Putting on Ayers…and ACORN

  OK—call me a member of a media establishment that craves confrontation, but I was watching this debate to see when and how the name William Ayers would be brought up.

   At 25:34 into the proceedings, Bob Schieffer opened the door, asking the candidates if they had anything to say, face-to-face, about the negative charges that ads and running-mates have been leveling.

   It took a full ten minutes for McCain to bring up Ayers’ name.  After he complained about Cong. John Lewis and negative ads… after Obama had responded that McCain’s ads were far more negative and that Cong. Lewis had gone overboard, comparing McCain to George Wallace…finally, McCain got around to Ayers and the anti-poverty group ACORN, as a rushed PS.

   “Mr. Ayers—I don’t care about a washed-up terrorist,” he began abruptly, adding that Obama owed voters an explanation of his relationship with the former member of the Weather Underground—an “unrepentant domestic terrorist”, as the McCain campaign consistently phrases it.

   Obama clearly expected it—repeating his usual defense that he was 8 years old when Ayers was engineering bomb attacks in support of a leftist, anti-war agenda.  “Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign…and will not be advising me in the White House.”

   They went back and forth for a while—“You launched your political career in his home.” “That’s not true.”  Judging by the reaction of focus groups assembled by the networks, this subject isn’t playing big with undecided voters.

   Nor did they seem to react much to McCain’s comments about ACORN, the anti-poverty group being investigated in several states, Florida among them, for registering bogus voters.  McCain’s rhetoric was hot—ACORN was “tearing at the fabric” of the American political system, he said.

   Obama countered that he’d helped ACORN in its efforts to get a motor-voter law set up in Illinois, several years ago. 

   The bottom-line for me wasn’t so much the back-and-forth on the specific charges about Ayers and ACORN.  It was the way McCain brought it up, at the end of a long harangue on other subjects.  It felt like he wasn’t wild about raising these subjects, but knew he had to, to try to cultivate the seeds of doubt sown by his VP.

   Unlike McCain, Sarah Palin embraces the attack role with gusto—her convention speech was remembered and well-received by the GOP audience for her skewering of Obama’s background as a community organizer.  Unfortunately for McCain, Palin’s getting more attention as skeweree than skewerer, these days.

   So—trailing and needing to shake things up—he finally shouldered the Ayers and ACORN attacks, and made them his own.  But that ten-minute delay made McCain look like a reluctant warrior, this time.


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