Comparing McCain now with the campaign against him in 2000

Speaking of stuff that was on today’s op-ed page, did you read the other piece, the one by the two profs — no, wait, just one of them was a prof (at Furman); the other might more accurately be termed a "writer" — about how that awful John McCain ought to "know better" than to criticize Barack Obama over his associations because of the way he, McCain, was treated in the 2000 GOP primary here? An excerpt:

Here we go again. Politicians falling in the polls are resorting to
character slurs and political smears. To the people of South Carolina
it’s deja vu — all over again.

week John McCain’s campaign launched a web advertisement about Barack
Obama’s ties to a “domestic terrorist.” Sarah Palin claimed that Obama
sees America “as being so imperfect … that he’s palling around with
terrorists who would target their own country” and repeatedly commented
on Obama’s “association” with “terrorists.”

It is a chilling indictment. But false.

sad irony. In the 2000 primaries, after John McCain defeated a heavily
favored George Bush by 19 percentage points in New Hampshire, the Texas
governor’s campaign was in trouble. If Bush lost the S.C. primary,
where his opponent was already popular, he had little chance of
stopping McCain. Something had to be done. Anything.

What did you think of the piece? Personally, I thought the premise was silly and way off-base. So why did I run it? Well, we run all sorts of views on the op-ed page, and I think a lot of them are silly and off-base. That’s all part of the public conversation. Specifically, I chose to leave this one on the page for two reasons:

  1. There are a lot of people criticizing McCain these days along precisely these lines, and this was practically a textbook case of it. I especially like the tut-tutting tone attesting to how very disappointed the authors were in McCain ("Such sad irony.") — that is a trait
    common to these sorts of assertions. So this was a good example of
    that, and written from an SC angle. I thought it such a good example that I even overlooked the painfully trite bit about "deja vu all over again." (If only poor Yogi had a nickel for every time, huh?)
  2. It was good to run it as a counterpoint to the Charles Krauthammer piece we ran on Friday, which stuck up for McCain over the Ayers stuff, etc., and criticized him only for having been too fussy to bring this stuff up long before.

Why did I think it silly and off-base? Oh come ON, people! Raising the subject of Bill Ayers — even in clumsy, demagogic language such as "palling around with terrorists" — is in NO WAY like making up a lie about John McCain’s adopted daughter that is specifically and particularly and reprehensibly designed to appeal to the worst racist instincts in the S.C. electorate. Say whatever else you want to say about it, but that’s an extreme stretch. It is ONLY logical if you mean that saying something that reflects poorly upon an opponent’s character is the same as any other instance of doing so. Which is silly.

The authors’ perception of moral equivalence seems to lie in the fact that they believe this, too is "false." But I missed the part where they, or anyone else, has demonstrated that. To the contrary, Obama has had dealings with Bill Ayers, and while the exact nature or extent of said relationship remains fuzzy, what little we know indicates that it was more friendly than, say, inimical. So what you’re left with is quibbling over the quantitative meaning of "palling around," and the generally incendiary, hamhanded style of the assertion by that silver-tongued wordsmith Sarah Palin, or the coarseness of crowds who eat that stuff up.

Or do you think that Bill Ayers is NOT an unrepentant terrorist? If so, I need to see the evidence. Because what I’ve seen argues to the contrary.

Tell you what. I’m going to stop being shy and tell you what I really think — I disagree both with Messrs. Manuto and O’Rourke AND with Krauthammer. I just told you why I disagree with the first two gentlemen. The part I disagree with Krauthammer over is the idea that McCain should have been hammering on this stuff all along. Personally, I wish he weren’t bringing it up NOW. It’s not going to accomplish anything positive — it just speaks to the great divide in our politics left over from Vietnam. That was a battle we didn’t think we were going to fight in this campaign.

And here’s where there is a kernel of a point in the O’Rourke-Manuto piece; they just spoiled it by grotesquely exaggerating it. And it’s this: this is not consistent with the style that has make McCain so popular with those of us who love to watch both sides in the culture wars get mad at him. There’s nothing WRONG with mentioning Ayers; it’s not a foul. But it’s not the style of play we go to McCain for.

There are better ways to say what the McCain campaign has been getting at with the Ayers stuff. For instance, it was stated fairly well in a piece in The Wall Street Journal last week (although the overall thrust of the piece, headlined "News Flash: The Media Back Obama" is in itself another tired cliche):

…Mr. Obama… is the leading exponent of the idea that our lost nation requires rehabilitation in the eyes of the world — and it is the most telling difference between him and Mr. McCain. When asked, in one of the earliest debates of the primary, his first priority should he become president, his answer was clear. He would go abroad immediately to make amends, and assure allies and others in the world America had alienated, that we were prepared to do all necessary to gain back their respect.

