Tuesday, October 14, 2008

McCain's Wink and Nod Strategy is Nothing New

Belledame has an interesting discussion going on over at her blog called "Reaping the Whirlwind" where she mentions how presidential candidate John McCain recently had the delightful experience of being booed by his own crowd of supporters at a campaign rally.

Besides her post, which is interesting in its own right, the comments also caught my attention. Several people were of the opinion that McCain didn't intend for his rhetoric to stir up the level of militant racism that his supporters are now exhibiting. Some people feel like he's now trying to turn course and discourage people from reacting to his words in the way that many of them have. At the same time, some of the commenters on Belle's thread expressed very different sentiments about his running mate's intentions. No one seemed to have any doubts about whether Sarah Palin is purposely inciting violence at these rallies. Now, I completely agree about what's being said with regards to Palin. She isn't backing down one bit. However, I'm just not understanding where folks are coming from with this McCain theory.

I am more than a little bit perplexed when I hear folks say things along the lines of, "Boy, McCain sure has let this election change him from the fairly decent bipartisan sorta guy he used to be" or "I don't think he meant to open up a Pandora's box THIS much". I'm sorry, I just don't see it. This is the same guy who voted against making Martin Luther King day a Federal holiday back in 1983. He wasn't even fifty years old at the time. This is the same guy who was still calling Asians "gooks" back in 2000. This guy has purposely fanned the flames of racism in very precise ways.

In the past couple of days, he's made a couple of statements that some people see as proof he's trying to dial back the hatred. I'm sorry, but this just looks like a textbook case of how whites use racism. How many times have we seen highly influential white political figures make the most blatantly racist statements and then let those statements stand long enough for the virulently racist people in this country to use as fodder for their causes? After awhile, the politician then comes back and claims that their view is really not as extreme as their original statements/actions might suggest. Let's examine some cases:

Jesse Helms

In 1984, when Helms faced his toughest opponent in Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, the late Bill Peterson, one of the most evenhanded reporters I have ever known, summed up what "some said was the meanest Senate campaign in history."

"Racial epithets and standing in school doors are no longer fashionable," Peterson wrote, "but 1984 proved that the ugly politics of race are alive and well. Helms is their master."

A year before the election, when public polls showed Helms trailing by 20 points, he launched a Senate filibuster against the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. Thurmond and the Senate majority were on the other side, but the next poll showed Helms had halved his deficit.

All year, Peterson reported, "Helms campaign literature sounded a drumbeat of warnings about black voter-registration drives. . . . On election eve, he accused Hunt of being supported by 'homosexuals, the labor union bosses and the crooks' and said he feared a large 'bloc vote.' What did he mean? 'The black vote,' Helms said." He won, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Ronald Reagan

Philadelphia, county seat of Mississippi's Neshoba County, is famous for a couple of things. That is where three civil rights workers -- Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman -- were murdered in 1964. And that is where, in 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan chose to launch his election campaign, with a ringing endorsement of "states' rights."

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn't forget, is the party's successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan's Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship.

I don't accuse Reagan of racism, though while he served, I did note what seemed to be his indifference to the concerns of black Americans -- issues ranging from civil rights enforcement and attacks on "welfare queens" to his refusal to act seriously against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He gets full credit from me for the good things he did -- including presiding over the end of international communism. But he also legitimized, by his broad wink at it, racial indifference -- and worse.

David Duke
Duke pioneered the now common effort on the far right to camouflage racist ideas in hot-button issues like affirmative action and immigration, successfully appealing to race and class resentments. Similarly, he was one of the first neo-Nazi and Klan leaders to discontinue the use of Nazi and Klan regalia and ritual, as well as other traditional displays of race hatred, and to cultivate media attention.

Strom Thurmond

When he was governor of South Carolina in 1948, Thurmond ran for President on a "states' rights" (code for "white power") ticket, advocating "segregation of all the races". In 1964 Thurmond stumped the south for the blatantly racist presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater (as, of course, did the independent counsel Kenneth Starr). Ever since, in his deplorably long political career, Thurmond has continued to appeal to the racial prejudice of an electorate which has rewarded him with an eternal place in the Senate.

Before he began his political career, Thurmond was a circuit court judge. In that capacity, in 1941, he presided over the trial of a 17-year-old black tenant farmer called Samuel Osborne.

This man's basic crime was that he refused to work on a Saturday when the white plantation owner, William Walker, demanded his presence. Boss Walker, enraged by Osborne's refusal, stormed over to his shack carrying his .32-calibre pistol and the club with which he regularly beat his tenants. Osborne was sleeping and woke to find Boss Walker standing over him with a pistol. He reached for his own shotgun and fired, killing Walker.

