The rest of America is finally getting to see what all but the true believers in Cincinnati have known for years: Willie Cunningham is a buffoon, and not a very creative one at that.
CityBeat has written before about Cunningham's and WLW’s juvenile, "angry white man" antics, but this time ol' Willie is causing headaches for the national Republican Party. With the GOP already on the ropes when it comes to this fall's presidential election, nobody is laughing now.
In his usual over-the-top style, Cunningham introduced presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain at a Cincinnati appearance Tuesday by referring to his likely Democratic opponent several times by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, in an obvious and lame attempt to play into fears that Obama is a Muslim version of The Manchurian Candidate.
Worse, Cunningham called Obama a "hack politician" and implied he was involved in shady, possibly criminal deals in Chicago.
McCain quickly repudiated Cunningham’s comments after the appearance. That, in turn, caused Cunningham and local conservatives to go ballistic on McCain, stating an apology was unnecessary. This sorry spectacle was given airtime on ABC, CNN and other major TV networks.
On his own radio talk show after the incident, Cunningham blasted McCain and said he would vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton in protest. As Bill Sloat astutely points out on his Daily Bellwether blog, Cunningham continues to steal material from his fringe brethren on the national stage, swiping that line from Ann Coulter.
(Sloat also notes how often Cunningham has been wrong on issues over the years, recalling Willie’s insistence that Pete Rose never bet on baseball. Cunningham should be thankful radio listeners have short memories.)
Never one to miss a chance for publicity, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann phoned into the show, defending Cunningham and blaming the controversy on the far right’s favorite scapegoat, the media. Readers will remember Hartmann: He’s the Republican running this fall for the Hamilton County Commission without an endorsed Democratic opponent thanks to a deal agreed to by Dems Todd Portune and Tim Burke. Thanks, fellas.
Greater Cincinnati Republicans have got to learn they're not the center of the universe. McCain's election this November won’t depend on attracting more conservatives; it will depend on persuading more independents and some moderate Democrats to cast ballots for him. This type of gutter-level politics that focuses on personal attacks and innuendo instead of substantive differences on issues probably will turn off those voters, polls show.
At the very least, Cunningham’s crude remarks once again paint Cincinnati as a backwater burg in the minds of many across the nation.
Cincinnati has self-esteem issues, and here’s my take on why: While many of the people who live here — Republican and Democrat — are reasonable people who are fairly tolerant and forward-thinking, those who comprise the Powers That Be in town are backward, provincial people whose outbursts routinely give the Queen City a black eye in front of the nation.
— Kevin Osborne