwine that racism with the assurances from Palin and McCain, the message that, yes, you're very right to feel Obama is some mysterious and very dangerous threat to America! Yes, all your deranged fantasys are probably true.

They give permission to the insane, they confirm for the delusional their worst fears of a black man as president. "TERRORIST!!" they shout at McCain events, "TRAITOR!!!", even, "KILL HIM!!" has been heard and reported shouted in response to Palin's cutesy and crazy accusations against Obama.

When these dangerous kooks are out there thinking that they, like John Wilkes Booth, would go down in history as saving the country from certain doom by doing harm to Obama, and Palin and McCain, far from discouraging them or sternly admonishing them not to, only throw gasoline on the fire of their paranoid delusions, what share of the responsibility will rightly fall on their shoulders should the unthinkable acutually occur?

And how much further will they go down this truly anti-American road as they see themselves losing this race? To what extremes will they go to frighten the easily frightened? How much further will they go to encourage and abet the raving fear, paranoia, and racism of many of their most ardent supporters?

Is this what the thoroughly dishonorable John McCain means by putting "Country First"?

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