Wanted: Another ‘John McCain Lakeville moment’

Dallas knows a thing or two about presidential assassinations so even if one presidential candidate wasn’t suggesting the assassination of another — and we don’t think he was, for the record — the increasing political mob mentality in today’s politics is stirring memories in the city where President Kennedy was gunned down.

Writing in the Dallas Observer (Dallas’ version of City Pages), Jim Schutze recalls a conversation with the late Stanley Marcus, of the Neiman-Marcus chain, who said the likelihood that Lee Harvey Oswald was motivated by the “atmosphere that attracted that kind of fanatical nut” was far worse than the rumored conspiracy behind the hit.

“I found it very difficult to go to a dinner party without getting into violent discussions. If you disagreed, you were automatically labeled a communist,” Marcus said of the difficulty of socializing even privately.

Schutze notes the significance of this moment in the 2008 campaign. It happened in Lakeville, Minn., when candidate John McCain stopped the vitriol of a woman.

“Would that have been enough here in 1963?” Schutze asks. “We can’t know. But if Marcus was right, if the local climate of intolerance and extremism was the tuning fork that resonated with the mad internal orchestra inside Oswald regardless of political ideology, then what might have happened if someone had forcefully sounded another conflicting note? Nothing? How do we know that?”

We search for conspiracies in political violence, he says, because the alternative is to look at the atmosphere that breeds the fanatical killers.

These people are from central casting. It’s not possible — not for me anyway – to look at this plague of public shootings and not see ritual, one acted out in public at an accelerating tempo, in which the same kind of loosely moored soul steps forward each and every time, as Oswald did to shoot Kennedy, as Amir did to kill Rabin, because they have seen it all on television before and have heard the call.

And each time it happens, we make the same foolishly self-exculpatory mistake. We look for some hard-edged conspiracy to explain what happened.

We are relieved a little, are we not, when ISIS takes credit, even though we know ISIS would take credit for a tsunami if it killed the right people. If there is a conspiracy, after all, then that will mean that we didn’t do it.

And that, by the way, is the thing we know here in Dallas, the inconvenient truth. We are all conspirators when we fail to repudiate the climate that sends up the drumbeat call to violence.

McCain’s Lakeville moment is the fulcrum, “the point of resistance that will bend the future to the good. Or not,” he says.

We didn’t know it at the time. But it was the high point of recent presidential politics.

  • rallysocks

    “Dallas knows a thing or two about presidential assassinations so even if one presidential candidate wasn’t suggesting the assassination of another — and we don’t think he was, for the record — ”

    Even if that’s not what he *meant* it’s not what some of his followers may hear. And Trump knows that. That’s why he speaks the way he does–he can make promises or speculations without actually saying the actual words–he can’t be blamed for any outcome.

    • And that’s really the point — the atmosphere.

    • >>Even if that’s not what he *meant* it’s not what some of his followers may hear.<<

      That's the rub…it's exactly what he "meant" but wanted to make sure he had plausible deniability so he'd be able to weasel out when pressed about what he "meant."

    • lindblomeagles

      I agree with you rallysocks — Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. He understands the atmosphere Bob is clinging here too, and he is fanning the flames of an even greater charged atmosphere, one that he won’t take responsibility for inspiring, and quite frankly, won’t be able to resolve once the “atmosphere” exceeds the tipping point. He’s the man in the crowded theater who is saying, “There might be a fire here.” Because he used the word might, he’s off the hook despite the fact everybody in the theater HEARD Trump say FIRE and stampeded one another while searching for an exit. After the melee he caused and didn’t stop, Trump is laughing. Meanwhile, the Bob’s of the world keep talking about “the atmosphere” as if the two are mutually exclusive. When it comes to leadership, they aren’t exclusive.

      • There is “atmosphere” and there LITERALLY calling for the assassination of a president.

        What the “Bob’s [sic] of the word” know is the definition of “literally.”

  • Jeff

    That moment helped me to vote for McCain, I do wonder how he would have done if he didn’t choose extremely poorly with his running mate.

