Time Magazine’s Karen Tumulty was dispatched to cover John McCain’s ground game in Virginia, and she ended up visiting the campaign’s Gainsville office with Del. Jeff Frederick. Tumulty describes in Time magazine the scene that she witnessed:
With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.” It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama’s controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. “And he won’t salute the flag,” one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, “We don’t even know where Senator Obama was really born.” Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii.
Tumulty tried to head out with those canvassers, presumably to see how this line of thinking did with winning over voters, but she was barred from doing so.
John McCain was interviewed by Jay Warren at WSLS yesterday, and Warren asked him about the widely-covered Time article:
David Kurtz at TPM writes that “McCain can’t quite bring himself to condemn” Frederick’s statement, and that seems like an apt description. But I think that there are really a couple of other aspects of this that are more interesting.
The first is that this is a reminder that Jeff Frederick is the greatest thing to happen to Virginia Democrats since Harry Flood Byrd, Sr., just as expected. Given an opportunity to correct the record by Tim Craig, Frederick stuck to his guns. God bless him, Frederick is piloting the Titanic all the way to the bottom of the Atlantic.
The second is that this reveals McCain campaign’s ground game for what it is. The recently-reactivated conservative base is peopled substantially by the conspiracy theorists of the angry right—Obama is a secret agent for al-Qaeda, he’s the anti-Christ, he’s hiding his past with a forged birth certificate—and these are the very people fired up enough to show up and volunteer. These people can show up and parrot these looney urban legends (“he won’t salute the flag”) and are welcomed with open arms by Jeff Frederick. Welcome to the McCain campaign!
It appears that both Jeff Frederick and John McCain are headed for Mistaken Point.