John McCain’s campaign is demanding that civil rights leader John Lewis take back his statements regarding the, er, shall we say putschesque nature of recent McCain rallies. I really don’t see what issue there is with taking a racial minority, making them a catch-all scapegoat for all of society’s problems and then whipping a crowd of the angry and disaffected racial majority into a lather about all the injustices he will visit upon them. When’s that ever gone wrong?
“What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history,” Lewis said in a statement issued today. “Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.”
There’s some other stuff about George Wallace, 1960s-era racism and why white people are always wearing shorts when it’s cold outside. A classic bit, really.
Here’s what McCain responded with:
“Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.
“I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.”
Keep in mind that back at the Saddleback Forum, McCain named John Lewis one of the three wisest people he knew:
WARREN: This first set of questions deals with leadership and the personal life of leadership. The first question, who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?
MCCAIN: First one, I think, would be General David Petraeus, one of the great military leaders in American history, who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq, one of the great leaders (inaudible).
Fourth of July a year ago, Senator Lindsay Graham and I were in Baghdad. Six hundred and eighty-eight brave young Americans, whose enlistment had expired, swore in reenlistment to stay and fight for freedom. Only someone like General David Petraeus could motivate someone like that.
I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, had his skull fractured, continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self- interest.
Except, of course, when he criticizes you. Then McCain immediately invokes the “takeback” rules, and bumps David Petraeus to spots one and two. Actually, spot two is Davey Petraeus, his totally cool and awesomely rad downtime persona who listens to all the hippest bands and is a huge hit with the ladies. He helped talk John McCain into asking Sarah Palin out…er, to be on his ticket. And he’s got a boss leather jacket.