On Friday, I noted John McCain's rather dire situation in the polls and suggested that we would soon be hearing a lot more about Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright, and William Ayres as the GOP becomes increasingly desperate.
As if on cue, the McCain campaign leaked word of a character-based assault on Obama focusing on Ayres and Rezko:
Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said.
..."We're going to get a little tougher," a senior Republican operative said, indicating that a fresh batch of television ads is coming. "We've got to question this guy's associations. Very soon. There's no question that we have to change the subject here," said the operative, who was not authorized to discuss strategy and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
...Two other top Republicans said the new ads are likely to hammer the senator from Illinois on his connections to convicted Chicago developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko and former radical William Ayres, whom the McCain campaign regularly calls a domestic terrorist because of his acts of violence against the U.S. government in the 1960s.
Along those lines, Sarah Palin accused Obama Saturday of "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country" (Ayres) despite the lack of evidence connecting Obama and Ayres in any significant way.
What's especially striking about the know-nothing nature of these attacks is the fact that both Palin and a GOP flack cited a New York Times article debunking the Obama-Ayres hype as if it proved their case. Here's Palin:
There is a lot of interest, I guess, in what I read and what I’ve read lately. Well, I was reading my copy of today’s New York Times and I was interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago.
I get to bring this up not to pick a fight, but it was there in the New York Times, so we are gonna talk about it. Turns out one of Barack’s earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol.
And here's how CNN described this bizarre tactic in its story on Palin's attack:
Palin cited an article in Saturday's New York Times about Obama's relationship with Ayers, now 63. But that article concluded that "the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"
Up is down! Seriously, the chutzpah of this is unbelievable -- she was being mocked just a few days ago for her bizarre answer to a question about what publications she reads.
On a more fundamental level, McCain's tactic will probably fail to revive his campaign. But we can't write his obituary yet -- we simply don't know how voters will react to a vicious campaign claiming that a black presidential candidate is "not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America."
Update 10/6 9:09 AM: According to the Post article, McCain doesn't want to raise the Jeremiah Wright issue, but Sarah Palin did so in an interview with William Kristol published today:
Palin also made clear that she was eager for the McCain-Palin campaign to be more aggressive in helping the American people understand “who the real Barack Obama is.” Part of who Obama is, she said, has to do with his past associations, such as with the former bomber Bill Ayers. Palin had raised the topic of Ayers Saturday on the campaign trail, and she maintained to me that Obama, who’s minimized his relationship with Ayers, “hasn’t been wholly truthful” about this.
I pointed out that Obama surely had a closer connection to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright than to Ayers — and so, I asked, if Ayers is a legitimate issue, what about Reverend Wright?
She didn’t hesitate: “To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”