BY MARC COOPER
I made a passing reference to this the other day, but now it's really starting to bug me. The McCain-Palin street rallies really are beginning to take on many of the chilling aspects of what I witnessed from the proto-fascist right-wing in El Salvador twenty years ago.
It was always quite a bladder-constricting experience to be a reporter at a public rally of the extremist ARENA (Republican Nationalist Alliance of El Salvador). The cranked-up mobs would aggressively threaten us while the party's security thugs, in dark aviator glasses, would menacingly pat the bulging weapons under their coats. Next would come the party's hymn blaring over the loudspeakers.
"Homeland Yes! Communism No!
...Tremble, Tremble Communists!
... El Salvador Will Be the Tomb of the Reds!"
This wasn't just hot air, my friends. Party founder and leader (and big time coke-head) Major Roberto D'Aubuisson was also a leader of the notorious Salvadoran death squads. His high point was organizing the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero as he offered mass in 1980. Major Bob, as we lovingly called him, would whip the crowd into a mighty fury as he raised a machete up above a fat watermelon sitting on a table and then would split it wide open with one thundering wack. As the crowd would stamp up and down, D'Aubuisson would lift a half of the melon up in the air and would yell that this was a symbol of the rival Christian Democratic Party. "Green on the outside," he would yell. "But Red on the inside."
Which were pretty strong words for a crowd that just promised to make the homeland the graveyard of the Reds.
John McCain runs no death squads and the GOP is not inherently a fascist party. Nor are most Republicans fascists or killers. But... McCain and his gal-pal Veep are pushing the envelope just about as far as you can within the limits of mainstream American electoral politics. They are openly pandering to and even inciting the most extreme elements among their base. It's not only stupid and counter-productive. It's disgusting and dangerous. Below find what will undoubtedly be remembered as one of John McCain's lowest moments. If he had any sense of decency he would have at least politely shut down the lunatic ranter in the audience -- someone who would have fit in perfectly at the side of Major Bob. But no dice.
Major Bob meet Senator John. Birds of a feather. How long until McCain links Obama to a watermelon?
UPDATE: Apparently it's not just my possible PTSD from covering the war in El Salvador that's coloring my view. The very mild-mannered John Dickerson over at Slate has just published a similar take titled "A Republican Mob Scene: John McCain's Supporters Are Madder (And Scarier) Than He is."
He even has a few gems I missed. Like one of the aroused Palinoids in the audience loudly suggesting that Democrats be "lined up" and...? What? Shot?
"There was a time when John McCain would give it right back to the hecklers at a John McCain town-hall meeting. It was part of his charm: He would confront these hecklers and argue with them about his supposed Republican apostasies on judicial appointments or immigration.
No longer. Now hecklers help stir the room. The candidate and his audience are in agreement about the grave national danger posed by Barack Obama and the media."
Tremble, you reporters! Death to you Democrats and Domestic Terrorists!
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RE-UPDATED: It gets better. Via TPM and others we learn even more about McCain's aberrant performance in Thursday. In response to one more sweat-covered supporter at his rally, McCain vows to name and prosecute those responsible for the financial meltdown. And then he goes ahead and names them: Barney Frank and Chris Dodd! So, not only are Congressional Democrats and their Presidential candidate "hooligans," but some of them will apparently be put on trial by a (non-existent) McCain administration. Why not really satiate the mob and promise to waterboard them? As they say on TV: Roll the tape! (and hold your nose).
Read more on the election at marccooper.com, including