    • Neil

      He still would’ve lost. Running mates don’t matter much (thought this choice certainly didn’t help much) and it was not a particularly close election.

      • Neil

        That said, the above was an admirable moment of decency and I wish we’d been able to hold on to that in the years to come.

      • Jeff

        Yeah, he probably would have lost just due to the economy and Bush being in office for 8 years.

    • It’s a shame he wasn’t the same candidate that ran against Bush in 2000. Bush’s campaign threw all sorts of smear tactics at McCain to win the nomination, and McCain just rolled over…

  • jon

    I don’t dislike McCain as a human being… but his choice of VP, and current choice to continue to endorse his party’s nominee, suggests that while he might be a decent human being he isn’t able to identify that quality in other people… (or party politics keeps him from actually point it out)

    I don’t suspect that Trump intended to call for the assassination of his political rival… Nor do I think that he intended to ask russian hackers to obtain and/or release incriminating information about his political rival… but he did both because he didn’t consider his words before he let them spew forth from his mouth… He thought he was being funny perhaps, or maybe this is his anti-political correctness at work…

    IF Political correctness is destroying the country, as some claim, it’s probably not doing it as fast as the wrong words stated to the wrong foreign dignitaries could… Tensions with China over the south sea are high, tensions with Russia are high, and the wrong move, with addition to statements about being “unpredictable” with the use of nuclear weapons has the potential to destroy the country much faster than setting a certain level for civil discourse might…

    • Veronica

      I disagree. He knew what he was saying. He ALWAYS means what he’s saying. Why on earth do we keep giving him a free pass? He can threaten entire groups of people, he can say awful and hateful things about women, he says inappropriate things about his daughters, he calls for emails to be hacked….and he walks everything back and we’re seriously supposed to go on every day “forgiving” him? Every SINGLE day.

      • jon

        I’m certainly not forgiving him, or suggesting that any one forgive him, and never once did I give him a free pass…

        I do think people give him far more credit than he deserves for thinking ahead and planning the vitriolic vomit that comes out of his mouth. Some of it does indeed come from some dark places… but some of it comes from the simple failure to use “the best words.” Follow that with refusing to back down from the words that were said, because he has an ego that leads him to believe that “I alone can fix this” and you’ve got a cluster of Trumpish proportions.

        Some of what he says is planned, some of it is targeted, but the two instances I mentioned I don’t believe were the case, I think he was trying to be funny, or make a different point than the words he spat out conveyed… and then he failed to speak well, (not a good quality to have in a leader in business or government) and then he doubled down on his mistakes because admitting to failure is a sign of weakness in his mind.

        This is a man who opted for the title “the king of debt” to make his failures look like successes… he has marketed himself to himself to the extent that he doesn’t even believe he can be wrong any more… no of this should be “Forgiven” and none of it should be rewarded, but any one who shoves their foot that deep into their own mouth on such a regular basis probably isn’t doing it on purpose, if they were smart enough to do that on purpose that often then they’d be smart enough to know that doing it at all is a Bad Idea™… Trump isn’t that smart, the only person who believes Trump is that smart is Trump…

        • >>Trump isn’t that smart, the only person who believes Trump is that smart is Trump.<<

          Veronica never said he was smart, just that “He knew what he was saying. He ALWAYS means what he’s saying.”

          His intelligence (or lack thereof) isn’t a factor. He just blurts out his vitriol knowing full well what he means, then back tracks when it blows up in his face.

          • Veronica

            Trump is a spoiled brat who grew up and never had to be held accountable for anything, ever. The court cases are stunning: He bilked contractors, he openly discriminated in housing, he lied to investors, he declared bankruptcy HOW many times? He’s cheated on wives… and the list could go on. He says and does whatever the heck he wants because he knows he can get away with it.

            Meanwhile, I keep seeing the same two things pulled out of context when people try to paint Hillary as a demon. What struck me during the DNC was that, other than the keynote speakers, the rest of the speeches were made by people whom Hillary helped personally, without publicity.

