John Lewis Plays The George Wallace Card
by Todd Beeton, Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 11:33:04 PM EDT
As we all know by now, Rep. John Lewis made some news on Saturday...ya know, the same John Lewis whom John McCain considers one of his top 3 wisest men ever.
Just so we have a primer for the Sunday talk shows, here's what John Lewis said today about the growing anger and vitriol at McCain/Palin rallies and the candidates' complicity therein:
"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history," Lewis said in a statement issued today for Politico's Arena forum. "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."
Lewis didn't accuse McCain of imitating Wallace, but suggested there were similarities.
"George Wallace never threw a bomb," Lewis noted. "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 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," Lewis said today. "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."
The McCain campaign, no doubt grateful for a distraction from the Troopergate ruling, issued a statement challenging Obama to distance himself from Lewis's remarks.
"I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track," the GOP nominee said in a statement this afternoon.
He added: "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."
Notice that the statement is from John McCain, not a spokesman.
Obama did indeed take issue with Lewis's remarks but did not repudiate all of them. Here's his statement, via a spokesman:
"Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "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."
I can't help but think this is just the distraction John McCain wanted. The media had already begun to report on the anger at McCain rallies and in fact McCain had himself rebuked his own supporters for some of their statements about Barack. McCain was the one in the position of defending his opponent; now Obama is forced to vouch for McCain and Palin's motives. Didn't the power just shift to McCain?
Not to mention, as I said above, the huge distraction this provides from the Trooper Gate decision that came in last night. No doubt the anger at the McCain rallies was going to be central to tomorrow's morning show coverage anyway, but Lewis, it seems to me, has singlehadedly inflated that story and given it newfound legs as he's deflated the Palin abuse of power story in importance.