It ain’t no thing

ABC is getting terrible reviews for the Democratic primary debate the network hosted this week.

You’re off to a bad start when you choose a moderator with direct ties to one of the two candidates. (George Stephanopoulos was “a senior political adviser to the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and later became Clinton’s communications director.”)

Andrew Sullivan is livid:

No questions on the environment, none on terror, none on interrogation, none on torture, none on education, none on spending, none on healthcare, none on Iran … but four separate questions in the first hour about a lapel-pin, Bitter-gate, Wright-gate and Ayers.

At one point, Obama was asked:  “Does Jeremiah Wright love America as much as you?” Which leads me to ask:  wtf?!

53 minutes passed before the moderators finally asked a policy question (about the Iraq war).

Glenn Greenwald comments:

My favorite (unintentionally revealing) media commentary about the debate is from The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz, who devoted paragraph after paragraph to describing the substance-free “issues” that consumed most of the debate … Obama’s “remarks about small-town values, questions about his patriotism and the incendiary sermons of his former pastor … gaffes, missteps and past statements” … and, at the end of the article, they added:

The debate also touched on Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, taxes, the economy, guns and affirmative action.

It’s just not possible to express the wretched state of our establishment press better than that sentence does.

By the end of the debate, the studio audience was turning hostile:

Here’s Obama’s response:

There’s an interesting moment two and a half minutes into the video. Obama brushes some imaginary debris off his shoulders, and the audience goes wild.

Translation:  It ain’t no thing! Ben Smith explains.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 11:48:03

    It’s certainly true that the Obama supporters are livid at seeing their hero finally get some tough questioning, but whether they are representative of the wider audience is somewhat uncertain. As for Stephanopulos, I suspect he got the gig because he’s ABC’s senior Washington correspondent, not because of his links to the Clintons – in any case, as your own link to his wikipedia page shows, he left the Clinton administration before the 1996 election in circumstances sufficiently strained that Bill had to apologise for them in his autobiography. It’s not a given he would be biased in Hillary’s favour.

    As for Sullivan’s complaint – this is, what, the 21st debate between the two? I suspect policy issues have been more than adequately covered by now. If there’s a question that Stephanopoulos or Gibson could have asked about health care or Iraq that hadn’t been asked a dozen times already by now I’d be interested if you could tell me what it is. The moderators did exactly the right thing by asking tough questions on recent news stories that shed a light on the character of the candidates – after all, a candidate can change his policies, but it’s a lot harder to change his character.

    And the light that’s been shone on Obama’s character is not a comfortable one (another reason I suspect why his fans are so upset by this debate). After all, we have recently learnt the following about Obama –

    1) He’s a man who claims to be a post-racial, unifying candidate who picked as his preacher a hate-filled, racist bigot (not to mention appointing him to a campaign committee advising on religious issues despite claiming he had no links to the campaign);

    2) He’s a man who claims to be qualified for the job of Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States who has spent years in a friendly relationship with a terrorist who when asked (on September 11th, 2001!) whether there was anything he regretted about his attacks said only that he hadn’t done more;

    3) He’s a man who claims to be a devout Christian and yet when giving a presumably private speech to an audience of San Francisco liberals gives a classically Marxist “opium of the people” explanation for the religiosity of people less privileged than himself.

    4) He’s a man who claims to show loyalty and tolerance in his personal relationships but is prepared to smear those closest to him to get out of a moment’s political difficulty – after comparing his grandmother to Jeremiah Wright to get out of that story he has repeated the performance by comparing a Republican senator he is (probably was, by now) on friendly terms to the Weathermen (senator Coburn believes abortion should be illegal – in the Obama worldview this is apparently as great a crime as deliberately setting off bombs on US government property with the intent to murder hundreds of people). As scripture almost said, “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life.”

    To put it mildly, these contradictions shriek that he’s a figure who is determined to be all things to all men and is not prepared to say or do anything that will compromise his chances of the top job. A typical politician perhaps (certainly typical for Chicago), but not the Second Coming.

    So yes, the moderators were perfectly entitled to try to pin down just what sort of man he is, and if the reality is somewhat less inspiring than the principled new paradigm we have been promised then we deserve to know, no matter how many fans feel offended. He’s running for the job of POTUS after all, his character is not irrelevant.