    • Yes, I’ve often wondered two things about that election: (1)What if the John McCain who conceded was the John McCain who campaigned? and (2) How might things have been different had he not put an unqualified clown of an airhead in line for the presidency of the United States.

      • Jeff

        Here’s the crazy thing, do you think there was some element of political correctness that was in his mind (or among his campaign managers) to choose an unqualified woman over many other qualified candidates??? She met the qualification of a checkbox on a diversity form while not qualifying in any other way.

        • PaulJ

          Wasn’t she a governor?

          • Jeff

            She never completed a full term of governor…

        • No, I think he had to do something off the wall to try to stop the train his competitor had going, while providing red meat to a portion of his party who was going to vote for him anyway.

          • Jeff

            It was a Hail Mary pass and it failed…I agree there but I think there was some element of doing “something” different. But I think this also frustrates Republicans since this was a good candidate and an awful VP choice…which appears to be done for political correctness, I think Condi Rice would have been a better choice but I don’t think she wanted the job. The economy and Bush were probably too big of a hurdle for McCain…then there was Romney who was the traditional choice once again but the guy couldn’t relate to the average person…I think that’s why Republicans were drawn to Trump, finally a candidate with personality who was willing to fight back against the left. Maybe the populist wing of the GOP needs to get this out of them and have Trump lose before we can get back to the normal bland Republican candidates.

          • Jared

            If you’re going to focus on Palin being chosen for being a woman, I don’t see how you can call it “political correctness.” If it only boiled down to gender then it was a weak attempt at pandering to women, thinking that women would be so upset about Hillary losing the nomination they’ll vote for any ticket with a woman on it. I’d say most wouldn’t call that PC.
            And she’s about as far right as they get, so I’m not sure how the choice showed an unwillingness to “fight back against the left.” This just sounds like I didn’t like the choice, hindsight shows it was bad, therefore it was made by all of the people/ideas I dislike.

          • jon

            She ticked off all the boxes on paper.
            Far right
            Previous experiance in government
            Willing to attack Obama
            Won’t cost republicans a congressional majority.

            Being a Woman was probably icing on the cake…

            To bad “dumb as a box of rocks” wasn’t added to her file until after she was selected to be VP.

          • rallysocks

            Not to mention that she had managed to give the Alaskan economy a major boost with her ACES program when she as focused enough and politically shrewd enough as a fledgling governor. If she could have remained focused and really pounded on her political victory and street cred instead of going full-wingnut, I think she could have been a contendah.

          • The GOP could’ve done a much better job of pandering to women by nominating Elizabeth Dole for VP. She had made a run for President, in 2000, too. But, as @jon explains below, Liddy didn’t fit the temper of the GOP in 2008.

        • Rob

          Serious? If McCain wanted to intentionally pick someone unqualified, he had lots of dudes to choose from.

    • BJ

      > but he did both because he didn’t consider his words before he let them spew forth from his mouth…

      1,2,3,4,5,6…99,100

      This, 100 times this, is why everyone should not vote for that guy.

    • Rob

      His human beingness isn’t in question, his right-wing politics are. And it’s so odd to see someone whose courage is usually beyond reproach being timid about repudiating Drumpf, out of fear of angering the wingnuts.

  • Veronica

    Arm a citizenry using fear, give them instructions on who to kill in a “i’m not saying, I’m just sayin'” wink and a shrug, and wait for them to do the work.

    I know people who rationalize this, who are using some messed up, made up, misguided take on history who really see themselves as part of an uprising. Somehow they think they can get 26 states to join in and…I don’t know how they think it’ll work, actually. Another civil war? Although a lot of these same people believe in the “false flag” conspiracy, so I don’t think any rational conversation based anywhere in reality is possible.

    • Jeff

      Outside of Lincoln (you know when the USA was essentially at war with itself) can you think of any political assassination that was done by a sane person for a political reason in the USA???

      • Veronica

        I’m sorry, but this isn’t a mental illness discussion. It’s a discussion of inciting violence.

