Saturday, October 11, 2008

October Surprise! McCain Is Forced to Confront Open Bigotry Against Obama, While 'Troopergate' Scandal Drags Down Palin

Arizona Senator Gets Booed at His Own Town Hall-Style Campaign Meeting After Rejecting a Supporter's False Claim that Obama 'Is an Arab' and Calling for Respect for His Opponent; Alaska State Legislative Report Accuses Running Mate Palin of Abusing Her Authority as Governor by Seeking to Have Ex-Brother-in-Law Fired from State Police


In this photo taken Friday at a town hall-style campaign stop in Lakeville, Minnesota, Republican presidential nominee John McCain (left) had just turned his microphone over to Gayle Quinnell, a member of the audience, expecting her to ask him a question. But Quinnell stunned him by branding his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, "an Arab" -- expressing a still-widely-held but false belief held by many of Obama's opponents that the Illinois senator is a Muslim. A visibly upset McCain took back the mic and declared that Obama, who is African-American and a Christian, is "a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." But many in the almost all-white crowd would have none of it -- and booed McCain loudly. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. Saturday, October 11, 2008)

NOTE TO READERS: Due to the Columbus Day holiday, there will be no article published on Monday, October 13. The next edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report will be published on Thursday, October 16.



Republican John McCain's presidential campaign -- already floundering in the face of the worsening global economic crisis -- may be tottering on the brink of self-destruction after it was dealt two more devastating blows on Friday.

The Arizona senator was forced to confront open bigotry among his own supporters against his Democratic rival at a campaign stop in Minnesota and fallout from a newly-released investigative report by the Alaska Legislature that concluded that his running mate, Sarah Palin, illegally abused her authority as governor by seeking to have her former brother-in-law fired from the state police.

At a town hall-style meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, McCain suddenly found himself dealing face to face with prejudice against Barack Obama, the first African American to win a major party's presidential nomination, based on a still-widely-held -- but false -- belief among Obama's opponents, fed by unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo spread on the Internet, that the Illinois senator is a foreign-born Muslim with ties to terrorists.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii in 1961, is, in fact, a Christian, although he did acknowledge in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, that he attended both Muslim and Roman Catholic schools as a boy while living with his mother in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.


This extraordinary turn of events came when one of McCain's supporters, a middle-aged white woman identified by the Reuters news agency as Gayle Quinnell, told the Arizona senator to his face, "I don't trust Obama. I have read about him. He's an Arab."

Stunned by Quinnell's remark, McCain shook his head in disagreement, took the microphone back from Quinnell and told her, "No, ma'am. He's [Obama's] a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with [him] on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

Many in the almost all-white crowd immediately booed him. That, in turn, visibly angered McCain. "Look, I don't want to see Senator Obama become the next president," He told the crowd. "But I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

That comment drew a second -- and louder -- cascade of boos.

Earlier, an unidentified man told McCain, "Frankly, we're scared, we're scared of an Obama presidency." He said he was especially worried that "someone who cohorts with domestic terrorists" might be in a position to choose Supreme Court justices.


The incident at McCain's Lakewille town meeting was the latest in a series of angry -- and at times hateful -- outbursts against Obama at campaign rallies of McCain and Palin in recent days, with shouts of "Traitor!," "Terrorist!," "Treason!," and "Liar!" to describe Obama ringing out among the almost exclusively white crowds as the GOP nominees have repeatedly hammered away at Obama's relationship with former 1960s radical William Ayres.

More ominously, however, some of the more hot-headed McCain-Palin supporters openly called for Obama to be killed, with shouts of "Off with his head!" and "Kill him!" ringing out from the crowds.

Until Friday's incident, neither McCain nor Palin had challenged the hotheads, even when the Secret Service opened a preliminary investigation into whether the person at a Palin rally in Clearwater, Florida on Monday who shouted "Kill him!" had actually made a death threat against the Democrat, which would be a crime under federal law.

