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John McCain, speaking to supporters, tries to defuse an anti-Barack Obama vibe

Harsh words, false allegations and downright bile increasingly marked a series of John McCain/Sarah Palin rallies in recent days.

John McCain listens to a woman at a rally in Minnesota incorrectly term Barack Obama an Arab; the Republican told her that was falseTonight, in Lakeville, Minn., McCain sought to put a stop to it.

In doing so, he found himself in the unusual position of defending the decency of the man he is running against for president and disabusing supporters of some of their notions about Barack Obama.

The Times' Peter Nicholas was at the town hall event and reports that shortly after it started, an audience member urged McCain to engage in a "real fight" with Obama as the campaign winds to its conclusion.

Such remarks had been typical at gatherings Wednesday and Thursday in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, as McCain campaigned in tandem with Palin. The pair responded by pledging to do so and making their case against Obama -- while ignoring occasional audience shouts of "traitor," "terrorist" and, in one case, "off with his head" in reference to the Democrat.

But in Minnesota, where McCain appeared solo, he took a different tack. “If you want a fight, we will fight,” he said. “But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments.”

That comment prompted some boos, which spurred McCain to emphasize his point, “I want everyone to be respectful," he said. "And let’s make sure we are, because that’s the way politics is done in America.”

The give-and-take with his audience over Obama had just begun, though.

A few minutes later, a man who said his wife was pregnant said he was "scared" as he contemplated an Obama presidency during the first years of his child's life.

McCain, after letting the fellow finish his thoughts, took the microphone from him and replied: “I have to tell you, he is a decent person, a person that you do not have to be scared [of] as president of the United States.”

A woman in the crowd (pictured above) remained unconvinced. Saying she didn't trust Obama, she added: “I have read about him. He’s an Arab.”

McCain, shaking his head, this time quickly ...

... reclaimed the mike and said: "No ma'am. He is a decent family man, a citizen who I just happen to have serious differences with on fundamental questions.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, pressure had been mounting on McCain to tamp down his troops in the face of stories focusing on the hard-edged tenor of his rallies this week (see here and here).

This afternoon, Dan Balz of the Washington Post -- a veteran, and consistently dispassionate, political journalist -- wrote that McCain camp tactics that had contributed to this mood "are over the line, with no restraint in sight, and threaten to provoke reactions among partisans on both sides that will continue to escalate."

More tellingly, other Republicans voiced similar concerns, including former Gov. William Milliken of Michigan and outgoing Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois.

McCain headlines a rally in Iowa on Saturday before returning to Washington for a break from campaigning. The gathering will be closely watched.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (31)

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Incite the crowd to levels advocating violence and murder, then tone it down a tad and claim to be distanced from the madness. Let's see if that works.

An article in the New York Times backs up a lot of the allegations concerning Obama and Acorn. Key paragraph on Obama's over $800,000 payment to Acorn: " The Obama campaign initially reported that the payment was for “staging, sound, lighting” and other advance work when it reported its expenditures with the Federal Election Commission. It filed amended reports in August and September to reflect that those payments were for get-out-the-vote efforts." Obama statement on Acorn: “Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work,” Mr. Obama said, according to a post Mr. Graham-Felsen made in February.

This is not the first time nor the last a BLACK MAN has stood up for a WHITE MAN. "We sick BOSS"... We sick??? LMAO... The funny thing is that you seen him as a black man and NOT A MAN! So racism is still there... Right... He is black, but that does not mean he knows not what he does.

Today I was called the N word walking into McDonald's. Funny thing is after that he called me OBAMA BINLADIN. It hurt because I am only a man. He seen me as a threat and a black man It made me think of the rallies yelling, "Kill Him"...

What does all this mean...

THE BLACK MAN SUPPORTS Sen. John McCain... The white people who support John McCain see it as a way they can excuse what they say and do at their rallies!

McCain and his campaign have deliberately sought to incite fear and hatred. ... It will end in violence and McCain knows it.

