This is the week that the campaign reached its ugliest -- so far.
Serge Kovaleski, "Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers," New York Times, 10 October 2008.
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, an investigation concluded.Elizabeth Bumiller, "McCain Lauds and Attacks Obama on Same Day," New York Times, 10 October 2008.
After a week of trying to portray Senator Barack Obama as a friend of terrorists who would drive the country into bankruptcy, Senator John McCain abruptly changed his tone on Friday and told voters at a town-hall-style meeting that Mr. Obama was “a decent person” and a “family man” and suggested that he would be an acceptable president should he win the White House."Your Abbreviated Pundit Roundup," Daily Kos, 11 October 2008.
But moments later, Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, renewed his attacks on Mr. Obama for his association with the 1960s radical William Ayers and told the crowd, “Mr. Obama’s political career was launched in Mr. Ayers’ living room.”
Bob Shrum, "Time to Ask McCain, 'Have You No Sense of Decency Left?'" Huffington Post, 10 October 2008.
A more or less coherent narrative is emerging in press coverage of the Republican campaign, all the more surprising because essentially the same narrative is emerging left and right, and on the "main stream media" as well as in the blogosphere, and in serious journalism as well as comic sendups. Palin is portrayed as superficial, dishonest, and abusive. McCain is portrayed as a geriatric case -- an angry, out of touch, desperate old man who will do anything to seize his last chance at the presidency. This is a narrative that will be difficult for McCain to disentangle himself from, as it seems to account for both the silly (his "wandering" at the debate) and the serious (his and Palin's encouragement of a level of anger and threat that, as one commentator pointed out, would stimulate a Secret Service intervention if said by anyone else). McCain's very inconsistency has emerged as part of a consistent narrative -- and that's hard to shake, since any new tactics fit so easily into the coherent story of his incoherence.
The reality is that in a country facing two wars and a mounting economic crisis, these desparate and despicable appeals aren't working. Obama's lead is mounting, nationally and in the battleground states. But there is a threat here too that is all too real. When I heard someone in a Palin crowd yell out "traitor" as the candidate lashed out at the Democratic nominee, I thought of the full-page ad that appeared in a Dallas newspaper on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. The headline--"Wanted for Treason"-- was sprawled across a poster-sized photo of President John F. Kennedy.
You don't put country first by running this kind of campaign.
See also Harold Ford, Jr., "Will McCain Do Anything to Win?" Washington Post, 11 October 2008.
Khaled Hosseini, "McCain and Palin Are Playing with Fire," Washington Post, 12 October 2008.
Jonathan Martin, "John Lewis, Invoking George Wallace, Says McCain and Palin 'Playing with Fire,'" Politico, 11 October 2008.
(image Stephen Crowley/The New York Times, 11 October 2008)