Geese, Ganders, Etc.

Steve Chapman wonders if John McCain should be so quick to judge Barack Obama for his association with Bill Ayers, given McCain’s own associations with G. Gordon Liddy.

Can a presidential candidate justify a long and friendly relationship with someone who, back in the 1970s, extolled violence and committed crimes in the name of a radical ideology—and who has never shown remorse or admitted error? When the candidate in question is Barack Obama, John McCain says no. But when the candidate in question is John McCain, he’s not so sure.

Obama has been justly criticized for his ties to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, who in 1995 hosted a campaign event for Obama and in 2001 gave him a $200 contribution. The two have also served together on the board of a foundation. When their connection became known, McCain minced no words: “I think not only a repudiation but an apology for ever having anything to do with an unrepentant terrorist is due the American people.”

What McCain didn’t mention is that he has his own Bill Ayers—in the form of G. Gordon Liddy. Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him.

How close are McCain and Liddy? At least as close as Obama and Ayers appear to be. In 1998, Liddy’s home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator’s campaigns—including $1,000 this year.

[…]

How does McCain explain his howling hypocrisy on the subject? He doesn’t. I made repeated inquiries to his campaign aides, which they refused to acknowledge, much less answer. On this topic, the pilot of the Straight Talk Express would rather stay parked in the garage.

Frankly, I don’t much care about McCain’s and Obama’s associations with Liddy and Ayers, respectively. One of the unfortunate things about politics is that lots of unsavory, nasty little people happen to be politically influential. So, unfortunately, sometimes even a decent person has to hang out with unsavory characters if they want to get anything done. So over the course of their long political careers, there’s no doubt that both Obama and McCain have done business with those kinds of people. It’s part of the game, and quite honestly I don’t know why people are so shocked that it is. If you don’t like it, pay more attention to your local politics–that’s where scumbags become influential. But I do agree with Chapman on one thing–if John McCain is going to criticize Obama’s political relationships, then McCain’s own are up for criticism, too. That, sadly, is also part of the game.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. DL says:

    How about adding the third candidate to the “nasty friends and associates club” It seems that Hillary’s close associate Sandy Burglar was caught with classified documents in his pants. We won’t mention people like convicted felon, Webb Hubbell either.

  2. rpk says:

    Two things about this article. First Liddy was convicted and served his term in prison.
    The second is this statement: “That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. ” There is no evidence that Liddy was part of a secret White house effort. While many have speculated that has not been proven.

  3. DL says:

    “So, unfortunately, sometimes even a decent person has to hang out with unsavory characters if they want to get anything done.”

    I agree, look at those people Eva Braun was forced to hang around with.

  4. David Harris says:

    Bombings…theft…yeah, those are the same.

    I’m certainly not condoning what Liddy did, but to compare these two and label it as “howling hypocrisy”? Give me a freaking break.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Bombings…theft…yeah, those are the same.

    It’s not just the theft–it was the purpose of the theft. Namely, to sabotage the operations of the opposing political party, just like Ayers’ bombs were meant to change the political system. Different methods, but both equally illegal and both for the same intended result. Additionally, Liddy was equally unapologetic as Ayers. And don’t forget Liddy’s talk show comments about shooting Federal agents…

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    Lets follow Alex’s logic.

    Remember the voter East St. Louis democrats convicted of vote buying? What were they trying to do but subvert the political process. Remember the reichstag fire, which heralded a coup to put the nazis in power? Subverting the vote, conducting a coup, both equally illegal and both for the same intended result – political power. So where is the outrage at the democratic party whose officials are convicted of conducting a coup (or vote buying but they are equal in the eyes of Alex).

    There is a theory that serving your prison term absolves the ‘public debt’ of the crime. So at a minimum, Libby paid his debt to society while Ayers has not. The concept that theft is the same as killing because the motivation is the same has it limits. Speeding and child molestation are both illegal, but I wouldn’t equate the two even if both have a motivation of putting your own desires above obeying the law.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    yetanotherjohn,

    I’m not aware of the East St. Louis issue, so I can’t comment, directly, but I do question the relevance.

    My point is simply that John McCain can’t exactly criticize Obama for Ayers due to his ties to Liddy, even if you suggest that Ayers is a worse person–they’re both unrepentant criminals.

    My greater point is that I don’t care about Obama’s association to Ayers and I don’t care about McCain’s association to Liddy, because the sad fact of politics is that you frequently have to deal with scumbags in order to accomplish anything.

