As the McCain campaign has ramped up its attacks on Barack Obama for his connection with William Ayers, Democrats have debated various ways to fight back.
Here’s a really good approach, written by Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman. The author is not an Obama spokesperson, and even thinks Obama should have condemned Ayers more forcefully than he did. But he very dramatically exposes the shameless hypocrisy and dishonesty behind the McCain attacks. His argument is calm, reasoned and logical enough to convince moderates but is at the same time sharp and powerful enough to use in even the most free-swinging debates with McCain campaign spokespeople.
Here’s how Chapman starts off:
Can a presidential candidate justify a long and friendly relationship with someone who, back in the 1970s, extolled violence and committed crimes in the name of a radical ideology — and who has never shown remorse or admitted error? When the candidate in question is Barack Obama, John McCain says no. But when the candidate in question is John McCain, he’s not so sure.
Obama has been justly criticized for his ties to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, who in 1995 hosted a campaign event for Obama and in 2001 gave him a $200 contribution. The two have also served together on the board of a foundation. When their connection became known, McCain minced no words: “I think not only repudiation but an apology for ever having anything to do with an unrepentant terrorist is due the American people.”
What McCain didn’t mention is that he has his own Bill Ayers — in the form of G. Gordon Liddy. Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him.
Was Liddy really a dangerous criminal extremist who advocated violence? Here’s how Media Matters for America summarizes his record:
Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in “if necessary”; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a “gangland figure” to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap “leftist guerillas” at the 1972 Republican National Convention (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the Watergate break-ins were.)
During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents…On one show he said “Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests. … Kill the sons of bitches.” On another he recommended shooting ATF agents in the groin.
How close are McCain and Liddy? As Chapman says:
At least as close as Obama and Ayers appear to be. In 1998, Liddy’s home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator’s campaigns — including $1,000 this year.
Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as “an old friend,” and McCain sounded like one. “I’m proud of you, I’m proud of your family,” he gushed. “It’s always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.”
Chapman concludes his column as follows:
Given Liddy’s record, it’s hard to see why McCain would touch him with a 10-foot pole. On the contrary, he should be returning his donations and shunning his show. Yet the senator shows no qualms about associating with Liddy — or celebrating his service to their common cause.
How does McCain explain his howling hypocrisy on the subject? He doesn’t. I made repeated inquiries to his campaign aides, which they refused to acknowledge, much less answer. On this topic, the pilot of the Straight Talk Express would rather stay parked in the garage.
That’s an odd policy for someone who is so forthright about his rival’s responsibility. McCain thinks Obama should apologize for associating with a criminal extremist. To which Obama might reply: After you.
If anything, the truth is that McCain’s connection to Liddy is vastly more direct and troubling than Obama’s serving on a foundation board with Ayers. After all, Obama forcefully repudiated Ayers violence while McCain essentially justifies Liddy. To be sure, there are many other ways to challenge the McCain attacks floating around right now, but this approach has a lot to offer. Dems can post it on web discussions, send it to editors and commentators or use it in face-to-face debates. It offers compelling proof that McCain’s embrace of this line of attack is a cynical desperation move and not a sincere political argument.