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McCain's remarks are a week late and a dollar short.

This week, John McCain, Sarah Palin (from here on, I will refer to Palin as "Sarah!"), and their supporters crossed a line. McCain's theme of the week was that Obama has a "troubling" association with a 60's radical loser. Obama served on a school board with this loser in the 1990s. Sarah! took American politics to a new low when she suggested that Obama was "palling around with terrorists." Of course this allegation is totally false. But that didn't stop Sarah! from crossing a line which never should be crossed by American politicians; Sarah! suggested that Barack Obama doesn't love his country.

The lunatic fringe took this as validation of the e-mail smears about Obama which have been bandied about. This week, the crowds at McCain/Palin rallies yelled "kill him," "Obama's a terrorist," and "off with his head." For six days, John McCain said nothing as his supporters hurled unhinged rhetoric into our political discourse. He just stood there and blinked. Sarah! may well have winked at the lunatic fringe's comments.

Then, yesterday, something happened. Newspapers ran editorial after editorial calling for McCain to bring his supporters into line. Yesterday, in Minneapolis, McCain had a town hall meeting. A questioner asked him if he should be scared of an Obama Presidency. McCain responded with this:

"Senator John McCain abruptly changed his tone on Friday and told voters at a town-hall-style meeting that Mr. Obama was "a decent person" and a "family man" and suggested that he would be an acceptable president should he win the White House."

According to the Associated Press, McCain was booed by his own supporters for his attempt to return civility to the process. Unfortunately, as the New York Times reported, McCain's new tone lasted all of 30 seconds. According to the Times, a minute after calling Obama a decent person and a good family man, McCain returned to the politics of personal destruction:

"But moments later, Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, renewed his attacks on Mr. Obama for his association with the 1960s radical William Ayers and told the crowd, "Mr. Obama’s political career was launched in Mr. Ayers’ living room."

The dizzying statements came on a confused day when Mr. McCain’s campaign pounded Mr. Obama as a "liar" in an incendiary television commercial about Mr. Ayers and as Mr. McCain abruptly announced another economic policy proposal, this time a plan to suspend mandatory withdrawals from 401(k) retirement accounts."

Later in the meeting, an elderly woman rose to ask McCain a question. This woman has apparently received the e-mail smears perpetuated by McCain's henchmen. She believes them. The AP reported her question and McCain's response to it as follows:

"I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that McCain's words of admonishment did not convince his rabid supporter to calm down. After the meeting a Star-Tribune reporter caught up with Gayle Quinnell. Quinnell told the Star-Tribune the following:

"After the rally, Quinnell was unrepentant. "You can't trust Barack Hussein Obama because he is a Muslim and a terrorist," she said.

Obama is a Christian."

Kudos to the Star-Tribune for mentioning the truth that Obama is a devout Christian. But no matter how many times newspapers repeat the truth that Barack Obama is a patriotic American running because he thinks his country needs him--and believe me, it would've been far easier for Obama to have not run; it takes guts and patriotism to do what Obama is doing--it won't convince McCain's lunatic fringe supporters. In the minds of demented individuals like Gayle Quinnell, the "liberal" media is part of a grand conspiracy.

John McCain can try to walk people like Mrs. Quinnell back, but they will not listen to him. McCain's running mate unleashed fear and hate into this campaign. McCain's running mate validated bogus e-mail smears that can inspire hate and incite violence. McCain's running mate, and McCain himself at times, threw gas on a fire that was always smoldering in this campaign. Now, they're trying to put that fire out. But it's spread too far, too fast; the fire is out of control. While I welcome yesterday's statements by McCain, I know that he and his campaign let the genie out of the bottle. And I know that there is no putting it back in. I pray, and I hope everyone who read this will pray, for calmness to return to our political discourse; for the Secret Service to be able to do their (very difficult) jobs well; and for the safety of all four Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. It's vital for the country that this election be decided at the ballot box, not in the minds of demented individuals like Mrs. Quinnell.

Originally posted to The Bagof Health and Politics on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 09:12 AM PDT.

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