Senator John McCain
(April 2008)

The TV ad placed by a Republican group in North Carolina, ostensibly attacking Democratic officials who had endorsed Barrack Obama, was pretty mild by past and even current standards of attack ad sleaze. The ethical objections to it would be 1) that it is faintly racist, simply because it dwells on the pulpit gyrations and rantings of Senator Obama’s “spiritual advisor” Rev. Jeremiah Wright, 2) that the ad’s final message that Obama is “too extreme,” in the context of the Wright video, is code for “too black,” 3) the ad is disingenuous, pretending to be aimed at two white Democrats when it is clearly aimed at Obama, and 4) it is another manifestation of Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos,” in which Republicans try to manipulate the Democrats’ hapless nomination process to produce maximum discord and confusion.

The Scoreboard is in agreement with objections two through four. I confess wariness about the tendency, usually fully supported by the media, to characterize any unflattering video of an African-American figure as “racist,” even when the figure himself is racist, like Rev. Wright, and when any unflattering implications are 100% deserved. The fact that he is African-American is absolutely relevant to Wright, as he is a proven advocate of black hatred and suspicion of whites, and Obama’s long tolerance and tacit support for his positions is and will remain an important issue, much as the senator’s supporters attempt to minimize its significance. (An aside: is there a more blatant embodiment of right-wing paranoia about the news media than Public Broadcasting’s Bill Moyers? In his cringingly obsequious interview of Wright, Moyers allowed the Reverend to claim that his most inflammatory statements caught on videotape were taken “out of context,” without asking the obvious and necessary question: what “context” justifies the contention that the U.S. government developed the AID virus to kill blacks, exactly?)

But never mind: what matters is that the ad was misleading and offensive. Senator McCain demanded that it be stopped, and it was. He is injecting a sense of fairness and integrity into the campaign at an early stage, and raises at least the hope that if his opposition is Mr. Obama, the two of them may manage to elevate campaign tactics well above the gutter level that it descended to in 2004.

If his opposition is the Clintons, obviously there is no hope whatever.

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