    And additionally, this debate provided additional evidence of something I’ve been worrying about for a long time – if he can’t face down the likes of George Stephanopoulos without falling apart, then how on earth is he going to cope when put one on one in a room with a genuinely hard case like Vladimir Putin? Can we really afford to take the risk? (For all her numerous sins, I really don’t see Hillary blinking in that sort of confrontation and McCain of course has already faced down far worse.)

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 13:36:52

    (1) Bullshit. You’re putting the most uncharitable interpretation on the Rev. Wright business. Everyone acknowledges that Rev. Wright did a lot of good work in his community — e.g. on AIDS. White people who have attended the church say that they were very well received — not driven out by offensive black nationalist, anti-American rants. He didn’t stand for positions, week in and week out, that would lead someone of Obama’s sensibilities to leave the church.

    In any event, there’s only one question that matters: does Barack Obama share Rev. Wright’s worst sentiments? The answer, clearly, is No. Any consideration beyond that is just political gamesmanship.

    (2) Bullshit. Again, the question is what does Obama believe. Do you think he supports setting off bombs to achieve political goals? Of course not.

    As for Ayers, he is an established figure in Chicago politics. Maybe he shouldn’t be — I don’t live in Chicago, and I don’t pretend to know what Ayers stands for. But of course Obama has crossed paths with other Chicago politicians. It’s a guilt-by-association argument — pure bullshit.

    (3) Bullshit. “Bittergate” is a manufactured controversy based on a statement that came out mangled. Any reasonable observer can see the point Obama was making, but Obama’s political opponents would rather put an uncharitable spin on it.

    For example, implying that Obama is a Marxist. I thought you were a fair-minded individual, Random, but sometimes you provide clear evidence to the contrary.

    (4) I’ve forgotten what precisely Coburn said. But it isn’t just that Coburn opposes abortion. What he said is less easily excused than that.

    But this is the only point you make that has any merit to it. I don’t think Obama should have embarrassed Coburn to make a point. But there’s no question, he was rattled in this debate. Some of his answers were poor.

    How would Obama stand up to Putin? It’s a slightly different scenario, isn’t it?

    He’s running against a fellow Democrat right now — a Democrat who is prepared to destroy the party’s electoral prospects rather than lose the nomination. Obama is not willing to play the same game, so he is somewhat hamstrung in how forcefully he can strike back.

    And attacking ABC during the debate would have been a no-win proposition. So he tried to grin and bear it, the best he could, while respectfully objecting to some of the questions.

    I have no doubt that Obama could stand up to Putin just fine. If you don’t see it that way, OK. But your comment makes it very clear that you’re not looking objectively at Obama.

    The problem isn’t with me, viewing Obama as the second coming. I know better than that. The problem is with you, and your right-wing ideologue colleagues — smearing Obama with allegations that don’t fit the facts.

    That’s how we got eight years of George W. Bush. Kerry, for example, was depicted as a coward instead of a decorated soldier. And Bush, who dodged the draft, was viewed as more of a manly-man.

    I guess the result (electing Bush) is OK with you, but most Americans beg to differ. Last approval rankings I saw were what, 28%? I hope Americans are smart enough not to repeat the same reprehensible political process that led to such a deplorable electoral result.

    And you would encourage them to do exactly that — choose their next President on the basis of bullshit smears. Shame on you.

    Reply

  3. Random
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 19:00:24

    I seem to have struck a nerve, to the extent that was due to the abrasiveness of my tone and not the substance of my criticisms, apologies. But…

    “1) You’re putting the most uncharitable interpretation on the Rev. Wright business. Everyone acknowledges that Rev. Wright did a lot of good work in his community — e.g. on AIDS.”

    He has also been a vigorous advocate of the conspiracy theory that AIDS was developed by the US government as a means of inflicting genocide on black people. How this helps his community, I have no idea.

    In any case I would feel it’s only fair to mention that pastor John Hagee also has a strong record of charitable work in his community going back decades, and you never saw fit to mention this in McCain’s defence when you were denouncing him for meeting with Hagee just once. I’m assuming this is simple ignorance rather than a double standard, but I’m also guessing that, unlike with Wright, it never occurred to you to look for any mitigating factors were Hagee was concerned.

