One of the interesting aspects of this campaign is watching the scales fall from the eyes of many of John McCain’s closest admirers among the veteran DC press corps. I’m not talking about the freaks on Fox News or any of the sycophants at the AP. I’m talking about, let’s say, the better sort of reporters and commentators in the 45 to 65 age bracket. To the extent that the press was McCain’s base (and in many though now sillier respects it still is) this was the base of the base. And talking to a number of them I can understand why that was, at least in the sense of the person he was then presenting himself as.
But over the last … maybe six weeks, in various conversations with these folks, the change is palpable. Whether it will make any difference in the tone of coverage in the dominant media I do not know. But it is sinking in.
All politicians stretch the truth, massage it into the best fit with their message. But, let’s face it, John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. Not just exaggerations or half truths but the sort of straight up, up-is-down mind-blowers we’ve become so accustomed to from the current occupants of the White House. And today McCain comes out with this rancid, race-baiting ad based on another lie. Willie Horton looks mild by comparison. (And remember, President George H.W. Bush never ran the Willie Horton ad himself. It was an outside group. He wasn’t willing to degrade himself that far.) As TPM Reader JM said below, at least Horton actually was released on a furlough. This is ugly stuff. And this is an ugly person. There’s clearly no level of sleaze this guy won’t stoop to to win this election.
And let’s be frank. He might win it. This is clearly a testing time for Obama supporters. But I want to return to a point I made a few years ago during the Social Security battle with President Bush. Winning and losing is never fully in one’s control — not in politics or in life. What is always within our control is how we fight and bear up under pressure. It’s easy to get twisted up in your head about strategy and message and optics. But what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let’s stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It is undignified. What can we do? We’ve got a dangerously reckless contender for the presidency and a vice presidential candidate who distinguished her self by abuse of office even on the comparatively small political stage of Alaska. They’ve both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses. If Democrats can say at the end of this campaign that they made clear exactly how and why these two are unfit for high office they can be satisfied they served their country.