I don’t know if it’s sincere, or if he’s just playing Good Cop to Palin’s Bad Cop, but McCain apparently made some real effort to tamp down the lynch-mob thing today. From Ana Marie Cox: McCain Denounces Pitchfork-Wavers:
But then something weird happens: He acknowledges the “energy” people have been showing at rallies, and how glad he is that people are excited. But, he says, “I respect Sen. Obama and his accomplishments.” People booed at the mention of his name. McCain, visibly angry, stopped them: “I want EVERYONE to be respectful, and lets make sure we are.”
The very next questioner tried to push back on this request, noting that he needed to “tell the American the TRUTH about Barack Obama” — a not very subtle way, I think, to ask John McCain to NOT tell the truth about Barack Obama. McCain told her there’s a “difference between record and rhetoric, and I plan to talk about his record, respectfully… I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity, I just mean it has to be respectful.”
And then later, again, someone dangled a great big piece of low-hanging fruit in front of McCain: “I’m scared to bring up my child in a world where Barack Obama is president.”
McCain replies, “Well, I don’t want him to be president, either. I wouldn’t be running if I did. But,” and he pauses for emphasis, “you don’t have to be scared to have him be President of the United States.” A round of boos.
And he snaps back: “Well, obviously I think I’d be better. ”
Of course, this is kind of the best of both world: Crazy base-world gets to bring up Ayers and whatever else, really, and he gets to say, “Be respectful.” But I think he means it.
UPDATE: Indeed, he just snatched the microphone out the hands of a woman who began her question with, “I’m scared of Barack Obama… he’s an Arab terrorist…”
“No, no ma’am,” he interrupted. “He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”
As I said, I don’t know how much faith to put in it. But it’s a good thing, regardless.
Update: Josh Marshall’s take: Weird. Sad. Surreal. Includes this video:
Marshall is fairly dismissive of McCain’s motivation. But, I don’t know; call me a putz, but I had pretty much the same reaction to this footage that I had to Hillary tearing up in the final days of the primary campaign in New Hampshire: it affects me on an emotional level. When McCain shakes his head at that woman at the end of the clip, takes the mic back from her, and tells her no, that Obama is a “decent family man,” I found myself feeling proud of McCain.
Which is not at all what I expected to be feeling toward him tonight.