Updated with video: BloggerInterrupted interviews supporters outside of a Palin rally in Strongsville, Ohio. “Breathtaking ignorance” is how he describes it.
The talking heads and the national blogosphere are all over Senator John McCain’s and Governor Sarah Palin’s latest attempt to tie Senator Barack Obama to William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, an organization (if you can even call it that) which attempted to detonate small, homemade bombs in and around government buildings during the 1960s, as an expression of defiance against the Vietnam War. A serious crime, to be sure, and one that was committed when Obama was only eight years old.
After going on the run for nearly a decade, Ayers and his wife turned themselves in to the federal government, only to see the charges against them dropped because of prosecutorial incompetence. Since then, both he and his wife have apparently rehabilitated their lives (if their standing in the community is to be taken seriously, though his remarks about “not bombing enough” definitely undermine his credibility), and Ayers is now a university professor, an education advocate, and, believe it or not, a man who has received bipartisan support in Chicago.
He has worked with Republicans and Democrats, and his work with Obama was on a project created by an Ambassador from the Reagan administration. NPR explains:
The Obama campaign says he first met Ayers in 1995, when Obama became chair of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a $50 million fund that awarded grants to groups trying to implement new programs to improve inner city education in Chicago.
Walter Annenberg, a lifelong Republican and former ambassador who was appointed by Presidents Nixon and Reagan, funded an ambitious program to reform urban education in many cities in the mid 1990s. Ayers was an important member of the group that developed and wrote the grant proposal to the Annenberg Foundation.
Obama and Ayers attended at least six meetings together over six years, Annenberg Challenge records show, and those knowledgeable of the school reform group say it is likely there were other informal sessions of the group that they both attended. But no one on the board or on the Annenberg Challenge staff remembers Obama being any closer to Ayers than to any other member of the board. The Annenberg board also included several civic, business and education leaders, many of them Republicans.
By the way, six meetings over six years equals one meeting per year.
The truth is uncomfortable, because it speaks directly to the cynical proclivity of people like Governor Palin to disingenuously play up this relationship as a way of casting doubt on Obama’s patriotism and his loyalties (all the while neglecting to tell Americans the real context of this relationship and Mr. Ayers’s numerous ties to elected Republican officials).
And by extension, it is an attempt to play directly into the divisive and, quite frankly, racist memes about Obama’s character and his judgment, lending credibility to all of the racist and inflammatory claims propounded by various, anonymous e-mailers.
There’s a reason people at McCain campaign rallies were heard shouting out racist hate speech and yelling out things like “terrorist” and “kill him” as a response to this ridiculousness.
For all of the talk about Obama’s judgment, one has to seriously doubt the judgment of a campaign that would purposely seek to stoke the flames of racism and divisiveness in order to tear down a campaign. Such a tactic is not honorable, and it does not put our country first. It is a smear, directed only at low-information voters and people who allow their news to be filtered through by talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly– all men who have a demonstrated record of dishonesty and cloaked bigotry. More from NPR:
“It was never a concern by any of us in the Chicago school reform movement that he had led a fugitive life years earlier,” said former Illinois state Republican Rep. Diana Nelson, who worked with both Obama and Ayers over the years. “It’s ridiculous. There is no reason at all to smear Barack Obama with this association. It’s nonsensical, and it just makes me crazy. It’s so silly.”
Nelson says her fellow Republicans “might snort when they hear the name Bill Ayers, because they know he comes from a wealthy family, they know he became a radical activist early in his life … but beyond just snorting, I don’t think anyone gives it another thought.”
“I don’t remember ever hearing anyone raise concerns or questions or concerns about [Ayers’] background,” says Anne Hallett, who has worked closely with Ayers on the Annenberg Challenge grant and with Obama on education and other community and legislative matters. “And that included everybody I was engaged with,” including prominent Republicans, and corporate and civic leaders in Chicago, Hallett adds.
Hallett calls this attack on Obama’s association with Ayers and the Annenberg Challenge by further association, “a smear campaign. It’s a political diatribe that has no basis in fact. The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was an extremely positive initiative. It was well-vetted, thorough, and the fact that it is now is being used for political purposes is, in my opinion, outrageous.”
In short, Palin and the McCain campaign are now engaging in the worst, most dishonest type of politics. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think McCain is an honorable man who has served his country throughout his life, and I have to believe- in my heart of hearts- that he can’t stand this line of attack. Incidentally, there was an article on Politico today that basically speaks to this sentiment: McCain probably hates this strategy.
But he is going negative. He is building his case on a tenuous web of misleading fear-mongering. And ultimately, he is writing his own history.