As the McCain campaign ratchets up the intensity of its attacks on Barack Obama, some black elected officials are calling the tactics desperate, unseemly and racist.
“They are trying to throw out these codes,” said Representative Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York.
“He’s ‘not one of us?’” Mr. Meeks said, referring to a comment Sarah Palin made at a campaign rally on Oct. 6 in Florida. “That’s racial. That’s fear. They know they can’t win on the issues, so the last resort they have is race and fear.”
“Our opponent,” Ms. Palin told donors in Englewood, Colo., “is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
She added, “This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” she said. “We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”
An Associated Press analysis characterized those remarks as “unsubstantiated” and carrying “a racially tinged subtext.”
Before Ms. Palin took the stage in Estero, Fla., at the Oct. 6 event, one of the introductory speakers, Mike Scott, the sheriff of Lee County, referred to the Democratic candidate as “Barack Hussein Obama,” a practice the McCain campaign has distanced itself from in the past. Apparently, no longer. Ms. Palin also said that she had advised Mr. McCain to “take the gloves off” and said Mr. Obama was “not one of us.”
Other black members of Congress, all Democrats who support Mr. Obama, said they were dismayed by the new and vicious tenor of the McCain attacks.
“If McCain’s attacks don’t cross the line, they’re certainly teetering on it,” said Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois. “He is certainly appealing to people’s fears and not their hopes.”
Mr. Jackson added: “Did Sarah Palin throw her husband out of the house for advocating secession from the union?”
Ms. Clarke [Representative Yvette Clarke of New York] also found a racial subtext in Ms. Palin’s repeated appeals to “Joe Six-Pack” and “hockey moms.”
“Who exactly is Joe Six-Pack and who are these hockey moms? That’s what I’d like to know,” she said. “Is that supposed to be terminology that is of common ground to all Americans? I don’t find that. It leaves a lot of people out.”
New York State Senator Bill Perkins, an early supporter of Mr. Obama, said, “They are obviously playing on people’s fears and prejudices in a desperate way. While not explicitly relating to race, they are clearly creating the opportunity for those inclined to come to those conclusions. I think it is going to become more explicit as we move forward. It’s subtle now, but not so subtle as to be mistaken.”
And Kevin Parker, a New York state senator from Brooklyn, said, “If you have to remind people that Barack Obama is African-American, you have reached the bottom.”