Even in the south and even in the 1940s, Osborne was entitled to be tried by a jury of his peers and to rely on his right to self-defence. The Supreme Court had ruled just a year before the trial that the exclusion of blacks from juries was unconstitutional. Yet Thurmond allowed an all-white jury to try Osborne. He failed in his summing up to mention the right to self-defence. And when the jury duly found Osborne guilty, he sentenced him to death.

This was one of the main sources of Thurmond's popularity and one of the achievements which impelled him towards the governor's mansion a few years later.

Ron Paul
The early 1990s writings became liabilities for Paul long before last week's New Republic story. Back in 1996, Paul narrowly eked out a congressional victory over Democrat Lefty Morris, who made the newsletters one of his main campaign issues, damning them both for their racial content and for their advocacy of drug legalization. At the time, Paul defended the statements that appeared under his name, claiming that they expressed his "philosophical differences" with Democrats and had been "taken out of context." He finally disavowed them in a 2001 interview with Texas Monthly, explaining that his campaign staff had convinced him at the time that it would be too "confusing" to attribute them to a ghostwriter...

...The publishing operation was lucrative. A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the "welfare checks" comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul's family and Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn't know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

The tenor of Paul's newsletters changed over the years. The ones published between Paul's return to private life after three full terms in congress (1985) and his Libertarian presidential bid (1988) notably lack inflammatory racial or anti-gay comments. The letters published between Paul's first run for president and his return to Congress in 1996 are another story—replete with claims that Martin Luther King "seduced underage girls and boys," that black protesters should gather "at a food stamp bureau or a crack house" rather than the Statue of Liberty, and that AIDS sufferers "enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."

Eric Dondero, Paul's estranged former volunteer and personal aide, worked for Paul on and off between 1987 and 2004 (back when he was named "Eric Rittberg"), and since the Iraq war has become one of the congressman's most vociferous and notorious critics. By Dondero's account, Paul's inner circle learned between his congressional stints that "the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period." Cato Institute President Ed Crane told reason he recalls a conversation from some time in the late 1980s in which Paul claimed that his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for The Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto until it folded in 2001.

Is it just me or is there not a clear (and often rather effective) pattern that McCain is following? Nothing that he's done so far, including his latest mealy-mouthed words, differs from the same strategy that all these other racists have benefited from adopting.


Anthony Kennerson said...

Great entry, Bint.

It seems to me that McCain is playing a tried and true game that political shysters from Lee Atwater in the 1990s to Karl Rove today have attempted to update from the Reagans, Helmses and Dukes: use the usual code words and "dog whistles" to pander to the worst of White racists' fears while maintaining "pluasible deniability" by acting as the "good cop". He obviously can't win the election without the racist crackheads and fascists amongst the Republican "base", but he can't seem to be pandering to them too explicitly without fooling and alienating more "moderate" voters. Hence, the "good cop" routine that makes it seem as if he's trying to back away while his understudy (Pallin) is allowed total freedom to milk the crowd.

Normally, it would probably work in a close election..but considering that he's getting his ass kicked royally on almost all the important issues and that all his efforts to even come close to Obama have backfired right back in his face, I guess that he feels that he can only win this election by dragging Obama and America into the sewer pit.

The man might not be an open "nigger-baiting" racist like David Duke, or and outright panderer like Ron Paul..but he certainly has had his racist moments....and right now, in total desperation, he's basically gone "all in" on mining racism to save himself.

God and Goddess help this country if his gambit succeeds.

Thankfully, considering the latest polls, it looks like it, too, will blow up in his nasty grill, and he will only succeed in making the electoral vote ass-kicking he and the GOP rightfully deserve all the more painful.


Lisa Harney said...

I agree the pattern is pretty clear, and I believe that McCain pretty explicitly to do what he's doing.

And whatever he intended, he still needs to be held accountable for what he did.

Eric Dondero said...

Yes, Ron Paul's newsletters from that period were quasi-Racist.

But he's absolutely yesterday's news.

Obama is the new racist. If he's elected we will be back to Nazi Germany circa 1930s. It's going to get real, real scary, especially for Jews, and Obama opponents.

Just yesterday, Jesse Jackson slammed Jews in France at a conference and basically told them "watch out... your days are numbered."

BLESSD1 said...

Yeah...he stirred those waters long ago knowing full well what it would produce. He gets no pass from this "good cop" routine. Great post.

bint alshamsa said...

Dear Eric,

Your comment=Epic fail

See Godwin's Law for further explanation.

