McCain-Palin rallies turning ugly

The Republicans' turn to the negative is prompting some crowd reactions that could backfire on the candidates.

Published October 7, 2008 9:35PM (EDT)

As it's become increasingly clear that the McCain campaign is in serious trouble, they've been shifting from the issues and trying to stoke voters' fears and prejudices about Barack Obama. This turn toward the negative has been ugly, but the invective the attacks are whipping up among the faithful at Republican rallies is far uglier.

As Gabriel Winant noted in this space on Monday, when John McCain asked, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" at a recent rally, a supporter yelled back, "Terrorist!"

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote in his column Tuesday that Palin supporters shouted obscenities at a camera crew during a Clearwater, Fla., rally. The vice-presidential candidate blamed Katie Couric's questions for her fumbling performance in her infamous CBS interview. Another backer hurled a racial insult at an African-American sound man and said, "Sit down, boy."

At another point, Palin mentioned Bill Ayers, the former member of the Weather Underground turned Chicago fixture, whom McCain is desperately trying to tie Obama to. Palin said about Ayers, "And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol.'"

"Kill him!" yelled one man in the audience.

And at a Palin rally in Jacksonville, Fla., a member of the crowd screamed, "Treason!" when Palin said "[Obama] said, too, that our troops in Afghanistan are 'air raiding villages and killing civilians.'" (Palin took Obama's quote out of context. In a speech at a 2007 rally in New Hampshire, Obama was actually arguing for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, so they didn't have to rely on imprecise tactics like air raids.)

By Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz. Sarah Palin