Guest post: Why Barack Obama’s choice of friends counts against him

Random (aka Random Lurker) is a long-time commenter here. (He doesn’t have a blog of his own, or I’d provide a link. Random prefers to make mischief on other people’s blogs.)

I’m impressed that Random has toughed it out with me, given that we come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

I aim to promote respectful, constructive dialogue among people who disagree with each others’ views. Accordingly, I asked Random if he would like to offer a guest post on Barack Obama’s association with William Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground.

Readers already know that I enthusiastically support Barack Obama as the next president of the USA. In this guest post, Random (a McCain supporter) explains why he believes Barack Obama deserves to be destroyed.

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TERRORISM IS NOT A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

Why Barack Obama’s choice of Friends matters.

On Friday, March 6th 1970 in a townhouse in Greenwich Village a group of terrorists of the Weather Underground were assembling bombs. The intended target was a dance for NCOs and their dates at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. However something went wrong, and one of the bombs exploded during assembly killing three of the putative terrorists, Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins. Two other members of the group, Kathy Boudin and Cathlyn Wilkerson, escaped with minor wounds and managed to evade arrest in the confusion. This would in the event turn out to be the joint largest loss of life in any Weather Underground operation (a joint WU and Black Panther bank raid in 1981 also featuring Boudin would also kill three people), however if it had gone ahead as planned it would have killed hundreds more.

On the same day in Detroit 34 sticks of dynamite planted in the 34th Police District headquarters by William Ayers (Oughton’s boyfriend at the time) and Bernadette Dohrn were discovered before they can go off, Ayers and Dohrn (like Boudin and Wilkerson) went into hiding in the aftermath. “Some Weathermen were ready to be mass murderers” in the words of Todd Gitlin, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society, from which organisation the Weathermen splintered.

Fast-forward ten years. Over this period the Weathermen carry out a string of other attacks (though after Greenwich village they are rather more careful about avoiding casualties) and in May of 1970 a communiqué issued by Dorhn in the name of the WU justified the group’s turn towards violence as a “Declaration of a State of War against the United States Government”. Dorhn and Ayers also got married during this period, and finally turned themselves in to the authorities in 1981. All charges against Ayers were dropped owing to prosecutorial misconduct, whilst Dorhn pled guilty to several minor charges and received probation (she would later spend several months in prison for refusing to testify against Boudin and others after the Brinks robbery of 1981, for which Boudin received a life sentence, not being paroled until 2003).

Fast-forward a few more years, and Ayers and Dohrn have turned respectable. They have graduated from college and taken up a variety of educational posts and enjoy a comfortable social life in the sort of tolerant liberal circles where a declaration of war on the United States and a campaign of violence organised on Marxist-Leninist principles in furtherance of it is regarded as a minor character flaw, at most. In 1995 Ayers played a crucial role in the setting up of the Chicago Annenberg Fund, which during its history would donate something like $49M in grants to improve education in Chicago. As the first Director of the fund Ayers picked a rising young Chicago politician called Barack Obama, who would stay involved with the fund in one capacity or another until 2003.

Ayers was evidently impressed by Obama, for around the same time he and Dohrn hosted a fundraiser for Obama’s first run for the Illinois state senate. (Note that although it’s clear what Obama gained from these early acquaintances, it’s less clear what Ayers gained – the Annenberg fund was basically a failure and although many of the people involved with it are lavish with praise for Ayer’s role in setting up the fund Obama’s name comes up much less often.) The two men stayed in regular contact over the next few years, with Ayers joining Obama in 1999 on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an organisation Obama had been on the board of since 1993. Obama’s role in getting Ayers the Woods job is unclear, but the board of such non-profit organisations are usually elected and we can be sure that as an absolute minimum Obama did not veto his membership.

Fast forward a few more years, to September 11th 2001 when with exquisite timing Ayers has written a book and is being interviewed by the New York Times. Asked if he has any regrets about his terrorist past he says “I don’t regret setting bombs” and “I feel we didn’t do enough”, and, when asked if he would “do it all again” says “I don’t want to discount the possibility.” These remarks do not seem to trouble Barack Obama however, who continues to be associated with Ayers on the Woods fund until at least 2002.

