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John McCain gives a thumbs-up to supporters before a speech at a Republican rally
According to Time, McCain campaign staffers in Virginia are teaching volunteers to see Barack Obama as having terrorist ‘friends,’ and then providing these volunteers with arguments for persuading voters that Sen. Obama, like Osama Bin Laden, shares responsibility for bombings of the Pentagon.
The report from inside the McCain campaign brings to light an alarming fact: while McCain tells his supporters publicly to refrain from violent rhetoric, he continues to teach his volunteers rhetoric designed to elicit violent responses.
In the article, Time’s Karen Tumulty recounts her visit to a campaign training session in Gainesville, VA, a strategic center for the McCain ground game in Prince William County. What Tumulty describes is a training session hosted by by Virginia’s state GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick in which volunteers were being trained to see Barack Obama as a terrorist. Tumulty writes:
- The McCain campaign invited me to visit Frederick and the Gainesville operation on Saturday morning, to get a first-hand glimpse of its ground game in Prince William County, Virginia, a fast-growing area about 30 miles from Washington, D.C.With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.” It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama’s controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. “And he won’t salute the flag,” one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, “We don’t even know where Senator Obama was really born.” Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii. (link)
The report from inside the McCain campaign is disturbing on several levels. While McCain has begun chiding his supporters at public rallies for using violent rhetoric, his campaign has taken the opposite tack behind closed doors. Despite the public image of a campaign not responsible for the violent outbursts of a few followers, the Time report reveals a ground operation actually training its volunteers to elicit violent responses in voters–specifically by making false claims about Barack Obama’s connection to terrorist attacks on U.S. military buildings.
The report confirms that the McCain campaign has staked its chances of winning the Presidency on convincing the public that Barack Obama is on the wrong side of the ‘War on Terror’ and, therefore, his victory in the Presidential election would put the power of the White House in the hands of terrorists.
When supporters of a Presidential candidate view the opposing candidate as merely an election threat, they call for his defeat. But when they view the opposing candidate as a national security threat–as they are being taught by the McCain campaign–they call for that threat to be eradicated.
Tumulty’s report raises serious questions about whether or not John McCain is using campaign rhetoric that not only depart from recognized moral boundaries, but risk igniting actual violence.
In particular, by teaching his volunteers to see Barack Obama as similar to Osama Bin Laden–and by training his volunteers to convince voters of the same–McCain is using his presidential campaign to tie Sen. Obama to the mass murders of September 11, 2001. In this way, McCain is effectively teaching his supporters to believe that Sen. Obama is not only connected to terrorists, but that Sen. Obama deserves the same punishment as terrorists.
In other words, by bringing to light the rhetoric being taught to his campaign volunteers, Time Magazine has provided the explanation for why attendees at McCain and Palin rallies have called for the death of Sen. Obama rather than just his defeat, which would be the norm in such events. When supporters of a Presidential candidate view the opposing candidate as merely an election threat, they call for his defeat. But when they view the opposing candidate as a national security threat–as they are being taught by the McCain campaign–they call for that threat to be eradicated.