    “He didn’t stand for positions, week in and week out, that would lead someone of Obama’s sensibilities to leave the church.”

    You know, I don’t often have much time for anything Hilary Clinton says, but when she said in the debate that she simply couldn’t understand how somebody in Obama’s position could remain in Trinity when, in his very first sermon after 9/11 Wright chose to blame the US for the attack, I thought she hit the nail on the head. Apparently though this wasn’t something “that would lead someone of Obama’s sensibilities to leave the church.”

    And to answer your question, no I don’t believe Obama shares Wright’s worst sentiments. He clearly has no problem with Wright holding such opinions however, so I’ll ask again a question I’ve asked before – is it really appropriate for a candidate for president of the United States to regard such views as merely the sort of things about which civilised men could disagree but still be friends, rather than regarding opposition to such views as a fundamental matter of principle?

    “(2) Again, the question is what does Obama believe. Do you think he supports setting off bombs to achieve political goals? Of course not.”

    No, but the same problem rears it’s head here as it does with Wright – he clearly has no problems with associating with people who do support such things, and we are entitled to ask as to whether or not this should be a red line. To repeat – Obama is a man campaigning to become commander in chief who sees nothing wrong with having a political relationship (to use the mildest possible phrasing) with someone who boasts about bombing the Pentagon and whose sole regret is that he couldn’t do more.

    “As for Ayers, he is an established figure in Chicago politics. Maybe he shouldn’t be”

    There’s no “maybe” about it – he should be in prison for the rest of his life on a charge of treason. The fact that he isn’t is entirely down to the gross incompetence of the prosecutors when he was finally brought to trial. And the point isn’t really true anyway – Ayers is an academic of some minor note but he has no real political sway at all. Whereas you can half-excuse Obama’s links with Wright on the grounds that he had to swallow some principles for the sake of his career, there is no such argument where Ayers is concerned – there is no significant ex-terrorist community out there that could be swung by Ayer’s endorsement. Obama simply didn’t see anything that could be a deal-breaker about Ayer’s views or history.

    “(3) “Bittergate” is a manufactured controversy based on a statement that came out mangled.”

    This I don’t buy. Even Obama’s bitterest critics acknowledge he is a superb public speaker, it’s a skill that has got him out of numerous dangerous positions, and I genuinely respect his talent in this regard (whilst maintaining that we don’t normally elect the speechwriters). He is not somebody who routinely mangles his words. I don’t think he did so this time either – I think he was talking to a like-minded audience in circumstances he thought were private and shared his actual views of the sort of people who have not been swayed by his candidacy. it seems like the classic definition of a scandal as a politician caught accidentally telling the truth.

    “For example, implying that Obama is a Marxist.”

    You have half a point here – I wasn’t implying he was a Marxist I was implying he was a hypocrite, but I can see were you’re coming from. I only said Marxist because “opium of the people” is a direct quote and I was attributing it – if I’d said “secular liberal” or even “atheist” instead I suspect you’d have had no trouble understanding what I meant.

    And no, I don’t believe he’s an atheist, but I do believe he is at the very least highly secular and probably agnostic. He certainly is not as committed a Christian as he finds it convenient to pretend to be when dealing with the likes of Wright and Trinity UCC.

    “(4) I’ve forgotten what precisely Coburn said. But it isn’t just that Coburn opposes abortion. What he said is less easily excused than that.”

    I forget the precise words myself, but the controversy is about a statement he made to the effect that if abortion was illegal it could be treated as murder, and then abortionists would be subject to the full force of the criminal law, up to an including the death penalty in those states where this is retained for murder. This was promptly spun by his opponents as “Coburn calls for doctors who carry out abortions to be killed”, which needless to say bears no relation to his actual remarks but is the justification for Obama linking his name to Ayers.

    “I have no doubt that Obama could stand up to Putin just fine. If you don’t see it that way, OK. ”

    Everything I have seen about Obama indicates that he is fine – even impressive – in a situation were he can prepare in advance and control the flow of events. He is much less impressive however – even prone to panic – in a situation where he has to think on his feet under pressure. This is harmless enough when he is in a debate, but when he is a genuinely critical situation with somebody like Putin (or Hu Jintao, or Ahmedinejad, or Kim Jong Il … ) trying to squeeze him for every advantage, such traits will be disastrous.

