McCain TV ad raises Obama’s links to ex-radical
WASHINGTON ” Republican John McCain, trailing in polls and searching for a way to gain ground, assailed Democratic rival Barack Obama on Friday in a sharply worded TV ad that said: “When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied.”
It’s McCain’s toughest commercial yet using Obama’s association with Ayers, a Chicago college professor who was an anti-Vietnam war radical in the 1960s, to assert that Obama has “blind ambition” and “bad judgment,” and, thus, can’t be trusted during an economic catastrophe. “In crisis, we need leadership” ” the ad says and implies that Obama doesn’t offer any.
With little more than three weeks before the election, the GOP presidential candidate is seeking to turn his campaign around by steadily escalating his attacks on his Democratic foe and raising questions about his associations with Ayers, who in 1969 helped found the violent Weather Underground group blamed for bombing government buildings in the early 1970s
The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Obama and Ayers are not close but that they live in the same Chicago neighborhood and worked together on two nonprofit organization boards from the mid-1990s to 2002. Ayers also hosted a small meet-the-candidate event for Obama in 1995 as he first ran for the state Senate.
During the campaign, Obama has denounced Ayers’ radical actions and views.
In an interview with Philadelphia-based radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, Obama said Thursday that when he met Ayers in the mid-1990s Ayers was teaching education the University of Illinois. “I was sitting on this board with a whole bunch conservative businessmen and civic leaders and he was one of the people who was on this board,” Obama said of the Annenberg Challenge, a nonprofit educational group. “Ultimately I ended up learning about the fact that he had engaged in this reprehensible act 40 years ago, but I was eight years old at the time and I assumed that he had been rehabilitated.”
In response, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds asked: “Does Barack Obama continue to believe William Ayers has been ‘rehabilitated’? Or has Barack Obama changed his mind now that William Ayers is a liability, rather than an asset, to his political ambition?”
During a Democratic primary debate in April, Obama called Ayers “a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.”
To back up its claim that Obama lied about his relationship, McCain’s campaign juxtaposed that debate comment with a CNN report in which a reporter asserted that “the relationship between Obama and Ayers went much deeper, ran much longer, and was much more political than Obama said.”
But McCain’s campaign provided no other evidence that Obama “lied.”
Campaigning in Ohio on Friday, Obama didn’t mention the Ayers attacks but chastised McCain and his Republicans for “a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks.”
“It’s easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division,” Obama said. But, he said: “The American people aren’t looking for someone who can divide this country. They’re looking for someone who will lead it.”
Obama suggested McCain’s attacks were motivated by his falling poll numbers: “I know my opponent is worried about his campaign. But that’s not what I’m concerned about. I’m thinking about the Americans losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings.”
Polls show the Democrat is pushing ahead in key battleground states as stock markets plunge and economic crisis grips the country. This has created even steeper political challenges for Republicans who have held the White House for the past eight years.
Over the past week, McCain’s campaign resurrected Ayers and other associations of Obama’s that were first raised during the Democratic primaries. McCain’s advisers have signaled that they believe the 72-year-old four-term Arizona senator’s best chance to win rests with stoking voter unease about the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator who would be the country’s first black president.
The new ad, which the campaign says will run nationally, comes the same day the Republican National Committee begins running its own TV commercial in Indiana and Wisconsin that also seeks to sow doubts about Obama’s political upbringing.
That spot links Obama to Ayers and other Chicago figures. “The Chicago Way. Shady politics. That’s Barack Obama’s training,” the ad says.
McCain himself stepped up this line of attack on Thursday, telling voters in Wisconsin that the Democrat’s association with Ayers raises questions about his honesty and asserting that Obama had not been truthful in describing the relationship.
We need to know the full extent of the relationship,” McCain said and later told ABC News: “It’s a factor about Sen. Obama’s candor and truthfulness with the American people.”