Fast forward one last time, to April 2008 and Barack Obama is running for President of the United States and is finally receiving some hostile scrutiny about his links with one of America’s more notorious home-grown terrorists. This relationship of more than seven years standing is dismissed with the words “This is a guy who lives in my neighbourhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from”. He added that to suggest “knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense.” (Obama was born in August 1961, which does indeed make him 8 years old at the time of the events that opened this article. He was however at least 18 when the authorities finally caught up with Ayers and Dohrn and was probably in his early twenties when Dohrn – arguably the more extreme and dangerous of the pair, who is not mentioned at all in his apologia – was serving time for her peripheral involvement in the Brinks robbery.) Incidentally, Obama certainly knew at this point that Ayers was a professor of Education, not English. So why the mistake? Panic, or an attempt to pretend he knew less about Ayers than he actually did?

In Ireland during the long years of terrorism there, there emerged a fairly common stereotype of figures on the more nationalist end of the spectrum who would disown the use of violence themselves but who would profess an understanding of the motives of those who did resort to violence. The delightful expression “sneaking regarder” (as in “I would never do such things myself, but I have a sneaking regard for the boys who do”) was coined for such people. Is Barack Obama a sneaking regarder? There is on balance no real evidence for this – although his long association with Ayers does not offer encouragement in this regard. What is clear however is that Obama was comfortable with moving amongst people who certainly were (Ayers’ – and Dohrn’s – career is frankly difficult to explain in any other way than the patronage of such a group) and saw no problems with soliciting their support.

Obama was comfortable in being associated with Ayers for many years whilst he was rising through the ranks of a Chicago Democratic political scene that saw left wing anti-American terrorism as at worst a symptom of youthful over-enthusiasm. Now however he is running for President of the United States, and is finding that the majority of the population do not see such activities in such an indulgent light. Barack Obama is friends with people who once declared war on the United States, and does not seem to understand why this is outrageous in someone who wants to be president. You can tell a lot about someone from his choice of friends. What this friendship reveals is that when it comes to the ethical standards required to be president, Obama has work to do and no understanding that he needs to do it.

If a Republican candidate had had a friendship of many years standing with somebody who had bombed abortion clinics and protected armed robbers and who didn’t regret it and refused to rule out doing it again, and furthermore if the candidate showed no real understanding as to why this association was repugnant to normal civilised standards then that Republican would quite rightly be destroyed by the link. Barack Obama deserves to be destroyed for his links with the Weathermen.

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    May 12, 2008 @ 06:42:11

    First of all, many thanks to Stephen for having the courtesy and open mindedness to both solicit and post unaltered an opposing view. I’d like to endorse his words about the value of the respectful and constructive dialogue he has provided space for here.

    I don’t have a blog of my own not so much out of mischief making tendencies as because I lack the discipline and creativity to come up with interesting new posts on a regular basis, and have greate respect for those people who can do it. One example – a bit more discipline and planning would have led me to acknowledge that “destroyed” is an inappropriate turn of phrase in this context, and that “discredited” should have been used instead. Oh well…

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    May 12, 2008 @ 09:48:57

    I thought the word “destroyed” was a bit strong. But as you noted, I wasn’t going to edit your words. And I think your meaning — i.e., destroy Obama’s candidacy — is clear enough.

    The line about mischief-making was only a joke, of course. 😉

    Thanks for providing a serious, thought-provoking post. I don’t want to jump in just yet; I’d prefer to see whether anyone else has a comment to make first.

    Reply

  3. Zayna
    May 12, 2008 @ 13:57:03

    Awwww, it’s so nice to see you getting along. Warms my heart. 🙂

    Oh, that’s all…I didn’t actually read all of it. Like I’ve mentioned before politics is not my thing.

    Reply

  4. aaron
    May 12, 2008 @ 15:28:39

    “If a Republican candidate had had a friendship of many years standing with somebody who had bombed abortion clinics and protected armed robbers and who didn’t regret it and refused to rule out doing it again, and furthermore if the candidate showed no real understanding as to why this association was repugnant to normal civilised standards then that Republican would quite rightly be destroyed by the link.”

