Sacramento GOP Web site encouraged people to 'waterboard Obama'
Sacramento County Republican leaders Tuesday took down offensive material on their official party Web site that sought to link Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden and encouraged people to "Waterboard Barack Obama" — material that even offended state GOP leaders.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento County Republican leaders Tuesday took down offensive material on their official party Web site that sought to link Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden and encouraged people to "Waterboard Barack Obama" — material that even offended state GOP leaders.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has pushed the party to try to broaden its appeal, took issue with the site. "In the governor's view, it's completely and totally inappropriate," said Julie Soderlund, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman.
Hector Barajas, a California Republican Party spokesman, said Democrats have been playing the race card, but that the local party went too far in this instance.
He said the campaign should be about who is ready to be the nation's commander-in-chief, that Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has never questioned Obama's patriotism, that he'd ask local leaders to take down the offensive content.
Taking credit for the site — www.sacramentorepublicans.org — and its content was county party chairman Craig MacGlashan — husband of Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan.
The Sacramento Bee asked Craig MacGlashan about the content after seeking his reaction to hate-filled graffiti that was spray-painted over an Obama display on a fence in Sacramento.
In recent weeks, MacGlashan, an attorney, joined local Democratic party officials in condemning vandalism to political displays.
The vandalism to the Obama display appeared to have been done overnight Monday. A racial epithet, profanity, "KKK" and the words "white power" were clearly visible from the roadway. Six of the nine fence panels were defaced.
"What you are describing to me is not free speech, it's vandalism. We don't condone it," MacGlashan said.
But he defended his Web site. "I'm aware of the content,"he said. "Some people find it offensive, others do not. I cannot comment on how people interpret things."
MacGlashan said he would "consider people's complaints" before taking any action.
By Tuesday night, much of the questionable material — which ranged from depicting Obama in a turban to attacking Michelle Obama — had been removed, replaced with political cartoons attacking Obama.
The flap comes as tensions in the presidential contest between McCain and Obama have heightened, and as race has been thrust into the forefront of the campaign. If elected Obama would be the first non-white elected president.
The Sacramento GOP's Web site is markedly different in tone from other GOP or Democratic Party sites in the region in its use of illustrations and cartoons attacking the presidential nominee.
Democratic Party officials condemned the GOP site. "It's exactly the kind of vile, repugnant politicking that has relegated the California GOP to an afterthought in California politics," said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "Even the top of their ticket would be disgusted by this display of dishonesty."
GOP political consultant Ray McNally said there is plenty of "high and heated passions" on both sides of the aisle, but that both stand to lose when the rhetoric becomes excessive.
"The worst thing in politics is when you overstate something," McNally said. "If you get too shrill, you turn people off."
In recent weeks, as McCain, his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, and their surrogates have questioned Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a '60s radical, the campaign has has had to admonish supporters who have called Obama a traitor, even making threats.
California State University, Sacramento, professor Stan Oden said the national campaign bears some responsibility for local excesses.
"Palin and McCain have both been very narrow-minded in trying to push these associations — trying to make Obama into a radical bomb-throwing individual," Oden said. He called the Web site very upsetting.
Kevin Johnson, the dean of the University of California, Davis, law school, said he was taken aback by the Web site's warning to "Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid" of Obama. It was removed later Tuesday.
"Just sad," Johnson said. "It suggests to me that we haven't gone as far as we would have liked in putting racism to bed."
"It's disappointing that something like this would show up on the Republican Party Web site," Johnson continued. "Maybe someone hacked into it. That would make me feel better. This is hateful stuff."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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