Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Not being generous to McCain's concession speech

Even some of my hardcore Democratic friends think I'm being a bit uncharitable in grumping about the bold Maverick's concession speech Tuesday.

Here's what most bugged me the most. These are the opening paragraphs as rendered by McClatchy:

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.


My friends, we have — we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.



To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now ...


Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.
McCain practically came out of the gate talking about the fact that Obama is African-American. And even though he was nominally talking about the positive historical significance of his election, the Booker T. Washington reference particularly set me off. It made McCain sound like an unpleasant old white guy (which he is) trying hard to say something nice about black people.

Because Booker T. Washington has always the classic "good Negro" to the segregationists. Because he was a prominent African-American scientist who encouraged his people to accept the Jim Crow laws and the segregation system they enforced. When was the last time you heard any African-American speaker on the reality-based side of Alan Keyes refer to Washington as the symbol of anything positive? It's not that his memory is entirely hated. Washington was an important scientist and educator.

But for McCain, Washington's long-ago visit to the White House was a high point of civility. And the scene he described was a matter of manners, the favorite way of "polite" segregationists to frame racial issues. People were rude to criticize the white President for inviting Booker T. Washington in McCain's little story.

On the other hand, the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, invited former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas to the White House. But it was Obama, not McCain, referring to Lincoln last night. Because Lincoln's Republican Party represented something altogether different than the Republican Party of Dick Cheney, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

"America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time," McCain said. Really? All those good Republican white folks who thought Obama was a Muslim terrorist foreigner Black Panther Communist gave a different impression.

Any segregationist in 1955 could have looked people in the face and say, oh, there were some prejudiced people around 100 years ago that were rude to black people. But race relations here in Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia, etc. are just fine today. Yeah, we got some of them atheist Commonist agitators from up North that come around heah and stir up some of the nigras. But otherwise the whites and the coloreds git along much better right heah than most places up North!

Dday at the Hullabaloo blog (The Resurrection 11/05/08) quotes John Aravosis, writing open-letter style to McCain:

Your side was abominable. Your side was hateful. Your side race-baited. Your side gay-baited. Your side lied like we've never seen in recent presidential campaign history. Your side used a tax-cheat who would do better under Obama's tax proposal to be your everyman on the issue of taxes. Your side, in a veiled effort at race-baiting, said Obama doesn't put his country first. Your side had the audacity to call Obama a socialist. Your side suggested he was a Muslim. Your side suggested he was a terrorist. Your side suggested he was Osama bin Laden.
So no, remembering the good old days when defending good manners to Booker T. Washington made you a civil rights champion in some white people's eyes just didn't seem to make up for any of his and Palin's disgraceful conduct during the campaign.

Also, in general, he looked like his was barely holding back his resentment. he was maudlin, but then he's always that way.

And was I the only one who thought what he said at the end was oddly out of place? "Americans never quit. We never surrender." That was his mantra for his Hundred Years War in Iraq. But isn't this kind of odd in a concession speech? You know, a speech whose whole point is that he's quitting and admitting defeat, aka, surrendering?

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