If McCain asks, what should BO say of Ayers?

Kevin Drum seems to worry that John McCain will take the bait and challenge Obama about Bill Ayers.

I guess the Obama folks figure there are three things that could happen. First, McCain does nothing and ends up looking like a coward. Second, their taunts get under McCain's skin so badly that he goes over the edge and does something really stupid. Third, McCain takes the bait and decides to bring up Ayers at the next debate.

The first two possibilities are obviously good for Obama. And the third? I guess they must be really sure they have a dynamite response ready in case McCain decides to unload next Wednesday.


I don't see the Ayers question as particularly difficult to answer.

I've written an answer that seems pretty close to what I assume to be the truth.

Bill Ayers was prosecuted for his crimes. Since then he has applied his talents to education. I worked with him in his capacity as an educator and an organizer. I am proud of the work we did on the Annenburg Challenge. While I was aware Ayers participated in the Weather Underground, I didn't consider it a big deal b/c nobody else participating considered it a big deal.

I wasn't going to miss out on doing something productive to help young people because I felt I needed to insulate myself from some future political attack. Like the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, I believe politics is about making a difference in people's lives.

I made a choice that I was going to be involved and help young people better their lives through education. It would have be cowardly to not get involved because I was trying to protect myself from future political attacks by avoiding an individual, who had already been prosecuted for his crimes.

John, picture you have the opportunity to help people in your community but you have to associate with someone who did bad things in the past. These bad things would allow your political opponents to create attack advertisements. Would you be willing to take the heat and improve your community through uplifting disadvantaged children? Or would you keep yourself pure and avoid the situation altogether? Would you skip helping kids in your community because you were afraid of some political opponent making a TV advertisement?


Like I said, I think the response is truthful and it makes McCain look like a weasel and a coward in two ways.

McCain will look like a weasel for running the Ayers ads. And he'll look like a coward because he won't say he'd take the heat to educate children.

Tags: Bill Ayers, Debate, mccain, obama (all tags)

Comments

18 Comments

what do you think?

Should Obama respond to an Ayers attack along the lines I've described?

by Carl Nyberg 2008-10-10 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: what do you think?

If I BELIEVED the line of reasoning you used it would make it a non issue for me personally.

For me its not an issue of terrorism but an issue of the far left wing of our party having their chance to do to us what the far right wing of the GOP did to them.

If Obama were to make it clear that he isn't from that wing of the party and hasn't been for his career it would set my mind at ease.

But I don't currently believe that.

by dtaylor2 2008-10-10 03:30PM | 0 recs
What about 'Nam?

How many non-combatant civilians, including children, did McCain drop bombs and napalm on?

Just curious.  If he had had any self-doubts at the time, he could have easily transferred to a non-combat posting within the Navy.

by mydailydrunk 2008-10-10 09:38AM | 0 recs
Nix that

There will be no questioning of soldiers for following reasonable orders in a time of war, hear?

The "baby killer" mantra was a blight on our culture, blaming soldiers for being thrust into an impossible situation by heinous political posturing by our leaders.

So, enough of that.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-10 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Nix that

Engaging in a politically motivated war where you just go along with the flow (and I'm not talking about disobeying a lawful order here) without reflection is the basis of my critique.

My father was conscripted to serve in Korea, he believed that communism was a blight on humanity, but he knew that it would never surplant democracy.  He registered as a conscientious objecter and told the board that while he was passionate about defending the United States and would give his life, he would not kill a human being over politics.  

He voluntered to be a corpsman and served with distinction as a frontline combat medic with just an armband with a red cross on it for 'protection' and no weapon until honorably discharged for medical.

I'm using this to illustrate that 'impossible situations' are not always so impossible, and that McCain, after having expressed doubts about the useage of napalm on civilian targets, chose to continue on that path.

by mydailydrunk 2008-10-10 10:06AM | 0 recs
Don't get me wrong.

I credit concientious objectors and am pretty certain that I'd be in their ranks if faced with a Vietnam-type situation (my favorite plotline in Tour of Duty was the hippy medic and his struggle between his anti-violence and his loyalty to his platoon), but, frankly, if everyone did that, the military would cease to operate the way we (rightly or wrongly) need it to.

War is a super shitty situation for everyone but arms dealers and nationalist politicians and it's not a pilot's job to decide whether or not dropping a bomb on orders will save more lives than it takes in the big picture.

It is, however, a pilot's job to not be a hotdog maverick and fly too low, risking your life, your wing's security, and the expensive training and equipment that your country spent so much money on.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-10 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't get me wrong.

