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Lewis Calls Out McCain, McCain Indignant

5 years ago
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John McCain, late yesterday, was demanding that Barack Obama repudiate "shocking" remarks by Rep. John Lewis (D - GA). Lewis, you may recall, was among the 3 wisest people that McCain named at the Saddleback forum in August, along with eBay executive Meg Whitman, and General David Petraeus.

AOL News has the story:
In a statement issued Saturday, Lewis said McCain and running mate Sarah Palin were "sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse." He noted that Wallace also ran for president.

"George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights," said Lewis, who is black. "Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."

...In his remarks, Lewis also said: "As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."
McCain said the remarks were "shocking, and beyond the pale," and demanded rebuke from Barack Obama. Obama spokesman Bill Burton offered a pitch-perfect response:
"John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for president of the United States 'pals around with terrorists."
Lewis issued a second statement, clarifying that he was not making a direct comparison between McCain and Wallace, which experts on the english language already knew.

McCain missed a real opportunity here. His reaction to Lewis' remarks is dead wrong, and only serves to deepen the divide.

Lewis is no "Chicken Little." A hero of the civil rights movement, he is not known to sound the alarm at the slightest provocation. He is noting a phenomenon that many others have, which I laid out yesterday, and doing so in kinder terms than even some conservatives.

Why is McCain so offended, then, by Lewis' remarks? For the very same reason he should listen to them. Lewis has credibility on this issue. If anyone can tell when a crowd is close to going from excited to incited, it is him.

McCain sees Lewis' remarks in terms of political damage. Instead of acknowledging the validity of Lewis' point, he relies on a deliberate misreading to try and marginalize his supposed hero.

McCain's crime last week was one of irresponsibility. He misjudged the extent to which he could safely inflame his supporters. His reaction to Lewis bespeaks a man who doesn't get it, who tried to talk his supporters down, yes, but who obviously does not understand the intensity of the fire with which he plays.

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