    Would that you were correct in this claim. Sadly, I don’t think you are —
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/05/g-gordon-liddy-john-mccai_n_100134.html

    Reply

  5. Random
    May 12, 2008 @ 16:31:36

    Zayna – thanks, you’re sweet:-)

    Aaron, hardly. First of all Liddy did time for his crime and came out a – presumably – reformed character (at least he hasn’t relapsed, to my knowledge. I thought liberals were supposed to be in favour of giving reformed ex-cons a second chance…). He has also never attempted to my knowledge to murder American troops or police. It also doesn’t much help that the article you’re linking too is a highly biased and partial one that draws on another article that is itself highly biased and attempting to put it’s subject in the worst possible light – for example it describes Liddy feeling an urge to throw a “Nazi style” salute (interviewers words) when it is perfectly clear from the context that what Liddy is talking about is the Bellamy salute, which was the standard way of performing the pledge of allegiance until 1942 (i.e. when Liddy was in school) when it was dropped because of it’s similarity to the Hitler salute. But explaining this would have got in the journalist’s way of portraying Liddy as a loony Nazi. Neither the Huffington Post or Johann Hari are dispassionate commentators here, frankly.

    Yes, Liddy is a fruitbat and I wish McCain hadn’t been so gushing. But he isn’t even close to being in the same league as Ayers.

    Reply

  6. Stephen
    May 12, 2008 @ 16:59:09

    • Zayna:
    Random and I usually get along OK, even when we’re disagreeing with one another. But I’m glad you noted it, because I consider that to be one of the strengths of my blog: people who disagree with one another engage one another in respectful dialogue.

    • Random:
    Still staying out of this, mostly … but on this point:

    First of all Liddy did time for his crime and came out a – presumably – reformed character (at least he hasn’t relapsed, to my knowledge.)

    But, by your own account, Ayers is a reformed character, too:

    Fast-forward a few more years, and Ayers and Dohrn have turned respectable. … In 1995 Ayers played a crucial role in the setting up of the Chicago Annenberg Fund, which during its history would donate something like $49M in grants to improve education in Chicago.

    The only evidence to the contrary is what Ayers’ said (i.e., the quotes published on 9/11). I suggest that makes Ayers the sort of person who can never admit he’s wrong — not a very admirable trait.

    But what a person does is far more important than what that person says, if you’re trying to determine whether or not he has reformed. If Ayers was still out setting bombs, of course Obama would have disowned him.

    And Ayers hasn’t done any time, which you put down to a prosecutorial screw-up. But if Ayers was never successfully prosecuted, the fact that he hasn’t done time is hardly evidence that he hasn’t reformed.

    I think part of what’s driving you here is that justice hasn’t been done. You might be able to turn the page on Ayers’ past if he had “done the crime, served the time.” But I don’t think you can hold that quirk of history against Obama!

    Reply

  7. Random
    May 12, 2008 @ 18:43:38

    “But if Ayers was never successfully prosecuted, the fact that he hasn’t done time is hardly evidence that he hasn’t reformed.”

    No, the fact that he has said he would be prepared to do it again is evidence he hasn’t successfully reformed. Likewise the fact he has never uttered so much as a word of apology.

    “I think part of what’s driving you here is that justice hasn’t been done. You might be able to turn the page on Ayers’ past if he had “done the crime, served the time.””

    It certainly doesn’t help that he got away with it. Yes, if he had served his time, came out, repented of his deeds and worked for peace and reconciliation I would have no problem with him (or Obama’s association with him). But let’s be blunt here – Ayers is no Nelson Mandela. He is an unrepentant terrorist who clearly still believes his actions were justified, and that similar actions would be justified now. And his failure to understand why this is a problem is what I hold against Barack Obama.

    I normally try to avoid amateur psychoanalysis, but I can’t help but wonder whether there’s a pattern here, and Obama is overcompensating for his background somehow.

    Consider – he grew up in Hawaii, brought up in large part by his white grandparents. He was hardly at the epicentre of the civil rights struggle, so to boost his black credentials he befriends the likes of Jeremiah Wright (compare and contrast with Condoleeza Rice, who grew up in segregation era Alabama and had school friends killed in racist church bombings, and has never felt the need to prove her blackness by cultivating Wright figures).

