Let me preface this post by noting that yes, I do believe Obama’s ties to Ayers are important. And yes, I think the relationship demonstrates, at best, poor judgement on Obama’s part, and more likely is a giveaway of his far-left worldview and policies.
That said, talking about Ayers is not going to help McCain win the election. In fact, it is likely to backfire. Here are the reasons why:
- No one understands why Ayers isn’t in jail. And we’ve done a lousy job explaining it to people. The truth is that he got off on a technicality, but without that critical piece of information, most people assume he’s either done his time or was never all that guilty in the first place. It is too late to educate people about this; the issue is yesterday’s news and first impressions have already been made.
- It was 30 years ago. No, that doesn’t excuse his actions, but it reinforces my first point: Ayers has managed to stay on the right side of the law for all that time. No matter how despicable his actions in the 60s and 70s, the fact of the matter is that Ayers just isn’t setting bombs anymore. That makes our description of him as a domestic terrorist seem hyperbolic to undecided voters.
- Obama’s defense is airtight when he says he didn’t know about Ayers’s violent past when they worked together. Be honest: had you ever heard of Ayers before this election cycle? I sure hadn’t; I had barely even heard of Weatherman, and I’m plugged into political news feeds and blogs almost constantly. You can bet that the average Joe is going to give him a pass for not knowing what they themselves didn’t know.
- It ties McCain to Bush. Any mention of terrorism reminds people of the War on Terror, which is almost entirely Bush’s baby. Popular opinion is that the threat of terrorism has been greatly exaggerated. This makes McCain look like he’s delivering more of the same at a time when he should be running as far away from Bush as he can.
- Most importantly, Ayers has nothing to do with the economy, which is the single most important issue to voters right now. Talking about Ayers makes it look like we’re trying to change the subject, when — and I cannot stress this enough — Americans do not want the subject changed. They’re worried about their jobs, their homes, and their nest eggs. They are not concerned about William Ayers.
The only positive argument for talking about Ayers is that his relationship with Obama is instructive in deciphering Obama’s worldview. Ayers may not still be a bomb-thrower, but he’s still a radical with Marxist ideals; that Obama worked so closely with such a man suggests that he is also not moderate in his own views. But this argument is tedious, convoluted, and difficult to sell to undecided voters. In short, the negatives of talking about Ayers outweigh the positives.
Every moment we spend talking about Ayers is a moment taken away from pinning the current economic crisis on Obama and the Democrats. Every mention of Ayers at a campaign rally is an excuse for the media to make McCain look like he’s ignoring the fact that the Dow is falling drastically every day. Every comment about Ayers makes it look like we’re not engaging Americans on the number one issue facing them right now.
In reality, McCain has a bulletproof argument on the current financial crisis, revolving around three points:
- Obama says McCain has always supported financial deregulation, but that’s a lie. In 2006, McCain sponsored the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act, which would have prevented the failures at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two entities most responsible for the housing bust and subsequent financial crisis.
- Democrats blocked the very legislation that McCain sponsored on a party-line vote, and argued that there was nothing wrong with Fannie and Freddie. Now the American taxpayer is footing the bill, to the tune of $700 billion.
- Obama himself said that subprime mortgage lending — which is what caused the housing bust and financial crisis — was a good idea, and that it was fine with him, while taking more money in contributions from Fannie and Freddie in just three years than any other politician in history except Chris Dodd.
McCain has been hitting this message. I was pleased to see him make these points during the last debate. He’s said it at town hall meetings all week. But the media has ignored it because they know it hurts Obama. If we want to get this message out to the people, we need to make it our only message right now. We need to be talking about this 24/7, and not giving the media an excuse to focus on anything else.