Monday, October 06, 2008

Like Rats Running From a Sinking Ship

I thought the Republicans hated the New York Times. I thought it was a hot bed of liberalism, a den of democratic iniquity, a sounding board for all things Obama.

But now, McCain and Co. seem to be in love with The Times again, or at least in love with a story that ran over the weekend about Sen. Barack Obama’s links to Bill Ayers, the 60s radical who helped found the militant group The Weather Underground and is now a Chicago educator.

Ayers committed his acts of domestic terrorism when Obama was only eight years old, and Obama has deemed those actions repugnant. They are not now, nor have they ever been close. Obama and Ayers once served together on a nonprofit board that distributed educational grants in Chicago. And Ayers hosted a gathering for Obama when he was running for the state Senate in Illinois a decade ago. Beyond that, there is very little of substance. Every legitimate news source has stated that they never found anything inappropriate between the two men.

But that didn’t stop the lipsticked pit bull from going on the attack this weekend, accusing Obama of hating his own country and “palling around with terrorists.”

Frankly I’m amazed Palin even knew the story existed seeing as how she was recently asked three times from what sources she gets her news and couldn’t provide the name of a single newspaper or periodical.

Unable to overcoming Obama on the issues, McCain/Palin is turning increasingly to adolescent attacks on his race, religion and patriotism. The campaign also plans to invoke money launderer Tony Rezko. They’ve even gone back to referring to the Democrat as Barack Hussein Obama, using the middle name as a xenophobic slur. Palin has also hinted that she will bring Obama’s ex-pastor, Rev. Wright back into the limelight as well, despite the fact that McCain has publicly stated that he would never go there. So much for keeping your word when the chips are down.

Palin’s attacks represent the new battle front for the Republicans. McCain’s course correction reflects a burgeoning sense of dread within his team as they watch the electoral map shift significantly in Obama’s favor. The economy has proven to be McCain’s Achilles heel. Almost all the critical battleground states are now leaning toward Obama. Unless McCain does something big, and does it fast, his aspirations are already dashed.

It’s one thing when I say the Republicans are so desperate that they are willing to alter their campaign’s message from one of substance to smears. It’s another thing when they admit it themselves.

“It’s a dangerous road, but we have no choice,” a top McCain strategist told the New York Daily News today. “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose.” (What does that tell you?) The unnamed adviser stated that the Republicans intended to “turn the page” from economic issues and ramp up personal attacks on their opponent.

Unfortunately, Obama is fighting fire with fire. I loathe his counter-punch, even as I wonder if it is the only method open to him on this particular field of battle. Obama is launching a multimedia campaign to draw attention to McCain’s involvement in the “Keating Five” savings-and-loan scandal of 1989-91 and his patronage of Charles H. Keating Jr., who went to prison for fraud in connection with the collapse of the California-based Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, one of the largest financial failures in the nation’s history.

Obama has not brought McCain’s history with the Keating scandal up until now. Not even during the bailout crisis of the past several weeks, when it would have been most appropriate, was he willing to go down that road. Now, perhaps, he is left little choice.

I don’t think McCain is corrupt. In fact, I think his fall from grace with the Keating scandal is the very thing that made him into the passionate, reform-minded maverick he once was. But if McCain is willing to so pathetically engage in such ridiculous, guilt-by-association tactics, those tactics just may blow up in his face.

Unlike McCain, at least Obama’s counter-punch does not distract from the issues, but rather points directly to the eerie similarities between today’s credit crisis and that of the late 80s in which a massive lack of regulation and wallet-padding relationships caused the last, great economic collapse in America.

But here’s the thing. None of this--from Ayers to Wright--is new information. We’ve been over this before. McCain is merely regurgitating the exact same attacks we heard during the primaries.

McCain may want to ask Hillary Clinton how the guilt-by-association tactics worked for her.


Blogger Grinth said...

To be fair Palin said she "thought" they should bring back the whole Wright thing, but said it was ultimately up to McCain. Of course it basically amounts to someone saying "I'm not going to say I told you so, but..."

Considering the current socio-political climate in the US right now, I'm inclined to agree with David Michael Green. He suggests that if/when McCain brings uses this sort of personal smear tactics during the upcoming debates Obama simply needs to say "Well John, you are really willing to do and say anything to become President, aren't you?"

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Yuval Levin said...

Very soon after she was picked to be McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin was attacked by Obama campaign spokesmen and a Democratic member of Congress for once being seen wearing a Pat Buchanan button. She had an answer and the campaign offered it. Yet now we are asked to believe that it’s somehow inappropriate to inquire why Barack Obama’s political career began in the home of an admitted and unrepentant domestic terrorist of the radical left? “Who is Barack Obama?” is not an irrelevant question given the job Obama is seeking, and it’s a question he has sought mightily to avoid answering. The veil of secrecy he has thrown over his past (journalists have been denied access to his state legislative office records, documents about state earmarks he distributed in Illinois, a list of his legal clients, his state bar application, billing records related to Tony Rezko, medical records, academic records — all of which are the sort of documents candidates routinely make public) forces the question all the more.

The Obama campaign’s response to the question appears to be to raise John McCain’s connection to the Keating Five scandal. It is by no means out of bounds to raise the issue. McCain received campaign funds from Keating, his wife’s company had been involved in investment ventures with him, and he once met with federal regulators about Keating’s bank — though the Senate Ethics Committee found that unlike three other senators involved in the scandal, “Senator McCain’s actions were not improper.” The committee said only that he had exercised bad judgment by being involved with Keating at all and not seeing what others were doing. In fact, Bob Bennett, who was the Democratic lawyer selected by the committee to investigate the Keating Five, says in his book that he recommended that McCain’s name be dropped from the investigation because there was no evidence against him but, for political reasons (the other Senators were all Democrats), McCain’s name was left on the list.

McCain’s response to that scandal should certainly be compared with Obama’s Ayers explanations. McCain has spoken and written about every detail of the Keating mess, has expressed open contrition for allowing himself to be drawn into it even tangentially, and devoted years of his career to combating corruption as a result. He even badly overreacted and pushed for vastly excessive regulation of campaign financing. He has said (in a book in which he details his and others’ actions in the matter) that merely the appearance of impropriety involved makes his involvement with Keating “the worst mistake of my life.”

Had Obama done and said something similar regarding the sort of radicalism Ayers represents, he would now have an answer to offer. Instead, he has worked with Ayers, supported his causes, and denied any significance to the links between them. That, too, makes this a legitimate question about a man who would be president.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous DM said...

In the best tradition of Bill Clinton’s famous declaration that the answer to the question of whether or not he was having an affair with Monica depended on “what the definition of ‘is’ is,” Barack Obama was clearly splitting hairs and concealing the truth when he said that William Ayers was “just a guy who lives in my neighborhood.”

The records of the administration of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), released last week by the University of Illinois, show that the Ayers-Obama connection was, in fact, an intimate collaboration and that it led to the only executive or administrative experience in Obama’s life.

After Walter Annenberg’s foundation offered several hundred million dollars to American public schools in the mid-’90s, William Ayers applied for $50 million for Chicago. The purpose of his application was to secure funds to “raise political consciousness” in Chicago’s public schools. After he won the grant, Ayers’s group chose Barack Obama to distribute the money. Between 1995 and 1999, Obama distributed the $50 million and raised another $60 million from other civic groups to augment it. In doing so, he was following Ayers’s admonition to grant the funds to “external” organizations, like American Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to pair with schools and conduct programs to radicalize the students and politicize them.

Reading, math and science achievement tests counted for little in the CAC grants, but the school’s success in preaching a radical political agenda determined how much money they got.

Barack Obama should have run screaming at the sight of William Ayers and his wife, Bernadette Dohrn. Ayers has admitted bombing the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon, and his wife was sent to prison for failing to cooperate in solving the robbery of a Brink’s armored car in which two police officers were killed. Far from remorse, Ayers told The New York Times in September 2001 that he “wished he could have done more.”

Ayers only avoided conviction when the evidence against him turned out to be contained in illegally obtained wiretaps by the FBI. He was, in fact, guilty as sin.