      • jon

        Oh, Wikipedia has a list of US assassinations and motives!

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_American_politicians

        I count ~55 assassinations on that list… and the term “Mental Illness” appears only twice.

        • Jeff

          No need to distort the truth, I see almost every assassination in recent times involving mentally unstable people…or those having a very personal dispute (judges and DAs are included in that list so those who convicted someone were killed). Most of the assassinations would be considered to be done by mentally ill people if they had the same level of medical knowledge in the 1800s and early 1900s as we have today.

          • jon

            Good no more distorting the truth then. So let’s look at facts…
            From the list wikipedia provides:
            2013 – Eric Williams assassinated Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland. Stood trial, which means he was found to be mentally able to stand trial, was not found to be insane by the courts.
            2011 – Jared Lee Loughner attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, successful assassination of John Roll found not competent to stand trial.
            2008 – Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton assassinated Mike Swoboda, he was killed at the scene no psyc eval could be performed…
            2003 – Othniel Askew assassinated James E. Davis a political opponent… killed at the scene no psych eval.
            2000 – Patrick Cuffy ordered a hit on Derwin Brown, from what I can gleam from wikipedia on the topic does not appear to be mentally ill.
            1998 – Byron Looper assassinated his political rival, found compitent to stand trial convicted.

            So 3 to 1 for assassins in modern times where a psych eval would have been performed to determine if some one was competent to stand trial in the trial.

            Let’s stop distorting the truth now please.

          • Jeff

            Perhaps you missed the part about a personal dispute…

          • jon

            Same list as above… 4 out of 6 are assassinations of political rivals… how is that not politically motivated?

            Is Trump’s call for assassinating Clinton not politically motivated because he has a “personal dispute” with her over who should have the office of president?

            If you aren’t going to even read the list of assassinations that I give you in answer to your question, maybe you shouldn’t bother asking for the list in the first place.

  • Jeff

    I have to question the “political climate” in 1963 for causing the death of Kennedy…the man who shot Kennedy was a true communist, he tried to live in the USSR and Cuba but was rejected. Trying to figure out the logic behind an unstable person will yield few answers…I feel like we would have been able to see that better had Oswald himself not been assassinated.

  • PaulJ

    The people who arbitrate what is “correct” behavior are the same insiders who are the only ones powerful enough to organize a big conspiracy; so, it is natural for the incorrect people to try and blame them.

    • Jeff

      Is it possible for the majority to be incorrect and the minority to be correct…??? Who and what determines “correctness”?

      • PaulJ

        The queen of England

  • Fred, Just Fred

    When he says something outrageous, Trump is counting on the left’s concern trolls to get their diapers in a wad. It is the reaction to the comment he’s after; his ensuing mockery of them is the red meat to his supporters.

    He made a smart aleck, offhand remark, hoping to dominate the next news cycle….and as always, it worked and the concern trolls filed out in ranks.

    Not my kind of tactic…not my kind of candidate; but he’s not the first candidate to allude to political violence. Where Trump’s angle is that of a smarmy antagonist, Hillary’s is always, always cynical self-interest. Not only does she make ill advised remarks, they are always so…well, icky. She’s just a dark person, through and through.

    May 23, 2008

    “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” Clinton told the editorial board of a South Dakota newspaper. ” I don’t understand
    it,” Clinton added, alluding to the calls for her to quit.

    Clinton made the statement after pointing out that her husband
    didn’t lock up the nomination until June of 1992, trying to point out
    that, by past history, it’s not late in the campaign. (See a clip of the interview here.)
    But Barack Obama received Secret Service protection one year ago this
    month, the earliest ever in presidential history, after reports of
    threats.

    Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: “Sen.
    Clinton’s statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was
    unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.”

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/jonathanmartin/0508/Hillary_cites_RFK_assasination_in_explaining_why_shes_still_in_race.html

    • Rob

      Yes, because only the left should care when Drumpf says outrageous things. It would actually be nice if more people, such as the Repubican party leadership in the Senate and House, got their diapers in a wad when their substandard-bearer engages in inciteful, craptastic rhetoric and outright falsehoods.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        If you haven’t heard the GOP throwing shade Trump’s way, you’re not paying attention.