    “But your comment makes it very clear that you’re not looking objectively at Obama.”

    It may not seem it to you, but this is the outcome of me looking objectively at Obama. Last year I rather liked what I saw about him – I thought he was a decent guy with a lot to recommend him but too green to be president this time round. I did however think he would be an excellent VP, which would give him the experience he was lacking and make him an unstoppable candidate for president in 4 or 8 years time – I can link you to posts where I actually say this (granted, mostly at Jewish Atheist’s place rather than here) if you like. However the more I’ve learnt about him the more concerned I’ve got, the final straw was probably the Ayers business – how somebody in his position could not see why, especially after 9/11, that a creature like that is simply not acceptable company for any civilised human being, never mind a putative POTUS, is beyond me.

    “smearing Obama with allegations that don’t fit the facts.”

    His links with Tony Rezko are fact; his links with Jeremiah Wright are fact; his links with William Ayers are fact. What are the allegations that do not fit these facts?

    “That’s how we got eight years of George W. Bush.” As I believe I mentioned a few posts back, my first choice for 2000 was Colin Powell (who I suspect you would also have preferred if we had to have a Republican that year).

    “Kerry, for example, was depicted as a coward instead of a decorated soldier. And Bush, who dodged the draft, was viewed as more of a manly-man.”

    Kerry was a man who threw away those decorations when it suited him, and then reclaimed them when *that* suited him. People were entitled to take his record at less than face value. And Bush flew jet fighters against Soviet infiltrators flying out of Cuba (I know men who did much the same job in the RAF against Soviet planes coming round Norway – it was difficult and dangerous with a constant risk that a wrong move could start WW3) – yes he was no John McCain, but he was no Bill Clinton either. When people talk about joining the National Guard as equivalent to draft dodging they mean pen pushing in some cushy headquarters unit, not flying F-102s wingtip to wingtip with Soviet nuclear bombers.

    “And you would encourage them to do exactly that — choose their next President on the basis of bullshit smears. Shame on you.”

    Bullshit to you too. I’m on record on this blog as hoping and believing that McCain vs. Obama would give us the cleanest campaign we have seen in years (I still have some hopes in that direction, but I’m less optimistic than I was – largely because Obama is not as clean as I thought he was back then). I have not made a single criticism of Obama that is not based in solid fact (check if you like – you will search in vain for a post from me that makes an issue of his middle name or repeats the absurd allegation of him being a muslim infiltrator, for example). I still want a clean campaign – but it’s not a smear if it’s true and relevant, no matter how badly some people wish it wasn’t.

    Reply

  4. Random
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 19:07:24

    BTW I have no idea where that smiley after Kim Jong Il’s name came from – he doesn’t normally make me laugh!

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    Apr 21, 2008 @ 10:47:01

    • I’ll clean up that smiley for you. WordPress generates a smiley automatically if you have a semi-colon followed by a parenthesis.

    Pastor John Hagee also has a strong record of charitable work in his community going back decades.

    Obama has walked a fine line, denouncing Rev. Wright’s remarks without disowning the man himself. McCain, on the other hand, wants to whitewash Hagee’s remarks about Catholics, and accepts the superficial assessment that Hagee is pro-Israel. (Hagee certainly isn’t, in any way that a Jewish person could feel good about).

    Beyond that, I haven’t looked into Hagee’s record because it has been a non-issue for the McCain candidacy. The media are giving McCain a pass, while holding Obama to a different standard. As a result, we’ve learned a lot more about Wright than we’ve learned about Hagee.

    She simply couldn’t understand how somebody in Obama’s position could remain in Trinity when, in his very first sermon after 9/11 Wright chose to blame the US for the attack.

    Was Obama in church that Sunday? He has said that he wasn’t aware of the most egregious remarks made by his pastor; also that he would have confronted Wright about those remarks if he had heard them.

    You defend your criticism on the grounds that you’re interested in what this data says about Obama’s character. I’ll tell you what it says to me. It says that Obama tends to overlook people’s faults and focuses instead on the good that they do.

