Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Did McCain "pal around with terrorists"?

The accusation that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists", promoted by John McCain, is a gross McCarthyite smear: classic guilt by association cynically using the very real terrorist threat to tarnish the reputation of patriotic Americans. Maybe those who level such charges should look into their own associations with a more critical eye before casting the first stone.

from the Huffington Post: Carl Bernstein: Ayers and the McCain-G. Gordon Liddy Symbiosis

Does John McCain "pal around with terrorists?"

Certainly McCain's continuing "association" and relationship with the convicted Watergate burglar and domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy might suggest that is the case, if we are to apply the standards drawn by the McCain campaign.

In 1998, Liddy gave a fundraiser in his Scottsdale, Arizona home for McCain's senatorial re-election campaign -- the two posed for photographs together; and as recently as May, 2007, as a presidential candidate, McCain was a guest on Liddy's syndicated radio show. Inexplicably, McCain heaped praise on his host's values. During the segment, McCain said he was "proud" of Liddy, and praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great." From the program:

LIDDY: Your experience in the Hanoi Hilton is remarkable. I mean, I put in five years in a prison [for masterminding the Watergate burglary, and associated crimes], but it was here in the United States, and they didn't torture - the only torture that I had was being forced to listen to rap music from time to time.

McCAIN: Well, you know, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your family. I'm proud to know your son, Tom, who's a great and wonderful guy. And it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon. And congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.

Which of Liddy's "principles and philosophies" was McCain referring to? Liddy's advocacy of break-ins? Firebombings? Assassinations? Kidnappings? Taking target practice with figures nicknamed Bill and Hillary?

During the same period that Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, Gordon Liddy was making plans to firebomb a Washington think tank, assassinate a prominent journalist, undertake the Watergate burglary, break into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, and kidnap anti-war protesters at the 1972 Republican convention.

Re: Liddy's "continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great:" Did McCain mean to include Liddy's instructions to listeners of his radio show in 1994 (around the time Ayres and Obama were on a board together discussing education programs and other plots) on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents (aim for the head)?

If ATF agents attempt to curtail a citizen's gun ownership, Liddy counseled, "Well, if the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests."

More recently, Liddy explained making the Clintons objects of shooting practice: "I did relate that on the 4th of July of last year, when I and my family and some friends were out firing away at a properly-constructed rifle range and we ran out of targets, and so we - I drew some stick figure targets and I thought we ought to give them names. So I named them Bill and Hillary, thought it might improve my aim. It didn't. My aim is good anyway. Now, having said that, I accept no responsibility for somebody shooting up the White House."

McCain's strong praise of Liddy stands in stark contrast to Obama's condemnation of Ayers. Does McCain stand by his praise of Liddy's "philosophy" (whatever that is) or has he renounced his ties to this domestic terrorist? Don't hold your breath if you're waiting for him to address this.

Of course, none of this is ulitimately that important. What I, and apparently a majority of voters, really want is for John McCain to focus not on Ayers or Liddy, but on the issues. If McCain chooses to do this, he helps himself and the nation. Now more than ever we need to have a thoughtfully framed debate. McCain must stop clouding the issues with smears.

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