Obama, McCain, Palin and Radicalism

What are we to make of Sarah Palin’s attack on Barack Obama and his relationship with Bill Ayers, a former member of the radical ‘60s group, the Weather Underground? On Saturday she raised this issue on the campaign trail, citing a New York Times article published earlier in the day. Of course Palin did not elucidate that the Times concluded that Obama and Ayers do not appear to have been close, and that any relationship between them was peripheral in nature. Several other publications, including the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic, have debunked the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship.

Obama and Ayers, now a university professor in Chicago, have known each other since 1995, when both served on the board of a non-profit group trying to raise funds for a school improvement project. As a result of that connection, the two men did attend meetings at which they were both present. And, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama’s Illinois senate campaign in 2001. Plus, they lived in the same Hyde Park neighborhood within three blocks of one another.

As the Chicago Sun-Times of Aug. 30,2008 wrote: “He (Obama) had actually rubbed shoulders — can you believe it? — with a distinguished professor of education who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. He had probably even shared a cup of coffee, as only a co-conspirator would, with this professor, whose writings describe good schools as places that are “organized around and powered by a set of core values” and “effectively meet students where they are and find ways to nurture and challenge them to learn.”

The Sun-Times article goes on to identify some of the other people with whom Ayers and Obama served on that charitable board. They include Susan Crown of the General Dynamics Corp. family; Patricia Graham, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Arnold Weber, past president of Northwestern University. No one has yet accused them of being radicals because of their association with Bill Ayers.

Palin herself has a connection, much less tenuous, to political radicalism. Back in Alaska she has cheered the work of the Alaska Independence Party that has long pushed for Alaska to secede from the United States. And her husband, Todd, was a member of the party for seven years.

“Keep up the good work,” she told party members at their convention earlier this year in Fairbanks. She wished the party luck on what she called its “inspiring convention.”

So if Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers is fair game in the political arena, then is Todd Palin’s association with anti-American secessionists not also fair game, especially in light of Palin’s charge that Obama “is not a man who sees America as you and I do?” Isn’t the Governor’s own apparent support of, if not membership in, this party also worthy of note? They seem to have been comfortable belonging to and/or being associated with a political party whose founder delighted in denouncing the principles that hold our union together.

On the one hand, there is very little evidence that Ayers’ worldview ever influenced anything Barack Obama did, said or thought. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. But on the other hand, one can easily assume that a husband and wife influence each other’s beliefs quite often, and her address to the group in question, as Governor, may make such an assumption even more credible.

Now let’s talk about McCain and G.Gordon Liddy a bit. Liddy broke Daniel Elsburg’s psychiatrist’s office and the DNC headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. He also volunteered to kill journalist Jack Anderson for political reasons. He had plans to firebomb the Brookings Institute. More recently, he advocated shooting ATF agents in the head. “Head shots. Head shots. Kill the sons of bitches.” (8/26/94).

In 1998, Liddy’s home was the site of a McCain fundraiser, and Liddy himself has contributed several thousand dollars to McCain’s senatorial campaigns. This year Liddy has given $1,000 to McCain’s presidential campaign.

On Liddy’s radio show in November of 2007, McCain said, “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of your family. 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.”

So Obama served on a board with an unrepentent terrorist, but then repudiates the guy’s actions.

But McCain fundraises at the home of an unrepentent felon, thief, would-be terrorist, and advocate of murdering federal agents, and then goes on his radio show and verbally regales the guy.

Palin and her husband have activist ties to a group who wants to secede from the very union that she want to represent as vice president, one heart beat away from the presidency itself.

I say to Palin and McCain, “Bring it on. But don’t forget what they say about those who live in glass houses.”


John McCain is nothing if not ambitious. Born into the upper echelon of U.S. Naval society with both a grandfather and a father who made the rank of admiral. McCain was born to the destiny of that legacy. He was going to be a career navy man from the first breath he took.

Average grades and mediocre placement scores did not keep him out of the U.S. Naval Academy. While others are nominated to the midshipman program, based on academics and other criteria, there is no evidence that McCain was held to any standard other than his birthright.

McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 in 1958. That didn’t keep him from becoming a naval pilot, whereupon he crashed two planes, had another destroyed by fire on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal, and of course was shot down in a rather ignoble and truncated flight career.

Held captive for five and half years, along with several hundred other Americans in North Vietnam, he probably performed no more nor less bravely than his fellow POWs, some of whom were held far longer than McCain. Most of what we know about McCain’s years at the hands of the North Vietnamese comes primarily from the words of McCain himself.

There are alternative stories out there from other POWs who were held with McCain during those years, and these can be found rather easily on the internet. These alternative perspectives and remembrances make for interesting reading and speculation, but are probably no more verifiable than are McCain’s own stories. Suffice it to say that most Americans view McCain as a hero and accept his tales of captivity as genuine.

All of this said, I believe that John McCain just sullied his hero image beyond repair by hiring Republican smear tactician and political trickster, Tucker Eskew. Eskew, head of the Bush campaign in South Carolina in 2000, was one of the architects of the anti-McCain smears during those primaries.

The slurs against McCain included the charges that he had fathered two illegitimate black children, that he was a closet homosexual, and that his wife was a drug addict. They also spread stories that McCain was unhinged mentally from his time as a prisoner of war and would be too unstable to have his finger on the nuclear button.

The McCain family was deeply hurt by those attacks, particularly Cindy McCain who was then struggling with overcoming an addiction to prescription pain medications, and the McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh, Bridget, whose dark skin may have fueled the smear pertaining to McCain’s black children. Those smears were difficult to overcome, even in the ensuing eight years, and may have left permanent scars on those innocents who were dragged through the political mud.

McCain has now hired Eskew, as I noted above, presumably paying him a large sum of money. One might speculate, based on Eskew’s previous experience, that he was brought on board to smear Obama. Maybe to start the rumors that Obama has fathered two black daughters.

Oh right. That trick wouldn’t work this time.

Actually Eskew was brought on board the “Straight Talk Express” in order to prepare and coach Sarah Palin through the election season. Eskew wrote, or helped to write, Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention. Eskew is readying her for the Vice Presidential debate in October, and helping her through the minefield of policy positions not previously on Palin’s radar screen in the hinterlands of Alaskan politics.

John McCain wants to be president so badly that he would hire and work with one of the prime architects of the slime that was thrown on him and his family. What kind of man could do this? Not a hero. Not a champion of what is right. Not a maverick. Not a man who loves his wife and children. Not a man who has one scintilla of pride, courage, or morality.

If nothing else has told me who John McCain really is, the hiring of Tucker Eskew tells me all I need to know.