Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has failed to tell “the complete truth to the American people” about his relationship with a violent 1960s antiwar activist, Republican nominee John McCain said in an interview airing Thursday.
In a joint interview Wednesday with Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, repeatedly questioned Obama’s ties to William Ayers, a co-founder of the Weather Underground, which claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in the 1960s and the 1970s.
In the NBC interview, parts of which the network is airing over three days ending Friday, McCain went out of his way to tie Ayers to Obama, a senator from Illinois. At one point, he changed the subject back to Ayers when Williams asked him about an unrelated issue.
“People can make up their minds, as, again, I say about Mr. Ayers ... the full extent of the relationship with Senator Obama is not known,” McCain said.
“And Senator Obama has not been forthcoming. He has not told the complete truth to the American people, nor did he tell the truth to the American people when he said he would take public financing and signed a piece of paper if I look back when he was a long-shot candidate.”
Palin resisted the suggestion that if Ayers was a “domestic terrorist” — a standard line in her campaign addresses — then so were conservative religious activists who bombed abortion clinics.
“I don’t know if you’re going to use the word ‘terrorist’ there,” she said. “It’s unacceptable, and it would not be condoned, of course, on our watch. But if what you’re asking is if I regret referring to Bill Ayers as an unrepenting domestic terrorist, I don’t regret characterizing him as that.”
Republican attack criticized
For several weeks, McCain, a senator from Arizona, and Palin have sought to associate Obama with Ayers, who was never prosecuted over his involvement in the Weather Underground bombings and has been a noted scholar on education reform since the 1980s. He is now a senior university scholar and professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Obama, who served on the board of a Chicago-based education foundation with Ayers, has denounced Ayers’ violent activities, which occurred when Obama was a child.
Independent political watchdogs have also challenged the McCain campaign’s assertions. FactCheck.org, the widely cited nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Foundation, published a long analysis this month saying McCain’s and Palin’s attempts to link the two were “groundless.”
“What we object to are the McCain-Palin campaign’s attempts to sway voters — in ads and on the stump — with false and misleading statements about the relationship, which was never very close,” said FactCheck, which has criticized several of Obama’s assertions on other issues.
New York, D.C.: Snooty elite central
McCain and Palin did differ on exactly what they meant when they criticized “elite” segments of American society, which they have mocked in an attempt to connect with what Palin called “hard-working, middle-class Americans.”
Palin said “elite” was a state of mind — “just people who think that they’re better than anyone else.” It cannot be identified by geography, income or level of education, she said.
“I know where a lot of ’em live,” he said, laughing. The out-of-touch elites are “in our nation’s capital and New York City.”
“I’ve seen it. I’ve lived there,” he said, referring to Washington. “I know the town. I know what a lot of these elitists are — the ones that she [pointing to Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown.”
These elites, he said, “think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”