Today Colin Powell stepped across party lines and endorsed Barack Obama for President. As part of his endorsement, he strongly criticized the tactics of the McCain/Palin campaign, particularly with regard to their current effort to paint Barack Obama as a terrorist.
One of the tactics that Powell strongly objected to was the current spate of robocalls being used by the McCain campaign to stir up fear and hate among the base. Here’s the text. I won’t post the audio here because it is visceral and hateful:
Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500.
Josh Marshall summed the McCain campaign up this way:
Stripped down to its components McCain’s message to voters is this: “Don’t forget. He’s definitely black. And he may be a terrorist.” That’s the message.
In light of these hateful tactics, I found it useful to go back to Barack Obama’s historic speech on race, delivered 3/18/2008 to see what he predicted. As usual, he was remarkably prescient:
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
After acknowledging the anger of blacks and whites, he calls us to move beyond the old racial wounds:
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
He even has ideas for how to do it:
It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
The McCain campaign wants us to believe that Barack Obama is a scary black guy who will wreck the country. They need to leave this impression because they hope beyond all logic to erase the truth: The last 8 years have wrecked this country more than any of us could have imagined, and John McCain stood right next to George Bush and the Republicans while the wrecking ball slammed into the walls of our banks, insurance companies, Wall Street, social institutions, FEMA, New Orleans, Iraq and the national budget (not to mention the national debt).
We have a choice. Obama knew we had a choice back in March, when he said this:
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”
Colin Powell understands this. He spoke out so forcefully about what President Palin, the RNC and John McCain are doing with their robocalls, their mailers and their ads as his way of saying NOT THIS TIME.
When Gen. Powell spoke of Barack Obama as a transcendent and transformational leader, who represented generational change, he made a choice to put his country first, to move us toward a more perfect union.
That’s the same choice we all have on November 4th. We can get stuck in all of the distractions that make absolutely no difference to our wallets, or our kids, or our health, or we can stand up and say “not this time”. This time we’re choosing to push past the fears and the wedges, the division and the hate, and say:
Not this time. Say it with me. Stand up. Make your voice heard; say that it’s time to reconcile, to put our country first, ahead of our fears, ahead of ourselves.
Not. this. time.
VOTE. Fight for change.