Outlook & opinions
McCAIN AND PALIN ARE PLAYING WITH FIRE
By Khaled Hosseini
October 12, 2008 (posted Oct. 11)
I prefer to discuss politics through my novels, but I am truly dismayed these days. Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.
Never mind that this evokes -- and brazenly tries to resurrect -- the unsavory, cruel days of our past that we thought we had left behind. Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama's middle name makes him someone to distrust -- and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama's middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there's something wrong with my name?
But never mind any of that.
The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin. Neither has had the moral courage, when taking the stage, to grasp the microphone, turn to the presenter and, right then and there, denounce the use of Obama's middle name as an insult. Instead, they have simply delivered their stump speeches, lacing into Obama as if nothing out-of-bounds had just happened. The McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain's call Friday to "be respectful." Back in February, the Arizona senator apologized for the "disparaging remarks" from a talk-radio host who sneered repeatedly about "Barack Hussein Obama" before a McCain rally. "We will have a respectful debate," McCain insisted afterward. But pretending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.
What I find most unconscionable is the refusal of the McCain-Palin tandem to publicly condemn the cries of "traitor," "liar," "terrorist" and (worst of all) "kill him!" that could be heard at recent rallies. McCain is perfectly capable of telling hecklers off. But not once did he or his running mate bother to admonish the people yelling these obscene -- and potentially dangerous -- words. They may not have been able to hear the slurs at the rallies, but surely they have had ample time since to get on camera and warn that this sort of ugliness has no place in an election season. But they have not. Simply calling Obama "a decent person" is not enough.
Is inaction tantamount to consent? The McCain campaign certainly thinks so when it comes to Obama and incendiary remarks from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. By their own inaction, then, are McCain and Palin condoning these slurs? Or worse, are they willfully inciting the angry and venomous response that we have been witnessing at their rallies? If not, then what reaction are they hoping to evoke by their relentless public suggestions that Obama is basically an anti-American liar who won't put "country first" and has an affection for terrorists? Do they not understand the kind of fire they are playing with?
I -- and, I suspect, millions of Americans like me, Republicans and Democrats alike -- couldn't care less about Obama's middle name or the ridiculous six-degrees-of-separation game that is the William Ayers non-issue. The Taliban are clawing their way back in Afghanistan, the country that I hope many of my fellow Americans have come to understand better through my novels. People are losing their homes and their jobs and are watching the future slip away from them. But instead of addressing these problems, the McCain-Palin ticket is doing its best to distract Americans by provoking fear, anxiety and hatred. Country first? Hardly.
--Khaled Hosseini is the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
"OBAMA IS AN ARAB" -- SAYS McCAIN VOLUNTEER IN LETTERS
October 10, 2008
[Corrected version of transcript appearing at the link below]
Stories on The UpTake
McCAIN VOLUNTEER SENDS OUT "OBAMA IS AN ARAB" LETTERS
October 10, 2008
Gayle Quinnel, a John McCain supporter says at a McCain Rally that "Obama is an Arab." She is quickly corrected by John McCain who takes away her microphone.
This is an interview with her done by a live streaming cell phone. Interviewers include Noah Kunin, Senior Political Correspondent from The UpTake, Adam Aigner of NBC News, and Dana Bash of CNN.
Quinnel says she obtained the information on Obama being an Arab at "her local library" and from a pamphlet obtained at a local McCain campaign office (provided by a fellow volunteer not the campaign itself). She has taken it upon herself to redistribute the information as widely as possible by making copies of the pamphlet and sending it to random names in the phone book.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
(It is a little hard to hear in parts)
Gayle Quinnell: I went to the library in Shakopee and I got lots of … I got three pages of information about Obama.
Adam Aigner of NBC News: And what kind of information did you get?
Quinnell: Well, I got to tell you, if you call me. It’s a long story. There's a lot of information on it.
I’m afraid of what’s going to happen to this country.
Aigner: What would you think would happen? Do you think it would become Muslim country and what would that mean?
Quinnell: That would be bad.
Aigner: So even though Senator McCain told you that he didn’t feel that was true and you ought to be more respectful, you still fear that?
Quinnell: I still do. Yeah. And I’m not alone. I do a lot of... I go to Burnsville, the main Republican headquarters and I do a lot of work over there. A lot of sending out mail and talking to a lot of people. And all the people agree with what I’m saying to you about Obama.
Aigner: Then do you feel there are a lot of volunteers for McCain who feel that way?