The Secret Service confirmed Friday that it had investigated the episode, which was reported in The Washington Post in its Tuesday editions. There was "no indication that there was anything directed at Obama," Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren told the Associated Press. "We looked into it because we always operate in an atmosphere of an abundance of caution."


The anger from the right was just as palpable during a McCain campaign stop in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Wednesday. "When you have an Obama, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and the rest of the hooligans up there going to run this country, we have got to have our head examined," one man shouted at McCain. "It's time that you two [McCain and Palin] are representing us, and we are mad. So, go get them!" he thundered.

As McCain passed his microphone, speaker after speaker unloaded their rage at the McCain campaign's failure to catch up with the Obama ticket and for so far batting 0-for-3 in the debates, based on opinion surveys, with the final one scheduled for Wednesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, a suburb of New York City.

"And we're all wondering why that Obama is where he's at, how he got here. I mean, everybody in this room is stunned that we're in this position," another man said at the Wisconsin rally.

"I'm mad. I'm really mad. And what's going to surprise you, it's not the economy. It's the socialists taking over our country!" another man said.


The GOP's hard-line conservative base has become increasingly angry and frustrated as the McCain camp's fierce advertising attacks on Obama have largely been smothered by voters' overwhelming concerns over the economy.

A non-stop coordinated barrage of attack ads against Obama by the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and right-wing independent groups such as the powerful National Rifle Association -- which would otherwise have garnered intense media attention -- has been drowned out by an equally non-stop avalanche of news of the worsening global economic crisis.

That the McCain camp has chosen to concentrate its advertising and campaign rhetoric on shoring the GOP's conservative base by attacking Obama's character, rather than by focusing on the economy, has resulted in McCain failing to attract mostly moderate independent voters -- without whom McCain cannot win.


Adding to the conservatives' frustration has been McCain's response to the economic crisis -- which the Obama campaign has derided as "erratic:"

# Halting his campaign to involve himself in the effort to pass the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout of the financial markets despite fierce conservative opposition, only to see it rejected by the House.

# Voting in favor of the Senate's revised version of the bailout bill, despite the tacking on of $200 billion in the kind of "pork-barrel" projects he had fiercely opposed on the campaign trail.

# Proposing that the federal government buy out the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bad mortgages that many homeowners were hoodwinked into accepting by predatory lenders, further putting taxpayers on the hook.


If McCain's problems with his supporters expressing open bigotry against Obama weren't bad enough, his campaign was dealt yet another devastating blow Friday night when Palin was found by the Alaska Legislature's chief investigator to have unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.

In a highly-anticipated report to a bipartisan legislative panel that looked into the matter -- known as the "Troopergate" affair -- investigator Stephen Branchflower found Palin violated a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The inquiry looked into her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who claimed Palin fired him because he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governor's sister.

Palin has insisted that she fired Monegan as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

Branchflower found Monegan's firing was legal, as under the Alaska Constitution, executive branch department heads serve at the pleasure of the governor. But by allowing her husband Todd to put pressure on Monegan to fire her former brother-in-law, Michael Wooten, Palin's decision-making was colored by her bitter family dispute.

"I feel vindicated," Monegan told reporters at a news conference in Anchorage. "It sounds like they've validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I'm not totally out in left field."

The report was made public the same day an Anchorage district court judge issued a temporary restraining order forcing the state of Alaska to preserve any government-related e-mails that Palin and top aides sent from private accounts in what critics contend was an effort to conceal that they were doing political business while working at state government jobs.

Despite assertions form the McCain campaign that Palin committed no wrongdoing, Branchflower said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. But lawmakers don't have the authority under the Alaska Constitution to sanction her for such a violation and they gave no indication they would take any action against her.

Nonetheless, the investigator's report could have serious political repercussions for the governor, severely damaging her reputation as a reformer on which she won the governorship in 2006.

Not to mention becoming a major liability to the McCain campaign at a time when the Arizona senator can ill-afford to take on any more liabilities.

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Volume III, Number 64
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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