I understand and agree with you.  I would expect and demand that in his situation, mccain DO follow orders, even if that meant hitting civilian targets.

Its the part, where he is expressing doubts about it, why not choose a different posting.

I'm not judging him on what he did - he did what he was told, I'm just trying to get into the thought process of his that while having doubts, especially after having seen the results, he chooses to continue in the same posting.

by mydailydrunk 2008-10-10 11:17AM | 0 recs
That's an entirely different character issue

It's quite possible that we can file this one under McCain's tendency to lie all the time in pursuit of political points.

He never seemed that concerned, in those days, about anything but personal advancement and partying.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-10 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: That's an entirely different character issue

Shit, I wrote it down, and didn't even realize it.  I posted I would expect and demand that in his situation, mccain DO follow orders, even if that meant hitting civilian targets.

I think it's safe to say that mccain is following the bidding of his alien masters without hesitation or question, without regard to fallout and blowback that might be fatal to the future of the GOP.

Maybe in this horror film, the hero, instead of turning his back on the fallen monster, will empty the magazine into the head of stinking corpse of the GOP (politically speaking of course).  Fillibuster proof - here we come.

by mydailydrunk 2008-10-10 01:04PM | 0 recs
Automatic Rec for Wellstone reference

Our politics is worse for lack of Paul's presence.

Anyway, it's simple enough for me: Ayers paid whatever debt to society he needed to pay, and then some, with his community work.  I believe in redemption; the fact that Ayers killed none and is now working within the system to change it speaks volumes of his character.

Those supporting McCain should realize that McCain himself has discussed that it took being deprived of the comfort of the United States for him to appreciate what it means; if one gives him credit for redemption and re-invention of himself, then it's hypocritical to say that William Ayers could not have done the same thing.

I don't condone blowing things up in the 60's any more than I condone hotdogging in an expensive American military fighter plane and knocking out the power lines to the Spanish countryside, but I acknowledge that the men they were then are not the men they are now.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-10 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: If McCain asks, what should BO say of Ayers?

Have you guys seen this?

by Steve M 2008-10-10 10:06AM | 0 recs
That's great!

The guy in charge of putting the Weathermen away noting that those days are behind Ayers is exactly what's needed here.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-10 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Like This

I'm merging some pieces from both responses and adding a bit. Here's my shot at it:


Bill Ayers was prosecuted for his crimes. Since then he has applied his talents to education. I worked with him in his capacity as an educator and an organizer. I am proud of the work we did on the Annenberg Challenge. Mind you, this was a bi-partisan effort -- a number of your fellow Republicans thought, as I do, that there was no problem with Bill Ayers being on the board.

While I was aware Ayers participated in the Weather Underground, I didn't consider it a big deal b/c nobody else participating considered it a big deal. When he committed those crimes I was eight years old. I have repeatedly denounced his actions.

I won't miss out on doing something productive to help America because I feel I need to insulate myself from some future political attack. That's a cowardly way of avoiding doing the right thing, and that's not what I'm about. Like the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, I believe politics is about making a difference in people's lives.

Bill Ayers isn't the problem here. He's not blowing up buildings, he's not breaking the law, he's working to improve American. Bill Ayers may still have strong opinions on the Vietnam war, but he is not, and has not been for many years, any form of terrorist. I deplore terrorism and have made no secret that I'll be taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan. Calling Bill Ayers a terrorist and making the claim that I associate with terrorists is both offensive and a lie, and frankly, John, it's dangerous for this country. You know as well as I do how emotional Americans are about terrorism. Let's save that anger for the real terrorists, the people who really hate America. I love America and all that she stands for, and you love America. Bill Ayers loves America too.

Surely you can think of someone, in your party or in mine, who has done some things that are wrong. Is it your position that they must be forever ostracized -- that there is no way for them to reform? Would you reject any association with even a reformed criminal, even if working with them would give you a chance to improve America? And if so, are you rejecting them because you believe that people cannot be reformed, or is it all about the possible attacks you might come under?

Finally: none of this is going to help the economy. None of this is going to help people who are losing their homes, losing their 401k's, losing their lives in Iraq. None of this is going to get people affordable healthcare, or get our troops home from Iraq... so, if you want to go down tht road, you're more than welcome to, and I'll defend myself, but it seems that I'm the only one who talks about and cares about what Main Street and the Middle Class are worried about. I think those issues are far more important than whether you want to play the guilt by association game.