    Likewise, he was brought up by the vice-president of a bank, attended private school and an elite law school. He was hardly at the epicentre of the class struggle either, so he boosts his left wing credentials by cultivating Marxist terrorists like Ayers and Dohrn. (For that matter Ayers is the son of Thomas Ayers – who also served on at least one board with Barack Obama – the millionaire CEO of Commonwealth Edison during the peak Weather Underground years. Ayers seems to have been doing some over-compensating of his own.)

    A pattern indicating a somewhat excessive desire to “fit in” with the cool gang in other words. Am I stretching here? Probably, to some degree. But an over-eager desire to seek approval is not necessarily the most desirable characteristic one would hope to see in a president of the United States.

    Reply

  8. aaron
    May 12, 2008 @ 21:05:30

    If you don’t like the source I provide, would you prefer that I link to the Chicago Tribune instead? http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-oped0504chapmanmay04,0,6238795.column

    Both Ayers and Liddy are reformed by your use of the term — neither one has “relapsed.” While I acknowledge that Liddy did in fact serve time, you seem more focused on Ayers being unrepentant. In that Tribune column, you can see that Liddy too is wholly unapologetic for what he did.

    “Liddy was in the thick of the biggest political scandal in American history—and one of the greatest threats to the rule of law. He has said he has no regrets about what he did, insisting that he went to jail as ‘a prisoner of war.'”

    Thus, the fact that he served time is the only distinction I see between the two, a fact that hardly seems relevant as far as your argument. I stand by my comparison.

    Reply

  9. Random
    May 13, 2008 @ 04:56:46

    Aaron,

    No. The fact that Ayers tried very hard indeed to murder dozens, if not hundreds, of people for no more serious “crime” than wearing an American uniform is a rather more fundamental difference between the two (and the fact he hasn’t tried to do it recently is irrelevant – he has made it perfectly clear that this is not as a result of some principled conversion to non-violence).

    I am genuinely surprised and dismayed that normally intelligent people seem able to dismiss this as some sort of irrelevant pedantry – *thats* what I’m having difficulty getting past. Liddy planted a few bugs – Ayers tried to murder dozens of people. Are you seriously saying these are equivalent actions?

    Reply

  10. Stephen
    May 13, 2008 @ 08:11:20

    “Liddy planted a few bugs” hardly does justice to Watergate’s violation of the rule of law.

    The rule of law is an extremely serious issue at this point in American history, given the Bush administration’s policy that the President is a law unto himself: a policy strenuously defended and, indeed, acted upon.

    Which doesn’t make Watergate equivalent to attempted murder. But then we have the account of Liddy’s advice to the Branch Davidians, in which he clearly advocates deadly violence against the police.

    Finally, as Aaron points out, Liddy refuses to admit wrongdoing — just like Ayers. Neither can admit that they were wrong, even though they have both reformed in terms of their actions.

    My bottom line has not changed. Ayers is a public figure in the city of Chicago, supporting and serving on boards with political and social activists. That’s the capacity in which Obama associated with him.

    You persist in calling Ayers a “friend” of Obama’s, as if they had a personal relationship. I think the word “friend” is a slippery one that needs to be carefully explicated. Obama came into contact with Ayers — according to you, over a seven-year period — in a professional capacity. In my books, that does not constitute “friendship”, and it does not imply that Obama approved of Ayers’ bomb-setting past.

    Compare that to McCain’s relationship with Liddy. I don’t think Liddy and McCain are friends; they have come into contact in the political realm. But it’s certainly true that McCain has failed to distance himself from Liddy. Obama, on the other hand, has distanced himself from Ayers.

    Maybe Obama did so out of pure political calculus. Nonetheless, the scenario is typical: Obama distances himself from people yet still gets smeared by his association with them. He hasn’t done enough to distance himself from them. Meanwhile McCain does little or nothing to distance himself from controversial figures, but the press and the public give him a free ride.

    In sum, I don’t agree with your conclusion: that Obama has shown such callous disregard for morality that his candidacy should be destroyed.

    Reply

  11. aaron
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:04:00

    Random,
    For the reasons Stephen provided, your dismissal of Watergate and Liddy’s role in it as “planting a few bugs” troubles me.

