After a week of increasingly bitter and personal attacks, Republican presidential nominee John McCain has asked his supporters for a more respectful campaign. We hope this means a new direction for the McCain campaign, a new direction that will be on view Thursday when his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is in town.
It remains to be seen whether this call for respect is enough to temper the increasing anger that has been displayed by Sen. McCain’s supporters, often fueled by Gov. Sarah Palin.
On Friday, Sen. McCain stopped a woman at a town hall-type meeting in Minnesota who said she didn’t want Democrat Barack Obama to be president because he was an Arab. Taking the microphone, Sen. McCain said that Sen. Obama was “a decent family man.” Later, he said he admired his fellow senator’s accomplishments. This was greeted with boos from the crowd. “We want to fight and I want to fight, but we will be respectful,” McCain said. “I want everyone to be respectful and let’s be sure we are … That doesn’t mean you have to reduce your ferocity. It’s just got to be respectful.”
The next day, at a campaign rally in Iowa, an anti-war protestor interrupted a McCain rally, prompting a lecture from the Republican candidate. “There’s a perfect example of some people that just don’t get it,” Sen. McCain said after the woman was escorted from the hall. “People are trying to stay in their homes, keep their jobs,” McCain continued. “Is what they want for us to yell at each other? No. They want us to sit down, Republican and Democrat, and work together.”
It is a little late for Sen. McCain to be worried about people not yelling at one another. Where was his outrage when partisans at rallies with his running mate yelled “Kill him” and “Off with his head”? Such comments typically follow Gov. Palin’s saying Sen. Obama pals around with terrorists, her way of describing the relationship between Sen. Obama and William Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground, a radical 1960s group that advocated violence if necessary to bring change. Where was his outrage when attendees of a Florida rally told a black cameraman to “Sit down, boy”?
“The danger is that the winner will come to office with a sizable portion of the population poisoned by the effects of the campaign,” Washington Post columnist Dan Balz wrote recently. He added: “But what’s also clear is that McCain’s tactics are over the line, with no restraint in sight, and threaten to provoke reactions among partisans on both sides that will continue to escalate.”
Only Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin can ensure this doesn’t happen. The last three weeks of the campaign should be more civilized than the past week.