    If you ask him about the faults, he’s aware of them. But he is gracious about them, as you would be with a relative who occasionally says an offensive thing. Those faults do not constitute the sum total of the person that Obama knows; therefore he is able to work with people whose views are very different from his own, where they have a shared commitment to a specific goal.

    That’s a character issue, and it’s a trait that I’d like to see in the next President. As opposed to Bush’s binary world view: good guys / evil-doers; if you’re not 100% with us, you’re the enemy. The world needs the next American president to be a bridge-builder, which is what we’ll get if Obama is elected.

    Instead, Obama’s critics demand that he denounce everybody who has a black mark on their record. You’re a Christian, Random: don’t you acknowledge that there are some black marks on your personal record? Would you want to be written off, as if those black marks were the sum total of Random the man?

    His links with Tony Rezko are fact; his links with Jeremiah Wright are fact; his links with William Ayers are fact. What are the allegations that do not fit these facts?

    The facts are (a) that nobody has come up with any evidence of a quid pro quo where Rezko is concerned — though the Chicago media has done some serious digging; (b) that Obama has denounced Wright’s remarks, and there is no evidence that Obama himself ever shared Wright’s anti-American views; and (c) that politicians in Chicago, including Obama, inevitably cross paths with Ayers, who is part of the political establishment in that city. (Using “political” in a wide sense, not necessarily meaning electoral politics.)

    In your view, Obama is not as clean as you first thought he was. In my view, there’s no dirt on Obama in any of these fact situations.

    On the contrary: Obama’s critics are desperately looking for dirt, and the best they can do is demonstrate that he is in contact with some dirty fellows. Ergo, guilt by association.

    Reply

  6. Random
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 04:47:31

    “Obama has walked a fine line, denouncing Rev. Wright’s remarks without disowning the man himself.”

    Obama only denounced Wrights remarks when it became politically essential for him to do so. There is no evidence at all that Obama denounced them at the time they were made, and it’s a point of fact that Wright continued to be involved with the Obama campaign until at least March this year (despite denials from Obama himself that this was the case). So yes, there is room to doubt the sincerity of Obama’s denunciations.

    “McCain, on the other hand, wants to whitewash Hagee’s remarks about Catholics, and accepts the superficial assessment that Hagee is pro-Israel. (Hagee certainly isn’t, in any way that a Jewish person could feel good about).”

    McCain specifically denounced Hagee’s remarks on Catholics, and a lot of Jews will disagree with you on your other point.

    ” The media are giving McCain a pass, while holding Obama to a different standard. ”

    Obama *should* be held to a different standard – he has had a relationship of 20 years standing with Wright, hails the man as his spiritual mentor, asked him to officiate at his wedding and baptise his children, and until recently appointed him to a leadership role with his campaign. There is simply no comparison to McCain holding one meeting with Hagee, collecting an endorsement, and then running for cover. I really am surprised you seem to have difficulty understanding this point. McCain’s relationship with Hagee is much more like Obama’s with Al Sharpton – which the media have also been pretty much uninterested in.

    “Was Obama in church that Sunday? He has said that he wasn’t aware of the most egregious remarks made by his pastor; also that he would have confronted Wright about those remarks if he had heard them.”

    An awful lot of Americans were in church that Sunday, for obvious reasons. I would be astonished if someone as religious as Barack Obama claims to be (or for that matter a politician as ambitious as he clearly is) wasn’t among them. And even if he wasn’t in Trinity that Sunday (he was an Illinois state senator representing the district that included Trinity at the time, there was no obvious reason for him to be anywhere else) I find it difficult to believe that he would be uninterested in what his spiritual mentor of many years standing had had to say on such an important and traumatic occasion – and as we know, the service was televised. So no, I don’t believe that Obama was unaware of what Wright said that Sunday until it hit YouTube a couple of months ago. I think this is a classic example of a politician who feels forced to tell a lie because he knows how dangerous the truth would be. And yes, I am aware that solid evidence for this is lacking. But if there is a flaw in my logic I would be grateful if it could be pointed out, because despite what you think of me, I don’t actually like the conclusion I’m being led to here.