    You seem to see Ayers as part of a pattern for Obama, and disregard the incredibly troubling pattern that exists for McCain. We’ve already discussed Hagee. I’m sure you’ve heard of Charlie Black, “senior adviser” for the McCain campaign? His resume is extensive — http://firedoglake.com/2008/02/22/mccains-cronies-meet-charlie-black-political-fixer-and-top-beltway-lobbyist/
    & http://cliffschecter.firedoglake.com/2008/05/12/breaking-mccains-murderers-row/ — representing Chalabi & lobbying for repressive dictators and murderers by the truckload. And rather than distance himself from Black, McCain continues to have him play a major role in running his campaign. Feel free to explain why he or his history is irrelevant, but I’m going to walk away from this discussion now — you have failed to convince me, as I no doubt have failed to convince you.

    Before I go, however, I’m going to take a step back and note that this thread is based on your paradigm, not mine. I’m not saying that Obama is a saint — I’m saying that when you get to this level of politics, it’s likely impossible to find a candidate that doesn’t have some connection to a few individuals who are less than savory. Politicians seek connections, and inevitably at least one will have baggage attached. The politician should extricate himself (or herself) from such associations, but judging from Obama and McCain, apparently that’s easier said than done (though truthfully, only the former is making any effort). Accordingly, I see the guilt-by-association rubric, particularly in this election cycle (see also Edwards and the anti-Catholic bloggers — http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/07/us/politics/07edwards.html), to be nothing more than a device to be used to make people to see what the finger-pointer wants them to see.

    Reply

  12. James Pate
    May 13, 2008 @ 22:42:36

    Ran-DOM! Ran-DOM!

    Reply

  13. Random
    May 14, 2008 @ 07:31:25

    ““Liddy planted a few bugs” hardly does justice to Watergate’s violation of the rule of law.”

    Indeed it does not – but the rule of law won. Liddy was caught, sentenced and imprisoned for 5 years. Even if he is unapologetic he has paid for his crimes and is entitled to start over. None of this applies to Ayers, who basically got away with it and celebrates that fact.

    “But then we have the account of Liddy’s advice to the Branch Davidians, in which he clearly advocates deadly violence against the police.”

    Ah, no. He advocates a legal right of self-defence against people who come bursting through your front door guns blazing, regardless of who they claim to be representing at the time. As he said when offered the opportunity to expand on his remarks:

    “I was talking about a situation in which law enforced agents comes smashing into a house, doesn’t say who they are, and their guns are out, they’re shooting, and they’re in the wrong place. This has happened time and time again. The ATF has gone in and gotten the wrong guy in the wrong place. The law is that if somebody is shooting at you, using deadly force, the mere fact that they are a law enforcement officer, if they are in the wrong, does not mean you are obliged to allow yourself to be killed so your kinfolk can have a wrongful death action. You are legally entitled to defend yourself and I was speaking of exactly those kind of situations. If you’re going to do that, you should know that they’re wearing body armor so you should use a head shot. Now all I’m doing is stating the law, but all the nuances in there got left out when the story got repeated. ”

    “Compare that to McCain’s relationship with Liddy. I don’t think Liddy and McCain are friends; they have come into contact in the political realm. But it’s certainly true that McCain has failed to distance himself from Liddy.”

    Can I ask you how much research you put into the subject of McCain’s relationship with Liddy? Because I’ve spent an awful lot of time since Aaron first posted trying to research this and it seems obvious that the Chicago Tribune story Aaron links to is, bluntly speaking, a hack job from Obama’s home town newspaper with barely more substance to it than the NYT’s “Affair” story. “Yes, he would say that,” I hear you say – but bear with me.

    First of all, I managed to find and listen to the radio spot that the Trib so gleefully quotes (it’s here if you’re interested). It’s 9’11” (yes, really) long, and far from being the gruesome love-in the Trib implies the vast majority of it is a perfectly standard exposition of McCain’s national security position. Liddy calls McCain “a friend” at the start (which McCain does not reciprocate, incidentally) and McCain’s gushing praise comes about 30 seconds from the end. Yes I wish he had been less effusive – but some context is perhaps relevant, this interview took place back in November back when McCain’s campaign had been all but written off and he was being slaughtered in the conservative media for his position on immigration. I suspect he was simply pathetically grateful to be allowed on to a conservative talk show where the host was happy to talk national security and wasn’t interested in immigration.

