Black Congressmen Declare Racism In Palin’s Rhetoric

“Should McCain be held responsible for having served with segregationalists when he was 8 years old, 18 years old, 28 years old, 38 years old, 48 years old, 58 years old, 68 years old?” Mr. Jackson said. “Did he ever meet with any of them? Did he ever conference with them or work with them? Did McCain quit the Senate instead of work with them?”

He added: “Did Sarah Palin throw her husband out of the house for advocating secession from the union?”

“I guess they are suggesting that he is a terrorist; it’s just patently absurd,” said Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia. “John McCain himself said he wouldn’t participate in such things, but I guess that changes when you’re losing.”

“Some may say their true colors are showing,” said Representative Yvette Clarke of New York. “Others may say they’re just not being thoughtful. But certainly a lot of the language I’ve heard I consider to be incendiary. I believe it is meant to generate a certain sentiment within their base that engenders fear and certainly appeals to a group of people within our society who would pursue this along racial lines.

“It’s very clear,” she said.

Ms. Clarke 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.”

In response to the Obama supporters’ comments, McCain campaign spokesman Peter Feldman provided the following statement: “It is disappointing that Barack Obama and his supporters continue to play the race card from the bottom of the deck. This is a tactic that the Obama Campaign has used before, and which McCain campaign manager Rick Davis correctly called ‘divisive, shameful, and wrong.’ It is legitimate for John McCain to ask questions about Barack Obama’s relationship with the unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers because Senator Obama has not been truthful about this relationship.  Many Americans want these questions answered. Despite the fact that Barack Obama has been running for president since joining the Senate, many Americans are still wondering, ‘who is Barack Obama?’ These comments are a sure sign of a flailing campaign that refuses to be honest with voters and that is bordering on desperation.”

The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

jhorowitz@observer.com