Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Politics of Personal Destruction

So the McCain camp is really gonna go there – they're going to accuse Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists," as Sarah Palin put it at a rally over the weekend. Palin is, of course, referring to Obama's tenuous link to William Ayers, a founding member of the radical antiwar Weather Underground group, which bombed the Pentagon in the 1960s. Now, no one in his right mind would dispute that the Weather Underground was a terrorist organization, and Bill Ayers was definitely a member. However, it took the media less than 24 hours to debunk Palin's intimation that Obama and Ayers were intimately connected. In fact, the very article she cited to accuse Obama had concluded that the two "were not particularly intimate."

Above: William Ayers

The truth is that Obama and Ayers, now a college professor, were both socially active in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s. During the 90s, they served together on a couple of the same charity boards. They had a nodding acquaintance with each other. Ayers held a 1995 fundraiser for Obama's campaign – of his own volition – and contributed $200 to Obama's presidential bid. That's it. Believe it or not, conservatives, Obama had nothing to do with the Weather Underground's bombing spree. He was all of 8 years old at the time.

The fact is that local politics is a small world, and if two people are politically and socially active, they are going to serve on a few of the same boards. That's it. Doesn't mean you're pals. Doesn't mean you support the philosophy of everyone else on the board. To suggest it does is asinine. Obama has publicly stated that Ayers' radical activities were despicable – far more than John McCain has done with one of his radical acquaintances (more on that in a minute).

McCain is playing a dangerous game here. Look, the phrase "Obama is palling around with terrorists" is inflammatory, and it is racially tinged. That is the stone-cold truth, and only an idiot would deny it. It is a phrase designed to subconsciously appeal to those who are still convinced Obama is a closet Muslim (false), who are secretly terrified that this uppity Negro might actually get elected. And appealing to people like that is dangerous. Why? Because it incites hatred. Not disagreement with policy or politics, but personal hatred. And if, God forbid, some redneck cracker takes a shot at Obama, successful or not, John McCain and Sarah Palin are going to be partially to blame.

At any rate, since Old Man Winter and Bible Spice decided to go with the "Obama's connections are suspect" line, they have legitimized attacks on their own personal histories. Here are a few to get you started. Note that I have only named primary sources for these. In a few instances, I did use secondary sources; however, all such sources were reputable news agencies. That means no chain e-mails, no liberal partisan blogs like ThinkProgress or DailyKos, no campaign web pages from either side. Only recognized news organizations such as the Associated Press. I know McCain says the media is in the tank for Obama. McCain is an idiot. He can have his own opinion of the media, but he is not entitled to his own facts. The public record, from which these stories are drawn, does not have a liberal or conservative bias. Contrary to what Fox News would tell you, there are very rarely two sides to a story. There is one side: objective fact. The following are objective facts about John McCain and Sarah Palin:

1: I'll see your "Mild acquaintance with a former terrorist" and raise you "Continuing friendship with a certified nutcase":

John McCain continues to enjoy close ties to Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy. In fact, McCain has repeatedly appeared on Liddy's conservative talk radio show, the last time in November of 2007. On that show, McCain praised Liddy for his "continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

The "principals" Liddy holds so dear are the ones that told him it would be okay to break into the offices of the DNC to plant bugs and photograph documents. He also proposed the kidnapping of antiwar activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican convention. Oh, yeah, and he planned the murder (thankfully never carried out) of an anti-Nixon newspaper columnist. Liddy spent more than four years in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, but continues to insist that he did nothing wrong. In fact, he has said repeatedly that he was jailed as "a prisoner of war."

Above: A raving lunatic

Following the 1994 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, Liddy publicly advocated the murder of federal law enforcement agents. "Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms," he told his listeners. "Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests. ... Kill the sons of bitches." After a public outcry, Liddy backed off: he said he should have recommended groin shots instead of head shots. He also bragged that he had targets named "Bill" and Hillary" for pistol practice.

McCain made a big deal over a $200 contribution William Ayers made to the Obama campaign. He doesn't make such a big deal out of the fact that Liddy has donated more than $5,000 to him over the years – including a $1,000 contribution in this election cycle alone. And unlike Obama, who never had anything more than a casual acquaintance with Ayers, McCain has had a long, warm relationship with Liddy – one that can be proven through the record.
"With friends like these…" – Chicago Tribune, May 4, 2008

2: Why does Sarah Palin hate America?

