The latest skirmish in the presidential race is, of all things, whether John McCain called Barack Obama a socialist -- a label apparently equal to being tagged as a communist in times gone by.
The blow-up started when McCain was asked Thursday in Kansas City whether he believed Obama was an extremist. "His voting record … is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont," McCain replied, according to the Kansas City Star.
Asked whether he believes that Obama is a socialist, McCain answered, "I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by."
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded, “This attack is straight out of the Bush-Rove playbook, and is exactly what the American people are tired of. Instead of making false, divisive attacks, Senator Obama is working to bring our country together to meet the challenges we face as a nation.”
This afternoon, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds hit back, “The truth is National Journal, a non-partisan publication, ranked Barack Obama as the most liberal Senator in the U.S. Senate. John McCain simply said that he didn’t know whether or not Barack Obama is a socialist, and noted that national rankings have rated him as more liberal than the only self-proclaimed socialist in the Senate. It's up to Barack Obama to explain his extreme record.”
McCain is hanging his hat on the National Journal vote ratings, which found that Obama was the most liberal US senator last year as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination, after ranking 16th and 10th most liberal in his first two years in the Senate.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.