P.S. Thanks for the lulz

bint alshamsa said...


By the way, you do realize that there are a lot of Jews who are supporting Obama, right? I mean, if he was as scary and threatening as you claim, why would they do that? Do you really think that you know what's best for them MORE than they do? While you ponder on that, feel free to check out

The Great Schlep.

stefan said...

You do not differentiate between different passages in only a few editions and also fail to note Paul expressly did not write the offense parts. His philosophical differences with Democrats (and some Republicans) is with the war of drugs, which many say are currently experienced by especially black people as the most racist. In the recent CNN program about "Being black in America", the war on drugs was named as the racist issue. Also, have you seen the picture of Dr. Paul years ago with black patients or read the Austin NAACP leader Nelson Linder's statements about Paul? He has known him since decades and the issues he is standing for and said of this whole Kirchzik newsletter saga that it is an obvious smear campaign by neoconservative/pro-Iraq war activists, where a disproportionate number of black soldiers are being killed or injured, same in Afghanistan, where Obama wants to stay (and increase) troops. Any intelligent observer can see through ad hominem attacks....

And Eric Dondero is just a disgruntled ex-employee that will say anything against Paul as Eric is radical pro-war (while Paul anti-aggression and war), just like Bill White, leader of the US Nazi party.

Eric Dondero said...

Bint, thanks for your response, and for visiting my blog.

Yes, there are a lot of Jews supporting Obama, just as there were a lot of Jews supporting Hitler, some til the very end.

For example, there were a number of Jewish appeasors in the concentration camps. They kept the other Jews in line, and acted as spokespersons to their German captors. They got special privledges from the Nazis in return, like increased bread rations, and water.

In the end they all got a bullet in their heads, of course, after they had rounded up all the other Jews, and lined them up in front of the death pits to be machine-gunned down.

Barack Hussein Obama is a Nazi. He has extensive ties to Radical Islamic Terrorists. He even made a trip to Pakistan in 1982 on an Indonesian passport at a time when Pakistan was crawling with Islamic radicals.

We are living in a period similar to that of 1933/34, when Hitler ascended to power, by a democratic election.

Many Jews managed to escape between 1933 and as late as 1938.

I'll give it another year or two, hoping my home State of Texas will seccede, or rebel against the coming repressive State. Barring that, I'm planning to flee to Mexico, China or some other safe haven.

We're in for some very, very, very dark days, under the coming totalitarian regime of Barack Hussein Obama.

Eric Dondero said...

Yu bash John McCain for voting against the MLK holiday? You can't be serious.

We have a bonafide national holiday for some guy who gave a good speech, and have streets named after him in the downtowns of ever city in America, yet we ignore the greatest American who ever lived Thomas Jefferson?

If you want to celebrate Liberty, establish a holiday for TJ, or even Ayn Rand. MLK was tied with the Communist Party USA, which makes him more authoritarian than a champion of freedom. Yes, he gave a good speech. Yes, he seemed like a very nice guy. And admittedly, a rather handsome one at that.

But giving him a holiday? Sheesh!

The world turned upside down indeed.

dmarks said...

"Just yesterday, Jesse Jackson slammed Jews in France at a conference and basically told them "watch out... your days are numbered."

France has had several specifically antisemitic marches in recent years, with hundreds of thousands of people attending.

A holiday for Ayn Rand? If we are going to have holidays for fiction writers, probably Hemingway and Poe are ahead on the list, as well as dozens of others.

Ron Paul is not anti-aggression and anti-war. As long as a war is brown people killing brown people, it is fine with him and there should be no intervention to stop it.

dmarks said...

Also, I see Eric being called a nazi, and Eric calling Obama a nazi. I just don't see evidence hat Obama or Eric are nazis.

Anthony Kennerson said...

Oh, nice....here come the Ron Paul groupies to bring their....wisdom.

Sorry, but that nonsense won't play.

Last time I checked, Barack Obama was a passionate a supporter of the state of Israel as most other mainstream Democrats; up to and including supporting the consolidation of Jerulsalem (sorry for the spelling) as the unified capital of Israel, rather than an open city and the joint capital of both Israel and Palestine. And, he gets some of his strongest political and financial support from Jewish folk.

Oh...and if Obama should be condemned as an anti-American for travelling to Pakistan and meeting with their officials, then what the hell does that make John McCain, who's chief Presidential transition team chair was recently revealed to be a lobbyist for....Saddam Hussein??

And if Obama should be labeled an anti-Semite for being linked to pro-Palestinian activists, shouldn't McCain be declared even worse due to his open courting of the likes of Rob Parsley??

Nice try once again, but it just won't play.