It’s anything you need it to be.Now that civil rights icon John Lewis, the media, and even some Republicans are starting to notice the violent hate vomiting forth from McCain supporters, and suggesting that McCain and Palin’s silence is tacit approval, the campaign is predictably deploying the few-bad-apples defense and the all-purpose POW card.

Hey, it’s not McCain’s fault if a few rogue audience members get carried away when he and Palin equate Obama with terrorists, right?  Besides, John McCain was a POW when George Wallace was spreading hatred, so he can’t possibly be accused of that now. (Um, and where was Obama when Ayers was blowing shit up?  Oh right: Third grade.)

But if it’s really just a few bad apples that the McCain campaign has nothing to do with, then how do they explain this?

[VA GOP chairman Jamie Frederick] 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."… "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."

This is the VA GOP chair, training McCain volunteers to incite fear and hate in everyone they talk to.  And before that, the McCain campaign’s Buchanan County, VA chair wrote a breathtakingly racist and homophobic anti-Obama column in his local right-wing paper (what is in the water in VA?).  The shouts of "Terrorist!" and "Traitor!" aren’t arising spontaneously, the McCain campaign and the GOP are deliberately fueling them while weakly pretending to deplore them.

In addition to being despicable and dangerous, I just don’t see how this strategy translates into anything but resounding defeat for McCain and the Republican Party.  Yes, it will probably energize the lizard-brained Limbaugh/Coulter/Savage base, but it will utterly repulse everyone else.  How can they maintain their pose as the salt-of-the-earth family values party after everyone gets a good long look at the fear and hate gibbering behind the mask?