    “Those faults do not constitute the sum total of the person that Obama knows; therefore he is able to work with people whose views are very different from his own, where they have a shared commitment to a specific goal.”

    Up to a point Stephen, but only up to a point. I can see how that argument can made with respect to Wright (I don’t agree with it, but I do see how it can be made – the Wright who makes loathsome conspiracy theories about the US government planning genocide is the same Wright who received a presidential commendation in regard to his work as a marine medic in the White House during the Johnson administration, after all).

    But Ayers? The man was a terrorist, not a loudmouth. He believed – still believes – that his political views gave him the right to kill people, and his only regret about that period in his life is that he didn’t do more. There was an article on RealClearPolitics the other day that summed this up better than I could hope to – the conclusion hits the nail on the head:

    “Dohrn [Ayer’s wife and fellow terrorist] has likewise rationalized the explosions, claiming that “our acts of resistance were tiny and symbolic.” She even went to prison for refusing to testify about an armored car robbery involving her confederates. That crime was not tiny or symbolic to the two police officers or the security guard who were shot to death in the process.

    All this is public record, and Barack Obama would have to be in a coma not to know it. Yet he showed no qualms about consorting with Ayers and Dohrn.

    It’s hard to imagine he would be so indulgent if we learned that John McCain had a long association with a former Klansman who used to terrorize African-Americans. Obama’s conduct exposes a moral blind spot about these onetime terrorists, who get a pass because they a) fall on the left end of the spectrum and b) haven’t planted any bombs lately.

    You can tell a lot about someone from his choice of friends. What this friendship reveals is that when it comes to practicing sound moral hygiene, Obama has work to do and no interest in doing it.”

    Stephen, I have read both your blogs for a long time now, and I know how passionate and committed a pacifist you are. It’s not a viewpoint I always agree with, but it’s one I feel it does me good to hear, which is why despite everything I keep coming back. I have seen how angry you get at every piece of evidence that emerges connecting George Bush with torturers, but here we have actual, real evidence that Barack Obama consorts with genuine, unrepentant terrorists and… you make excuses. I really, truly, do not understand the disconnect.

    As I said, I can understand the politics as usual (albeit corrupt, Chicago-style politics as usual) argument for Obama’s links with Wright and even Rezko (and the latter are not as clean as you make out) – though we should bear in mind that Obama’s USP is supposed to be that he is a change from politics as usual – but Ayers crosses a line (and no, I do not believe “of course I don’t support what he did in the past, but…” cuts it as an excuse). Do you seriously not understand this? I repeat – the man is a terrorist who glories in the fact and whose sole regret is that he didn’t do more! Are you so closely tied to Obama that you cannot bring yourself to condemn even this one thing?

    Reply

  7. Stephen
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 09:46:33

    Random:
    If Ayers was running for President, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to vote for him.

    But Obama is the candidate, and his connection to Ayers is innocent. As I recall, they worked together on a housing project for the poor. And I know, an Obama fundraiser was hosted by Ayers — but that does not constitute evidence of a significant connection between the two.

    As for Ayers, I have no desire to defend him. But since you raise the question of pacifism, I’ll point out the following:

    (a) the Ayers quote, published on Sept. 11, was presumably from an interview that predated the al Qaeda attacks. (Though it’s still an offensive quote, it’s the context that makes it appear horrifically callous);

    (b) the bombs Ayers was responsible for were not intended to kill people and, in fact, didn’t kill any people (Though obviously I don’t condone the use of bombs to make a political point);

    (c) Ayers was never charged with a crime, was he? — he never served any time in jail;

    (d) The bomb campaign happened decades ago, and since then Ayers has been playing a constructive public role, to my knowledge.

    In sum, Ayers’s conduct was evidently not serious enough to prevent him from having an ongoing role in Chicago politics / social causes. And that’s the only role in which Obama has any connection with him. So I think you’re making more of this than it warrants.

    My point still stands: there is no dirt on Obama himself. Obama didn’t carry out bombing campaigns, so this is a red herring — albeit one that will hurt him to some extent in the general election.

    Reply

  8. Random
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 17:35:15

    “but that does not constitute evidence of a significant connection between the two.”

