McCain Supporter Disparages Obama; McCain Apologizes
By Michael D. Shear
CINCINNATI -- A supporter of Arizona Sen. John McCain repeatedly used Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, while ridiculing him as a terrorist sympathizer in an introductory speech for McCain at a rally here this morning.
Immediately afterward, former Ohio congressman and former Bush administration official Rob Portman praised the supporter, talk show host Bill Cunningham, as an "extremely important" part of the McCain campaign.
Cunningham, who is known for his right-wing, fiery rhetoric on the radio, challenged the media to "stop taking sides and begin covering Barack Hussein Obama" as they do Republicans.
He used Obama's middle name two more times and referred to him as "a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who's picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change."
He then mocked foreign policy statements of "Barack Hussein Obama," calling him the "fraud from Chicago" and saying that if Obama were to be elected president he would meet with the leaders of enemy nations. He said the "world leaders who want to kill us" will be "singing Kumbaya together around the table with Barack Obama."
Later in his comments, he said there is a big difference between Secretaries of State "Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, who looks like death warmed over. I think there's a difference between Condi and Madeleine. "
He also referred to retired Gen. Wesley Clark as a "Clintonista."
McCain did not mention Cunningham's comments in his speech to the enthusiastic crowd. But afterward, in comments to reporters, McCain apologized profusely for "any disparaging remarks" made about his Democratic rivals.
"Whatever suggestion was made that was in any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong, and I condemn it," McCain said. "I will take responsibility and I apologize for it."
Pressed by reporters, McCain said he will "make sure nothing like that ever happens again" and said, "I absolutely repudiate such comments."
A spokesman for Obama, Bill Burton, said: "We appreciate Senator McCain's remarks. It is a sign that if there is a McCain-Obama general election, it can be intensely competitive but the candidates will attempt to keep it respectful and focused on issues."
Portman said after McCain's speech that Cunningham is "often controversial" and that it did not surprise him that Cunningham would have made news with his comments at the rally.
But on stage earlier, Portman was effusive about Cunningham's speech. "Willie, you're out of control again. So, what else is new? But we love him," Portman told the crowd. "But I've got to tell you, Bill Cunningham lending his voice to this campaign is extremely important."
The sarcastic speech by Cunningham followed comments by another supporter, a prosecutor from the Cincinnati area, who mocked Obama's lack of military service and his message of optimism.
Joe Deters called Obama the "presumptive Democratic candidate" and predicted that Obama's success will quickly fade as people see through his rhetoric.
He said that will happen "after the vortex of love for this candidate stops -- and I feel so badly for the Clintons about this, don't you? -- and everybody sobers up and says, what does this guy really stand for?"
Deters whipped up the audience of about 400 by accusing Obama of supporting policies that Republicans hate.
"How about raising your taxes? How about that?" Deters said, prompting loud boos from the crowd.
"How about universal health care?"
"How about the Democrats fighting with each other on how quickly they will surrender to the terrorists in Iraq?"
Deters then questioned Obama's lack of military experience. He cited McCain's well-known history of having spent five years in a Vietnamese prison cell and having two sons serving "in uniform," and then accused Obama of having never risked anything.
"The only thing he has ever risked was a filing fee for reelection," Deters said. "That's the only thing he ever risked."
Source: The Washington Post Blog
However, McCain later tried to "distance" himself from the remarks.
I think this will be the beginning of a long trend of McCain "distancing" himself from the attacks launched by his people....knowing full well what they are doing. It looks like this will be a part of McCain's campaign strategy.