The Corner

The Ayers Question

Very soon after she was picked to be McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin was attacked by Obama campaign spokesmen and a Democratic member of Congress for once being seen wearing a Pat Buchanan button. She had an answer and the campaign offered it. Yet now we are asked to believe that it’s somehow inappropriate to inquire why Barack Obama’s political career began in the home of an admitted and unrepentant domestic terrorist of the radical left? “Who is Barack Obama?” is not an irrelevant question given the job Obama is seeking, and it’s a question he has sought mightily to avoid answering. The veil of secrecy he has thrown over his past (journalists have been denied access to his state legislative office records, documents about state earmarks he distributed in Illinois, a list of his legal clients, his state bar application, billing records related to Tony Rezko, medical records, academic records — all of which are the sort of documents candidates routinely make public) forces the question all the more.

The Obama campaign’s response to the question appears to be to raise John McCain’s connection to the Keating Five scandal. It is by no means out of bounds to raise the issue. McCain received campaign funds from Keating, his wife’s company had been involved in investment ventures with him, and he once met with federal regulators about Keating’s bank — though the Senate Ethics Committee found that unlike three other senators involved in the scandal, “Senator McCain’s actions were not improper.” The committee said only that he had exercised bad judgment by being involved with Keating at all and not seeing what others were doing. In fact, Bob Bennett, who was the Democratic lawyer selected by the committee to investigate the Keating Five, says in his book that he recommended that McCain’s name be dropped from the investigation because there was no evidence against him but, for political reasons (the other Senators were all Democrats), McCain’s name was left on the list.

McCain’s response to that scandal should certainly be compared with Obama’s Ayers explanations. McCain has spoken and written about every detail of the Keating mess, has expressed open contrition for allowing himself to be drawn into it even tangentially, and devoted years of his career to combating corruption as a result. He even badly overreacted and pushed for vastly excessive regulation of campaign financing. He has said (in a book in which he details his and others’ actions in the matter) that merely the appearance of impropriety involved makes his involvement with Keating “the worst mistake of my life.”

Had Obama done and said something similar regarding the sort of radicalism Ayers represents, he would now have an answer to offer. Instead, he has worked with Ayers, supported his causes, and denied any significance to the links between them. That, too, makes this a legitimate question about a man who would be president.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

Most Popular

Sports

It’s Time for a Change in Leadership

A lot of people -- including me -- will tell you he didn’t belong in the top job. We will tell you that nothing in his past performance indicated that he could handle the responsibility or had the right temperament for the pressures of leadership. Some of us opposed him before he stepped through the door and ... Read More
Sports

It’s Time for a Change in Leadership

A lot of people -- including me -- will tell you he didn’t belong in the top job. We will tell you that nothing in his past performance indicated that he could handle the responsibility or had the right temperament for the pressures of leadership. Some of us opposed him before he stepped through the door and ... Read More

Revolution by Shenanigan

Texans are very fond of reminding our fellow Americans that, because of its former status as an independent republic, Texas is the only state in the union permitted by treaty to leave the Union or renegotiate its status. This is a point of pride with Texans. It isn’t true. In fact, nothing you will ever ... Read More

Revolution by Shenanigan

Texans are very fond of reminding our fellow Americans that, because of its former status as an independent republic, Texas is the only state in the union permitted by treaty to leave the Union or renegotiate its status. This is a point of pride with Texans. It isn’t true. In fact, nothing you will ever ... Read More
Media

Three Cheers for Ruth Graham

In her piece in the New York Times today, Ruth Graham captured something quite true: Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is a cultural moment for conservative women. We don’t like to talk in terms of trailblazing, because these words have ideological implications. But we all remember the “mommy wars” when moms ... Read More
Media

Three Cheers for Ruth Graham

In her piece in the New York Times today, Ruth Graham captured something quite true: Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is a cultural moment for conservative women. We don’t like to talk in terms of trailblazing, because these words have ideological implications. But we all remember the “mommy wars” when moms ... Read More
Economy & Business

New Evidence of a Major TikTok Lie

On Sunday, the D.C. district court handed down a preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump administration’s TikTok ban order. The decision, which after being pushed back one week was slated to take effect on Sunday evening, has dealt a setback to Trump’s efforts to mitigate the app’s national-security ... Read More
Economy & Business

New Evidence of a Major TikTok Lie

On Sunday, the D.C. district court handed down a preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump administration’s TikTok ban order. The decision, which after being pushed back one week was slated to take effect on Sunday evening, has dealt a setback to Trump’s efforts to mitigate the app’s national-security ... Read More