It is impossible to imagine those words coming from Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama has uttered them repeatedly one way or another and no wonder. They are in his bones, this impossible-to-conceal belief that we’ve lost face among the nations of the world — presumably our moral superiors. He is here to reform the fallen America and make us worthy again of respect. It is not in him, this thoughtful, civilized academic, to grasp the identification with country that Mr. McCain has in his bones — his knowledge that we are far from perfect, but not ready, never ready, to take up the vision of us advanced by our enemies. That identification, the understanding of its importance and of the dangers in its absence — is the magnet that has above all else drawn voters to Mr. McCain….

The thing is, it’s impossible to imagine a campaign event for John McCain hosted by Bill Ayers. McCain has done a great deal over the years to reach out to people who were opposed to the war in Vietnam, and even to his former captors — he has acted heroically to normalize relations with their country. But there’s no way he would have been associated with a guy who’s proud of HIS association with the bombings of the NYC police HQ, the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon.

Barack Obama HAS been associated with that guy, however fuzzy (and subject to debate) that connection may be. And that speaks to a difference in worldview. But I doubt we’ll ever have an intelligent discussion of that difference.

14 thoughts on “Comparing McCain now with the campaign against him in 2000

  1. Norm Ivey

    I like what you’ve said here, Brad. Obama’s and McCain’s world views are different, and neither is wrong in his worldview. For me, Obama’s world view is the one that I’ve held (sometime more so, sometime less so) since I was a child.
    I fear I may oversimplify, but this is how I perceive their world views. Obama sees the United States as part of the larger global community. He recognizes that we must sometimes work with our allies to accomplish our goals, and that sometimes we may work without our allies. There may be times when it is to our advantage to work with nations that are not so friendly with us (Pakistan is a good example–they are hardly an ally). His is a pragmatic and thoughtful approach to governing. His response at the Camelback summit to the question about evil reflects that view. Given the choices of ignoring, containing, defeating or running from evil, Obama offered a further option–to confront it. His response indicates that there are a multitude of options–perhaps ones that other have no considered.
    McCain’s worldview, on the other hand, is one in which the United States is the leading economic, military, and political power on the planet–a director and overseer of the global community (I recall seeing a political cartoon in high school in which Teddy Roosevelt was depicted as “The World’s Policeman”). We were at one time, and we could use our influence to encourage other nations to follow our lead (or at least not stand in our way). Unfortunately (from our point of view), we no longer have that unique stature in the world. Economically, militarily, and politically we are no longer the only superpower (or even one of two). McCain’s world view was appropriate in the latter part of the 20th century, and there is still a place for that world view at times.
    But here is the big difference between the two senators. Obama’s worldview allows for McCain’s worldview as an option when it is pragmatic; McCain’s worldview does not allow for the considered thoughtfulness of Obama’s worldview.

  2. Brad Warthen

    For those of you who miss the nuance in the cartoon — before becoming the assistant secretary of the Navy (which put him in position to push past the rather passive secretary, and sometimes the president, to advance his own very muscular concept of the nation’s proper role in the world, one that would make today’s neocons look like wussies), T.R. shook up New York City as a very activist, reform-minded police commissioner.
    Hence the aptness of the metaphor.
    Did I just overexplain that? Perhaps.

  3. The Outskirts of C-Town

    As a life-long Republican voter (until this year) I was surprised I didn’t hear about “Rove’s” smear campaign of 2000 until late in 2007. [It has the fingerprints of a local, if you asked me.] I simply voted for our W based on trust and probably a gut feeling of genuine ‘like’ for the man.
    That throwing this out there could get so much traction is what is amazing:
    Rumor: John McCain’s adopted daughter is really his illegitimate child with a black woman.
    The thought must really be repugnant to the local yokels. Why did they specify black? What if she were, in fact, an Indian woman? Making that distinction makes for a dangerous mentality. That they knew it would “sell” is the most disturbing part of the whole thing.
    I enjoyed Cindi’s column today. The fact that someone with a far-flung pen sees the irony in the legislature minding the judiciary — there is hope for us yet. Cindi loses me when she gets too technical, but “Pot. Kettle. Black.” sinks right in!!!

  4. Lee Muller

    It is reasonable to worry about the reason so many radical Muslims, terrorists, and sympathizer DO SUPPORT Obama.
    Hamas leaders
    Hezbollah leaders
    Thousands of illegal donors from Palestine
    Percy Sutton
    Khalid Monsour
    Saudis who paid Obama’s way through law school
    2008 Muslim Congress
    Bill Ayers
    Bernadine Dorn
    Reverand Wright
    Louis Farakan
    Nation of Islam
    Black Panthers
    Obama’s Muslim father
    Obama’s Muslim brothers
    Obama writing about the “beauty of Islam”
    Obama’s Wahabee school teachers
    If any of you are unfamiliar with these facts, please don’t vote.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Yes, that was yet another good column by Cindi. Here’s the link. She’s got another good one, one that only she could have written, running tomorrow.

