Nobody wants to talk about what the McCain campaign may or may not be doing in reference to the new rhetoric coming from Senator McCain and Governor Palin. Or they do but they don't know what to say about it.
Governor Palin doesn't mind or have much trouble inciting people to yell "terrorist", "treason" or "kill him" at her rallies. Some of her supporters at these rallies have taken out their anger on the press following her and have let racial epitaphs fly as well:
What is puzzling is that McCain doesn't need to rally the base any more. If they get any more rallied up by Palin they're going to want to reconvene the Republican Convention tomorrow and at the very least switch the order of the ticket if not just leave McCain off it altogether. McCain needs to be reaching out to the middle-class and talking about specific policy proposals that will affect them. His call for the Treasury to buy up bad mortgages is a try at that, but again that is a discretionary power that was already included in the bailout bill passed earlier this month. It's not new plus it doesn't go over well with the Republican base.
McCain, as far as I can recall, has yet to utter the phrase, "middle-class" in either debate and Palin, I believe, said it only once or twice in her debate. Instead McCain's asking rhetorical questions like, "Who is the real Barack Obama?", while Palin attempts to answer the question by saying he, "pals around with terrorists", present tense, plural, and, "he's not like us".
It's not like the candidates, on the fly, come up with these lines. A group of paid political strategists and operatives sit around and think about and come up with this stuff.
Each individual will have to decide for themselves what the McCain campaign's over all rhetoric means to them. What is the McCain campaign's thinking behind using phases and questions like, "Who is the real Barack Obama", "he pals around with terrorists", and Obama, "is not like us".
Racism? Is it or isn't it? Overt or subtle? Intended or not? Pandering to it? Is it something else, like alleging that Obama is un-American? Or is it really just the McCain campaign asking innocent questions, giving innocent answers and throwing everything against the wall that it can given the polls it sees each day. Maybe the rhetoric is just, "Obama is scary and unknown". Each individual that hears the rhetoric will decide what it conjures in their own minds. Like in all things, what an individual brings to the table, such as their background, will influence how they interpret or perceive these types of remarks. A person's personal background including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, if any, party affiliation, if any, and interaction and tolerance of those different than them will affect how such remarks are taken by an individual.
Whatever the case may be, the rhetoric of the McCain campaign is something strange, negative and uncomfortable. Like a Supreme Court Justice once said or wrote about pornography, you just know it when you see it. Maybe in this case, you just know it's out of the ordinary when you hear it. And each individual takes it in, absorbs it and decides what it is to them, individually.
The polls reflect that the above talking points the McCain campaign has been using haven't helped. Maybe McCain is counting on "the Bradley effect" to win and the polls are wrong.
As to the intent behind the rhetoric and what the intended impact of such rhetoric was meant to be on the campaign and voters, only those that came up with these lines can answer that. Maybe someday the McCain Republican strategists and operatives will let us know how, when and why they thought this up and what they hoped it would accomplish.
The rhetoric has arguably already had some impact. Take for instance the inspired McCain supporter Bobby May, a county representative to the McCain campaign in Virginia, who expressed his thoughts on an Obama presidency in an editorial in a local paper. The author defends it as a parody. The McCain campaign relieved this author of his post with the campaign. You be the judge:
Of course others combat people like the above Mr. May:
Obama has written two books and there's only been 18 months of public, magazine, newspaper, books, tv, bloggers, and "any other type of media you can think of" scrutiny and digging through his background with a fine tooth comb. Ask Senator Hillary Clinton. I don't know if the "Obama is scary and unknown", line of campaigning (taking the rhetoric in he best possible way) is going to play to the middle-class and undecided voters but it will sure fire up the Republican base. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your political leanings, the Republican base alone isn't enough to get McCain to the Oval Office, at least according to the latest polls. But we'll be talking about their rhetoric for a while.