Here in Lakeville, the traveling press was pretty sure we’d see more of the kind of vicious anti-Obama attitude that’s becoming a hallmark of McCain rallies of late.
As the town hall started, McCain was off with more pep than usual. Making the same old jokes, but with energy that reminded us of “the old McCain.” But would he use his power for good or evil? An audience member teed up a great big softball that could totally hit a dark side home run, asking, “We want you to fight at your next debate… we want to see s REAL fight at the debate, we want a STRONG leader for the next four years.” That is Minnesota nice for “RevWrightACORNAyers,” etc.
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.”
UPDATE: While I heard the woman continue to mumble after McCain took the microphone, and seemed to hear her say “terrorist,” the video of the event doesn’t bear that out:
I will add, however, that the woman talked to reporters afterwards and seemed pretty keen on the idea of Obama being at terrorist at that time. She read it on the internet.