Palin Seizes On Obama's Ayers Ties

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 5, 2008

SEDONA, Ariz., Oct. 4 -- GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin opened a new assault on Barack Obama on Saturday, accusing the Democratic presidential nominee of being "someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists."

Seizing on a New York Times account Saturday of the relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, who has confessed to domestic bombings as a member of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground, Palin told Republican donors in Colorado that Obama "is not a man who sees America as you and I do -- as the greatest force for good in the world."

Palin's comments came as Sen. John McCain's campaign signaled a new effort to go after Obama and were a distortion of what the Times story concluded: that the two men are not close but that Obama has played down his contacts with Ayers, who remains unrepentant about his actions but has been rehabilitated in the eyes of many Chicago political and civic leaders.

The comments underscored a new determination by the McCain campaign to try to regain momentum by painting Obama as a radical out of touch with Main Street.

"It's a revealing flash point of Barack Obama's failed judgment and out of the mainstream values," McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said in reinforcing Palin's comments Saturday.

Obama aides slammed Palin's rhetoric. "Governor Palin's comments, while offensive, are not surprising, given the McCain campaign's statement this morning that they would be launching Swiftboat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation's economic ills," said a statement from Hari Sevugan, an Obama spokesman, referring to attacks by a group challenging Sen. John F. Kerry's war record in the 2004 presidential race.

Ayers was a founder in the 196os of the radical Weather Underground, which claimed responsibility for roughly a dozen bombings and targeted the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and other buildings. He went into hiding for a decade after three people were killed when a bomb accidentally exploded, but charges against him were dropped over prosecutorial misconduct.

In the ensuing years, he has become a tenured professor of education and informal adviser to Mayor Richard M. Daley on school reform. He has been a neighbor of Obama's in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, hosting a gathering for him when Obama first ran for the state Senate in 1995. The two also served together on a nonprofit board that distributed educational grants in the city.

Obama, who has denounced Ayers's actions in the 1960s and 1970s, has described him as "a guy who lives my neighborhood" and said the two do not exchange ideas on a regular basis. But the association has become a source of anger for many conservatives, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) predicted during the Democratic primaries in the spring that Republicans would make an issue of it.

McCain has attacked Obama for his associations with Ayers, and Palin revived the issue yesterday.

"There's been a lot of interest in what I read lately," Palin noted in Colorado. "Well, I was reading my copy of today's New York Times, and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago. Turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.' These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes."

One McCain aide said that he thinks Palin attacked Obama of her own volition, but that the issue she raised is "legitimate." The Republican National Committee was quick to follow up yesterday with an extensive account of the public record, especially Ayers's past statements that he did not regret the bombings.

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