By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Ayers instead of Wright?

Tucker Carlson asks something I’ve been wondering myself: Why did the McCain campaign choose to go after Barack Obama’s tenuous ties to the former radical William Ayers instead of revisiting Obama’s long association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obama has been “palling around with terrorists” is false on at least two levels: her use of the plural, and her insinuation that Obama had anything more than a passing acquaintance with Ayers.

Yet Obama has clearly been disingenuous about his long, close relationship with Wright, whose “God damn America!” exhortation was one of the recurring hits of the primary campaign. You don’t title your campaign book after one of Wright’s sermons and sit in his church for 20-something years without knowing what the man is about.

Given the McCain campaign’s lie-and-deny tactics, it doesn’t seem likely that it was too worried about the Palin family’s own association with the radical Alaskan Independence Party, whose founder’s motto — “I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions” — exceeds Wright in its anti-American vitriol.

So why Ayers and not Wright? It is a mystery. If you’re going to go negative, at least do it competently.

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10 Comments

  1. Joel Monka

    No mystery- Rev Wright hasn’t murdered anybody. And it IS terrorists, plural- have you forgotten Bernadine Dohrn?

  2. fausto

    They don’t want to invite any closer scrutiny of Palin’s association with the Wasilla Assembly of God. Compared to the WAG’s admiration for witch hunters, belief in wars and taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects as missions from God, and Messianic view of Palin’s political career, Wright look like a sober old presbyter.

  3. zadig

    Joel, if Bill Ayers murdered someone, why isn’t he in jail?As for why Ayers and not Wright, Fausto has it exactly – a member of the McCain/Palin ticket has her own problems with nutcase pastors that don’t bear scrutiny, while it’s only her husband who joined up with America-haters. She only attended their conferences, so that’s OK.Oh, wait. Isn’t attending an America-hating conference much worse than sitting on a board with a former radical?OK, then, I have no idea why Ayers vs. Wright. I think they’re both stupid topics and the McCain campaign is pushing them out of desperation.

  4. Vox

    I think fausto makes a great point.To that I would add Ayers is the bigger Bugbear. He’s easier to demonize. Plus, he’s directly connected to the radical Sixties, which conservatives loathe and fear. When you look at Wright’s activities in the Sixties, he comes off far better.

  5. Sara

    Re: Plural, it could be argued that if Ayers hosted the coffee for him, Bernadine Dohrn was there. Two domestic terrorists! (sitting in a tree … working with Chicago educational institutions on re-forming-ing …)

  6. ryanbarrett

    Because they don’t want to look like they’re race-baiting. Discussing Wright IS discussing race, because some of Wright’s inflammatory statements and his anger reflect the sentiments felt by African-Americans who lived through the Civil Rights era.

  7. Ani

    Well, it strikes me as very odd that people can endorse “enhanced interrogation,” or whatever euphemism they’re using for torture, and not be branded as radical by people avowedly following the Christian message closely; I think it’s all about who has the power, not whether the ideas are any more or less extreme, that is, why people like Ayers and Wright get singled out — it’s certainly not about who is staunchly for humane behavior … And I think the fact that so many Christian pastors can be found to have said controversial things makes it less attractive to go after them … too many glass houses

  8. GFS3

    I agree that the McCain camp doesn’t want to open up the religion spigot because it will cause too much scrutiny of Palin’s own radical associations (including her own pastor).I don’t understand why McCain doesn’t just run on his record — and abandoned the dirty tactics. These methods don’t come easily for him and they are clearly backfiring.

  9. Kim

    I think that McCain bringing up Wright would have people asking about all the conservative pastors that were endorsing McCain early on and people like James Dobson who were endorsing him more recently.Plus, I don’t think that McCain wanted to bring religion into the election at all, seeing as though he is much more secular than religious and that would have angered the religious right.But of course, I’ve been known to be wrong.

  10. mike_b1

    I think by now Obama probably has had plenty of time to develop counterpunches to McCain on this. You have a pastor who is prone to making loud and occasionally uncomfortable statements. But the pastor is also in the ghettos, putting others ahead of himself.On the other side, you have Rush, Ann Coulter, Pat Dollard, Michael Reagan and the rest of the league of talk-show idiots, some of whom openly advocate assassinating various American citizens including Obama and Biden. What’s the difference? Those talk show hosts are paid millions for their “opinions.” And yes, they are all Republicans.

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