Editor’s Note: To many Americans who expected better from John McCain, the surprise of Campaign 2008 is that the Republicans are operating almost exactly the same as they have in previous presidential election cycles -- relying on personal attacks, wedge issues, tough-guy talk, and media complacency.

In this essay, former Democratic congressional aide Brent Budowsky ponders this disturbing reality:

As Campaign 2008 unfolds, it is increasingly clear that the Republicans are a party with little left but hate, anger and the politics of slandering their opponent.

John McCain has become a candidate reduced to doing a Karl Rove imitation as a sleazy, divisive campaigner, while making bellicose pronouncements about war reminiscent of the childish Confederates at the beginning of “Gone With the Wind,” drinking their brandy and smoking their cigars with fantasies about the glorious war that they hunger to fight.

Now, right on cue, comes the latest Swift Boat attack book from one Jerome Corsi, the great white hope of modern Republicanism who has published a new book tearing down Barack Obama, much like he did four years ago in producing the thoroughly discredited Unfit for Command to demean John Kerry’s heroism in Vietnam.

In other writings, Corsi also called Pope Paul II “senile” and referred to Hillary Clinton as a "lesbo." So enough of Corsi. He deserves no more camera, ink or bandwidth than noting his history of slanders.

There is a much larger issue than a punk like Corsi. It is that John McCain, who promised to run a civil campaign, has become an embarrassment to the notion of civil discourse in public life.

As the campaign has worn on, John McCain speaks less and less about himself and his policies and more and more about Obama, attacking his Democratic opponent in the most personal, derogatory and often slanderous ways.

For instance, McCain said Obama wanted to bring reporters on his proposed visit to wounded troops in Germany. A lie. He said Obama wanted to bring television cameras to the wounded troops visit. A lie. He said Obama wanted to bring political staff on the visit. A lie. McCain’s campaign accused Obama of refusing to see wounded troops in order to play basketball. A lie. 

These are not philosophical differences or public relations spin. These are outright lies, spoken or approved by John McCain, incorporated into his television commercials, repeated endlessly by a compliant news media when the truth was immediately known to the journalists on Obama’s Germany trip who raised little objection in the first key days when the lies did their damage.

Indeed, much of the mainstream media continues to give aid, comfort and protection to McCain by repeating and perpetuating his phony image as an independent and a maverick. The mainstream media also reruns McCain’s attack ads ad nauseum, for free, only spreading the damage of the lies further.

When the news media isn’t recycling McCain false accusations, it often creates its own, reinforcing McCain's negative campaign narratives about Obama.

The newspaper that used to be the Washington Post ran a derisive and demeaning attack on Obama by "reporter" Dana Milbank, who relied on a bogus quote by one unnamed source that no reporter at the Post, including Milbank, even talked to.

Without checking the accuracy of the quote or trying to ascertain its context, Milbank made it the centerpiece of a column portraying Obama as a megalomaniac claiming credit for the international reaction to his overseas trip, when he actually had said he could take no credit for the crowd in Berlin, that it was really about the world’s high regard for America.

So, a comment that represented modesty and patriotism was turned into its opposite, supposed proof of Obama’s arrogance and hubris.

In Milbank’s article, even Secret Service security procedures were misrepresented to support the charge that Obama travels royally – as the “presumptuous” candidate – when in truth these precautions are required to protect Obama's life from widely known death threats.

To this day, even after the Washington Post ombudsman wrote a column describing the shortcomings of the article, there has been no correction by the Post, no retraction by Milbank, and no letter to the editor published from any of the more than 160 people, myself included, who contacted the Post with the truth in response to the lie. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost Admits Bungling Obama Quote.”]

While the Post has limited its acknowledgement of the story’s fallacies to a gently worded ombudsman critique, Republican McCain used Milbank’s bogus quote to produce a nauseating ad mocking Obama as a would-be Messiah, an open and direct appeal to bigotry and hate which the mainstream media again runs thousands of times on television for free.
 
McCain produced another oft-repeated ad against the first African-American with a chance to achieve the presidency that used young blond women as cannon fodder to foment more bigotry.
 
Now with the crisis involving Russia and Georgia, McCain runs to the cameras, almost by the hour, with escalating bellicosity in his rhetoric and escalating belligerence in his proposals.

If examined in toto, McCain’s latest geopolitical swagger would take America even closer to the World War III that the neoconservative warriors of the new Confederacy have dreamed about since the 1990s when they created their Project for the New American Century, the foundation of McCain's national security obsessions from Iraq to Iran to Russia.

Yes, we have major security dangers that serious people must seriously address; but no, we do not need a president whose policies amount to little more than threats, threats and more threats of war, war and more war – combined with an energy policy that is little more than drill, drill, drill and nuke, nuke, nuke.

Interestingly, Republicans who support McCain almost never tout McCain's potential greatness as president. Many of them apparently don’t really believe in him. No, they concentrate almost exclusively on tearing down Obama.

Barack Obama is no saint; just a good and decent man who genuinely believes in hope and who is, in truth, a work in progress who aspires to bring people together and make America, again, a beacon for the world.

This is real, and true, and authentic, and good, and tells us much about the America we could have, with Obama as president, even with his imperfections.

And John McCain is no Satan, just a politician with a terribly bad act. In his ambition, he has made himself little more than a fraud perpetrated by an adoring media, which McCain has called part of his political base.

Sadly, McCain has become a representative of a decadent Republican Party that is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

Bush, Cheney, Rove and McCain seek to maintain their power over the presidency by keeping the nation in a cycle of hate and resentment. If they succeed again, if they continue in power for four more years, the future will be dark, dangerous and deadly indeed.

So, to any potential Ralph Nader supporters; to any Hillary Clinton supporters not yet certain about the stakes in electing Obama; to anyone with doubts about the danger to America’s future from four more years of neoconservative rightists having the power to wage World War III or to pack the Supreme Court with Scalias and Alitos or to continue bullying the mainstream media while intimidating dissent and demeaning our politics – consider this:

Look at what has already played out in Campaign 2008, consider the slanders, the bigotry, the wedge issues, and think what it will mean for America if those tactics prevail again.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read in The Hill newspaper, where he is a columnist. He can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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