    Phillip, the only part of your comment that showed up was the link to the Wikipedia article on Tucker Eskew. Unless, of course, that WAS your comment. If so, it wasn’t up to your usual standards.

    If it was all you had to say, we can only assume that you meant to say: Eskew. Bush 2000. Palin 2008. And I’m sorry, but that’s not nearly as clear, or as logical, as Cindi’s "Pot. Kettle. Black." It makes less sense than the aforementioned argument in today’s op-ed piece.

    Yeah, I know Tucker’s been working for Palin. And we know he’s a longtime Campbell associate, and Campbell always backed the Bushes. But all that tells you is that Tucker is part of the S.C. GOP establishment, and that establishment was solidly on the side of Bush in 2000. The fact that Tucker acknowledged responsibility for the push poll about the Keating Five (something I DIDN’T know, or had forgotten, until I read the Wikipedia link) doesn’t make him culpable for the really nasty stuff. That would require some proof I haven’t seen. After all, some Obama supporters on this very blog seem to be fond of bringing up Keating. McCain’s involvement with Keating was explained long ago in a way that caused me not to count it against his character, but I don’t cry "foul" when someone brings it up. Whole different ballgame there from "black illegitimate child."

    Mind you, Bob McAlister is part of that same establishment, and he got on board with McCain early this time around. (Meanwhile, Mike Campbell went with Huckabee.) So personally, I didn’t see anything nefarious in the fact that Tucker went to work for Palin. I found it interesting just because we know him here in S.C., but obviously I didn’t think about it long enough to mention it on the blog, which at one point I meant to, before forgetting it.

    I last talked to Tucker Eskew at a Starbucks in New York City in August 2004. (We sat at an outdoor table and I had an iced decaf; this was before I got addicted to REAL Starbucks coffee.) I was going to do a column on his involvement in the War on Terror. He had been at the Foreign Office in London acting as a liaison between the White House and HMG. (Hey, y’all who want to see a conspiracy; go after that — antiwar folks should find that a rich vein.) That interested me because, as you know, I’m a big fan of Tony Blair. But I never wrote the piece, because the interview was at the start of the RNC, and a lot of other stuff distracted me before I could get to it. Back then there was no blog, so things either rose to column prominence or they didn’t.

    But now that you’ve reminded me, if I can get caught up with the other stuff I’m doing, maybe I should give Tucker a call and see what I can learn about the whole Palin thing.

  6. The Outskirts of C-Town

    “Eskew. Bush 2000. Palin 2008.”
    That’s how I took it too, Phillip.
    “Tucker:Bush campaign 00:McCain campaign 08”
    Of course you local yokels know the backroads much better than I know them, politically. But I was thinking someone slightly to the west of Columbia. Like, West Columbia’n’em.

  7. Ralph Hightower

    We have all read Lee Muller’s hundreds of posts that Barack Obama runs around with Weatherman Bill Ayers and is probably the godfather for the Obama’s daughters; or at least Obama is casually associated with Bill Ayers on a few civic and educationational organizations.
    John McCain has a “Bill Ayers” problem. John McCain has promised as president to pardon a federal criminal that has participated in bombings and murder.
    Read the following article in its entirety. What I am posting are just excerpts, not the full article.
    The GOP’s Bill Ayers?
    The McCain campaign has its own questionable connections to bombers and assassins.
    By A.L. Bardach
    Posted Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at 3:40 PM ET

