McCain for a Moment
Monday, October 13, 2008 at 1:09 pm
For a moment we saw him — the real John McCain.
It was at a town-hall meeting Friday. A McCain supporter rose and declared that he was frightened by the prospect of waking up to an America led by Sen. Barack Obama. Another woman said of Obama, “He’s an Arab.”
“No, Ma’am,” McCain said as he quickly grabbed the microphone from her. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.”
Put aside the fact that plenty of Arab men are decent family men. What was revealing here was what one saw in McCain’s face — exasperation and perhaps a realization of what precisely his campaign had unleashed.
It’s no secret that this is not the campaign McCain wanted to run. He wanted Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate, not Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He wanted to focus on the war on terror and national defense, not economic bailouts.
And one can only imagine how much he’s cringed at his own campaign’s attack ads, which have been alternately tacky and blatantly false, and at his running mate whose attacks have prompted some audience members to yell “terrorist” to “kill him” at the mere mention of Obama’s name.
So Friday, when McCain was put in the awkward position of defending Obama’s honor, it was apparent that he had come to grips with what his campaign had wrought. For a man who considers ideas like honor and respect, civility and decency paramount, you could see McCain physically recoil at the sentiments being expressed by some of his supporters.
While McCain denounced the great civil rights avatar, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, for comparing his tactics to those of segregationist George Wallace in 1968, the truth is that McCain and Palin have brought this ugliness on themselves.
Unlike at Obama rallies, where one feels the buoyancy of the crowd, what one increasingly senses at Republican events is anger, some of it extreme.
Whether or not McCain can pull this election out remains unclear, because anyone who says he knows what’s going to happen Nov. 4 is simply kidding himself.
What is certain, though, is that McCain’s image — his standing — has been tarnished by what’s happened since the nominating conventions.
McCain is a man who has served this country well, who through the years has symbolized what is possible when ideological differences are put aside.
But now, in contesting for this nation’s highest office, he has effectively wiped that record clean. He simply will be viewed differently from now on.
One’s remaining years in public life should be spent trying to leave the office you have held in better shape than when you found it.
Instead, McCain will spend that time trying to repair the damage of what he has wrought.
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