BLOOMINGTON, Minn.–On Sunday, John McCain called for Republicans to “take off their Republican hats and put on their American hats,” stifling any partisan attacks as Hurricane Gustav bore down on the Gulf Coast. Well, that’s over.
At a breakfast speech before the Tennessee and Alaska Republican delegations this morning at the Pawnee Room at the Ramada Inn at the Mall of America, former New York Governor George Pataki—of all people—launched an attack on the Democratic ticket, at one point conflating the name of the opposing party’s candidate with Osama bin Laden’s.
“Do we have anybody from Tennessee here?” Pataki said as he opened his speech. “You know, you beat Al Gore in 2000. And if you beat Al Gore in 2000 you sure as heck can beat Os …” The former governor paused, seemingly for effect. “… Oh … Obama in 2008.” The line, delivered in Pataki’s familiar deadpan, appeared to be meant as a joke, and the audience took it as one, laughing, whistling and clapping.
“You know I do want to say a few serious words this morning,” Pataki went on, before embarking on a combative speech.
About Joe Biden, he said: “You know that hope and change they talked about in Denver included reforming a broken Washington. Now what is the change they picked? They picked for vice president someone who is known more for the length of his speeches than for the length of his service and has never a met an earmark he doesn’t like—now that’s the wrong kind of change and that is not the reform that the American people need.”
At the end of the speech, Pataki returned to Obama again: “I saw Senator Obama’s speech in Berlin. And one thought kept running through my mind. I believe we don’t need a citizen of the world as president of the United States. We need an American hero and an American patriot and that is Senator John McCain.”
The audience seemed primed to believe the worst about Obama. Outside the hall, a table was lined with complimentary copies of a paperback book entitled: What Does Barack Obama Believe? Why His Fictional World Should Worry Every American. The book, largely a reinterpretation of previous press accounts and Obama’s own autobiographies, questions whether Obama was an illegitimate child, dwells heavily on the racial dynamics of his parents’ relationship (“He was pitch black as she was lily white”; “Years later, her son would notice an embarrassing element of raw sexual attraction on her part to dark men.”), and alleges that “while living in Jakarta” young Obama “began creating [a] ‘nightmare vision’ of America.”
The author, Michael Patrick Leahy, alleges that the Democrats hope to establish an “Obama Liberation Theocracy,” based on the ideological belief that their candidate is a “prophet, anointed by God or a God-like figure as a natural successor to Martin Luther King, a preparatory prophet.”
UPDATE: Pataki spokesman Dave Catalfamo calls to say that Pataki “just misspoke his name.”
“He just stumbled–he was not making a joke, he would never make a joke like that,” said Catalfamo, who attended the speech. “There’s probably a million people in American that have misspolen Barack Obama’s name.” (Indeed, it’s a common mistake.) “It would have registed in my mind if I thought he was making a joke like that,” Catalfamo went on. “It’s beyond the pale. He would never do it.”