With all the dirty politics you're about to see from the McCain campaign, America is going to need a hot shower.
This nonsense about William Ayers is just the beginning. As you probably know by now, Ayers is the 60s radical and former Weathermen terrorist who during the years since has become a political fixture in Chicago. Obama served on a board with Ayers and was the recipient of his political support.
It was only a matter of time before the McCain campaign brought up Ayers. I was a little surprised that they chose Sarah Palin as the attack dog on it, though, since it's such a loathful job. Here's what she said in Clearwater:
"I am just so fearful that this is not a man [Obama] who sees America the way that you and I see America, as the greatest source for good in this world. I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country."
In a recent post I remarked, rather perversely, that I liked Palin's knack for sticking in the knife with a smile on her face. But her shameless ginning up of fear and her claim that Obama "worked" with a domestic terrorist is just despicable. She really is a dangerous little number. The key word is, of course, terrorist -- they want that word, no matter how scurrilously it has been applied, to reverberate through Bubbadom for the next few weeks.
So Obama is in trouble, right? No, this is actually a good sign for the Democratic ticket. It means that McCain has reached a new level of desperation. He promised a clean campaign. He lied.
And know that this is just the beginning. Ayers is just the first volley. The next step will be a claim that Obama is tied to Middle Eastern terrorists. And don't be surprised if they don't unveil these attacks in Florida, too. Only this time in Boca or Coconut Creek rather than Clearwater, since they're aimed primarily at Jewish voters.
There is already a slime machine up and running on this. Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein has been sending out emails about it for months. In June I wrote that the attacks on Obama would "make Swift Boat look like a dinghy."
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Here's a name they'll soon be trotting out, whether through their lipsticked wonder or another channel: Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi is a Columbia professor and Palestinian who -- surprise, surprise -- opposes Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. He doesn't espouse terrorism and decries suicide bombings, but those distinctions won't matter.
He has a Muslim name, has been associated with the PLO, and therefore he's a terrorist. Same with a fellow named Ali Abuniyah, another Palestinian intellectual who'll soon be brought into the mix. If McCain gets desperate enough, the campaign will veer into straight-out racism. More on that later, when it happens.
One thing is certain -- this is going to get vile. The McCain people are going to play on hate and fear in the worst way. If the Obama campaign responds in kind -- which it sort of did by bringing up McCain's ignominious membership in the Keating Five after Ayers' name was trotted out -- this could become one of the ugliest presidential campaigns in history. The difference is that the Keating reference is a fair point rather than a disgusting and ultimately destructive campaign tactic. But McCain knows that he's not invulnerable to attack. There's a lot to hit him on, in addition to the Keating fiasco. Two more orders of business would be to poke huge holes in Fred Thompson's idea that McCain was a "hero" in the war and to detail his shameful dumping of his first family to marry into big money.
Unless pushed to the brink, Obama should leave those things alone. But he also needs to address every attack from the GOP slime machine quickly and forcefully. Call it the Kerry Lesson.