Outrage is a columnist's best friend.
When you're working up a good head of steam, words pour out in self-righteous anger and columns almost write themselves.
This is not one of those columns.
It started out as one, because I spent most of last week in a state of horror, anger and disgust over the way presidential candidate John McCain was running his campaign.
Here's McCain, that poor, corrupt and putrid man, during the last debate: "Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies... (but) you're going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I've... we've always said that that's not appropriate."
Notice that last part -- "we've always said that that's not appropriate." If you're scratching your head and wondering why you've never heard McCain forcibly tell his supporters to stop shouting "Kill Obama" at rallies, it's because he never has. Never.
And here's his running mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, last week: "It's not negativity. It's truthfulness." And here are some of those random "truthful" quotes from people attending Palin rallies in Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"Charles Manson was a community organizer."
"I'm afraid if he wins, the blacks will take over. That's not Christian. This is a Christian nation."
"When you've got a nigra running for for president, he's not a first-stringer. He's definitely a second-stringer."
"He's related to a known terrorist."
"He must support terrorists. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck."
"The whole Muslim thing and everything. A lot of people forgot about 9/11, but..."
"I don't like the fact that he thinks white people are trash. Because we're not."
"Obama - Osama: one and the same."
"Obama is a socialist."
And just in case you forgot what decade -- sorry -- what century we're in, "Get a job!"
The AP reported that, "The Secret Service is looking into a second allegation that a participant at a Republican political rally shouted 'kill him,' referring to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama."
And the official Web site of the Sacramento County Republican Party compared Obama to bin Laden and urged people to "Waterboard Barack Obama." The Republican National Committee made them take it down.
And here's McCain again, talking about Palin: "As a cold political calculation, I could not be more pleased... She has excited and energized our base, she is a direct counterpoint to the liberal feminist agenda for America, she's the best thing that could have happened to my campaign and America."
In light of all this, outrage would be too easy.
But most sane people treasure the fact that America is a nation where people of all religions, races and creeds are welcome to contribute -- the Statue of Liberty says, "give me your tired, your hungry, your poor, your wretched masses yearning to be free." It doesn't say "give me only your uneducated white bigots, thank you very much. You can keep the rest."
Jesus was a community organizer. Moses was a community organizer -- in a big way. Charles Manson? Not so much. He's just an all-round crazy guy with a swastika carved in his forehead.
Most sane Americans also know that being a Muslim is not inherently evil. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, endorsed Obama on Sunday, he spoke movingly about a photo of a woman crying on the grave of her son who died in Iraq. The grave, he said, "didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David, it had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Ushad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11. And he waited until he could go serve his country, and he gave his life."
As a woman, I'm as confused as I am repelled by McCain's contempt for the "liberal feminist agenda." What are you sneering at, Mr. Maverick Mac? I know we disagree over abortion, but what else? Equal rights? Equal pay for equal work? The right to not be raped or abused? The right to choose the way we live our lives? Women are about 51 percent of the population. What kind of a cretin are you?
McCain's last futile grasp for power is so blatantly and transparently pathetic that most Americans are turning away in disgust. For example, when Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., running for reelection, accused Obama and other members of Congress of "being anti-American," her opponent saw his contributions triple virtually overnight. Obama raised $150 million in September, while McCain has had to pull out of several states because of funding shortfalls. And the Yahoo electoral college projections, the last time I looked, had Obama with 344 to McCain's 167.
The Obamas are decent, extraordinarily bright, hardworking and gifted people. It's impossible not to respect and admire their accomplishments. They are also courageous. They know what happened to JFK and Martin Luther King. They know that the rest of the world is holding its breath. And yet they keep campaigning. Perhaps you saw that inspiring photo of Obama speaking more than 100,000 people in St. Louis last week?
True, the fact that McCain and Palin have managed to inflame anger and hatred in small pockets of this country means that the embers were there to begin with.
But we're not looking at the second coming of the Third Reich. These McCain-Palin supporters don't represent the real America that most Americans believe in. We're much better than that. It's to their eternal shame that McCain and Palin aren't.