—On Friday John McCain was repeatedly booed at his own town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota. His offense wasn’t promising to raise taxes, or wanting to close the Camp Delta gulag at Guantánamo Bay, or expressing tolerance toward immigrants or gays or other perceived out-groups. He drew the condemnation of the crowd gathered in the gymnasium at Lakeville South High School for claiming to respect and admire his opponent, Barack Obama.
Responding to a man’s question about Obama’s association with leftist author, school reformer, and former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, McCain assured his audience that they had nothing to fear from Barack Obama, that though he would not (in McCain’s estimation) make a good president, he was a good man. Later, a woman described Obama as “an Arab.” McCain shook his head and replied, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” Such appeals for decency were met with vocal hostility. For that, McCain can thank Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Jerome Corsi, and the other ethically challenged right-wing talkers and writers who have spent the last year attempting to convince Republican voters that Barack Obama is an unpatriotic, socially and religiously radical closet terrorist who wants to remake the United States in the image of the Soviet Union.
McCain also has himself to blame. The last few weeks, as his poll numbers have steadily slipped in crucial states, McCain has abandoned his ambition to run a clean campaign and followed Hannity and company down the low road. His own ads play up Obama’s tenuous connection to Ayers, and it’s become a standard feature of the stump speech of his cringe-inducing running mate. McCain trying to refute dishonorable and dishonest attacks on Obama is nice, but it’s a little late. He’s been a guest on Hannity’s show several times throughout the campaign, and has never rebuked him for continually citing Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers to attack the character of Barack Obama, has never put his foot down and disowned his unofficial surrogates in conservative media that have been slinging mud at Obama since the primaries.
Sure, the level of venomous ignorance evident in the Lakeville audience is depressing, but McCain could have been combating it this entire time, by setting the example of a truly clean and honest campaign, and by taking on hacks like Hannity, Levin, and Corsi who want to drag him down into the mud alongside them.
—This one has to sting a little. Christopher Buckley, son of late conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., has officially endorsed Barack Obama. His reasons: McCain’s recent lack of authenticity, the incoherence and nastiness of his campaign, and, of course, Sarah Palin, regarding whom Buckley asks, “What on earth can he have been thinking?”
The endorsement will have little impact on the election, though I think it must pack a bit of a punch psychologically. Chris Buckley isn’t nearly as influential and respected among conservatives as his father (due in part, I think to his willingness to be photographed looking like a coquettish blue-blood child molester, as seen to the right), but it must still sting. A lot was made of Ron Reagan addressing the Democratic convention a few elections ago, but it really wasn’t such a big deal — Ron Reagan was well known as a liberal who didn’t share his father’s conservative Republican views. Buckley, on the other hand, is very much his father’s son, philosophically speaking — a self-described small-government conservative and social libertarian.
And it’s not just an anti-McCain endorsement; Buckley has good things to say about Obama. “I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate,” he writes in his endorsement, published Friday at the Daily Beast. “He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books.”
“He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for,” writes Buckley near the end, recognizing what common shithead bloggers like me have believed since before he ever announced his candidacy. Obama is a smart, eloquent, thoughtful man, a chance we would regret not taking. Welcome aboard, Christopher Buckley. Now, for Christ’s sake, take those glasses out of your mouth. Fuck, that’s creepy.