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IF you think way back to the start of this marathon campaign, back when it seemed preposterous that any black man could be a serious presidential contender, then you remember the biggest fear about Barack Obama: a crazy person might take a shot at him.

Some voters told reporters that they didn’t want Obama to run, let alone win, should his very presence unleash the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King. After consultation with Congress, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, gave Obama a Secret Service detail earlier than any presidential candidate in our history — in May 2007, some eight months before the first Democratic primaries.

At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!”

“I’ve got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying,” Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

All’s fair in politics. John McCain and Sarah Palin have every right to bring up William Ayers, even if his connection to Obama is minor, even if Ayers’s Weather Underground history dates back to Obama’s childhood, even if establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform. But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly “even-handed” journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete.

What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. “Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family” was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8.

We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed “patriotic” martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.

Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers’s behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that “a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.” To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler — who in the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

It wasn’t always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated himself from a speaker who brayed “Barack Hussein Obama” when introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a Florida sheriff ranted about “Barack Hussein Obama” at a Palin rally while in full uniform.

From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.

McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani’s mocking dismissal of Obama as an “only in America” affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.

Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

The operatives who would have Palin quote Pegler have been at it ever since. A key indicator came two weeks after the convention, when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals.

There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials.

There are no black faces high in the McCain hierarchy to object to these tactics. There hasn’t been a single black Republican governor, senator or House member in six years. This is a campaign where Palin can repeatedly declare that Alaska is “a microcosm of America” without anyone even wondering how that might be so for a state whose tiny black and Hispanic populations are each roughly one-third the national average. There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place.

Could the old racial politics still be determinative? I’ve long been skeptical of the incessant press prognostications (and liberal panic) that this election will be decided by racist white men in the Rust Belt. Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black — as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign “suspension,” a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.

The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder.

To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year — the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died — The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama’s chances to win the state fell “between slim and none.” Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms’s Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.

But we’re not at Election Day yet, and if voters are to have their final say, both America and Obama have to get there safely. The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise.

Source: NYT

PHOENIX—Sen. John McCain’s wife and father-in-law continued a lucrative business partnership with disgraced financier Charles H. Keating Jr. for 11 years after the GOP presidential nominee said he ended his close friendship with Keating in March 1987.

Cindy McCain’s business partnership with Keating in a real-estate development between 1986 and 1998 netted her a tidy profit, in addition to years of significant tax benefits. Her father, who died in 2000, earned similar returns.

McCain’s campaign and his Senate office did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails concerning Cindy McCain’s investment with Keating. McCain and his wife file separate tax returns and signed a pre-nuptial agreement before their marriage in May 1980. Cindy McCain owns one of the nation’s largest beer distributorships, Hensley & Company.

On Monday, McCain’s attorney, John Dowd, said in a conference call with reporters that McCain was not aware of his wife’s and father-in-law’s investment with Keating at the time it was made. “John was unconnected to that and unaware of it at the time and did not participate in it,” Dowd said. 

The Fountain Square Associates’ prospectus promised investors a 37 percent annual return on their investment. Cindy McCain and Hensley were among 54 investors in the partnership, most of whom were Keating employees and associates. Western Leasing purchased six shares in the partnership, Keating bought two and most of the remaining investors one share or less. Each share sold for $59,850.

 However, during the Keating Five Senate Ethics Committee hearings in 1990-91, McCain testified that he was aware of the family investment with Keating in early 1986.

Under questioning from Dowd, McCain said he learned of the investment from a Hensley & Co. executive.

“I was told …they were going to invest in a shopping center and that the investment –- the project — was being put together by a subsidiary of American Continental,” McCain told the ethics committee. “He [the executive] later told me that had happened. And I had no interest in it and just noted in passing that this investment took place.”

The GOP presidential candidate writes in one memoir that a turbulent 30-minute verbal altercation in his Senate office on March 24, 1987, ended his six-year friendship with Keating. The argument began after McCain heard from another senator that Keating had called him “a wimp.”

“We never met again,” McCain wrote in his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For.” “I never had another conversation with him.”

