The Problem With John McCain

I said elsewhere recently that I thought John McCain would be the least likely Republican candidate to make a Freudian slip and drop a racial epithet if running against Barack Obama. I’d forgotten about his reference to “gooks” during the 2000 presidential primaries, though. And then, during last night’s Republican debate on Fox — one of the most depressing things I’ve watched in years, BTW — he dropped this beauty and I realized exactly how important this year’s election is: 

“I’m not interested in trading with al-Qaeda. All they want to trade is burqas. I don’t want to travel with them. They like one-way tickets.”

Generally speaking, I had considered McCain the most palatable of the Republican field despite his aggressive stance on the war, but this kind of casually racist — and clearly pre-scripted — comment, presumably okay because it’s in reference to an enemy — his justification for the “gook” comment, too — brings to mind Stephen King’s Dead Zone, visions of his crazy ass starting World War III being even clearer than those I’ve had of Dubya. (Fred Thompson has a noticeably itchy trigger finger, too, and is looking more like a potential VP choice for McCain, which is scary as hell.)

I watched about 30 minutes of the debate before I couldn’t take it anymore and came away with a better understanding of the appeal of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, who at least come off as sincere representatives of their respective platforms, even though the latter seems easily distracted from the point he’s making at any given moment. Paul was the recipient of some unwarranted contempt and derision from both the moderator, the insufferable Britt Hume, as well as several of his fellow candidates, and while he has no real shot at winning the nomination, with the impressive financial support he’s received, I can see him launching a 3rd party candidacy that siphons some votes from the Republicans and possibly even some of the ill-informed progressives who blindly backed Howard Dean in 2004.

On a related note, between Hillary Clinton’s recent missteps related to her dis of Dr. Martin Luther King’s work in the Civil Rights Movement — “It took a president to get it done.” — along with Andrew Cuomo’s “shuck and jive” comment yesterday and the not surprising garbage coming from Karl Rove, it’s clear racism is going to play an unwelcome part in this election. The question is, will we rise above it all as a nation even if our politicians won’t, or will we once again fall into the trap of fear-mongering, a game the Clintons play just as well as Rove and company?

ETA: I don’t care if it was Toni Morrison who said it, the idea that Bill Clinton was “the first black President” is ridiculously offensive and condescending. Politico has an interesting overview of the current situation.

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