On PJTV tonight, I talked about the emerging theme of “Republican anger,” as peddled by the media. “Republican anger” mostly means that Republicans, and sometimes, at least, their Presidential candidate, are actually trying to win the election, rather than doing the gentlemanly thing and conceding to the press favorite, Barack Obama.
Today John McCain was in Lakeville, Minnesota, one suburb south of where I live. My radio partner Chad Doughty was there; here is how he saw the event:
I’ll have a more thorough recap later. For now, I’ll just pass on what I thought was the most significant news from the event.
It wasn’t anything that McCain said. He hit on most of the same themes that we’ve heard throughout the campaign, although he was much more confident and at ease than in either of the two debates. The format–a real town hall–definitely plays to his strengths as we’ve so often heard.
Rather it was the advice that former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz passed on during the question and answer section. Clad in his trademark plaid shirt, Boschwitz had spoken on McCain’s behalf earlier before the candidate arrived. The crowd was a little surprised when Boschwitz raised his hand among the many others who wanted to query McCain. I’m sure McCain was too.
Boschwitz began by saying that he probably knew and admired McCain better than anyone in the room. Then he said that he was afraid that if McCain didn’t bring up some of Obama’s past associations, he would lose the election. He added that McCain had to do it himself because the media wasn’t going to do it for him.
This echoed the sentiments expressed by many at the event, who are obviously frustrated by what they feel is McCain’s reluctance to get to the heart of the matter regarding Obama’s past. It’s one thing to hear a regular citizen vent that way. It’s another when a former US Senator does. It will interesting to see how this plays out.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s reporter seems to have attended a different event:
Struggling to contain an emotional fire his own campaign kindled, Republican presidential nominee John McCain spent much of a town hall meeting in Lakeville on Friday trying to cool his supporters’ growing hostility toward Democrat Barack Obama.
Responding to repeated questions about Obama’s truthfulness and personal background, McCain urged backers at a packed gym at Lakeville South High School to be “respectful” toward his opponent.
McCain found himself in the odd and uncomfortable position of defending an opponent who is pulling away in many polls at the end of a week when he and running mate Sarah Palin stepped up their own attacks against Obama — often inspiring outbursts at raucous rallies, complete with cries of “terrorist” and “off with his head.”
The Minnesota gathering lacked that kind of harshness, but sustained booing greeted many of McCain’s attempts to discourage the crowd’s fear and anger. Of the 21 questions posed to McCain during 45 minutes of give-and-take, one-third challenged him to take on Obama more aggressively, with a few making incendiary comments.
Late in the town hall meeting, Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee called Obama “an Arab.” Taken aback, McCain shook his head and, taking the microphone from her, said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” …
McCain repeatedly tried to dial down his supporters’ antipathy toward Obama. “I will fight, but we will be respectful,” he said. “I admire Senator Obama” — as the crowd booed loudly — “I want everyone to be respectful. … I don’t mean you have to reduce your ferocity, just be respectful.”
“Off with his head”? I don’t think any Presidential candidate has ever faced a monolithic wall of establishment hostility comparable to what John McCain confronts this year. Nor has any political party been the subject of such an unrelenting campaign of vilification as the Republicans have sustained over the past five or six years. I don’t doubt that the establishment will succeed in dragging their candidate across the finish line next month. What will happen after that is anybody’s guess.
UPDATE: The Democratic National Committee put out a press release on today’s event in Lakeville. Technically, you could say the Associated Press published it for them.
FURTHER UPDATE: You can watch the key exchanges between McCain and the crowd here. If this is the best the press can come up with as evidence of “Republican anger,” it’s much ado about nothing.
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