I don't believe the liberals realize how so very many of our country men and women deeply dislike and distrust Obama, for good reason. I've heard talk of moving out of the country or seeing if their state can succeed from the union if he is elected. People who usually are not emotional about a presidential election have so much negative feeling about him that if he is elected, our country will be divided as never before. He definitely is not a uniter. Most of all, these people, including me, fear for our way of life and our freedom. You liberals do not know this man; he is pretending to be a patriat and wants to do good for this country. He is a liar and will do anything, anything to be elected. His millions upon millions of $ are not coming from the "common folks" as some of you have written. How are the foreign countries & foreign organizations sneeking this money to his campaign. How do you feel about having a communist leaning president? His mentor was a communist and as Obama wrote they were like father and son. This is a bigger crisis than our economical problems, the fact that you are about to elect someone who should be president of Russia, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Perhaps if you the media would report fair and accurate news on this presidential campaign instead of all positive for Obama, never reporting on all of his illegal and anti-american ideals, and bashing and tearing McCain & Palin apart the people would not have to express their feeling about Obma so openly. You the media are doing a serious disservice to our country by reporting what you believe the citizens of the U.S. should think and how they should vote instead of just reporting the news as was done in the bygone days and letting us decide the issues and candidates ourselves.

This isn't anti-Obama sentiment. This is anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment. People need to stop beating around the bush and recognize that most conservative rural Americans are simply racist, xenophobic bigots.

McCain showed some good judgement and character today by attempting to correct that woman. Even though afterwards, when interviewed by a CNN reporter, she STILL clung *cough* to her anti-Muslim and anti-Arab beliefs.

I'd be tempted to support McCain simply for the courage he showed today. However, even though McCain may a good man deep down inside, his supporters are definitely scary cohorts.

Where do they find all these GOP supporters? I'm amazed by how many nut cases we have in the country. There are so ignorant they make George Bush look like a rocket scientist.

Al those who spewed such ignorance were planted in the audience. There to give McLame the opportunity to appear "respectful" of Obama. He is not.
John McCain doesn't even respect himself.

Nice try on the ploy, RNC. Your tactics are all know to us. All of them. You have nothing left but vote fraud.

It's almost over.

I suspect that the anger and "bile" is due to racism. Some people talk about Obama not really being "American" or that he is Moslem and thus not "American." Mind-numbing stupidity of course, but essentially the produce of some form of racism. McCain is not a racist but he is the racist's candidate by default.

You know John McCain still has some honor and compassion. He's no president, but hopefully he see's what this could lead to.

Where are all the McCain apologists? The incurious Ditto Heads? Now that the lies have been refuted and the noise machine is running on fumes and worn-out bearings, and their candidate is trying to wrestle what little of his dignity remains back from the thugs who have infected his campaign, it would appear that they have retreated back to where they came from, humbled and shamed. As well they should. As well they should.

Am I the only one seeing the halarious irony of people worried about terrorist threatening to behead a senator of thier own country?

This is just pathetic.

Wow. What ignorance...

Sign this petition if you think McCain should stop talking about Obama and William Ayers...and start talking about the economy instead:


I honestly think that McCain is a fairly honorable man at heart (even though he has betrayed some of that honor in this election by sinking to smear tactics).

Perhaps more importantly, he sees _himself_ as an honorable man, who wants the best for the country.

So, just yesterday, I was wondering whether. if the polls continue to show Obama with a big lead, if McCain will reach the point where he admits to himself that Obama will be the next President, and begins to see that continuing to attack him is essentially unpatriotic.

After all, the new President will have to rally the country through some hard economic times (not to mention the continuing problem with terrorists), and he will need all of the support and good will he can get. If McCain keeps encouraging people to doubt and hate Obama, the future President's ability to do good for the country will be diminished.

Will a time come, I wondered, when McCain actually puts “Country First” (his slogan for this campaign) and refuses to sew any more seeds of hatred and disunity in the country? I would hope so.

Well, now he has taken a step in the right direction, reclaiming at least some of the common decency that even his political foes originally attributed to him.

Unfortunately, we'll never know whether he acted out of a genuine sense of right & wrong, or whether his advisors simply told him that the personal attacks were damaging his image (which they were).

For now, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

wow...I give McCain for showing some class....but him and his campaign is repspnosible for this rhetoric. I can't not believe 21st Century America..a land nicknamed the Land of the Free and Oppurtunities still have this type of backward belief individuals. Obama is the American dream. Only in America a piss poor person can grow up to be a candidate to become the President of the United States....McCain needs to get a grip on his campaign and stop this nonsense and start talking about the Economy.

McCain and Palin only have themselves to blame. They let the genie out of the bottle with all their scurrilous attacks against Obama's honor, patriotism, motives etc. Even Cindy McCain got into the act the other day. They should be fighting on the policy differences, but instead, they question Obama the person. In contrast, at every stage of this campaign, Obama and Biden have made a point of honoring McCain's patriotism and heroism before attacking him on the issues.