    Furthermore, if you listen to the interview there’s a bit of McCain’s gush that for some reason the Trib left out – namely the bit where McCain makes clear his praise is at least as much for Liddy’s son Tom as it is for Liddy himself. This is potentially significant because of the Trib’s other key allegation on McCain’s relationship with Liddy, the somewhat oddly worded – “In 1998, Liddy’s home was the site of a McCain fundraiser.”

    Some background on Tom Liddy might be needed here. He was a marine officer from 1985-89, left to study law and from 1995-98 was deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee. In 1998 he moved to Arizona (where McCain is senator) ran – unsuccessfully – for Congress in 2000 and served as Chairman of the Maricopa County Republican party from 2003-05, and was appointed by the mayor of Phoenix to the post of chairman of the Phoenix Veteran’s Commission in 2006. Note the date of the fundraiser again – 1998, the same year Tom Liddy moved to Arizona. It seems obvious to me that the fundraiser was hosted by Tom Liddy as a means of introducing himself to the movers and players in the Arizona Republican party – and that the Chicago Tribune either knows or suspects this is the case, hence “Liddy’s home was the site of a McCain fundraiser” not “Liddy hosted a McCain fundraiser”, and also the Trib’s otherwise baffling deletion of Tom’s name from the direct quote of McCain’s gush. Incidentally, the fact that McCain’s campaign manager in 1998 also advised on Tom’s campaign in 2000 is further evidence that the real McCain/Liddy connection is with Tom, not Gordon.

    So, what’s left? I think it’s safe to say McCain has had a political relationship with Tom Liddy (and I hope no-one is going to make an issue of this, any more than I’ve made an issue of Obama’s significant relationship with Tom Ayers, Bill’s father), but Gordon? Yes, he was probably acquainted with him to some degree because of Tom, and Liddy Sr. was doubtless grateful to McCain for any help he provided in giving Tom’s career a helping hand. I suspect too that McCain cashed in on that gratitude to get himself some sympathetic air time on a popular conservative talk show at a time when his campaign was broke and flatlining – but this genuinely seems to be the sum total of it. Liddy never swung any cushy jobs McCain’s way, and McCain certainly didn’t do it for Liddy. The idea that some free air time and a constructive relationship with Liddy’s son in any way equates to Obama’s seven year long relationship with Ayers is frankly bizarre.

    “Obama distances himself from people yet still gets smeared by his association with them. He hasn’t done enough to distance himself from them.”

    Probably because he never took any steps to distance himself when that, rather than standing by them, would have been the politically risky choice.

    “Meanwhile McCain does little or nothing to distance himself from controversial figures, but the press and the public give him a free ride.”

    Probably because he never had a relationship with them at any level above that of smear and innuendo in the first place.

    Reply

  14. Random
    May 14, 2008 @ 09:28:19

    “For the reasons Stephen provided, your dismissal of Watergate and Liddy’s role in it as “planting a few bugs” troubles me. ”

    Congratulations. Now you understand how I felt when Ayers was dismissed as “some guy who lives in my neighbourhood.”

    As for Charlie Black – first of all, isn’t firedoglake the site that was run by those ladies who were fired by the Edwards campaign after a fortnight or so for being too bigoted and extreme even for a Democratic primary? Forgive if I don’t take anything they say at face value. But no, I don’t think it’s a crushing revelation that a lobbyist once carried out some perfectly legal lobbying. This is like saying Charles Manson’s defence lawyer (I’m assuming he did have one, but apply the general principle to any monster of your choice if he didn’t) must have been a suspicious character too because he was happy to take the gig.

    So no, I won’t get excited by Charlie Black, any more than I’m excited by the case of Hatem el-Hady, who until 2006 ran a charity called Kindhearts which raised funds for a variety of middle-eastern charities until it was abruptly closed down by the Justice Department when it emerged that the main charity it raised funds for was Hamas. El-Hady was last seen as a fundraiser for the Obama campaign with his own page on the Obama website, complete with an endorsement from no less a personage than Michelle Obama – until that is the media started sniffing around, when first Michelle’s endorsement and then the whole page disappeared down the memory hole. But as I said, I’m not terribly interested in relatively peripheral figures (granted Michelle isn’t peripheral, but she’s not the candidate and Obama can hardly disown his wife as easily as his pastor) – the candidate can hardly vet everybody who gets involved with his campaign. However you clearly are, so I offer this one up for interest.

