Early in the 2008 race for the White House, John McCain had promised to run an honorable campaign that addressed the significant issues that confront all Americans, from the economy to energy policy to the seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, his earlier presidential ambitious were crushed during the Republican primaries in 2000 by the Bush-Rove political slime machine that spread the rumor McCain was the father of an illegitimate, mixed race child. (McCain and his wife Cindy had admirably adopted a Bangladeshi orphan, their daughter Bridget, some years earlier.) The painful memories of that experience no doubt compelled McCain to take the stand to conduct a campaign that respected the intelligence of the American people by seriously discussing the issues.
That was before the emergence of Barack Obama as the one term wunderkid Senator from Illinois, who managed the no mean feat of overcoming the formidable Clinton machine in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. But faced with a fresh and rhetorically brilliant opponent, and burdened with an unpopular Republican president and party, McCain has stepped into the gutter with his recent campaign tactics instead of taking on Obama's views, which are certainly open to challenge, in an honest dialogue. One need look no further for proof than the childish and now infamous McCain advertisement that links Obama's supposed celebrity with tabloid fodder Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
The McCain campaign's improbable conflation of Barack, Britney and Paris is just the latest in a long line of shallow but devastatingly effective Republican campaign advertisements, including the 1988 Bush spot featuring convict Willie Horton that ran against Michael Dukakis, or the outrageous attacks of the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, who were anything but truthful, against John Kerry in 2004. We'll know on November 4th whether the latest installment in this ignoble series will eviscerate yet another Democratic presidential nominee and completely avoid any meaningful discussion about the serious issues that confront the United States and the world today.
Two questions remain unanswered: when will McCain and the Republican party treat the American public as adults? And when will the American public demand that the Republicans and their candidates, most of all McCain, not treat them like children?