Campaigns are a good indication of how a candidate might govern if elected, and it's clear that Obama has what it takes to be a competent, if not outstanding president.

Wow -

So, McCain shows that he truly is a "Maverick" and does what is right, not what is popular with his party, and you have the gall to down him for it? I had been fairly put off by the highly negative scare-tactic campaign ads coming from the GOP ticket, but today I realized that it's not McCain, it's the campaign managers and surrogates spewing that junk all over my TV. John has moved up quite a bit in my esteem, and he just may earn my vote yet.

I find it ironic that the Christian community, traditionally Republican, are not defending McCain's demonstration of fundamental concepts taught by Jesus himself - forgiveness and compassion. For the military-minded, he's following the rules of engagement in a way that does credit to the honor of his years of military service. And, for "Joe Six-Pack", McCain is simply showing good sportsmanship in a tough game. McCain has shown great integrity and honor this day, and we should all be proud of him for it.

People who fear who the next President will be are simply not looking at the big picture. The President's power is the power of veto. The Senate and the House are the real lawmakers and budgeters for the government; that's why they are called the Legislative branch. Any budget sent to the Oval Office which is vetoed can still be overridden by Congress. Simply put - Obama can't promise to cut taxes any more than McCain can promise to give us that $5000 health care credit. All they can do is offer their plans to Congress and hope it doesn't die on the Senate/House floor.

Policies, taxes, and budget are still going to be controlled by the Legislative branch, so if Obama wins or McCain wins and then falls over dead, making Palin the President, it's no big deal. They don't have the power to change anything. All they can do is attempt to stop change with a veto. If you want radical change, you need to change out your Senators and Representatives.

For all the bitter Hillary supporters, you should know that if Obama had chosen her as a VP, it would have stripped her of her power to vote in the Senate. VPs preside over the Senate, but cannot vote unless there's a tie. The smartest thing the Dems did was to not choose her as a VP, so she could continue to be a driving force in the Senate. Hillary is *not* in the race, so let's stop bringing her up, please. We all have enough mud thrown by both tickets without outside mud being thrown in, too.

On a final note, consider this - If McCain wins and falls ill, Palin (R) would naturally be moved up to the Presidency.... and Nancy Pelosi (D) would become her VP, as per Constitutional provisions... That *would* be interesting, now wouldn't it?

Look who is talking. After stage managing these rant against Obama. Now McCain wants to portray that he is a gentelman. A psycho that he is a McCain can never gain the respect and adulation Obama has generated in this campaign. Being a Republican for three decades, I must say thart McCain has forced me to vote for change. I will return only if civilian discourse takes palce at the republcian camp.

The evidence of Barack’s communist and socialists ties and views is everywhere, but unreported by the main stream press. Stop sitting on the couch flipping through the news channel love fest with Obama and do some research of your own. It would appear that the so-called “angry” crowds have done just that. Their anger is not derived from anything the McCain campaign has done. It is a result of the News media’s blatant downplaying of negative truths in Obama’s past, truths that if known sooner would have gotten Hillary nominated as the Democratic candidate (for the record I wouldn’t vote for Hillary either). McCain has tiptoed around reporting the truth about Obama because he knows countless news articles will shout “negative campaigning”. What is negative about making a true statement that can be documented by hard fact? People who have done their own research are mad because the country appears weeks away from voting a closet communist as President of the United States. If you believe an Obama presidency will be good for the country, then I have a bridge to nowhere I wish to sell you.

Rage is often expressed when the inarticulate feel they are being deceived. Obama was born to a man who considered himself and his family Muslim. He was adopted by a man who considered himself Muslim and registered Barry as a Muslim in Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world. Barack's mother married two Muslim men. When Barack joined a church it was the church of Rev. Wright, a 'former' Muslim. When Obama says he is a Christian what does that mean? He doesn't tell a story of conversion from Islam, he claims he's always been Christian and expects us to accept that without critique. Is he Democrat and New Party? Christian and Muslim? Liberal and Socialist? People express rage because they hear the 'and.... ' but Obama won't finish the sentence. I fear we'll only hear the rest of the story when he is in a position of power and can claim that he gained it fair and square. His refusal to finish his sentences is obvious and deceptive. Malcolm Gladwell was right in 'Blink', many people know the truth without being able to articulate why they know.

