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Column: McCain Camp Resorting To Personal Attacks

This story was written by Jeff Hall, Daily Nebraskan


Going into this election, I was excited by our choices.

Even though I may disagree with John McCain on policy issues, I trusted that at his core he was a good and honest man who cared deeply about his country, one that would only act in the country's interest. A man who would, at the very least, bring integrity and principle back to the White House.

Recent events have changed that view.

Late last week, McCain announced that he plans to begin a more "aggressive" campaign against Barack Obama, including the heavy use of negative ads, according to an Oct. 5 article from CNN.com.

Right now, the country desperately needs McCain's brand of "straight talk" on the economy, on the war and on America's place in the world. But instead of his patented, earthy way of tackling tough issues, now America gets negative campaigning - underhanded character attacks unrelated to the issues that we are facing today.

Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential candidate, recently got in on the character slander action as well. The Oct. 5 Reuters news service article "Obama accuses McCain of smear campaign" quotes Palin as saying that Obama is "palling around with terrorists."

This makes it seem as if he has a regular date with Al-Qaeda for tea.

In reality, the instance she speaks of is likely a reference to Bill Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground, a radical 1970s group. Obama met Ayers while working for the same non-profit group in 1995, over two decades after Ayers' radical youth. The group raised funds to improve schools in the Chicago area.

Ayers is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago working on education and social justice issues. He and Obama rarely speak; their last contact came in a chance meeting in Chicago last year.

Palin's remarks amount to a shameful scare tactic, nothing more - and the American people won't take the bait.

It is clear that the McCain campaign is desperate. Alleging someone hobnobs with terrorists, coupled with brutal personal attacks, is a reflection of a campaign that is struggling for traction against a tide of public opinion.

I wouldn't expect these negative ads from the old John McCain, the McCain with integrity, but they seem to be par for the course these days.

Ultimately, you can trace the decline of McCain's personal character to the 2000 Presidential election. McCain, a charismatic war hero, faced George Bush - a mediocre governor getting by on name recognition in a state where the governor holds no real power.

McCain steamrolled to victory in the New Hampshire primary, and a win in the upcoming South Carolina primary looked likely. It was going to give him an incredible amount of momentum, and probably the Republican presidential nomination.

Then the Bush campaign intervened.

A "push poll" roared across phones throughout South Carolina, asking voters the question: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had an illegitimate black child?"

Injecting the politics of race and sex into a southern state can be a death knell for the accused. McCain's numbers tumbled, and Bush cruised to victory on the wave of stirred up racial prejudice.

To be clear: McCain does not have an illegitimate child. He and his wife adopted a Bangladeshi daughter, who happens to have dark skin.

After such a dirty, racist and underhanded assault on his family, you could expect a person to get angry, to do something irrational.

McCain did do something irrational. He made a bargain with the devil to preserve his future chances at the presidency.

For the next eight years, he cozied up to the Bush administration and was a vocal supporter of George W. Bush's policy initiatives while in the Senate. He did this to avoid alienating his party and to have the possible upper hand of an incumbent president campaigning on his side.

Clearly, that hasn't helped him this time.

His fiscal policy - massive tax breaks for the wealthy in order to stimulate the economy - is a carbon copy of the current administration.

On social issues, he has fallen in line as well. From a June 17 New York Times article, "Mr. McCain's positions are nearly identical to the president's on abortion and the types of judges he says he would appoint to the courts."

It's McCain who's been doing the palling around - but his has been with the Bush administration.

John McCain lost his character, his political brand, back in the 2000 election. The character attacks that will be rolled out this week are just a sad reminder of the man that used to be.