Did Obama Accuse McCain of Running a Racist, Xenophobic Campaign?

Jul 30, 2008 10:45pm

"John McCain right now, he’s spending an awful lot of time talking about me," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said today in Rolla, Mo. "You notice that? I haven’t seen an ad yet where he talks about what he’s gonna do. And the reason is because those folks know they don’t have any good answers, they know they’ve had their turn over the last eight years and made a mess of things. They know that you’re not real happy with them."

Obama continued: "And so the only way they figure they’re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what they’re saying is, ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he’s… doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a, he’s got a funny name.’

"I mean, that’s basically the argument — he’s too risky," Obama said, per ABC News’ Sunlen Miller. "But think about it, what’s the bigger risk? Us deciding that we’re going to come together to bring about real change in America or continuing to do same things with the same folks in the same ways that we know have not worked? I mean, are we really going to do the same stuff that we’ve been doing over the last eight years? … That’s a risk we cannot afford. The stakes are too high."

Obama made similar comments earlier in the day in Springfield, Mo.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but does it not seem as if Obama just said McCain and his campaign — presumably the "they" in this construct — are saying that Obama shouldn’t be elected because he’s a risk because he’s black and has a foreign-sounding name?

The Obama campaign says no, no, no, certainly not, he was talking about his "opponents" in general, writ large, the talk radio hosts and smear artists and such.

Then in Union, Mo., this evening, Obama seemed to specifically accuse McCain and the GOP of peddling racism and xenophobia.

Obama said that "John McCain and the Republicans, they don’t have any new ideas, that’s why they’re spending all their time talking about me. I mean, you haven’t heard a positive thing out of that campaign in … in a month. All they do is try to run me down and you know, you know this in your own life. If somebody doesn’t have anything nice to say about anybody, that means they’ve got some problems of their own. So they know they’ve got no new ideas, they know they’re dredging up all the stale old stuff they’ve been peddling for the last eight, 10 years.

"But, since they don’t have any new ideas the only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me. They’re going to try to say that I’m a risky guy, they’re going to try to say, ‘Well, you know, he’s got a funny name and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills and, and they’re going to send out nasty emails.

"And, you know, the latest one they’ve got me in an ad with Paris Hilton," Obama said, referring to a McCain campaign ad launched today. "You know, never met the woman. But, but, you know, what they’re gonna try to argue is that somehow I’m too risky."

There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it.

Back in February, McCain apologized for some questionable comments made by a local radio host. In April, he condemned the North Carolina Republican Party’s ad featuring images of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

With one possible exception, I’ve never seen McCain or those under his control playing the race card or making fun of Obama’s name — or even mentioning Obama’s full name, for that matter!

(The one exception was in March when McCain suspended a low-level campaign staffer for sending out to a small group of friends a link to a video that attempts to tie Obama not only to Wright but to the black power movement, rappers Public Enemy and Malcolm X.)

While I have no doubt there will be a bunch more racist, xenophobic, and other ignorant drek coming our way courtesy of the Internet and perhaps the occasional cable news network, it’s important to determine where it’s coming from. Is it from a specific campaign or party? A third-party group? A third-party group with direct ties to establishment figures? This all matters.

I’ve seen racism in campaigns before — I’ve seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I’ve seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.

What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used today. Pretty inflammatory.

- jpt

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