Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement, says the negative tone of the Republican presidential campaign reminds him of the hateful atmosphere that segregationist Gov. George Wallace fostered in Alabama in the 1960s.
Republican candidate John McCain on Saturday called Lewis' remarks "shocking and beyond the pale."
This is not good for the Obama campaign, of course. He doesn't want to Americans to think that putting him into the White House would be like putting Jesse Jackson there. But liberals, who have been trained to blame racism whenever they're unhappy, are too dumb to keep their mouths shut.
The Obama campaign said the Illinois senator doesn't believe McCain or his policy criticism is at all comparable to Wallace and his segregationist policies.
In a statement issued Saturday, Lewis said McCain and running mate Sarah Palin were "sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse." He noted that Wallace also ran for president.
"George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights," said Lewis, who is black. "Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."
One of the seminal events of the civil rights movement was the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963. Four black girls died in the blast, which was linked to a Ku Klux Klan group.
All of this controversy, perhaps aided by a phone call from the Obama campaign, led the race bater to de-bate.
Late Saturday, Lewis released another statement saying it was not his "intention or desire" to directly compare McCain or Palin to Wallace.