That Obama should ally himself with Ayers is almost beyond understanding. The former terrorist had not repented of his views and the education grants he got were expressly designed to further them.

So let’s sum up Obama’s Chicago connections. His chief financial supporter was Tony Rezko, now on his way to federal prison. His spiritual adviser and mentor was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, of “God damn America” fame. And the guy who got him his only administrative job and put him in charge of doling out $50 million is William Ayers, a terrorist who was a domestic Osama bin Laden in his youth.

Even apart from the details of the Obama/Ayers connection, two key points emerge:

a) Obama lied and misled the American people in his description of his relationship with Ayers as casual and arm’s-length; and

b) Obama was consciously guided by Ayers’s radical philosophy, rooted in the teachings of leftist Saul Alinksy, in his distribution of CAC grant funds.

Since Obama is asking us to let him direct education spending by the federal government and wants us to trust his veracity, these are difficulties he will have to explain in order to get the votes to win.

Now that Obama is comfortably ahead in the polls, attention will understandably shift to him. We will want to know what kind of president he would make. The fact that, within the past 10 years, he participated in a radical program of political education conceptualized by an admitted radical terrorist offers no reassurance.

Why did Obama put up with Ayers? Because he got a big job and $50 million of patronage to distribute to his friends and supporters in Chicago. Why did he hang out with Jeremiah Wright? Because he was new in town, having grown up in Hawaii and Indonesia and having been educated at Columbia and Harvard, and needed all the local introductions he could get to jump-start his political career. Why was he so close to Rezko?

Because he funded Obama’s campaigns and helped him buy a house for $300,000 less than he otherwise would have had to pay.

Not a good recommendation for a president.

3:42 AM  
Anonymous MAGGIE GALLAGHER said...

WHEN John Murtagh was 9 years old, Bill Ayers' friends tried to kill him.

"I remember my mother's pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn't leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside," wrote Murtagh recently in City Journal.

It wasn't personal. John's dad was a judge presiding over a trial of some Black Panthers. John still remembers the red graffiti on the sidewalk the next morning: "Free the Panther 21; The Viet Cong Have Won; Kill the Pigs."

As best he recalls, Bernardine Dohrn, who's now Ayers' wife, first claimed credit for bombing John's home in 1970.

John Murtagh is a now lawyer and Yonkers city councilman running for the state Senate on the GOP ticket. I reached him this week through his campaign. It wasn't hard.

Has Barack Obama ever tried?

Obama was only 8 when Murtagh's house was bombed. He has nothing to do with the trauma the Murtagh family went through. But Obama was a grown man when he decided his path to power lay through Bill Ayers' connections.

In the Chicago establishment, which embraced former terrorists like Ayers and his wife, Obama was encouraged to look beyond the obvious - the lawlessness, the attacks on cops, judges, army outposts - to embrace larger goals.

What were these goals? How does Obama come to continue to associate with Ayers - a man who can't bring himself to say to John Murtagh or to John's mother or any other kin of the attacked: I'm sorry. I was wrong. It was a terrible thing to do.

Obama's campaign is busy fudging. His top political adviser claims Obama just didn't know Ayers' history when they first met. Bomber? What bomber? Right.

"If that's true, Obama has to be the dumbest man who ever graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School," snorts Murtagh. "I don't buy that at all."

Murtagh believes the relationship between the Obamas, Ayers and Dohrn goes back 30 years, to Michelle Obama's time at Sidley Austin, a law firm that also employed Dohrn.

Murtagh doesn't blame Obama for what Ayers and his friends did. He blames Obama for picking a man like Ayers as a friend and mentor - and then covering up the friendship.

In politics, things get complicated. Truth becomes hard to find. But not this.

"The night they attacked our home, they also firebombed an army recruiting station out in Brooklyn and police patrol cars outside of Greenwich Village," notes Murtagh. "Three weeks later, they accidentally blew themselves up. They intended to attack the officer's club at Fort Dix."

Lay your cards on the table, says Murtagh. "Obama's free to associate with Dohrn and Ayers; that's his right," he tells me. "But don't hide the relationship, and be forthcoming and let people decide the significance of it for themselves."

10:43 AM  

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