I've been writing about political campaigns for more than a quarter-century now, and it really takes a lot to surprise me, but I am absolutely stunned at the depths that the Republican Party is willing to sink to try in win this election, even as polls are beginning to suggest it may be a lost cause for John McCain and Sarah Palin. At 9:29 p.m., I received in an email the sleaziest political press release I've ever seen. It came from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and it's headlined: "PAGOP: OBAMA - A TERRORIST'S BEST FRIEND."
Here's the meat of it:
HARRISBURG – Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Robert A. Gleason, Jr. released the following statement regarding Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, a terrorist who helped found a group called the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground is a left-wing extremist group that was responsible for bombing both the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in the 70’s. The group was also responsible for a pipe bomb that killed a San Francisco police officer in 1970.
“Barack Obama’s association with terrorist Bill Ayers is alarming and absolutely deserves to be questioned,” Gleason said. “We are electing someone to be our next Commander-in-Chief and I think it is more than fair to look into their background. The Obama Campaign admitted that Obama and Ayers were ‘certainly friendly’ and that says a lot about Barack Obama’s character. Ayers’ is a terrorist, and there is no denying that the group he founded attacked our country and killed innocent Americans.
“Obama claims that he didn’t know about Ayers background as a terrorist, but I find that hard to believe. Ayers past is well known and he has been quoted in numerous articles, including in The New York Times where he said that he thought he didn’t do enough and wishes that he would have set off more bombs. What does it say about the character of Barack Obama that he knowingly associates with terrorists? It tells me that Obama lacks the judgment and character to be our next Commander-in-Chief.”
First of all, and most importantly, there's absolutely nothing in the body of the release that supports this wildly inflammatory and arguably libelous headline, that Obama is a "terrorist's best friend." Despite more than a year of Obama's relationship with Ayers investigated by everyone from Fox News to the New York Times, no one has ever come up anything more than what the Obama campaign has said, that the two were acquaintances who traveled in the same circles in their Chicago, as advocates of school reform. That's a best friend?
Gleason says it's "hard to believe" that Obama didn't know about Ayers' background. Actually, it's not that hard to believe at all. If you have access to the Nexis service, as I do, you can read the coverage of Ayers' school reform activities in Chicago in the mid-1990s. Hard as might be for the Sean Hannitys and Robert Gleasons of the world to imagine, the articles by and large make no mention that this guy pushing for smaller class sizes was also a former 1960s radical. Why would articles, other than a lengthy profile of Ayers, mention that -- considering that Ayers has never been convicted of a crime and by the 1990s had been accepted by Mayor Richard Daley and others as a school reformer?
"What does it say about the character of Barack Obama that he knowingly associates with terrorists?," Gleason asks. Nothing, because the evidence is overwhelming that he didn't, that this was a casual association and that Obama knew little or nothing about his background. Reading this, it's hard to know whether to be angry or just sad that one of America's two political parties has sunk to this.
Seriously, this is the kind of crap that people usually put on people's car windshields at 3 in the morning, unsigned in crude block letters. The fact that the Republican Party of Pennsylvania would put this out on its official letterhead is truly a rock bottom moment in American politics. It makes me wonder what the Republican Party has to hide if they are this desperate to try to cling to power at all costs to their dignity and humanity.
There's one final ironic twist in all of this.