One would have to strain to be shocked that a racist ad is finding its way out of the bowels of conservativism in North Carolina. For political observers from the 1980s and 1990s will remember that Senator Jesse Helms was a master of using divisive tactics inject race into just about everything he did outside of brushing his teeth -- whenever he wasn't straining through the holes in the sheet he was wearing to see his Jefferson Davis emblazoned toothbrush.
Yet, racism for electoral gain obviously did not go away with Helms' retirement from politics. And neither has Republican timidity in doing anything to control the extreme elements in the party--or their base if you will. So once again, just as other conservatives sat idly by and claimed Jesse was just being Jesse, now John McCain throws his hands up in the air as if there is nothing he can do when a racist ad is run by the North Carolina GOP against Barack Obama:
ABC NEWS' Bret Hovell and Russell Goldman report: Sen. John McCain said Thursday that if elected president -- and becomes the de facto head of the GOP -- he would not demand a change in the leadership of the North Carolina Republican Party despite condemning its plan to air an ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, and his controversial minister.
It's good to know where the Senator stands on this issue (at least today). In my book, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him And Why Independents Shouldn't, I recount McCain' questionable past on issues of race his entire career. From the many years he rejected a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday (pretty much the entire 70s and 80s) to his serial flip-flops on the Confederate Flag in 2000 (which he admits he did for political reasons -- no way, not you Johnny!) to his close association with a white supremacist named Richard Quinn, who found himself hired as a political advisor by McCain in 2000 (and still is from what I can tell) after openly praising David Duke (he called him a "maverick") selling t-shirts praising the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and writing/editing for a magazine (Southern Partisan) that reminded us that slave masters just really weren't all that bad.
That's The Real McCain for you. Now I'll be waiting for the media to do their job and report on his close association with a white supremacist just as they have every aspect of Barack Obama's life. While not overly sanguine, I do have hope that some of the more responsible voices in the press, who as of late have been pointing out McCain's dangerous temper and penchant for not understanding who we're fighting abroad, will continue to show the courage to stand up to the McCain Machine.
Cliff Schecter is the author of The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him And Why Independents Shouldn't. For only $10, you can buy it and keep both John McCain and Cliff's 18-month old son in diapers.