Ok, it's long. It could be cut down. But it's honest, hits all the issues, and is an absolute minefield for McCain to respond to. There's nothing he can say beyond either doubling down on an evil, destructive line of attack -- and also saying it's more important than any of the real issues -- or backing down. And if he doubles down in it, in the process he opens himself up to all manner of reverse guilt-by-association attacks.

by Texas Gray Wolf 2008-10-10 10:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Like This

No offense, but what's the point of this exercise?

Obama is a better orator and a more efficient speaker than you (or I) will ever be, so what's the point? Do you think Obama doesn't have an answer prepared for the eventuality?

As a sidenote, there are easily half a dozen points in what you wrote that should never be spoken by Obama, and that Obama is wise enough not to speak.

1st horrible point -- "no big deal"? Bombing not a big deal? That's horrible, a soundbite that would haunt Obama up to election day if he was stupid enough to speak it.

2nd horrible point -- why the hell does he even need to defend Ayers as working to improve America? Why does he need to claim Ayers is a good man? Ayers isn't up for election, why should Obama waste his political capital in the service of Ayers'?

3rd horrible point - "know as well as I do how emotional Americans are about terrorism". Emotional? Dismissive and contemptuous. Not to mention that he doesn't seem to include himself in "Americans"

4th horrible point - "Surely you can think of someone, in your party or in mine, who has done some things that are wrong." Vagueness and abstraction to the point of meaningless. McCain would very easily answer back "I know nobody in my party who did anything as horribly wrong as bombing government buildings".

In short, I'm sorry, what you wrote would be a horrible response for Obama to make. And he certainly must know it.

by Aris Katsaris2 2008-10-10 10:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Like This

On your overall point, of course I agree. Obama is a better orator and speaker (and writer).

But I disagree with your specifics:

#1: Ok, only a partial disagreement; the phrasing could be better. But the context here is clearly that it's not the bombings that are "no big deal", it's serving with Ayers on a board. Serving with Ayers on a board is no big deal.

#2: This isn't about Ayers. This is putting McCain in a bind. He either has to say that politics are more important than country or concede the point. "Country First", right? So if it helps the country, wouldn't you work with someone who's reformed? Hmm?

#3: I disagree strongly with you here. This is a very pointed jab at McCain's recent use of 'terrorism' to whip his crowds into a frenzy. It could be rephrased so as to more include Obama (we Americans?) but the core point is critical.

#4: Again, I strongly disagree. If McCain tries that approach, it's disaster; Obama need only point to G. Gordon Liddy, who plotted murder and worked actively to undermine our democracy. It's a giant trap for McCain.

I'm not defensive about the writing -- in fact, I said that in the initial post. But I disagree with you strongly on content. The goal here is to pivot the entire character attack onto McCain and make him either put up or shut up. You can't let him off the hook for whipping up his crowds into a frenzy, nor "palling around" with G. Gordon Liddy, nor routinely putting anything but country first.

But you don't need to call him out on those, either. You can just create the minefield and let him negotiate it. If McCain gives an honorable and correct answer, it's no harm to him other than letting the Ayers charge die. But if he persists in shouting "Ayers! Ayers!" he's set himself up for an even bigger disaster.

by Texas Gray Wolf 2008-10-10 11:21AM | 0 recs
exactly

the moment the word "Ayers" comes out of McStain's mouth, Obama will bury him by painting him as out of touch on the issue that the vast majority of Americans think is most relevant to day.

by highgrade 2008-10-10 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: If McCain asks, what should BO say of Ayers?

Obama shouldn't spend too much time on Ayers because doing so dignifies the line of inquiry.  "Look, I was eight years old when Ayres committed his crimes, he was never my friend, the world financial system is melting down and you want to talk about this?"

That's it.

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-10-10 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: If McCain asks, what should BO say of Ayers?

Sure, like that a lot.  How about this

Well, I am relectutnant to spend a lot of time looking backwards while America wants to know what we are going to do now, but that seems all your campaign is capabable of doing?

John, the building is on fire, and one of your key advisors, Phil Gramm provided the gasoling and the match to Wall Street?

I was 8 at the time when Mr. Ayers was in the Weather Underground, but you were in Congress and were one of the guys helping Phil Gramm fill up the Gasoline Can that he handed to Wall Street to burn down America's Stock Market?

I know it's best for you to distract from your own Finacial Guru's key role in the melt down, but I really believe the American people want to know TODAY what we are going to do to fix today's problems NOW!

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-10 03:50PM | 0 recs

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