  8. yetanotherjohn says:

    If you don’t care, why are you bring it up? Let’s track your positions on this.

    It is illogical to associate the Obama campaign with one of its volunteer campaign worker’s support for Che (even with the flag displayed in the local OBama HQ.

    But you can bash McCain for what his supporters say after one campaign stop.

    But when an Obama mentor, campaign advisor, the man Obama described as the one he goes to make sure his head is screwed on straight, who Obama dedicates a book to and Obama has a 20 year relationship, it is only tiresome and we shouldn’t make a connection.

    When a McCain advisor makes a comment that Alex can agree with but if Alex fantasizes hard enough could twist the words to mean something that neither Alex nor in Alex’s estimation McCain could credit but can be used to cast innuendo against McCain, that is okay.

    Now Ayers who used violent means to terrorize people and hurt the US, never served times for the crimes he admitted he did and continues to preach a “revolutionary minded” education program is to be equated a criminal who did his time because, you guessed it, it is Alex’s attempt to tar McCain with the same brush.

    Bottom line, principles be damned. If it hurts Obama or helps McCain, Alex is against it. If it helps Obama or hurts McCain, Alex is for it. My how refreshing this new politics is.

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    I’m not sure why I’m bothering with this, but hey, why not:

    It is illogical to associate the Obama campaign with one of its volunteer campaign worker’s support for Che (even with the flag displayed in the local OBama HQ.

    It is, and I was right. Also, it wasn’t actually at an HQ associated with the campaign.

    But you can bash McCain for what his supporters say after one campaign stop.

    I’m not sure what the reference is to, but if it’s too Hagee et al, I have already repudiated those statements.

    But when an Obama mentor, campaign advisor, the man Obama described as the one he goes to make sure his head is screwed on straight, who Obama dedicates a book to and Obama has a 20 year relationship, it is only tiresome and we shouldn’t make a connection.

    That’s such a misstatement of my position that I don’t even know where to begin except to suggest that you go and re-read my posts again without your preconceived notions. I’ve actively struggled with this relationship, which I think is complicated. I supported James when he suggested that Obama needs to repudiate Wright. I also think you have to be a complete idiot if you think that Wright’s extreme views can be attributed to Obama without any evidence except “they’re friends and have a mentor-mentee relationship.” People’s relationships with their mentors are complicated–ask Aristotle.

    When a McCain advisor makes a comment that Alex can agree with but if Alex fantasizes hard enough could twist the words to mean something that neither Alex nor in Alex’s estimation McCain could credit but can be used to cast innuendo against McCain, that is okay.

    You mean when I raised issue with a possible interpretation of a statement, but in the same breath mentioned that I don’t think that McCain agrees with that idea?

    Now Ayers who used violent means to terrorize people and hurt the US, never served times for the crimes he admitted he did and continues to preach a “revolutionary minded” education program is to be equated a criminal who did his time because, you guessed it, it is Alex’s attempt to tar McCain with the same brush.

    I said that I don’t think that Obama’s relationship with Ayers or McCain’s relationship with Liddy is relevant, but that if McCain is going to criticize Obama for Ayers, an unrepentent criminal who sought to change the government through illegal means, then McCain should be rightly castigated for his relationship with Liddy, who is ALSO an unreptentent criminal who attempted to change the government through illegal means. That’s it. My charge here is hypocrisy, not guilt-by-association.

    Comparing the crimes of Ayers and Liddy is irrelevant. Whether one is worse than the other is irrelevant. If McCain thinks that Obama’s association with Ayers is bad and should be repudiated, then that very same principle dictates that McCain should repudiate his ties with Liddy. That’s it. I’m using McCain’s standards, not my own.

    Bottom line, principles be damned. If it hurts Obama or helps McCain, Alex is against it. If it helps Obama or hurts McCain, Alex is for it.

    To come to this conclusion requires you to completely ignore a substantial portion of the things that I have written, and mischaracterize the rest.

    As I have told you before, I believe that Obama is the lesser of three evils, and that Obama’s policies are generally superior to the other two candidates. This, however, has not stopped me from criticizing Obama on several fronts, including a post today criticizing Obama’s “windfall tax on the oil companies” nonsense, which I know you’ve read because you’ve commented on it.

    Apparently, yetanotherjohn, the only thing that will satisfy you is to vote for McCain. Well, I’m not going to, because I think that his policies would be pretty horrible. But I don’t see you out there castigating McCain, whereas I’ve felt free to criticize Obama, so who’s really the unprincipled one?