The Campaign Spot

Bringing Up Ayers Might Provide a Dramatic Moment Tonight

Debate tip for McCain, from a reader:

If Senator Obama has challenged Senator McCain to “tell it to my face” (about the William Ayers connection), and Senator Obama has publicly condemned Mr. Ayers’s previous acts of violence as “despicable”, couldn’t Senator McCain ask Senator Obama “Did you ever tell it to his [i.e. Ayers’s] face?”

Beyond that, I hope McCain puts it simply and directly, something on par with, “Why did you go work for a man who built bombs and killed people*? How could you work for a man with blood on his hands?”

Obama’s twin excuses — “this was a long time ago, I was only 8″ and “Ayers isn’t just a radical, he’s also a brilliant reformer of education” won’t fly if it is put that starkly. We wouldn’t give Eric Rudolph or Timothy McVeigh a pass because a lot of time has passed since their crimes, and at issue is not what Obama did at age 8 but what he did as an adult, establishing a longtime partnership with Ayers and Dohrn. And the “but, look, he’s also an educator!” line sounds like someone touting the charitable work of Hamas. Just because they have a widows and orphans fund doesn’t change the fact that their day job is creating widows and orphans.

*Yes, Ayers’ final bomb only killed his fellow Weathermen. Let Obama make that distinction. It wasn’t built to kill his fellow radicals; it was built to kill American soldiers while they danced with their sweethearts.

UPDATE: Several readers say, “no, no, Jim, that question will go nowhere. He’s got to ask about actual work Ayers and Obama did on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and expose the kind of radical ideas that they promoted…”

I must respectfully dissent. I think posing the issue in that vein leaves the door open for Obama to pivot to an ordinary discussion about education:

“I’ll tell you, John, because William Ayers, like me, thinks we need an education system that teaches our children. Too many of our schools have been failing too many children for too long, and in order to fix it, we need every teacher to be well paid and well supplied and never at risk of being fired and hooray for teachers unions and isn’t the textbook that is all about me a great sign and blah blah blah…”

And Obama can filibuster, and/or make his work with Annenberg sound moderate and reasonable. We know otherwise, but come on, Bob Scheiffer isn’t going to call out Obama on this, and I don’t have much faith in McCain to do so, either.

But if the question is put in the stark terms I suggested above, an attempt to shift to a generic response about education policy would sound like Dukakis’ bloodless response when Bernie Shaw asked if he would support the death penalty for a man who raped and murdered his wife.

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