Does Ayers Equal Keating In The Media?Posted: 17 October 2008
I was hoping by now that I would not have to address this subject too much more. But as usual I was mistaken at the stupidity of a political season.
The two stories are not at all similar. Obama has had passing contacts with Ayers over the years, mostly via the board of a small non-profit; Obama once held a fundraiser in Ayers’ house. (Ayers, who helped carry out a handful of nonlethal bombings in protest against the Vietnam War, is an academic in Chicago and well known in education policy circles. Federal charges against him in connection with the bombings were dropped in the 1970s.) The New York Times story that launched Ayers back into the media spotlight found that “the two men do not appear to have been close.”
It’s hard to describe McCain’s role in the savings-and-loan scandal as “peripheral”; as one of the Keating Five, he was a key player in the highest-profile political scandal connected to the financial disaster. Though a Senate investigation cleared McCain of serious wrongdoing (it did flag his “poor judgment”), McCain’s ties to Keating were well-established: He had received over $100,000 from Keating, had traveled on his private jet and had vacationed in the Bahamas with him; McCain’s family and Keating were also involved in a business venture together.
McCain has claimed for many years that the shame of the Keating scandal was what motivated his interest in campaign finance reform. But does that mean that the Keating history is off limits? Should reporters treat criticism of McCain’s conduct in the scandal as a low blow, given that more recent stories have suggested that the senator is still doing favors for influential constituents, lobbyists and contributors (New York Times, “A Developer, His Deals and His Ties to McCain,” 4/22/08; Washington Post, “McCain Pushed Land Swap That Benefits Backer,” 5/9/08)?
There is an unfortunate tendency among campaign reporters to suggest “both sides” are equally at fault in situations like this. In this case, the McCain campaign’s accusation that Obama is friendly with a terrorist is considered somehow on par with Obama raising McCain’s political record on a matter of actual relevance.
For now Obama does not need to go there, McCain is doing a fine job of hitting his political thumb with the hammer of negativity. (damn that was good!)