    McCain’s campaign, however, has its own questionable connections to terrorists. Since John F. Kennedy’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Florida’s Cuban-Americans have been regarded as a reliable Republican voting block. And from 1960 until Sept. 11, 2001, some exile hard-liners in Miami endorsed a double standard on terrorism in which anti-Castro militants and bombers were judged to be “freedom fighters,” regardless of the civilian deaths and collateral damage they caused in Cuba and the United States, as well as elsewhere.
    On July 20, while campaigning for McCain in Miami and just prior to speaking at a McCain event, Sen. Joe Lieberman met with the wife of convicted serial bomber Eduardo Arocena and promised to pursue a presidential pardon on his behalf. Arocena is the founder of the notorious Cuban exile militant group Omega 7, renowned for a string of bombings from 1975 to 1983. Arocena was convicted of the 1980 murder of a Cuban diplomat in Manhattan. In 1983, Arocena was arrested and charged with 42 counts pertaining to conspiracy, explosives, firearms, and destruction of foreign government property within the United States. He is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison in Indiana. His targets included:
    * Madison Square Garden (he blew up an adjacent store);
    * JFK airport (Arocena’s group planted a suitcase bomb intended for a TWA flight to Los Angeles—in protest of the airline’s flights to Cuba. The plane would have exploded if not for the fact that the bomb went off on the tarmac prior to being loaded);
    Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center (causing damage to three levels of the theater and halting the performance of a music group from Cuba);
    * the ticket office of the Soviet airline Aeroflot;
    * and a church.
    He also attempted to assassinate the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations.
    Arocena was also convicted of the 1979 murder of New Jersey resident Eulalio José Negrín. The 37-year-old Negrín, who advocated diplomacy with Cuba, was machine-gunned down as he stepped into his car, dying in the arms of his 13-year-old son.
    Arocena is not the only militant who’s received help from McCain’s team. In September, McCain announced he was choosing Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Republican congressman from Miami, as his senior adviser and spokesman on Latin America. Rep. Diaz-Balart is a fierce hard-liner on Cuba, advocating, at various times, a blockade of the island, even military action if needed, to unseat Fidel Castro (his former uncle, once married to Diaz-Balart’s aunt). He, too, has been a supporter of certain kinds of terrorists who have struck on American soil. Since 2000, Diaz-Balart and his colleague Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have lobbied for and helped win the release of several convicted exile terrorists from U.S. prisons. Among the most notorious were Omega 7 members Jose Dionisio Suarez Esquivel and Virgilio Paz Romero, both convicted for their roles in the 1976 assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt with a car bomb in Washington, D.C. According to four agents I interviewed, the FBI also suspects the pair were involved in other bombings and attacks. (Suarez is known by the nickname “Charco de Sangre”—Pool of Blood.)
    Diaz-Balart also pushed for the release of Valentin Hernandez, who gunned down Miami resident and Cuban émigré Luciano Nieves in February 1975 for speaking out in support of a dialogue with Cuba.
    Nor has McCain’s senior adviser Diaz-Balart ever wavered in seeking “due process” for legendary bombers and would-be Castro assassins Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. Both were charged with the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 civilian passengers—the first act of airline terrorism in the Americas.

    The above actions that Eduardo Arocena committed happened in 1983; not in the late 60’s/early 70’s of the Weathermen.
    On presidential pardons:

    George Washington freed the violent protesters of the Whiskey Rebellion soon after the revolution. Seventy years later, Andrew Johnson pardoned every Confederate soldier. Richard Nixon let off notorious Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, and three years later received a get-out-of-jail card himself from Gerald Ford. Bill Clinton was tops in the realm of shady presidential pardons. On his last days in office, he wiped the slate clean for not only heiress Patty Hearst but also Marc Rich, a fugitive financier whose family donated millions to his campaign. More apropos to de la Torre’s argument, in 1999 Clinton freed 16 members of FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist group that set off more then 120 bombs in the States.

    In my opinion, Clinton should not have pardoned Marc Rich, who was a fugitive, or the members of FALN.

  8. Harry Harris

    McCain’s campaign of attacking “character” instead of competing on issues is exactly in the same vein as Bush’s attack on him in 2000. McCain has kept his fingerprints off much of the material, just as Bush did in 2000, but is involved through surrogates and front groups. The Obama “biography” funded by Republican money and written by the author of a Kerry hit piece is a good example. I get emails with the kind of stuff our friend Lee spews from my “connected” fellow church members (and some family) every week. Admit it, Brad. McCain is sewing seeds of division that will make it hard for any President to govern in the hard days to come, all in an attempt to use the tried and true Republican strategy of driving up the opponent’s negatives. A demoralized voting population and low turnout benefits Republicans.

  9. Herb Brtasher

    Norm, thanks for your comment. That was well done.
    Pakistanis are asking the question, “why should we die in order to help keep America safe?” Perhaps not what we want to hear, but a legitimate question, nonetheless.

  10. bud

    Sorry Brad, you’re completely wrong on this. McCain is trying a desparate attempt to paint Obama as a dangerous supporter of a despicable terrorist in a disgusting attempt to scare voters. That’s exactly the same thing Bush did in 2000. Your support for McCain has blinded you to the obvious fear and smear campaign that McCain is waging. The two incidents have FAR more in common than not. On a scale of 1 to 10 with a 10 being the “love child” assault by Bush in 2000, the Ayers business by McCain is probably about an 8-1/2.
    As an aside this is even more fundamental than just a one-time fear/smear campaign. The GOP in general likes to scare people and that’s what is so wrong with that party. We are constantly bombarded with nonsensical fear-mongering about terrorists. That’s what got us into the Iraq mess in the first place. McCain’s Ayers campaign illustrates the GOP fear mentality and demonstrates once again that McCain really does = Bush.

  11. p.m.

    Thank you, bud. The GOP is the party of fear. The Democrats are the party of false assurance.
    A thought: Were Bush and Cheney to die in the same plane crash, Nancy Pelosi would be president.
    Nancy Pelosi.
    Third World here we come.


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