The rupture in their personal relationship, however, didn’t stop McCain from attending two meetings the next month with federal banking regulators at Keating’s insistence. McCain’s attendance at the April meetings nearly halted his political career. The Senate Ethics Committee, which investigated McCain’s actions on behalf of Keating, who was seeking regulatory relief for his savings and loan business, found that McCain used “poor judgment” in his dealings with Keating.

Nor did the end of McCain’s relationship with Keating affect his immediate family’s business relationship with the financier. Cindy McCain and her father, James Hensley, remained investors in the Keating real-estate partnership that included a north Phoenix shopping center. The center sold in July 1998 for $15.4 million.

Their business relationship with Keating began April 15, 1986, when the two bought an 8 percent stake in Fountain Square Associates Ltd. Partnership. Cindy McCain and her father made the $359,100 investment through Western Leasing Co., a partnership they jointly owned.

Fountain Square Associates was structured as a tax shelter for wealthy investors. Its only asset was the Phoenix shopping center, which was built by another Keating-controlled company. The shelter allowed investors to use real-estate depreciation as a tax deduction, a provision later banned by Congress.

The Fountain Square Associates’ prospectus promised investors a 37 percent annual return on their investment. Cindy McCain and Hensley were among 54 investors in the partnership, most of whom were Keating employees and associates. Western Leasing purchased six shares in the partnership, Keating bought two and most of the remaining investors one share or less. Each share sold for $59,850.

Fountain Square Associates’ general partner, which oversaw daily operations, was American Continental Resources Corp., a subsidiary of Keating’s Phoenix-based American Continental Corp. American Continental also owned Lincoln Savings & Loan, the thrift that Keating asked McCain and the four other senators to protect from regulators.

Despite the bankruptcy, American Continental Resources managed to keep control of the shopping center owned by Fountain Square Associates, which allowed Cindy McCain and Hensley to take advantage of its tax breaks. After the shopping center sold, McCain’s 1998 Senate financial disclosure statement reported under “unearned income” that his wife made between $100,001 and $1 million on the sale of the property. In previous years, McCain’s financial statements had valued the Fountain Square partnership at less than $1,000, generating income of less than $200.

In 1989, American Continental filed for bankruptcy, leaving more than 23,000 investors holding worthless bonds. Many bondholders were elderly and thought thought their investments were insured because Keating had sold them at federally insured Lincoln Savings branches.

Keating was convicted on 73 counts of bankruptcy and wire fraud in 1993, and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. Four years later, his conviction was overturned on a technicality. In 1999, Keating pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and was sentenced to time served.

Despite the bankruptcy, American Continental Resources managed to keep control of the shopping center owned by Fountain Square Associates, which allowed Cindy McCain and Hensley to take advantage of its tax breaks. After the shopping center sold, McCain’s 1998 Senate financial disclosure statement reported under “unearned income” that his wife made between $100,001 and $1 million on the sale of the property. In previous years, McCain’s financial statements had valued the Fountain Square partnership at less than $1,000, generating income of less than $200.

In 1998, Cindy McCain held millions of dollars worth of assets in stocks, municipal bonds and other securities, including a partnership share worth at least $1 million in the Arizona Diamondbacks. She also had investments in two other real estate projects, each worth at least $1 million, including a master planned community in Yuma, Ariz., and 160 acres of undeveloped property in Mesa, Ariz.

The same year, Cindy McCain also owed more than $1 million to a Phoenix bank, and had more than $200,000 in loans from the family’s beer distributorship.

Sen. McCain’s only income in 1998, besides his Senate salary, was his $49,688 Navy pension. He also listed three bank accounts totaling less than $31,000. He reported no liabilities.

The Fountain Square sale generated the second largest amount of income from Cindy McCain’s array of investments in 1998, according to Sen. McCain’s financial disclosure statement. Only dividends from Cindy McCain’s investment in Hensley & Company stock, which exceeded $1 million, generated more income.

Cindy McCain’s and Hensley’s 1986 investment in Fountain Square earned the father and daughter team a nice return. Its greater value to the family, however, may have had more to do with politics than money. Their investment was made the same year that McCain was running for the Senate seat held by the retiring Barry M. Goldwater. Keating and his employees contributed more than $50,000 to McCain’s campaign, bringing their total contributions to McCain since 1982 to at least $112,000.

Source: Washington Independent

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