On Meet the Press, John McCain could have taken the high road on race relations, but failed.
There are no more big play opportunities left for John McCain. The debates and the conventions are over. He will default to the the normal GOP tactic of "fear and smear" during the final days of the campaign.
His last remaining hope was a performance on Oct. 26's Meet the Press, which commands a sizeable viewership. This could have been the one opportunity to change the trajectory of the campaign. It was there for him to grab, to seize the opportunity. But as always, McCain, the non-maverick, stuck to talking points rather than breaking the mold.
When moderator Tom Brokaw showed the clip of Rush Limbaugh's explanation of Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama where he shouted, "it's all about race," McCain's response was disappointing if not predictable.
When asked if Powell's endorsement was about race, McCain weakly said no but quickly pivoted to the five Secretaries of State (he had trouble reeling them off) and the number of admirals and generals of whom he was proud to have their support.
Here's what John McCain SHOULD have said, which I believe would have grabbed the headlines and MAYBE peel off some of the independent voters who have been flocking to Obama:
"I am, of course, disappointed with Gen. Powell's endorsement. But as Gen. Powell said on your show, race was not a significant factor, and I take this friend and honorable public servant at his word. I know I will be offending some of Rush Limbaugh's listeners, but I fully condemn Rush's explanation that it was all about race.
"We are at a critical time in our country's history. We are deeply mired in a major financial crisis that is affecting most Americans. We have enemies abroad who would want to harm us. We have energy and climate change challenges that need to be addressed. We do not need divisive and inflammatory comments from people on the air waves. We should not separate our country according to race or by any other category. If anything, we need to rally all citizens of the United States to forge a common effort to face these crises together."
Alas, McCain didn't want to upset his base by attempting to nullify race in this election. It remains his wild card. But in sidestepping this golden opportunity, McCain missed the chance to demonstrate a characteristic that has been sorely lacking in his campaign--statesmanship.