Over the weekend, GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin, the self-described attack dog in lipstick, began what she and McCain have referred to as “taking the gloves off” — which is apparently Republican-speak for “telling even bigger lies” — with an attack on Barack Obama’s superficial association with 1960s radical, William Ayers:
Obama was only eight years old when Ayers used violence to protest the war in Iraq, but when John McCain entangled himself in the Keating Five scandal he was 58.
“Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
The Associated Press, which got a lot of press over the summer for the promotion of Ron Fournier, an apparent fellow traveler with Karl Rove, to head its DC bureau, released an analysis written by Douglass K. Daniel on Sunday that suggested that the Palin attack was “unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.” Daniel’s rationale goes like this:
Palin’s words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black presidential nominee “palling around” with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn’t see their America?
In a post-Sept. 11 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.
Sean Hannity has been beating this tired drum for months. There simply is no “there” there. (We published an overview of Obama’s dealings with Ayers in March.) Obama said this about Ayers in a Democratic debate:
This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, whoâ€™s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. Heâ€™s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.
And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesnâ€™t make much sense, George.
While McCain chose to launch his spurious attack on Obama over the weekend while no one was watching, the Obama campaign has lobbed its counter-attack first thing Monday morning, with an announcement that they will release a 30 minute documentary on McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five scandal, which McCain has called his worst mistake. (You can also see the video on the Obama campaign’s Youtube page.)
Here’s how the Obama campaign describes McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal:
The current economic crisis demands that we understand John McCain’s attitudes about economic oversight and corporate influence in federal regulation. Nothing illustrates the danger of his approach more clearly than his central role in the savings and loan scandal of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
John McCain was accused of improperly aiding his political patron, Charles Keating, chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. The bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee launched investigations and formally reprimanded Senator McCain for his role in the scandal — the first such Senator to receive a major party nomination for president.
At the heart of the scandal was Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which took advantage of deregulation in the 1980s to make risky investments with its depositors’ money. McCain intervened on behalf of Charles Keating with federal regulators tasked with preventing banking fraud, and championed legislation to delay regulation of the savings and loan industry — actions that allowed Keating to continue his fraud at an incredible cost to taxpayers.
When the savings and loan industry collapsed, Keating’s failed company put taxpayers on the hook for $3.4 billion and more than 20,000 Americans lost their savings. John McCain was reprimanded by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, but the ultimate cost of the crisis to American taxpayers reached more than $120 billion.
The Keating scandal is eerily similar to today’s credit crisis, where a lack of regulation and cozy relationships between the financial industry and Congress has allowed banks to make risky loans and profit by bending the rules. And in both cases, John McCain’s judgment and values have placed him on the wrong side of history.
One key fact here: Obama was only eight years old — and was living abroad — when Ayers protested the war in Vietnam, but when John McCain entangled himself in the Keating Five scandal he was 58.