"I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not, uh, he's an Arab."
Those words, spoken by an elderly woman on microphone steps from Senator John McCain during a campaign rally, were among the defining moments of the 2008 election, which was plagued by racially charged tensions.
To his credit, McCain took the microphone from the easily-mocked seasoned citizen and informed the audience that contrary to the woman's assertion, Obama was "a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."
You know things are bad when you look back on the rancor and race-baiting of 2008 with nostalgia.
Despite the best efforts of McCain-Palin supporters, Obama was sworn in as our 44th president, having received more votes than any candidate for the office in history. And that's when things turned sour.
If President Obama's audience detractors learned anything from that elderly woman it wasn't to conduct themselves with a modicum of decorum when in public. The lesson was, simply put, don't wait for the microphone.
During Obama's address to a joint session of Congress concerning health care reform just mont's into his administration, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson yelled, "You lie!" from his seat after the president debunked the right-wing myth that his reform proposal would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.
Looking back, Wilson's outburst and the acrimonious tea party protests would set the tone for this year's Republican primary debates.
When NBC's Brian Williams asked Rick Perry if he had ever "struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of [his 234 executions] might have been innocent" the Texan's response that he had "never struggled with that [at] all" was met by boisterous applause.
Call me crazy, but a self-proclaimed God-fearing Christian should lose sleep over the killing of anyone. The political and moral tone-deafness is compounded when one considers the fact that four people on the Lone Star State's death row have been exonerated and freed in the past four years alone -- a figure that doesn't include several cases where those executed could very well have been innocent.
With the storm of unflattering public attention that followed the audience's applause, you'd think the elite base Republicans invited to sit in on these debates would have made a mental note to be on their best behavior.
You'd be wrong to jump to such conclusions. Logical thinking rarely applies with the Republican base. It seems logic, like the media and science, has a liberal bias.
Just five days after Perry's executioner mask drew cheers, the GOP debate audience received its second black eye thanks to the Libertarian magic dust Ron Paul dispensed during CNN's debate.
Wolf Blitzer, the debate's moderator, asked the Texas Congressman if he would let a sick man without health insurance die rather than have the government pay for his medical care. Before Paul could answer, cries of "yes!" erupted.
CNN's first mistake was letting the Tea Party Express co-sponsor the debate. It was the political equivalent of letting patients run the asylum. And sadly enough, the patients themselves were decidedly pro-patients dying.
If you've been brainwashed into thinking NBC and CNN represent the liberal media and that these two outbursts are simply the product of liberal antagonism, you must have missed the debate Fox News and Google co-sponsored.
Since Google was the official co-sponsor it seemed only fitting that the Republican White House hopefuls would be expected to take questions from YouTube.com, a Google property.
The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" had been certified just two days before the Fox News debate and as luck would have it, a gay marine submitted a video question. You can imagine what that meant. He asked the Republican candidates if they would work to "circumvent" repeal of the decidedly homophobic policy.
The marine's question was met by a swift chorus of boos from the audience, louder than any debate audience display of idiocy yet. Not a single Republican candidate acknowledged the obvious insult or the marine's service.
If a Democrat had stood by and said nothing during such a moment, Republicans in power would have called for the guillotine.
The next Republican primary debate is on Oct. 11 in New Hampshire. I'm guessing the audience will enthusiastically cheer the "or die" portion of the Granite State's official motto.
Thankfully it's the American audience and not the irrational tea party Republican base that will ultimately have its say on the future of this country.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns and updates by email.
Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, click here.
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