As the Bush regime has spiraled downhill and public support for the administration and its ill-conceived foreign policies has dwindled, the Republican penchant for spin has been cranking up and getting more and more desperate, and Jim Clark's column last Friday is a great example of that. Jim seems to think that somehow the recent flap over Barack Obama's minister and Gov. Eliot Spitzer's disgraceful conduct somehow balance the scales against the multitude of things the GOP has done.
Wishful thinking, born of desperation. Let's examine the facts. Barack Obama has a minister; John McCain has solicited the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee. Shall we compare the two and the relationship between the candidates and these clergymen? Obama has been a congregant at Pastor Wright's church since he was young; Wright helped Obama discover his faith and was a mentor to Obama. Pastor Wright is an elderly African-American man who has lived through the worst and best of race relations in this country and who comes from a pastoral tradition where fiery, hyperbolic sermons are accepted and applauded.
Contrary to Jim's assertion, Obama was not "forced into" making a speech – he made a speech that has been widely hailed as a watershed in communications, particularly political communications, about race. It was a reasoned, measured speech in which he did not endorse racist expressions by anyone while showing admirable sensitivity to the conditions and conditioning that give rise to such statements.
John McCain does not attend Rev. Hagee's church, but he went out of his way to solicit Pastor Hagee's endorsement. Pastor Hagee, while a darling of some for his "support" of Israel, is a far-right evangelical minister who publicly stated that he considered Hurricane Katrina punishment for New Orleans' sins, particularly homosexuality. He has made statements that are anti-Catholic, calling Catholicism a "religion of hate" and linking it to the rise of Nazism in Germany. He has also written that the Holocaust was God's punishment on the Jews for their "disobedience."
The GOP loves to point out the mote in Democrats' eyes while ignoring the beam in their own. John McCain was a brave soldier and commander in Viet Nam, but he also showed last week that he doesn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites, and he demonstrated the GOP commitment to spin when, after walking around the Green Zone of Baghdad with an armed escort and a flak vest, he pronounced it safe as a walk in the park.
The Republicans see the writing on the wall – the same writing that Daniel interpreted for King Belshazzar – "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting." Their response to this is, characteristically, to try to put a favorable spin on the message – but "spin" is too nice – too gentle. I prefer to think of it, in deference to the distinguished congressman from Idaho, as "wide stance" thinking. When Rep. Craig was caught making advances in a men's room, that was his defense – "I have a wide stance." I don't consider Gov. Spitzer's activity any less reprehensible than Craig's, but at least he had the honesty to admit it and not mount any justifications, particularly any as ludicrous as the "wide stance" justification. Maybe the GOP needs to narrow its stance and start to wake up to the fact that they have thoroughly betrayed and disappointed the American people no matter how you spin it.
So I guess we can look forward to the same distortions, spinning, and swift-boating (i.e. lying) we saw from the GOP in the last two elections – this is, after all, a party that can lose the popular vote, have the Presidency awarded by the Supreme Court, and then spin that as a mandate, headed by a President who can, to this day, insist that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were somehow connected. The difference this year is that the American people, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, are wise to their game and in November will send them to consider the error of their ways.