This morning on Meet the Press, Jon Meacham, Editor of Newsweek, said that John McCain had run "a noble campaign."
I was - how shall I say? - a little surprised by the comment.
"And we should mark that," he continued. "It could've been a lot worse."
Meacham's got a point. The McCain campaign tried to portray Obama as Un-American, Un-Patriotic, an Appeaser, a Marxist, a Socialist, a Muslim, a Terrorist, etc.
They didn't quite get to Pedophile, Serial Killer, or Drug Lord. (Though several surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, did hint at Obama as a possible drug dealer.)
And it wasn't outside groups making the accusations this time, as with the Swift Boaters in 2004. It was the McCain campaign itself.
But Meacham's not the only normally reasonable person pushing the "McCain ran a noble campaign" meme. I've seen two other Liberal or centrist pundits jump on the bandwagon this week. And, sadly, in all three cases, neither the host nor any of the other guests ever bothered to question this assertion or ask for more explanantion.
Just before the election, Mark Shields, the "Liberal" commentator on the The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, said, "The most admirable thing John McCain did was not to play the race card in this campaign. And for that, he should be -- he deserves some credit."
So, Mr. Shields, was it just some good-natured joshing of Barack Obama and his policies that led to the toxic atmosphere at those Sarah Palin rallies?
This week, the U.S. Secret Service revealed that Palin's rallies "provoked a spike in death threats against the future president."
The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin's attacks.Congressman John Lewis, who was almost beaten to death by racists when he was a Freedom Rider in 1961, said that McCain and Palin were "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" and "hostility in our political discourse," and mentioned the hateful tone of George Wallace back in the 1960s.
Michelle Obama, the future First Lady, was so upset that she turned to her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett and said: "Why would they try to make people hate us?"
And Stratfor, private intelligence analysts, issued a report this week on security threats against Obama by white supremacists: "Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season, and several more remain under investigation. . . . We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues."
"Muslim," for one, was always the race card. I still don't believe that 23% of the people in Texas really thought Obama was a Muslim. That's just the terminology they used in public instead of calling him a Dirty N-$#$%&%$.
And there were numerous openly racist remarks and brochures sent out by McCain campaigners at the local level.
My guess is that Meacham and Shields and other commentators are praising McCain for not bringing up Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the campaign. Somehow, this made McCain "noble" and proved he didn't play the race card. What else could it be?
Ironically, I think Rev. Wright would've been more of a legitimate issue to bring up than William Ayers, or Obama being a Marxist. The latter two issues simply didn't have any substance behind them. There were still a few pockets of doubt about Wright, however, despite Obama's powerful and moving speech on racism in Philadelphia when the issue came up during the primaries. Did Barack ever fully explain why he stayed in the church as long as he did, or which part of Wright's belief system he shared? I don't think Wright would have been a very effective or worthwhile topic for the McCain campaign to raise, but I don't think it would've been racist to ask some questions.
So, did McCain run a "noble campaign" in the end?
I offer a story. . .
My aunt, an Obama supporter, lives in Odessa, Texas, heart of George W. Bush country, and a place where I'm sure that more than 23% of the people said they thought Obama was a "Muslim." A nurse comes to my aunt's house every few days to check on her. During the campaign, she showed up wearing a McCain button. Nothing surprising about that in Odessa, Texas.
When the nurse came to visit a couple of days after the election, my aunt asked her if she had voted. "Yes," she said, "Mother and I went down and waited for a long time and we finally got in. We voted for all the local races, but we didn't vote for president."
Surprised, my aunt asked her why.
"Well, we were getting all those emails about Obama, saying he was a Muslim and a Marxist and everything. . . . But I just didn't think he was.
Mother and I would see those people on TV . . . and we just didn't think we were like them. We don't want to be like them."