In a statement posted on his reelection website, former civil rights leader and current Democratic congressman John Lewis accused the presidential campaign of John McCain of playing with fire, and using tactics that are taking America down a dangerous path.
Lewis said that he is deeply disturbed by the McCain campaign, “As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today 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.”
“During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. 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 only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama,” Lewis continued.
He said that McCain and Palin are playing a dangerous game, “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor 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.”
Of course, the McCain campaign was outraged, and called Lewis’s statement a character attack on the campaign, “Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. 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 McCain campaign called on Obama to repudiate Lewis’s statement, but the Obama campaign stood by the point that Lewis was making. Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, “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.’”
The problem with McCain defending Obama yesterday was that it gives the Obama camp a built in defense when one of their supporters denounces the GOP smear campaign against Obama. Lewis never mentioned Sarah Palin, and her approval numbers are in the toilet, so the McCain campaign can’t use her cover anymore. I deeply believe that the faction of the McCain campaign that is putting out these attacks never thought that it would backfire on them, but the backlash has been so severe that the more they use these attacks, the more damage they inflict on themselves.
The McCain campaign has put themselves in a trap of their own creation, and I think that many people are genuinely worried about the mob mentality that these attacks are building. John McCain sees the problem, and that is why he is out there trying to calm things down, but his campaign seems to not be listening to him. His brain trust seems to think that their only path to victory is with anger and hate. While this may appeal to the base, it will cost them support everywhere else. John McCain seems to get this, but his campaign doesn’t.