Inflammatory Republican rallies raise concerns
Agence France-Presse
Published: Thursday October 9, 2008

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Shouts of "terrorist" and even accusations of "treason" aimed at Barack Obama have echoed around Republican rallies, whipped up into alarming, hate-filled frenzies against the Democratic White House hopeful.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has taken to asking, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" at rallies this week, leading one supporter in Pennsylvania, a blue-collar battleground state to shout back, "he is a bomb."

Before the rally, local Republican leader Bill Platt warmed up the crowd by several times referring to "Barack Hussein Obama," focusing on the Illinois senator's middle name and trying to highlight his differences with other Americans.

Chants of "Nobama, Nobama" mingled with cries of "terrorist," as one banner in the crowd declared: "Go ahead, let the dogs out."

The stream of vicious attacks against Obama, who has left McCain trailing in the polls, were ramped at the weekend by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who accused the Chicago senator of "palling around with terrorists."

She was referring to Bill Ayers, a founding member of the Weathermen, a radical leftist group in the 1960s, who served with Obama as a board member on a charitable foundation from 1999 to 2001.

Now when she mentions Obama, some of the crowds' responses have escalated beyond boos and hisses, and there are fears among some observers that the attacks are going too far.

On Thursday the McCain campaign issued another hard-hitting negative commercial, slamming his rival's judgement and candor and accusing him of not telling the truth about the extent of his acquaintance with Ayers.

Since her first vitriolic attacks, Palin has toned it down, but the campaign is not backing away from its negative tack.

"It's about Senator Obama being candid and straight forward with the American people and their relationship," McCain told Fox News.

"He has dismissed it by saying he was just a guy in the neighborhood. You know it's much more than that."

Democratic vice presidential pick, Joseph Biden, has slammed the tone, telling ABC: "This is volatile stuff and ... I just thought we were kind of beyond this place."

If Palin heard hate-filled shouts from the crowds, she should be "at least saying 'whoa, whoa, whoa that's overboard," Biden said Wednesday.

And in an email to supporters Biden said Thursday: "I've heard some pretty unspeakable things in the past few days -- deeply offensive smears that we'll hear over and over again until election day.

"Instead of focusing on the issues that really matter, our opponents are doing everything they can to encourage this toxic atmosphere."