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Geoff Ellingwood

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Politicking [Oct. 5th, 2008|09:48 pm]
Geoff Ellingwood
So the McCain campaign has gone full-on offensive with their tactic of attacking Obama's character. The primary vector so far seems to have been Obama's associations with William Ayers, one of the founders of the Weather Underground. Admittedly, back in the 1960's, they were Very Bad People(tm). They set off bombs and were what just about everyone would agree was a terrorist organization. And that was forty years ago. Now? Well, Ayers is a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. And yes, he and Obama live in the same neighborhood, and have served on a couple of different community organizations - all charitable ones.

Sarah Palin says that this means that Obama is "palling with terrorists". Really? According to CNN's Fact Checker, not exactly. "CNN's review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which the two men were involved."

Meanwhile, a slightly different story is surfacing from the left side. The Daily KOS has a good summary, along with links to the original posting (it's in Norwegian, so translations may be required). Suffice it to say that, in 1988, Obama gave a complete stranger $103 in an airport to help her check an extra bag. Since she was taking everything she owned to Norway to get married, this was very important to her. Further details on the website.

I think the contrast is quite clear. The Obama campaign isn't trotting this story out, even though she received a formal letter from Obama in 2006 when he was a US Senator. They also aren't harping non-stop on the Keating Five scandal, from a different economic crisis, in another era. Instead, they're continuing to talk about what their candidates will do to make the situation better.

McCain, on the other hand, is attacking. And using out-and-out baseless accusations that one could easily call fear-mongering.

[User Picture]From: stryck
2008-10-06 02:37 pm (UTC)
Stanley Kurtz did his own research into the subject.
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[User Picture]From: neppyman
2008-10-06 05:29 pm (UTC)
Good article; thanks for the link.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call the policies "radical", although they certainly are left-leaning. But, considering that it's Chicago, it's not terribly surprising.

What really strikes me is that there are plenty of avenues to legitimately criticize Obama on - you could easily say that he has pushed left-leaning policies on schools, and cite these sorts of things as evidence. That would force Obama to go on the defensive, and to either refute his politics of that age, or to defend them anew.

Instead, the McCain campaign is going over-the-top and focusing on his association with Ayers. This is the kind of attack that Obama can largely ignore, because anyone looking will see that he can't possibly be any kind of threat now. Let's face it; if he were, he wouldn't be a professor at a major university.

I have the feeling that the methods of attack that the McCain campaign are choosing are too extreme, and will backfire.
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[User Picture]From: stryck
2008-10-06 07:01 pm (UTC)
There are professors at major universities that give money to the PLO, pretend to be things they aren't, and plagiarize publications. And they never get dismissed, because they have tenure.

The problem is that I don't see Obama himself as having any core beliefs he really stands for. Instead, he seems to adopt to whatever people around him want. A typical trait for a politician, but a dangerous one in an executive. If he'd surrounded himself with different people, I might have shrugged it away, but his youth and early adulthood are full of people who preach (literally in at least one case) extreme rhetoric and actively try to teach others to be like them.

I find the association to be troubling, because Ayers was a terrorist, and in 2001, said that he had no regrets. That he didn't do enough. He wouldn't even rule out the possibility of never doing it again. And that's why Obama's team makes this debate center on the question of "palling around". Even the most partisan fact-checker has a hard time coming up with reasons to deny Ayers' own words, but they can do everything they can to make it seem not to matter.

The burden of what matters is pretty one-sided.
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[User Picture]From: neppyman
2008-10-06 08:49 pm (UTC)
I certainly agree with you that Obama has associated with some extreme people in the past, and that they have made significant strides in his behalf.

I'm not sure I agree with your view of him as not having any core beliefs, but I'll accept that as a criticism of him, instead of those he's associated with.

My question is, why not use that as ammunition? Bill Clinton took a lot of heat for his flip-flopping (Doonsbury, to this day, only portrays him as a hot, buttered waffle). If that's really such an issue, why is the McCain campaign talking non-stop about things and people from the past? Why not focus on the current things?

Agree with Obama or not, I think you have to admit that he's weathering this attack very well. He is not getting angry or defensive, and he's not lashing out, either. I certainly respect that from him and his campaign.
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[User Picture]From: stryck
2008-10-06 10:50 pm (UTC)
Obama gets one big advantage by only serving 140-some days in the Senate before running for President - he doesn't have much of a record to point to.

McCain and Palin have criticized Obama several times on recent matters as well. Obama's tax plan would affect small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year. Palin pointed that out at the VP debate (and Biden said it wouldn't matter because most small businesses make less than that - and under Obama, I suspect a good many more are going to make sure they don't cross that line). Biden did state that he and Obama were against clean coal, then denied it ever happened at the VP debate when Palin brought it up. Obama said he'd meet Admadinejhad without preconditions. Biden denied that, too.

Still, trying to compete against Obama is like trying to box fog. The newspapers won't investigate his past, and he hasn't done enough recently to build up a record.

And his past should matter. The past is prologue, after all.
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