11/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain's Big Problem

There's a big, gaping hole in the national dialogue -- and John McCain is standing right at the bottom of it. While the vast majority of Americans spent last week watching the economy crash, McCain, Palin and their surrogates spent their time slinging every piece of mud they could find at Barack Obama.

The "Straight Talk Express" has veered onto a side road and is driving towards such irrelevant destinations as Ayers-town, Wright-ville and Rezko City. At a time when leadership should be on Main Street, Your-town, USA -- McCain is scouring the back-roads in a desperate attempt to firm up his sagging poll numbers and his transparent attempt to guide the national conversation off-topic clearly demonstrates that he is a man who is drowning, clinging to anything he can to keep himself afloat.

It's an old Republican tactic ripped right out Karl Rove's playbook: When you can't win on the issues, create an issue you can win on.

Unfortunately the issue the McCain campaign feels is giving them the most traction is an ugly one, and not worthy of someone who wants to lead the most powerful nation on earth. He has tried to challenge Obama on the issues and failed, and has now resorted to the type of low-brow, gutter politics he publicly stated he would never be a part of.

McCain and Palin through their rhetoric have opened an old, ugly wound. They have ripped off
the scab of intolerance that lurks below the surface of our society. Way to go, John! Way to bring the nation together. Just check out the videos from Strongsville, OH or Bethlehem, PA. They reflect a mob mentality -- Americans whipped up into a frenzy calling Obama a terrorist and a Muslim. I have to go back quite a while to remember a time when I was more embarrassed of my fellow countrymen.

Senator McCain, forget about, "I'd rather lose an election than lose a war." How about, "I'd rather lose an election than start a war."

First McCain wanted us to think we couldn't trust Obama on foreign policy, but when interest in the Iraq war took a back seat to the economy, McCain switched gears and told us we couldn't depend on Obama to solve the countries ailing economy -- when McCain showed us he was clueless on financial matters he played the only card he has left:


This is the kind of divisive political maneuvering that has no place in politics, but then again, it's what the Republicans are so very good at.

Now, the McCain campaign says it can't control what its supporters say -- but the deeper issue is why are they saying it? Who planted these thoughts in their collective consciousness? Where did the idea that Obama is an Arab or a Muslim, or a terrorist sympathizer come from? The whole premise of "What do we really know about Obama" is just a veiled invitation for the Republican base to to indulge themselves in intolerance.

The far right has always been fearful of change. After eight years of disastrous leadership they would rather have things remain the same and suffer four more years of failed policies because at least they'd have one of "them" in the White House.

So, what is John McCain's big problem?

At a town hall meeting earlier this week McCain publicly promised a supporter that he would bring up Obama's association with William Ayers at the upcoming debate.

Later in the week the poisonous atmosphere he created came to a boil in Lakeville, MN, when McCain was forced to back-track as a female supporter stated that Obama is an Arab. McCain had to say that Obama was a decent family man.

When a male supporter spoke about his distrust of Obama, McCain was forced to say, "He is a decent person that you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States". This is where the crowd turned on him and actually booed as their candidate tried to remove the red meat from the table.

McCain seems unable to control the monster he's created. His campaigns innuendos and inflammatory remarks now have a life of their own now within the Republican psyche.

So, McCain now finds himself between a rock and a hard place. To bring it up Obama's association with Ayers during the debate will surely annoy independents who want to hear about the issues -- but to go back on a public promise and not mention it will anger his base.

He has painted himself into a corner with no good options left. It's a lose-lose situation for him and he has only himself and his campaign strategists to blame.

I will be watching Wednesday nights debate... and all I can say is he better show up with one hell of a big shovel to if he's going to dig himself out of the hole he's dug for himself...