By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
While campaigning, Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain is raising questions about the character of his Democratic opponent, Senator Barak Obama. McCain and his running mate, Governor Sara Palin have incited the crowds in their rallies and appealed to their emotions.
McCain speeches and the crowd response remind me of Cassius, a character in William Shakespeare Julius Caesar play, speaking to the Roman mob two thousand years ago. McCain is not as eloquent as Cassius but McCain is not acting. He is talking to hard-core angry supporters; and the crowds are responding with more anger. McCain and Palin supporters responded with raw anger, insults and threats against Obama. The crowds referred to Obama as a “traitor”, “terrorist”, “liar”, “kill him” and “bomb him”. The McCain and Palin look always comfortable and at ease among the angry crowds.
But when a woman supporter at a town hall rally in Minnesota told John McCain: “I don’t trust Obama, I have read about him. He’s an A-rab” McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said: “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen I just happen to have disagreements with..”. McCain answer to the anti-Arab woman was tasteless and offensive to the Arabs especially the Arab Americans.
I am not defending Obama here because I do not believe there is big difference between him and McCain foreign policies toward the Arab main issues. But I am trying to set the record straight. As a member of the Arab American community with first and last Arab names, I am offended by McCain disrespect for the law abiding American citizens of Arab descent some of whom may even vote for him on November 4th.
McCain defense of Obama as a decent person, (don’t worry) he is not an Arab (!), shows a dark side of himself. He seems to share the hate, prejudice and racism against the Arabs with the woman who was spewing hate in Obama’s direction only because she learnt he was an Arab. But there is difference between the anti-Arab woman who probably never met an Arab and John McCain the presidential candidate who has some Arab Americans campaigning for him and contributing to his coffers. US Congressman Darrel Issa comes to mind as one of many prominent Arab American supporters of McCain.
If McCain had the presidential qualities to assume the leadership of the US, a nation of immigrants including Arabs and many other minorities, he could have at least the common sense to tell the anti-Arab woman that Arab Americans are trustworthy too and deserve respect, and even if Obama was an Arab he still would be a trustworthy man because Arab Americans are good citizens.
But McCain did not come to the defense of the Arab community. He reinforced the anti-Arab woman prejudices that if Obama was an Arab, she should not trust him. He could have educated his supporters that good US citizens are not only the descendants of Anglo-Saxon or European immigrants. McCain could have reminded the anti-Arab woman and his audience that many Arab Americans served honorably in public offices including Congress and the military. Two examples are former US Senate majority George Mitchell and the four stars General John Abizaid, the former Commander of the US Central Command.
Or if McCain had the minimum qualities of being a world leader, he could have told the angry anti-Arab woman and the angry crowd that Arab allies are trustworthy too, but McCain does not seem to have any respect or appreciation for the US loyal allies in the Middle East, the Arab pro-US leaders. Does McCain know that Arab League states have been providing the US invading armies with the necessary bases and logistic support to assemble and launch the wars against Afghanistan and against Iraq, a member of the League? He as the self-proclaimed expert on foreign policy should know. But McCain has based his reputation and ambitions on fighting evil and the evils in McCain’s vocabulary are the Arabs and Muslims.
Some of McCain supporters hate Obama because they believe he is a Muslim, something he denied in many occasions and the evidence suggests he follows the Christian Faith. And Obama would have never passed the primary test if he was a Muslim. Alas! Under the US democracy today, any native-born US citizen has a potential of becoming a president or a vice president unless he or she is a Muslim. After lecturing the Middle East countries on democracy and civil rights, Professor Condoleezza Rice may read to McCain, Palin and their supporters the First Amendment to the US Constitution? The First Amendment begins with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.
McCain should apologize to the Arab and Muslim Americans, but I am sure he will not because if he does, he may lose the support of many in his base, the Arab and Muslim haters, and McCain the maverick will do everything he can to keep his base in line to win the presidency. It seems winning is everything for Senator John McCain!
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D, is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.