        • Rob

          Pardon my ADD. Oh wait – did you mean McCain? Ryan? Sessions?

  • Dan

    I remember people blaming Sarah Palin after Gabrielle Giffords was shot.

    • Veronica

      Yes. Do you remember why?

      • Dan

        Some target symbols on house races IIRC, later shown to be unrelated.

        Seems like holding peoples’ “atmospheric” rhetoric responsible for violence is only done when politically convenient, e.g. Micah X Johnson, crazy lone wolf, unrelated to “police-are-cold-blooded-racist-murderers” rhetoric. Abortion clinic shooter, pro-lifers are responsible.

        Or vice versa.

        • rallysocks

          Specifically, it was cross-hairs and the quote “Don’t retreat, reload!”

          • Dan

            So do you still believe that’s what led to the shooting?
            IIRC that was not the consensus for very long even among liberals, conservatives of course dismissed it right away.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLYeSwMVg_0

          • rallysocks

            I haven’t said that I did believe that. I think it contributed to the shooting, though. At the very least, it was in egregiously bad taste, was immature and clearly showed Palin’s retaliatory nature.

          • Dan

            You hadn’t said you believed it led to the shooting, I shouldn’t have phrased it that way, sorry.

            “Egregiously bad taste” and “contributed to the shooting” are still pretty far apart, though, aren’t they? I’m unaware of any evidence showing Palin’s crosshairs graphic or rhetoric had anything to do with Loughner’s motivations or frame of mind, and plenty to show he was fairly well detached from reality.

            I’d honestly thought nearly everyone acknowledged that linking Palin to that shooting was incorrect. Essentially saying “well, my point still stands” by way of “atmosphere” was an angle I hadn’t previously considered. Still seems a little off base to me.

          • rallysocks

            “Egregiously bad taste” and “contributed to the shooting” are still pretty far apart, though, aren’t they?

            That’s why I said at the very least it was in egregiously bad taste.

          • Dan

            Sure you did, that’s my point. You wouldn’t say bumping into someone’s shoulder and not saying “excuse me” is attempted murder, or at the very least rude.

            Just saying it might be another thing “at the very least” doesn’t mean the other, massively escalated thing requires no rational justification.

          • rallysocks

            Are you trying to get me to say that Palin’s post was completely responsible for Gifford’s shooting?

            I mean, inciteful rhetoric and imagery are quite different than bumping into someone’s shoulder. Placing a cross hairs and encouraging gun enthusiasts to ‘reload’ could very well lead to SOMEbody taking it literally. But then again, bumping into someone’s shoulder and not saying “excuse me” could lead an individual who is perhaps fed-up with people knocking into them and not saying ‘excuse me’ to lose their sh*t.

          • Dan

            DID Palin’s rhetoric in some way help lead Loughner to shoot Giffords? Saying her rhetoric was irresponsible isn’t the same thing. They caught the guy, what evidence is there that he was in any way motivated by Palin?

            Are people who called police cold blooded murderers in the same sense sorta responsible for Micah X Johnson’s actions? I don’t think so but there’s a much stronger case to be made.

          • Dan

            Also yes, crosshairs, not targets, now I’m reminded of some silly bickering that point lead to. Some people claimed the crosshairs were not crosshairs, and others claiming the crosshairs meant Palin wanted to literally shoot people with a gun. Should have gotten that right initially.

  • Mike Worcester

    In 1994, Susan Smith drowned her two young children (ages 3 and 13 months) by strapping them into a car and letting it roll into a lake. She at first claimed she had been car-jacked by a black man, only later to fess up to the crime (for which she was amazingly spared the death penalty.)

    Then-Rep. Newt Gingrich made the following statement: “The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

    When called out for his comments, he said it was “grotesque” to assert that he or anyone else was responsible for creating an atmosphere where people would commit violent acts like Smith’s.