Sunday, October 26, 2008

War of words as US election nears

With nine days to go until America votes, a war of words is being waged between the two main candidates. Obama criticised his opponent, John McCain, of a negative campaign consisting of “ugly phone calls, the misleading mail and TV ads, the careless, outrageous comments”. McCain meanwhile accused Obama as preparing for an election win before the votes were cast, something the Obama camp has virulently denied. “Senator Obama's inaugural address is already written,” Mr McCain said, “I'm not making it up. A lot of voters are undecided but he's decided for them”. The Republican went on to say “What America needs now is someone who will finish the race before starting the victory lap”. But aside of the up beat rhetoric from John McCain the polls continue to show Barack Obama in the lead. The BBC show him at least 6% ahead of the Republicans and other polls give even stronger leads.

And for the Republicans it has not been a good week. Television news reports have continued to make light of gaffes uttered by John McCain. In one he ‘miss-spoke’ during a rally in Pennsylvania. "You know, I think you may have noticed that Senator Obama's supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately," McCain told the audience in the town of Moon Township. But then came the slip up when he said, “I could agree with them more”. He should have, of course, said less. But the faux pas resulted in several comedy programmes making light of McCain’s inability to string a sentence together. In Britain, Have I Got News For You played out the clip and the Daily Show in the US, which is also aired in Britain, made much capital from the clip [You Tube / Huffington Post]. McCain had been referring to a comment made by John Murtha who had suggested there were many racists in Pennsylvania [You Tube]. However, no-one can deny that race is not an issue in the 2008 election. It may not be discussed as readily as here in the UK, but the issue of a black president may not sit well with certain proportions of America.

Another issue that has come to the fore in recent days is the so-called ‘real America’ that Sarah Palin has described in several addresses. Democrats and others have criticized Palin for seeming to imply that some parts of the country were more patriotic than others. The Daily Show made particular capital from her comments suggesting that through inference other parts of the country could be regarded as ‘fake America’. To a crowd in North Carolina, Palin said “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation”.

The barrage of criticism has prompted Palin to apologize on an interview with CNN.
But the gaffes did not only come from the Republicans. Last week, Obama’s running mate Joe Biden seemed to indicate the Democratic Presidential candidate had little experience for dealing with international issues. He was quoted as saying, “Mark my words: It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy”. They were comments that the Republicans immediately seized upon despite Obama declaring “Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes”.

For British viewers, it is a continuing soap opera. From political gaffes to miss-spoken speeches it hat has been a roller-coaster ride of laughs for many viewers. Have I Got News for You has made much mirth from both Palin [You Tube] and McCain [You Tube]]. And little has escaped those who seek to criticise the candidates and their running mates. While Obama has been berated over his possible taxation policies, Sarah Palin was under fire for apparently spending $150,000 on clothes, though it was something she denied [Daily Telegraph]. And with arguments over Joe the Plumber, and whether he needs or doesn’t need a licence [MSNBC], the whole election debate has almost descended into farce [Daily Show]. Although the election has had its moments, from the candidate race through to the presidential debates, there are many here in the UK who will be glad when it’s all over.
[Election coverage - BBC / Sky News / Daily Telegraph / The Times]

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