Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And They Say Dick Cheney is a Threat to Civil Liberties

One of my stumbling blocks for voting for McCain is the fact that he championed McCain-Feingold, which I consider to be an atrocious limitation on free speech. But perhaps McCain and Barack Obama have more in common than I thought, according to the AP...
Barack Obama is striking back fiercely and swiftly to stamp out an ad that links him to a 1960s radical, eager to demonstrate a far more aggressive response to attacks than John Kerry did when faced with the 2004 "Swift Boat" campaign.

Obama not only aired a response ad to the spot linking him to William Ayers, but he sought to block stations the commercial by warning station managers and asking the Justice Department to intervene. The campaign also planned to compel advertisers to pressure stations that continue to air the anti-Obama commercial.

It's the type of going-for-the-jugular approach to politics many Democrats complain that Kerry lacked and that Republicans exploit.

Obama's target is an ad by the conservative American Issues Project, a nonprofit group that questions Obama's ties to Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground organization that took credit for a series of bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol four decades ago.

The lone financier of the anti-Obama ad, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, was also one of the main funders of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who targeted Kerry. Simmons, a McCain fundraiser, contributed nearly $2.9 million to the American Issues Project, according to documents filed by the group with the Federal Election Commission.

Fox News and CNN have declined to air the anti-Obama ad. But by Monday afternoon, the ad had run about 150 times in local markets in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan, according to Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, an ad tracking firm.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama supporters have inundated stations that are airing the ad, many of them owned by Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails. He called the ad false, despicable and outrageous.

"Other stations that follow Sinclair's lead should expect a similar response from people who don't want the political discourse cheapened with these false, negative attacks," Vietor said.

Sinclair offices were closed late Monday and officials there could not be immediately contacted.

"It seems they protest a bit too much," American Issues Project spokesman Christian Pinkston said. "They're going all of these routes — through threats, intimation — to try to thwart the First Amendment here because they don't have an argument on merit."

...In a letter to station managers, Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote: "Your station is committed to operating in the public interest, an objective that cannot be satisfied by accepting for compensation material of such malicious falsity."

Bauer also wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, noting that the ad is a "knowing and willful attempt to evade the strictures of federal election law."
See, airing an ad to counter the bad one -- that's free speech. Good for Obama, even if I still need to see where he denounced William Ayers (I keep reading he has done so, and just haven't seen it). I still think Obama's ad is pretty silly, but if he can counter with facts that demonstrate that he's not closely associated with an unrepentant (alleged) terrorist thug, more power to him.

Sending in your lawyers to pressure broadcasters not to air the ad -- that's not free speech, and it's bad strategy to boot. Now plenty of people will see the ad in question, and even more will think a logical thought -- why don't they want me to see it? That's particularly true in an environment when the ad can be emailed and seen by millions on the Interweb. For example...

See, now three more people have seen the ad (four if you count my one-year old daughter). I wholeheartedly doubt that everything in this ad is true. But I also doubt that the Obama campaign has hit upon an effective way to counter the ad this way. In fact, it led to USA Today covering the story and talking about Ayers in some detail. That article features this incredible quote from 60's radical-turned-elected official Tom Hayden...
Tom Hayden, an anti-war activist who met Ayers in the 1960s and later was elected to the California Legislature, says Ayers' past should be forgiven.

"I have met and like John McCain, but he bombed, and presumably killed, many people in a war I opposed," Hayden says. "If I can set all that aside, I would hope that Americans will accept" that Ayers has changed, too.
I'm sure members of the American military love the moral equivalence between actions taken by soldiers in a war with domestic terrorism. You know, I'm as sick of Vietnam comparisons as the next guy, but don't tell me that because it was a different time, I can't understand why idiots like Ayers were setting bombs. The 1960's and the Vietnam War did not exist in a time warp where America was under a totalitarian regime or something, and setting bombs is and was WRONG. Period. Plenty of young people did stupid things, but the vast majority didn't try to kill people or destroy property with explosives. Even if they did, one would hope that maturity supplied them with the necessary perspective to know it's wrong.

My suggestion to Obama? Address the issue in a speech, where you condemn Ayers as contemptible scum. No, not his actions -- him. Say they're not only unacceptable, but a failure to apologize shows that he has learned nothing about how wrong he is, and that you regret any association with the man. If you want to go over the top, state that you don't want his vote, or the vote of anyone who thinks his actions were and are justified.

I'm guessing that's actually the truth, if only for political reasons. I hope it's true regardless.


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