In blistering remarks to a Saturday morning rally, former Robert F. Kennedy aide Bartle Bull embraced Republican John McCain for president, hurled Barack Obama under the bus, and then backed it slowly over the Democratic nominee.
“America needs a president who is grounded in patriotism, not drowning in ambition,” Bull told a crowd of 150 gathered in Lower Manhattan. “I have used that sentence many times in the last three months, and not once — never once — have I been asked which candidate is which.”
The lifelong activist and former Village Voice publisher presented his impeccable liberal-Democrat credentials.
“I had the privilege of serving as Robert F. Kennedy’s New York campaign manager when he ran for president in 1968,” Bull explained. “I was arrested as a civil-rights lawyer in Mississippi, and I campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment. But in honest conscience, I cannot support the Democratic ticket in this campaign.”
Bull aimed at his target and charged like a longhorn.
“Character in the White House should be more important than charisma on the campaign trail,” Bull declared. “Barack Obama does not want to ‘change’ America. Barack Obama wants a different country.”
Turning to Obama’s financial agenda, Bull minced no words.
“Obama’s notion of economic fairness is pure Karl Marx,” Bull said, “plus a pocketful of Chicago-style ‘community organization.’”
Bull derisively recalled “how the Obama campaign ridiculed John McCain for not being able to use a computer — an attempt to reference his age. Senator McCain cannot use a computer because the Vietnamese repeatedly broke his arm when he refused to renounce his country and his fellow prisoners.”
Bull then asked the gathered McCain fans, “Do you suppose that Obama, or talky Joe Biden, can land an A-4 at night on a flight deck of an aircraft carrier in heavy seas?”
Bull and six other speakers rallied voters at Manhattan’s Foley Square — one of six simultaneous events across the Empire State. The New York Veterans for McCain-Palin also hosted supporters of the GOP ticket in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica.
Surrounded by the U.S. Courthouse, the Jacob Javits Federal Building, and other government facilities, John McCain and Sarah Palin’s backers waved flags, shook placards, and cheered applause lines deep in the heart of Obama Country. While they were hard-pressed to tip New York (or even the 10007 Zip Code) into McCain’s column, cameras from CBS, NBC, and Univision carried their message to places where McCain’s fortunes are brighter.
“There’s no one I trust more with this flag than John McCain,” said Iraq War veteran Lee Zeldin, the GOP congressional candidate in New York’s 1st Congressional District and a father of two. “When I got back, John McCain thanked me for my service before I could thank him for his.”
Former Viet Nam prisoner of war Barry Bridger, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, offered stirring words about his one-time next-door-neighbor at the Hanoi Hilton.
“John McCain was the most seriously injured POW to arrive in Hanoi,” said Bridger about the man who spent much of five years in the cell beside Bridger’s. “He limped in with a broken leg, two broken arms, a broken shoulder, a bayoneted foot . . . and a bad attitude.”
Plainfield, New Jersey’s Richard Johns — a nursery and gardening contractor — was one face in the crowd. He jokingly called himself “Richard the Landscaper.” He described himself as a small businessman with ten full-time employees. He also adds new personnel seasonally. Johns echoed McCain’s recent focus on how Obama’s tax-hike plans will hammer small businessmen like himself.
“It’s about creating jobs,” Johns told me. “The more pressure we have in regulations and taxes, the more it pressures investment and growth.”
The economic downturn already has slowed Johns’ business. Among other things, his company installs Christmas lights on suburban homes. So far this season, his orders are 80 percent below last year’s.
The last thing Johns wants is a tax hike on his clientele.
“The people with money are afraid to spend it,” Johns said. “People just aren’t spending money because there is a lot of uncertainty. These are the people who hire us.”
As Johns spoke, the crowd was buoyed by a Zogby survey that showed McCain 1 point ahead of Obama on Friday night. They greeted this news beneath partly cloudy skies and a cool breeze — perfect weather for cautious optimism.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution. © 2008 Scripps Howard News Service.