It’s been difficult to concentrate on anything this week, with both the presidential campaign and the global economy teetering on the edge of the abyss. I had been pretty successful until a few weeks ago in keeping some distance from political and financial news, with the exception of watching the conventions and debates. In the last couple of weeks, though, McCain and Palin — Palin especially — and their surrogates have been whipping up their supporters into a strange frenzy. I was glad to see McCain back away from it on Friday, telling his audience that Obama is a decent man with whom McCain has many fundamental disagreements.
McCain and Palin continue to bang away at the “Obama pals around with domestic terrorists” meme, however, arguing that Obama’s associations with University of Illinois professor and former leader of the Weather Underground William Ayers demonstrate something important about Obama’s patriotism or judgment. Obama denies any meaningful connection with Ayers, and The New York Times ran a long piece recently, concluding that there isn’t, and never was, much of a relationship between Obama and Ayers, but McCain and Palin keep coming back to it.
There isn’t any more support for the allegations now than there was when the Times wrote its story, but it’s still out there. The Daily Beast, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown’s latest project and my new favorite news and commentary aggregator, has unfortunately had it as its lead story the entire weekend, giving the claims far more credibility than they’re worth, with blurbs that are mostly skeptical of the Obama’s explanations and the Times story. The pundits quoted don’t actually have any facts to share, they just try to poke holes in Obama’s version as backed up by the Times.
The Daily Beast would do well to add a link to today’s Chicago Sun-Times. There’s a good story, based on work done by FactCheck.org, showing that the alleged relationship between Obama and Ayers consists of a couple of common board memberships, a small fund raiser in 1995, and a $200 donation in 2001. Ayers was never convicted of anything, and doesn’t appear to have ever actually hurt anyone. Sure, he could have hurt someone, and I’m not condoning what he admits to having done, but let’s be serious about this: compare Obama’s tenuous association with a guy who is now generally considered non-toxic (he’s a state employee, for Pete’s sake) with Palin’s support of a group that advocates Alaska’s secession from the Union: