Monday, October 13, 2008

John Lewis on McCain-Palin

Civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis is accusing John McCain and Sarah Palin of inciting hate, by invoking the name of George Wallace, the segregationist former governor of Alabama and presidential candidate, when referring to the atmosphere at their Republican campaign events.

If you recall, John Lewis was on the front lines on the hard fought battles for the civil rights of Black Americans during the late 1950's and early 1960's. Many don't realize that he was one of the speakers on the dais when Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. But more importantly, Lewis was a recipient of seeds of hate the were sown by Gov. George Wallace when he was beaten bloody by a white mob in Montgomery, Alabama as a Freedom Rider in the spring of 1961. He still carries the scar on his head from that beating. He has the moral authority to speak of the hatred that was so pervasive in the country and how one could get that feeling from listening to the rhetoric that has been evident at McCain-Palin rallies of late.

Police dogs attack innocent blacks in Birmingham

Rep. John Lewis' statement (in part):

"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

"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. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on [a] Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

“As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

Fire hoses are used to turn back civil rights workers in Birmingham

Of course, Sen. John McCain was "saddened that John Lewis" would make such a "brazen and baseless" attack on his character. Not to be outdone, McCain had to draw Sen. Obama into the discussion:
"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.”

The Obama campaign had a response:
“Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’

"As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Senator Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead.”

On Saturday night, John Lewis released another statement, further clarifying his initial statement:
"A careful review of my earlier statement would reveal that I did not compare Sen. John McCain or Gov. Sarah Palin to George Wallace. It was not my intention or desire to do so.

"My statement was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior. I am glad that Sen. McCain has taken some steps to correct divisive speech at his rallies. I believe we need to return to civil discourse in this election about the pressing economic issues that are affecting our nation."

[Hat Tip:]

Read Pandagon's sarcasm-laced take on the John Lewis comment.

Read the New York Times op-ed piece about the racist-tinged rhetoric that comes from the McCain campaign here

Read the article about McCain's reaction to Lewis's comment here and here.

plez sez: hmmmm, for the better part of the last two weeks, mccain and palin have been flying around the country saying that Obama is dangerous and that he supports domestic terrorism, and that isn’t character assassination; but calling mccain and palin out for running a campaign that very obviously incites hate (including threatening comments) is character assassination? {scratching my head}

Rep. John Lewis has a big scar on his head as a daily reminder of the "toxic language" of gov. george wallace. and i'm sure the chill that ran up his spine at listening to a mccain-palin rally is similar to that which he used to feel when listening to george wallace.

as they say down in this part of the country: "a hit dog will holler, and a stuck pig will squeal!"

palin's brand of populist rhetoric ("them vs. us", "liberal elites vs. true americans", "bad people like them vs. good people like us", "Obama is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America", etc.) is cut from the same cloth that was draped over the very words that dripped from gov. george wallace's racist lips! i guess palin forgets that she's pallin' around with an adulterer and an infidel! i guess she forgets the moral failings of her running mate while decrying the character flaws of her opponent.

as evidenced by mccain's reaction at rallies over the past couple of days, he sees that his words are getting out of hand; his campaign is already a lost cause, his entire career would be loss if the end product of this campaign is Obama's blood on his hands and race riots in the streets.

blog post artwork: Barry Blitt - New York Times - 10-12-2008