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

Tag: Jeremiah Wright

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.

Kristol mails it in

Bill Kristol barely rouses himself in his New York Times column today. Simply as a student of opinion journalism, I’m amazed at the extent to which he’s willing to make assertions without even trying to back them up.

Today’s effort isn’t a bad column because he’s a conservative, but because he’s so lazy. Here are three examples:

1. “McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.”

I have not seen one account of the negotiations that shows John McCain had anything to do with the outcome; I’ve seen quite a few that suggest his parachute jump was a distraction. I make that point not to claim that I’m right, but to explain the conventional wisdom that Kristol, as McCain’s advocate, needs to puncture.

As if. Here was Kristol’s golden opportunity to work those inside connections and tell us why everyone is wrong; to say that McCain did X and Y, and that it’s time he got some credit, damn it. Kristol doesn’t even try.

2. “McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.”

As we have all seen, Sarah Palin can’t answer simple questions about any issues of national and international importance. The reason McCain’s aides have been so parsimonious about her public appearances is that she stumbles every time she opens her mouth. We wouldn’t be talking about how she’s being handled if she could answer the questions.

Again, the columnist’s job is to tell us why everyone is wrong — to explain, on the basis of evidence, that the reason her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric were so damaging was because McCain’s handlers have gotten inside her head and made it impossible for her natural wisdom to flow forth. Or whatever. In other words, give us some plausible explanation for us not to believe our own lying eyes and ears.

And again, Kristol doesn’t bother.

3. “On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words ‘middle class.’ … The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, ‘Dreams From My Father.’ There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright’s church — a passage entitled ‘A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.'”

Why, yes, the McCain campaign might very well consider doing that. Would it be a good idea? Who knows? Kristol doesn’t make any attempt to try to characterize what the brochure says.

Wright has indulged in some pretty nasty rhetoric. But he is, after all, a minister. If Wright calls on people to disavow “the pursuit of middleclassness,” might he be urging them to eschew materialism in favor of service to one’s fellow men and women? Who knows? What we do know is that, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, Kristol manages to insinuate that Wright was seeking a race war against bourgeois society.

How much is he getting paid for this?

Jeremiah Wright’s running mate?

Jake Tapper reports that Sarah and Todd Palin are former members of the Alaskan Independence Party, whose motto is “Alaska First — Alaska Always.” The controversy, Tapper says, is over how hard the party has pushed for independence from the United States. But it gets a whole lot better than that.

According to Lynette Clark, a top party official with whom Tapper spoke, the Palins were members in 1994, and attended the party’s statewide convention, in Wasilla, that year. Sarah Palin quit the party in 1996 in order to run for mayor of Wasilla; there is no indication of when she first joined.

Why are these dates important? Because party founder Joe Vogler, who was chairman right up until his death in 1993, was a “sulphurous” presence known for his “‘America be damned’ rhetoric delivered at D-9-cat decibels,” according to an Anchorage Daily News editorial published in 1998.

America be damned? Gee, who does that remind you of? And could the Palins have been ignorant of Vogler’s views in 1994?

To this day, the Alaskan Independence Party’s Web site proudly carries the following quote from Vogler: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” And Tapper found that Palin had sent a video message to the party’s annual convention just last year.

I’m leery of relying on Wikipedia, but, given what we already know about Vogler, this seems safe: he was murdered, and, as he had previously made it clear that he wished not to be buried under the American flag, he was buried instead in the Yukon.

Country first, eh, Sen. McCain?

Let me jump ahead to the defense we can anticipate: the Alaskan Independence Party is part of the cultural milieu of Alaska, it doesn’t mean the same thing to Alaskans as it would to us, Palin is really a patriotic American, blah blah blah. And you know what? I have no trouble believing any of that.*

Just as I had no trouble believing that Barack and Michelle Obama are patriotic Americans despite their long membership in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church.

*But you know what? On reflection, I wouldn’t be surprised if Palin thought Alaskan independence was kind of a neat idea. That would have been the whole point to joining the party, right?

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