Quinnell: Yes. A lot of them. In fact I got a letter from another woman that goes over there to Burnsville, and she sent me more, more things about Obama.
Aigner: What was on the letter?
Quinnell: Oh all kinds of bad things about him and how, I mean, I'd probably have to tell you, if you call me. It’s all bad.
Reporter: And so you feel like a lot of people getting this letter and a lot of people believing it -- is that turning in a lot of votes, I mean a lot of support for McCain?
Quinnell: Yeah. I sent, I sent out 400 letters. I went to Kinkos and I got 'em all printed out. And I sent about 400 letters. I went in the telephone book and sent 'em out to people. So they can decide if they -- if they read it, I don't know if they would want Obama.
Aigner: Can you give me your name again?
Quinnell: Gayle Quinnell. And I honestly think that [if] these people read about this Obama, they wouldn’t want him.
Aigner: Because they would know what you know that was in the letter?
Quinnell: Yeah, [if] they read that letter. In fact when I was standing in line, there were about eight girls, young girls standing in line. And they said, “What have you got?” I had one of the letters and they said, “Give it to me. I want to read it. I want to read it.” And they read it. And they go -- they just went (shakes head). They hadn’t read it before and they didn’t go logic -- and all that information. To me it’s bad news.
Aigner: So maybe if I call you you’ll give me one of the letters maybe?
Quinnell: I sure can!
Aigner: You don’t have another one on you now?
Quinnell: No, I don’t. But I can give you one I got, and I can give you one she sent me in the mail.
Aigner: I’d be interested to read it.
Aigner: And can you spell your name for me?
Aigner: E-L-L? And Gayle is just…
Aigner: And where you from?
Quinnell: I’m from Shakopee.
Quinnell: Shakopee, Minnesota.
Aigner: And, and, I’m sorry, how old are you ma’am?
Quinnell: I’m 75.
Quinnell (nods yes): And I got a lot of grandkids and a lot of kids. I’ve got five kids. I got seven grandkids and they all think the same way.
(PHONE NUMBER EDITED OUT OF CONVERSATION)
Noah Kunin (The UpTake): Do you volunteer at the Republican Party Headquarters or the McCain campaign office over in Burnsville?
Quinnell McCain: McCain headquarters in Burnsville.
Noah: The McCain headquarters.
Quinnell: It’s out over by, over by that bus station there.
Noah: Yeah, I know which one you’re talking about. And just to be sure to make sure we got your quote O.K., you called Obama an Arab terrorist?
Noah: You called him an Arab terrorist? Is that correct? Why do you think he is an Arab?
Quinnell: Because his Dad is. If you . . . I’ll send you the paper.
Female reporter: His Dad is Muslim. His dad was Muslim. Barack Obama has never been a Muslim.
Quinnell: No, but he’s . . .
Dana Bash of CNN: He’s a Christian.
Quinnell: He’s not an Arab either, he’s a . . .
Bush: His father was Muslim, but he’s a Christian.
Quinnell: Yes -- but he’s still got Muslim in him. So that’s still part of it. I got all the stuff from the library and I could send you all kinds of stuff on him. In fact...
Bush: What did you think about McCain said? He said he’s a decent person.
Quinnell: Well, he didn’t have peace... I think McCain didn't want cut down the Arab... I don’t think he wanted to say anything against him. You know he didn’t want to cut him down. That was my way of thinking. I don’t think he wanted to cut him down. So he just kind of brushed me off.
Reporter: You know it's funny... he criticizes Barack Obama plenty himself, so why wouldn’t he do it now?
Quinnell: Well, I probably brought up something that he didn’t want to talk about.
Reporter: Do you think John McCain thinks that he’s Arab? Do you think he knows this stuff that you’re saying you know is fact?
Quinnell: I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want to bring it up then. I don’t know why. Is there some way I can get to you more information?
Bush: Can you wait for me for like five more minutes?
Bush: I want to do an interview on camera. Our camera team is occupied right now. What’s your name?
Quinnell: Gayle Quinnell. (Spells name again)
Bush: In case I lose you, you don’t have a cell phone do you?
Quinnell: No I wish I had it on me but I don’t.
Bush: See the pretty lady over there with red hair? That’s our camera. As soon as she’s done, we’ll be over there, O.K.?
Reporter: What was your reaction when Senator McCain backed away?
Quinnell: What was my reaction? Well, when he didn’t want to talk about it . . .