Over the years, Sarah Palin has actively courted the Alaska Independence Party, a radical secessionist group whose founder, Joe Vogler, told an interviewer in 1991: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. ... And I won't be buried under their damn flag." While Palin herself does not seem to have been a member, her husband, Todd, was registered as a member of the AIP from 1995 through 2002, changing his party only when Palin decided to run for public office. Palin has continued to be friendly with the party, however. Witnesses say she attended the AIP's 1994 convention, and it is beyond dispute that she attended the 2000 convention, and actually addressed the convention (by video) in 2006 and 2008.

Above: Sarah Palin

At the 2007 North American Secessionist Convention, AIP Vice Chairman Dexter Clark described Palin as an "AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town – that was a nonpartisan job. But you get along to go along. She eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics…" Apparently so, since she's currently accused of violating a bunch of them.

Palin was apparently still impressed with the AIP as recently as this year; she told the party in her 2008 address: "I'm delighted to welcome you to the 2008 Alaska Independence Party Convention. ... Keep up the good work!" To which I'm sure she added: "Doggone it!" So here we have a woman of obviously limited intelligence, currently embroiled in an ethics investigation – an investigation, by the way, which she has actively tried to cripple – whose secessionist husband has been referred to as a "shadow governor" (because he sits in on meetings and apparently makes decisions), and who as recently as this year told a violently secessionist group that they do "good work." Told them in her capacity as governor of the state! Great job on the VP pick, there, John.
"Palin's secession flirtation" – Los Angeles Times, Sept. 4, 2008


And now, here's some stuff that's not quite as scary, but still illustrative of the fundamental dishonesty of these two running as "reformers" or "political outsiders."

3: Let it ride:

McCain had close ties to both Las Vegas and Indian gambling interests, and reportedly would go on weekend "betting marathons" in Vegas as often as once a month.

Above: John McCain's first
Vegas weekend

As Indian gaming became politically unpopular, McCain distanced himself from Indian gaming interests, leading the charge against disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. However, a member of McCain's "inner circle" – his chief political strategist at the time – was paid $100,000 over four months to act as a "consultant" for one of the tribes caught up in the scandal. McCain has stopped taking money from Indian gaming interests – but he still accepts money from the lobbyists who represent them.
"For McCain and Team, a Host of Ties to Gambling" – New York Times, Sept. 27, 2008

4: Palin charges taxpayers for sleeping in her own bed, then dodges her taxes

As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin charged the state a per diem to sleep at her own house rather than in the state capital of Juneau. The payments averaged $890 per month over and above her salary as governor. She also failed to report those per diems, or travel reimbursements, on her income tax. The McCain campaign insists this was not taxable income. The McCain campaign is lying. Under IRS rules, Palin lived close enough to Juneau to consider her travel merely commuting, thereby rendering any reimbursement taxable income.
"Palin's Tax Return Missing Travel Reimbursements" – NPR.org, Oct. 4, 2008

5: John McCain costs taxpayers billions, then dodges his taxes:

Slate Magazine was talking about this one way back in 2000, when most of the mainstream media was famously "in the tank" for McCain.

McCain was famously one of the Keating Five, whose interference with regulatory boards on behalf of banker Charles Keating cost taxpayers $2.6 billion. In addition, investors at Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan lost $190 million. The Lincoln S&L bailout was the largest of the Savings and Loan bailouts – and of course, the S&L bailout as a whole was the largest bailout in history. Until recently, anyway. Keating was convicted of fraud and served four years in prison.

The 1990 ethics investigation of the Keating Five revealed that McCain had received at least $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating. He and his family also took at least nine trips at Keating's expense, including at least three to Keating's vacation retreat in the Bahamas. McCain did not report these trips – as House rules required – until compelled to do so by the Ethics Committee. He also failed to report the trips as gifts on his tax returns, according to an AP report. That's basically tax evasion, of course, but McCain solved the problem, years later, by making a sizable "contribution" to the U.S. Treasury.
"Is John McCain a Crook?" – Slate, Feb. 18, 2000

And I'm not even going to talk about Sarah Palin getting the witches driven out of her.


So there you have it. You can expect more character assassination from the McCain camp in weeks to come, since they've admitted that they want to get away from the economy -- a subject on which McCain's record is indefensible. They've also pretty much admitted that they're going to try to make the race about Obama's character. As you can see, they've got no room to talk there, either.


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