    They appear to have had an occasional relationship from 1995 to at least 2002 (i.e. comments associated with 9/11 were no more a deal-breaker for Obama’s relationship with Ayers than they were for his relationship with Wright – one wonders what somebody would have to say about terrorism and 9/11 to cause Barack Obama to take offence), they were not ships that passed in the night.

    (a) The timing was of course a coincidence, IIRC Ayers had a book out at the time and this was apparently part of the usual round of publicity interviews. After 9/11 Ayers hurriedly rushed out a statement claiming he’d been misquoted (i.e. he’d been quoted accurately but realised the disastrous effect his remarks in the circumstances were likely to have on book sales, if not get him lynched).

    (b) Yes they were, and yes they did (though thankfully not the intended victims in the latter case). The most serious intended atrocities most closely linked to Ayers are the bombing of Detroit’s 13th police district which was only foiled when a bomb containing 34 sticks of dynamite was discovered before it went off, and the bombing by Ayer’s cell of an NCO’s dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey which another Weatherman said was intended to be “the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory” (I’ve no idea about the historical literacy of these people, but by way of comparison Pearl Harbor resulted in something like 2,400 fatalities, so that was presumably the benchmark they were aiming for). That one only failed because the terrorists assembling the bomb made a mistake and blew themselves up instead. Ayers wasn’t in the building at the time, but his then girlfriend was one of the terrorists killed. If either of these atrocities had gone ahead as planned then the death toll would almost certainly have been in the hundreds. It is only a matter of sheer luck combined with incompetence that explains why Obama’s associate is not a mass murderer.

    c) His wife who co-hosted the Obama fundraiser spent a year in jail in circumstances described in the RCP article I linked to previously. Ayers himself only escaped prison as a result of gross prosecutorial misconduct – he has never even claimed to be innocent and has in fact gloried in his crimes.

    d) There is no statute of limitations for terrorism, and evil does not fade with time. The fact that he got away with it does not make him a good man, or even a respectable one. Apparently it does make him someone who Barack Obama is not ashamed to be seen in public with, however.

    “Obama didn’t carry out bombing campaigns, so this is a red herring”

    And John McCain has never tortured anyone, in fact he has been a leading voice against the practice, but that didn’t stop you from angrily condemning him for failing to condemn torture in precisely the right way. It wasn’t a red herring then, was it?

    Terrorism is not normal political discourse. It is in fact a negation of everything which a genuinely principled, democratic politician should hold true to, and unrepentant terrorists, even retired ones, are not legitimate participants in democratic debate. The fact that Barack Obama does not seem to understand this says something very wrong about his suitability to be commander in chief. Will he as president have the nerve to visit Fort Dix and take the salute of the men based there, knowing he was once friends with somebody who tried to kill their predecessors?

    I’m sorry, and I know this disclosure will make no difference in the overall scheme of things, but learning the full details of the Ayers connection pretty much represent the point when in my mind Obama went from “not ready to be president” to “not fit to be president.” A theological distinction perhaps, but I hope you’ll believe me when I say it’s not one I wanted to make. Maybe I’m being emotional here, but terrorism is a red line for me in much the same way that torture appears to be for for you.

    Reply

  9. Stephen
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 18:35:37

    Random:
    Although I was obviously pissed off in my first comment in this thread, I sincerely appreciate the patient dialogue.

    I am also sincere about airing divergent points of view on this blog. So, once again, an invitation: if you want to write a blog post along the lines of your comments here ("learning the full details of the Ayers connection pretty much represent the point when in my mind Obama went from ‘not ready to be president’ to ‘not fit to be president’" ), I’d be happy to post it.

    The easiest way to do so is to type your post in Notepad and email it to me at
    stephen[dot]peltz[at]gmail[dot]com

    I would respond in the comment section with the position I’ve staked out in response to yours.

    I suppose we’ve already aired our respective points of view, but I doubt very much that anyone is following our dialogue here in the comments. Maybe a new post would attract some notice. In any event, your position is worthy of a post of its own, for however many readers take an interest in it.

    Reply

  10. Random
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 06:05:30

    Stephen,

    Thanks very much for that gracious offer. I’ll certainly see what I can do about knocking everything into a single coherent narrative over the next couple of days.

    Reply

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