Several things strike me as interesting about the incident yesterday in which John McCain ended up apologizing for and condemning a supporter who spoke before him at a campaign rally — some loudmouthed right-wing radio guy who kept using Barack Obama’s middle name and excoriating him and Democrats in general:
- First, the headlines — in The Washington Post, it was "McCain Supporter Ridicules Obama. In The Wall Street Journal, it was "McCain Apologizes for a Supporter’s Attack on Obama." Not important; the difference in emphasis just struck me as interesting.
- Second, this is going to keep happening. As "conservatives" (a word that jerks like this one don’t deserve) get over their snit and climb on board with the McCain campaign between now and November, they’re going to bring this kind of garbage with them. Ditto with the more angry, partisan Democrats who will start supporting Obama once it is clear that Hillary Clinton (such Democrats’ preferred candidate) is truly out of it.
- Both McCain and Obama owe much of their appeal to a desire on the part of voters to put this kind of thing behind us as a country. As they try to consolidate their bases, bringing in the fulminators, independents will be watching both of them closely to see how they handle it. It will be quite a highwire act — two highwire acts, actually.
- This one was handled fairly well, on both sides. McCain said what he said, and Obama’s spokesman said, "We appreciate Senator McCain’s remarks. It is a sign that if there is a McCain-Obama general election, it can be intensely competitive but the candidates will attempt to keep it respectful and focused on issues."
That’s what I’m hoping for, at least.