John McCain is running one of the most divisive, negative, and dishonorable presidential campaigns in modern history. By spreading the Big Lie that Barack Obama is a "terrorist sympathizer" who is not from the "real" America, McCain is fanning the flames of latent racism and xenophobia. He is doing everything in his power to divide and conquer the country. His robo-call smears and his surrogates' McCarthyite attacks against his Democratic opponent are strange ways to put "Country First." McCain wants to be president so badly he will do anything: Adopt the extreme social positions of James Dobson; put Karl Rove's Swift Boaters on the payroll; appoint a Christian Nationalist ditz as his VP to stir up the faithful into a froth; and launch a racially-tinged class war against anyone who thinks the government might be able to do something positive for the working middle class.
Millions of Americans are reeling from record home foreclosures, rising unemployment, and shrinking retirement accounts and John McCain -- who married into a $100 million fortune and doesn't even know how many houses he owns -- is going around the country accusing Obama of being a "socialist" and ridiculing the idea of "spreading the wealth around." He promises to continue the Republican class war of recent years. McCain has shown that his real "base" consists of millionaires, billionaires, and huge corporations. Why else would he be still proposing, even after the epic failure of laissez-faire capitalism, more "trickle down" tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations and individuals along with more deregulation?
And what do you call a wealthy old white man who spends most of his time lying about, sliming, and producing false accusations and innuendo against the first African-American presidential candidate to be nominated by a major political party as well as against ACORN, a community organization that consists largely of low-income people of color?
A McCain administration would be a carbon copy of the Rovian "permanent campaign"; that epic failure Scotty McClellan outlines in What Happened, and the former head of Bush's faith-based programs, John DiIulio, summed up back in 2002: "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellians." The way McCain and his surrogates dismiss any criticism no matter how legitimate is strikingly similar to the Bush style. And the McCain campaign seems to have struck that perfect balance between incompetence and arrogance that characterized the Bush administration.
In the last year the average American household has shelled out nearly $3,000 in additional living expenses just to break even. Gasoline and home heating oil are far more expensive; health care premiums have increased exponentially (for those lucky enough to have health care); home values have declined steeply (for those lucky enough not to be facing foreclosure); and tuition costs for college have skyrocketed. We are bracing for an economic contraction the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression. Poverty, unemployment, and homelessness are going to increase over the next 18 months. (Just ask Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.) And the grand neo-con nation-building experiment in Iraq is draining away $10 billion each month that certainly could be put to better use here at home.
Meanwhile, the $1 trillion government welfare program called the "Wall Street Bail Out" is being squandered on a relative handful of individuals who need it the least. It is an outrage that the nine investment banks that have received $250 billion from the Treasury insist on paying dividends to their shareholders to the tune of $25 billion! Why don't we cut out the middleman and just hand over the $25 billion directly to the fat cats who still own most of the stock in those banks? There are golf junkets and pedicures and prostitutes to be procured! We mustn't deny these innovative people Republicans love so much -- these Wall Street "Joe the Plumbers" -- who pumped up the notional value of "credit default swaps" to $62 trillion the fruits of their labors! They deserve their first-class amenities! To deny them that which is rightfully theirs would be "Socialistic!"
The epic failure of the laissez-faire ("laissez-failure"), "supply side," Milton Friedman, market fundamentalist ideology has only just begun to wreak its damage on American society and the world. Back in 1974, in the wake of Watergate and Richard Nixon's resignation, President Gerald Ford said: "Our national nightmare is over." Today, Bush's Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, who was a young assistant to Nixon's indicted hatchet man, John Ehrlichman, should lapse into a rare fit of honesty and tell the American people: "Our national nightmare is just beginning." The contraction is on; there isn't going to be a "soft landing." Send your "thank you" cards and letters to the Republican National Committee.
During the bitter 1988 presidential campaign, George Herbert Walker Bush's smear-meister, Lee Atwater, famously declared that he was going to make voters believe that Willie Horton was Michael Dukakis's running mate. Steve Schmidt, the Karl Rove wannabe, is now trying to make voters believe that Bill Ayres is Obama's running mate.
And this brings me to the freak show that is Governor Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin is a liar. She lied about being against the infamous "bridge to nowhere"; she lied about her abuse of power in "Troopergate" and her violating the Alaska Ethics in Government Act; she lied about charging per diem expenses to the state of Alaska for time spent at home; and most recently she lied about pilfering over $21,000 from Alaska taxpayers so her kids could go on expensive trips. The RNC forked over $150,000 so this "Jane Sixpack" could go on a lavish spending spree. She spent more money on stylish clothes in a matter of weeks than most families will spend over the course of a lifetime.
Palin is also a racist. According to a waitress who overheard her in a diner in Wasilla when Palin first heard about Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries she exclaimed: "So Sambo beat the bitch!" But one does not have to turn to second-hand reports from waitresses in Wasilla to confirm Palin's racism, her thinly coded jabs at Obama during her pep rallies saying "he is not one of us," and her blather about "pro-America" parts of the country where there are no black people speak for themselves. Even the New York Times' Adam Nagourney, who started out this campaign season writing love letters to McCain, was forced to admit that Palin is disingenuous.
But far more disturbing than Palin's venality and her racism are her extreme Christian Nationalist religious beliefs. Just go to Youtube and see her standing there on stage, trancelike, praying while her pastor at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church talks about how Alaska is going to become a state of refuge for people when Armageddon comes. Palin not only holds the most extreme right-wing Christian views on abortion, gays, and creationism, she apparently believes we are in the Last Days. And she could be a heartbeat away from having her finger on the nuclear trigger. The only reason why McCain's boys, Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt, haven't thrown Reverend Wright in the faces of voters in the closing days of the campaign is because they know that Palin's whack-job pastors, including Pastor Thomas Muthee who specializes in exorcising witches, would immediately flood the airwaves.
And what about John McCain himself? What a Faustian bargain that man has made. He sold his soul, his heart, his liver, his spleen, and his mind. When George W. Bush was riding high so was John McCain. "My Friends" and "Maverick" will be perennial punch lines. He will be forever remembered for running one of the meanest, most discreditable presidential campaigns in American history. He sold out his country by choosing division over unity, lies over truth, jingoism over patriotism. And he did so at a time when the nation faces major peril and the American people are clamoring for thoughtful, steady, and honest leadership.
"Country First." Indeed.