John McCain missed the single greatest opportunity to address his most dangerous supporters directly and to repudiate their threats of violence after Senator Obama brought up the threats in the debate. McCain chose not to do so, calling them "fringe" while lauding ALL his supporters as "patriotic."
This came after Senator John McCain made a point during the debate that Barack Obama should repudiate John Lewis' Wallace comparison, which Senator Obama had done already, while pointing out that Lewis' concern about violence, given the congressman's first hand experience, was a valid consideration.
Senator McCain was not impressed. Nor was he impressed when Senator Obama directly brought up the vitriol from McCain and Palin's rallies, citing words like "terrorist" and "kill him," which John McCain dismissed as coming from fringe supporters, after which the Republican senator went on to laud all his supporters as "patriotic Americans."
This exchange has haunted me since I saw it. Not only because of McCain's hypocrisy (demanding repudiation for something for which Senator Obama was not responsible while refusing to repudiate his own supporters' threats of violence against Obama), but because I felt connected to Barack Obama at that moment, the shared concern for both his safety and for our republic, should these "fringe" supporters that McCain/Palin have purposely fired up act on their threats.
I felt haunted, as well, because Obama's words, to me, had the ring of Martin Luther King's "I may not get to the mountaintop with you" coupled with: "here's your opportunity, John, to do the right thing."
Senator McCain missed that single greatest and likely only effective opportunity to address his supporters and say: "I know most of you, my supporters, are good Americans. For those who might feel, however, that violence is the answer, IT'S NOT. Our democracy depends on the smooth transition of power, no matter who the candidate is. You must not go there or we will lose more than just a good man. We will lose what our founders wanted our country to be."
The sin of omission. And by that omission John McCain missed the opportunity to not be held responsible should the worst happen. Hopefully (God, please) nothing will happen. But that doesn't change the fact that John McCain had the opportunity to keep it from happening and chose not to.