    Reply

  15. Stephen
    May 14, 2008 @ 11:04:17

    Random:
    Liddy advocates a legal right of self-defence against people who come bursting through your front door guns blazing, regardless of who they claim to be representing at the time.

    I think you would have done better to leave that part of your argument aside, and focus exclusively on the other part of your argument — pooh-poohing any talk of a relationship between McCain and Liddy.

    Liddy engages in special pleading: Sure, I told them to shoot at law enforcement officers, and sure, I specifically told them to shoot at the head. But I only meant, you know, if there was some reason to doubt that the law enforcement officers had shown up at the right house.

    You have to be prepared to go to any lengths to defend your guy, to take that statement at face value.

    As for your other argument: you admit that McCain cozied up to Liddy, at least on this one occasion, for political advantage:

    Yes I wish he had been less effusive – but some context is perhaps relevant, this interview took place back in November back when McCain’s campaign had been all but written off and he was being slaughtered in the conservative media for his position on immigration.

    And that fundraiser in Liddy’s house isn’t really like the Obama fundraiser in Ayers’s house. I’m not sure why not, but you say it isn’t. So politics is merely politics — as long as it’s McCain we’re talking about.

    Your argument now boils down to this: trying to explain away McCain’s connection to Liddy while magnifying Obama’s connection to Ayers for maximum impact. It all looks rather partisan.

    Reply

  16. Random
    May 14, 2008 @ 15:55:13

    “You have to be prepared to go to any lengths to defend your guy, to take that statement at face value.”

    Maybe. I don’t particularly want to defend Liddy, just to note that this particular one isn’t as black and white as you make out (if the police behave illegally you should have a right to defend yourself against them) – Liddy isn’t talking about going out and hunting cops after all, but shooting back if they burst into your property, guns blazing.

    “And that fundraiser in Liddy’s house isn’t really like the Obama fundraiser in Ayers’s house. I’m not sure why not, but you say it isn’t.”

    Because as I tried to explain, there’s no evidence to show that Liddy organised the fundraiser, and a fair amount of circumstantial evidence to suggest he did not – not least the fact that the Tribune, which should surely have been able to establish this (I’m just one guy with an internet connection, and I already seem to have uncovered more relevant facts than they were able to… ) went to surprising lengths to avoid saying that Liddy had anything to do with the fundraiser. If the fundraiser had nothing to do with Liddy – if it was indeed just a case of Tom Liddy borrowing his dad’s house to network with Arizona Republicans – then why is it a problem for McCain? Tom Liddy was 10 years old at the time of Watergate (i.e. only two years older than Barack Obama was when Ayers’ friends blew themselves up), is he really supposed to share in his father’s guilt?

    Look, if it was indeed the case that McCain had had a relationship with Liddy Sr. that was as close and long lasting and as mutually beneficial as the one Obama has had with Ayers, then I would agree with you that it would be a very significant problem (not as bad as Ayers, because bugging isn’t as bad as terrorism and convicted felons who have gone straight are entitled to more leeway than ones who have got away with it and simply stopped for the time being). But all the evidence I’ve been able to find – as distinct from innuendo – is that if McCain had a political relationship with anybody it was Tom Liddy, who I would hope we could all agree was blameless. Any relationship with Gordon Liddy really does seem to be limited to appearing on his radio show – an unfortunate misjudgement certainly, but in no way equivalent to an 8 year long, mutually beneficial association with the USA’s most notorious domestic terrorist before Tim McVeigh.

    Reply

  17. Stephen
    May 14, 2008 @ 21:40:26

    OK, Random, I’m going to leave the last word to you. Thanks again for providing a guest post and arguing a point of view contrary to my usual slant.

    I’m content to let readers decide who has gotten the better of the argument. You’ve got at least one guy (James Pate) in your corner!

    I look forward to more guest posts from you as we enter the general election. Anytime you want the floor, send me an email. I’d even consider adding you as a blogger here, without expecting you to contribute except when you feel you have something to say.

    Reply

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