When asked at the Saddleback Church Forum which three "wise" people he'd consult with upon becoming president, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listed among others civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., “who can teach us all a lot about the meanings of courage and commitment to causes greater than ourself."
McCain went so far as to tell Lewis's story in his newest book, "Why Courage Matters."
So I wonder if it will have any impact that Lewis writes a rather harsh appraisal of McCain-Palin rallies in Politico today.
"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."
Lewis even invokes segregationist former Gov. George Wallace, saying Wallace "never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."
Lewis concludes: "As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy."
The general pushback from the McCain campaign is that there is nothing untoward going on at these rallies, that this is propaganda pushed forward by Democrats and their allies in the liberal media.
Update 1: Jake Tapper Post:
McCain Offended by Lewis' Comments; Calls On Obama to Condemn
October 11, 2008 3:12 PM
Clearly wounded by the remarks of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., condemning the tone at his rallies, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued this statement a few minutes ago.
"Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale," McCain said. "The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign."
McCain continued, saying "I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track."
"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America."
Update 2: From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
In a statement, Obama-Biden spokesman Bill Burton writes that, while Obama does not agree with the comparison of McCain's campaign to those of segregation advocate George Wallace, he does believe that Rep. John Lewis is justified in his condemnation of "the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night," as well as Palin's assertion that the candidate "pals around with terrorists."
Here's the full statement: “Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’ As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Senator Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead,” said Obama-Biden spokesman Bill Burton.