Typical Republican campaign tactics. The crowds have now stopped using their intellect and switched to emotions. Listen to a few of the right wing talk shows (if you understand propaganda techniques), and see if you can deduce the source of these negative statements which are not based on facts.
What the McCain campaign is willfully doing is trying to switch the campaign from a debate on the issues to a series of character attacks to bring out the basest emotions and convince people to vote against their own interests.
Well, I need to go now, wrestling is coming on the tv, don't want to miss any new truths as they unfold.

How can Sarah Palin be trusted to be the Vice President and maybe the President when she abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act". Choice of Palin as his running mate clearly demonstrates total lack of judgment by McCain. This country does not need 4 more years of "Bush - Chaney" type of conduct which eroded the values of the greatest nation in history and brought us to the potential ruin that we are facing today.

I don't believe the liberals realize how so very many of our country men and women deeply dislike and distrust Obama, for good reason. I've heard talk of moving out of the country or seeing if their state can succeed from the union if he is elected.

Why do you "deeply dislike and distrust" Obama? Too much Fox News, perhaps? All Obama wants to do is save your job and our economy. Get over it and try and read something besides Drudge Report headlines, please, before you make your "informed" decisions about how you don't "trust" Obama.

Yes, those people support mccain for the wrong reason. And it's good that he's trying to settle them down. he never will though. This country has always had differences from state to state. If it wasn't for such a rich government, we would have separated decades ago. I don't support mccain for racial or hatred reasons at all. I support him because I trust him. And these statements he made make me trust him even more. He may be getting bashed in the media a lot right now, but it's because he's under such pressure from these racist jerks. At the same time, Obama is reaping polls by promising things which sound great at first, but hit us in the back of the head once the full swing is made.

Reply to "Sick of this election" 10 October 2008 -- The only SICKNESS in this Election was started by you Republican colorophobic rednecks... you are still living in the Dark Ages of the Confederacy - the one that still flies the Confederate USA Flag of Racism, the Governor Wallace Bigotry that started riots and caused decades of KuKluxKlan type "revenge" violence ...and for WHAT? Because you can't "accept" that everyone is the same - no matter what their color outside? Oh grow up!

I guess McCain believes that anyone of Arabic descent can't be a "decent family man." While I am glad McCain finally tried to stop the madness his campaign is inciting, this remark shows his deep prejudice and world view.

Isn't anyone out there offended?

Unfortunately, I think this is a case of too little, too late. John McCain has gone from saying this would be a campaign on the "issues" to allowing the campaign managers and his VP to perpetuate a campaign of hate and division...of looking at the opponent as dangerous, someone who "hangs out with terrorists"...a "Muslim" have a Sheriff in about Barack Hussein Obama...with the mean spiritness that his tone engenders and to allow it to continue on and unconscionable. Now after opening a veritable Pandora's box with people yelling "traitor" "kill him", he's an "Arab" they tone it down? As we all learned from the story of Pandora's box, once it was can't close it again. I just read a story on a website that really hits the danger of where this could all go...absolutely on target. Its scary, scary, scary...and I hope that it never happens. It's called "When the Dow Breaks"...and it's on a really interesting website called I highly recommend anyone read it...we're on the wrong path if this continues. As I grow older, I keep hoping that this country will just grow up...learn it's about the country....go back to the idea of public service, serving the country and not just yourself.

This is mendacious. McCain and many in the Republican party have worked and supported ACORN. One of the problems with ACORN is that that it uses young volunteers. They often make mistakes -- which in the total picture are small. Obama is extremely cautious and he would not employ anyone that is controversial (This is a criticism not a compliment). My experience is that the Republicans make less mistakes because they pay registrars who are often professional registrars. They often do it through faith based organizations making it easier to conceal mistakes. There is also the factor that Democrats are reluctant to criticize religious organizations. Lastly, ACORN is vulnerable to attacks because the Democratic party washes its hands and won't defend any organization that is not under its control. Moreover, many of its elected officials don't like ACORN because it has criticized them. Putting everything into context, there is no volunteer group that has not had problems in registering people, especially new voters. Reading the Republicans and their Chihuahua attack dog Palin is seeing Gerald Ford eat a tamale with a cork leaf still wrapped around it.

I'm going with the Stalin/Hitler ticket. Hope they will choose Pol Pot as Secretary of State and Kim Jong-il as Secretary of the Interior and Rev. Jim Jones to be head of the Food and Drug Administration. One cannot have CHANGE without a racially motivated totalitarian gov't. As election day is near, I need voluteers to help me clone them from test-tubes.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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