Friday, April 20, 2007

Is McCain like Imus? If not, what's the difference?

We all know from my post two posts ago that I respect John McCain.

However I can't help but being reminded of the whole Imus thing when I read about McCain's recent comments that have been in the news lately.

Speaking to veterans in South Carolina, McCain was asked "whether he believes the U.S. should send Iran "'an airmail message to Tehran.'"

McCain responded:

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran,'" McCain joked and then added: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb ... anyway, ah ..." The audience responded with laughter.

Okay, I realize this is a joke, or if not, it was at least intended as a joke. But Imus and Kramer both intended to make jokes before they made the comments that offended the nation. Plus, those guys are comedians. This guy wants to be President. The leader of all Americans. The leader of the free world, so the saying goes. Seems like at the time he was only interested in being the leader of some South Carolina veterans. Here was McCain's response to people who questioned whether his comments were inappropriate:

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

Talking to some of your old veterans friends? Please yourself. You don't have to be the presidential candidate to know that everything they say to an audience (and some things you say in private) can and will be repeated to the whole country. What does it matter who he was talking to? Would he say the same thing to a bunch of Americans in the northeastern US? To a bunch of Americans of middle-eastern descent? They can vote too, of course, but maybe he's not interested in their votes.

Then comes the icing on the offensive cake:

When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

Now this is probably taken out of context, but I am quoting from the Washington Post, so blame them if you want, or blame the Drudge Report and then have Matt Drudge blame the Post. Regardless of the context, the words imply that there is no reason to care about Iranians. They're not people like Americans are people. So we know from Imus that it's wrong to insult African Americans in a joke broadcast throughout the nation, but it's okay to insult/joke about killing Iranians? This "America and Americans are the only thing that matters" -- and not just in terms of our policies, but in terms of who deserves our respect when we talk about them -- attitude is nothing new, as it has characterized Bush's entire presidency. But now we are seeing it from someone else, who I originally thought was much better than Bush, and now I am taking a lot less comfort in the fact that Bush's term is coming to a close.

Regardless of our policy views, when are we going to learn to respect each other?

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