The Democratic nominee scorned the "prejudice and bigotry and hatred and division" on display in the Arizona senator's campaign. As for his own platform, he said that "we will do all these things because we love people instead of hate them. ... Beware of those who fear and doubt and those who rave and rant about the dangers of progress."
This wasn't last week, but 44 years ago. The Republican from Arizona - demonized by the Democratic and journalistic establishment - was Sen. Barry Goldwater. The Democrat, of course, was LBJ.
There are differences between then and now, to be sure. For starters, there was still a great deal of work left to be done on civil rights in 1964 (and John McCain is no libertarian). But even then, the attempt to paint Goldwater as a hatemonger was idiotic and dishonorable. It was almost as dishonorable as Harry Truman's attempt 16 years earlier to cast his opponent, businessman Thomas Dewey, as an American Hitler.
Liberal Democrats have a long tradition of tarring opponents as the monolithic forces of hatred and prejudice while casting themselves as the enlightened proponents of peace, love and decency. And this election shows that tradition is alive and well.
Over the weekend, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights hero, sold off another chunk of his reputation by coughing up some absurd partisan talking point about how the McCain-Palin campaign reminds him of that of Dixiecrat segregationist George Wallace. And over the last week, a host of reporters - not just liberal pundits - ominously fretted that the McCain campaign's use of former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers as an issue is a racist ploy. The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut, for instance, wrote that Sarah Palin's comment that Barack Obama was "palling around with terrorists" is "a turn of phrase that critics said was racially loaded."
The most laughable evidence that McCain is sowing hatred stems from the shouts of "terrorist!" and "kill him!" from a few hothead buffoons at McCain rallies. Of course, rather than foment this sort of thing, McCain went out of his way to chastise his own supporters personally and publicly.
McCain has done nothing to fuel racism. Or, put another way, the McCain campaign has done as much to promote prejudice as the Obama campaign has to inflame the vile passions behind the "Abort Sarah Palin" bumper sticker, Madonna's stage video lumping McCain in with Hitler, the eugenic snobbery aimed at Palin's son with Down syndrome, or the column in the Philadelphia Daily News that predicted a "race war" if McCain wins.