[UPDATE: Welcome, Fox News “Embeds” readers! Feel free to have a look around.]
And here I was, worried that the “special place in hell” line would be ripped out of context by the media.
I suppose I should have predicted that the racism card would be played once the McCain campaign went on the attack, but I must admit I never thought that Sarah Palin noting Barack Obama’s association with Bill Ayers yesterday would be the trigger. To top it off, the charge comes from an “analysis” piece by Douglass Daniel at the Associated Press, “Analysis: Palin’s words carry racial tinge:”
By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is “palling around with terrorists” and doesn’t see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign.
And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.
Unsubstantiated? Racially tinged? The first is demonstrably false; the second is a product of Daniel’s wishful thinking; both are contemptibly ridiculous. Explanation below the break.
First of all, the “unsubstantiated” charge:
No evidence shows they were “pals” or even close when they worked on community boards years ago and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama early in his career.
(Leave aside the fact that “pal around” is a figure of speech; you don’t need to sign a sworn affidavit establishing palhood to the satistaction of the Deputy State Secretary of Pal Affairs to “pal around” with someone.)
Yes, we’ve heard the Obama talking points on Ayers as repeated in Daniel’s piece, but Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz, who has actually taken the time to study the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — the Chicago education initiative on whose board Obama and Ayers sat together — has determined that the two of them cannot possibly have served in their respective capacities on that initiative without extensive collaboration. (The bureaucratic roadblocks thrown up in Kurtz’s path in his efforts to gain access to the CAC archives are another story entirely.) The Times Online, in an article last April, notes that the two of them also sat on the same board of the Woods Fund, and shared the stage at two academic conferences.
As the Times Online further notes, when Obama ran for State Senate he attended a fundraiser hosted by Ayers and his wife, fellow former Weatherman and terrorist Bernadine Dohrn, at their home. Aren’t politicians in the habit of familiarizing themselves with the people who place themselves at the forefront of said politician’s money machine?
Given that Obama and Ayers necessarily worked closely together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, worked together in the same capacity on the Woods Fund, shared an academic platform twice, and were political allies during Obama’s rise to power (to the point where Obama would have been in Ayers’s political debt), does it count yet as “palling around?” And given that Ayers told the New York Times about his criminal past with the terrorist group the Weather Underground (in their edition published 9/11/2001, in a perverse case of awful timing):
”I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. ”I feel we didn’t do enough.”… So, would Mr. Ayers do it all again, he is asked? ”I don’t want to discount the possibility,” he said.
wouldn’t it be fair to call Ayers not only a terrorist, but an unrepentant terrorist?
But let’s go on to the second charge: that pointing out the relationship between Obama and Ayers is “racially tinged.” Daniel takes issue with this passage from Gov. Palin:
“This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” she said. “We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”
Assigning racist undertones to such a mundane statement of principle wouldn’t normally fall within the confines of responsible journalism, but that doesn’t stop Daniel:
Palin’s words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black“palling around” with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn’t see their America?
In a post-America, terrorists are envisioned as dark-skinned radical Muslims, not the homegrown anarchists of Ayers’ day 40 years ago. With Obama a relative unknown when he began his campaign, the Internet hummed with false e-mails about ties to radical Islam of a foreign-born candidate.
Whether intended or not by the McCain campaign, portraying Obama as “not like us” is another potential appeal to racism. It suggests that the Hawaiian-born Christian is, at heart, un-American.
There is not a political candidate in memory who has not based their campaign at least in part on highlighting the differences between their approach and their opponent’s. It’s very generous of Daniel to grant that Palin was not making outright appeals to racial animus — I suppose we should be thankful for small favors — but anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to this or any campaign knows that there are perfectly legitimate ways in which Palin’s opposition is “not like us,” and they have nothing to do with race. Palin is clearly referring to ideological differences; it is Daniel who brings up September 11th and “dark-skinned Muslims,” points out the “predominantly white” nature of the crowd (entirely coincidental, since it was an event open to the public), and rehashes untraceable emails from the Democratic primary campaign season.
It is especially precious of Daniel to dismiss intent in a throwaway line: “Whether intended or not by the McCain campaign…” In Daniel’s world, racism is all in the eye of the aggrieved (or the aggrieved’s self-appointed journalistic proxy, as the case may be). This brings to mind the firing in 1999 of an aide to D.C. Mayor Anthony Daniels for using the word “niggardly;” or, more recently, the outrage of the Dallas county commissioner who objected to the “racist” term “black hole;” or, closer to home, the howling of Obama fans over the use of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton juxtaposed with Obama in McCain’s earlier “Celeb” ad. For those of us who don’t live in Daniel-land, intent is the crux of the entire charge. Without racist intent, Daniel’s allegation falls apart; if Palin was not appealing to racism, then one cannot trace what she said to racism. She cannot be held responsible for some racist crank interpreting it otherwise any more than she can be held responsible for the results of Daniel’s blind grasping for far-fetched “subtextual” messages rooted in racism.
We can expect to see a lot more of this. The McCain-Palin ticket is still the underdog, and they don’t give any sign of backing off their new aggressive approach planned for the final month of the campaign. Just as the “Celeb” ad effectively punctured Obama’s glamour-induced popularity bubble following his visit to Germany and sent his numbers into a downward slide, so the new approach of highlighting his association with William Ayers (and you can bet Tony Rezko and other previously ignored skeletons will follow close behind) is likely to hurt Obama’s standing in the polls. And as with the “Celeb” ad, in the absence of any other defense, the usual Obama surrogates will fall backward, arms pinwheeling, onto the same reflex of crying racist.