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Look in later today for our On the Road piece from Wilmington, North Carolina. We’re a bit ahead of our coverage, which occasionally happens out here with the long distances, input, output and timing demands. Tonight we’ll be at the Obama-Clinton rally in Kissimmee, Florida, and we’re breaking in from Miami, where John McCain just concluded his “Joe the Plumber” rally at Everglades Lumber.

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that’s what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.

“People were screaming ‘Terrorist!’ ‘Communist!’ ‘Socialist!'” Sorando said when we caught up with him. “I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me.”

Asked what had precipitated the event, “We were just chanting ‘Obama!’ and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy.”

Garcia told us that the man who originally had warned the two it was his property when they had first tried to attend the rally with Obama T-shirts was one of the agitators. Coming up just before the scene started getting out of hand, the man whispered in Garcia’s ear, “I’m gonna beat you up the next time I see you.” Garcia described him for us: “a big stocky man wearing a tweed jacket.” He used hand motions to emphasize this was a large guy. We went back to look for the gentleman twenty minutes after the incident but didn’t find him.

The two Obama supporters had attempted to attend the event with tickets printed from the McCain website. Both were clad in Obama T-shirts, Sorando in a blue “Obama ’08” shirt, and Garcia in a white “Obama-Biden” shirt. They were told that the event was being held on private property and that wearing the shirts or carrying the signs they would be asked to either remove the shirts or not attend.

For an hour during the rally, the two had stood across the street from the lumberyard on public property holding yard signs. Some drivers honked in support, and others honked in disapproval. When the rally ended and the crowd spilled out, the disturbance began.

Garcia had a message for his stocky, tweed-clad threatener. “You tell that guy he can find Tony Garcia down at the West Dade library every day from 7 to 7 helping people early vote. I’ll be there from 1 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. You tell him if he wants to kick my ass that’s where he can find me. Come beat me up.”

Not thirty seconds later, John McCain drove by in his SUV and waved at Garcia on the sidewalk, who was happily waving his Obama sign.

Source: Five Thirty Eight

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Biden on ‘The McCain I knew.’

McCain’s actions are being viewed all around the world – and it doesn’t look good. He needed to sort that out.

I got a feeling it’s not over yet – how well can he rein in – the tempest he unleashed??

Senior members of the Republican party are in open mutiny against John McCain’s presidential campaign, after a disastrous period which has seen Barack Obama solidify his lead in the opinion polls.

And as disputes raged within the McCain camp yesterday, Democrats took another symbolic step towards healing the party after their bitter primary battles, as Bill and Hillary Clinton made their first joint appearance in support of Mr Obama.

From inside and outside his inner circle, Mr McCain is being told to settle on a coherent economic message and to tone down attacks on his rival which have sometimes whipped up a mob-like atmosphere at Republican rallies.

Two former rivals for the party nomination, Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson, went on the record over the weekend about the disarray in the Republican camp. And a string of other senior party figures said Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats. Mr Thompson, a former governor of the swing state of Wisconsin, said he thought Mr McCain, on his present trajectory, would lose the state, and he told a New York Times reporter he was not happy with the campaign. “I don’t know who is,” he added.

Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats.

Some Republicans seeking election to Congress have begun distancing themselves from Mr McCain. In Nebraska, a Republican representative, Lee Terry, ran a newspaper ad featuring support from a woman who called herself an “Obama-Terry voter”.

The McCain camp was reportedly considering launching a new set of economic policies last night, on top of the plan for government purchases of mortgages which he unveiled in a surprise move at last week’s presidential debate. Possible options include temporary tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. Mr Romney said he should “stand above the tactical alternatives that are being considered and establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy”.

With just over three weeks to go to election day, a new Reuters/Zogby tracking poll showed the Democratic candidate gaining momentum during the past week. From a two-point lead four days ago, the latest reading has Mr Obama up 6 points. A Gallup poll yesterday put him at plus-7 per cent.

The Clintons took to the stage yesterday in Scranton, a down-at-heel Pennsylvania town that has taken on outsize significance in the presidential election. The town, which has become symbolic of the decline of industrial America, was childhood home of Joe Biden, Mr Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, and is where Hillary Clinton’s father grew up and is buried.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

Her husband praised Mr Obama as having the best ideas, best instincts and best team for the White House. However, he focused most of his speech on his wife and Mr Biden, and quickly disappeared for a campaign appearance in Virginia, raising eyebrows among those who worry he has still not fully reconciled himself to the Obama candidacy and is still smarting from the bitter reaction against his contributions to the primary race.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Senior Republicans have sharply conflicting views about the direction the McCain campaign should take, with some arguing that their candidate has not hit Mr Obama hard enough on the shady associates from his past. The issue of the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Mr Obama’s former pastor, whose incendiary speeches about white racism almost derailed the Democrat’s primary race, should be brought back on to the table by Mr McCain, many are counselling. Mr McCain, however, has ruled that issue off-limits, for fear of being accused of playing a race card.

The Republican candidate appeared keen to cool the temperature at rallies over the weekend, at one point snatching the microphone from a woman in Minnesota who declared Mr Obama was an “Arab”. He chided her, and another man who said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, and told a booing crowd to be respectful. “He is a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues,” said Mr McCain.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Reining in the party’s supporters may be harder. A minister delivering the invocation at a rally on Saturday asked Christians to pray for a McCain win. “There are millions of people around this world praying to their god – whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah – that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, the former pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Davenport. Those comments earned a rebuke from a McCain spokesman, and both sides this weekend had to slap down supporters for stirring issues of religion and race.

The Obama campaign disassociated itself from comments by Democratic congressman John Lewis who compared Mr McCain to the late Alabama segregationist George Wallace. “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” he said. “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

Source: Independent London

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


Barack Obama attacked John McCain Friday for launching a “barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks” as the stock market drops tumbles.

“Even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you are worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent’s campaign announced last week that they plan to ‘turn the page’ on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead,” Obama said during a speech in Chillicothe, Ohio.

“So in the last couple of days, we’ve seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks, and I’m sure we’ll see much more over the next 25 days. We know what’s coming. We know what they’re going to do.”

“I think that folks are looking for something different,” Obama continued. “It’s easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that’s not what we need right now in the United States.”

“The times are too serious. The challenges are too great. The American people aren’t looking for someone who can divide this country – they’re looking for someone who will lead it. We’re in a serious crisis – now, more than ever, it is time to put country ahead of politics.”

Source: Politico

Blogger Interrupted catches the goings on at a Palin/McCain rally – exposing anger, hate and misinformation that the Republican campaign is using against Obama – to unscrupulously win the race to the White House.