Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

September 23, 2008

A PERFECTLY GOOD FISHING EXPEDITION GONE TO WASTE.... Just yesterday, in a conference call, John McCain's chief strategist and campaign manager, returned to the William Ayers issue. Desperate to change the subject away from the economy, Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis said Ayers, the '60's-era radical, and Barack Obama had a "greater relationship" than we've been led to believe. They didn't have any evidence, but like their boss, they insisted they are right, whether the facts support it or not.

This morning, picking up where the campaign left off, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a 1,100-word piece from conservative writer Stanley Kurtz about Obama's past with Ayers. The Journal gave it a provocative headline -- "Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools" -- and far-right blogs seem really excited about it.

So, what did Kurtz dig up? What new angles are there to explore? Have we learned anything of any consequence? I'm afraid conservatives looking for new dirt will have to look elsewhere.

First, the headline is unhelpful. After reading the article, I still don't know what "radical" ideas Obama or anyone else pushed on schools.

Second, Kurtz had access to the everything he wanted, so if there's dirt to be found, he was supposed to get it. Indeed, Kurtz demanded -- and received -- access to "the internal files" of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which he was certain would "illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers."

And like Jason Zengerle, I went through Kurtz's discovery looking for news. There wasn't any. Ayers helped lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and Obama served on the CAC board, but evidence of this "relationship" remains elusive. Zengerle explained:

Well, lo and behold, Kurtz finally gained access to those 70 linear feet of material, and, judging by the op-ed he's produced in today's Wall Street Journal, it looks like he found less an inch worth of damning material. Not that Kurtz would admit as much. His WSJ article is titled "Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools," but the evidence for that consists largely of scare quotes ("leadership," "organized," "external partners," etc) and leaps of logic designed to substitute for actual evidence. [...]

So Kurtz spends days wading through 70 linear feet of material, suffers lord knows how many paper cuts, and the best he can come up with is that Ayers was part of a five-person "working group" that signed off on Obama joining CAC's board? That's pretty weak.

There's nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Steve Benen 2:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Can we get an update on what Obama plans to do about the bailout?

Posted by: grinning cat on September 23, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

That the Wall Street Journal publishes such nonsense further supports my decision to cancel my free subscription (airline points were about to expire) a few weeks back.

Posted by: CJ on September 23, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Kurtz went through those files because it'd take to long and require "reading."

He just Googled "Obama+Ayers," reading the results page, picking anything provocative.

Posted by: gang green on September 23, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I just heard that if John McCain or his aides make any more gaffes like this Sarah Palin is going to dump him.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 23, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

If there is one name I associate with radicalism, it's Annenberg. He was probably a secret terrorist.

Posted by: skeptic on September 23, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

i've skimmed the education proposal and it certainly didn't strike me as "radical." it did, however, try to challenge the teacher's union, the principals and the [democratic] mayor's office to let average citizens have a voice in how the schools were run....needless to say, the city establishment pushed back big time....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on September 23, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama-Ayers connection is worth more to the right when it isn't investigated deeply. A deep investigation would reveal that there's absolutely nothing there.

Why the right-wing nutjobs think the connection is so OMG WTF?!?! UNBELIEVABLE!!! really does escape me. I think we're talking about the same folks who now believe that Barack doesn't have a shred of African American blood in his body. These are not the sharpest tools in the shed, but they are tools.

Posted by: Jake on September 23, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm certainly not GRATEFUL, but we should take note of the positive side of the sheer incompetence modern print media has demonstrated when it attempts investigative journalism.

The pathetic efforts to find dirt on Obama would inspire euphoria if I didn't think it was just as much due to lazy journalists as it was Obama's squeaky cleanliness.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on September 23, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's a bit reminiscent of the long story the NYT did about Obama's past drug use. I get the impression that newspaper editors don't like zero return on their research money.

Posted by: Danp on September 23, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Journal gave it a provocative headline -- "Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools" -- and far-right blogs seem really excited about it.

And that's all the readers of the far-right blogs need to come here and assert this mythical connection as fact. None of the behaviors of the right-wing propaganda machine are an accident, nor are they motivated by anything other than concern for the sinking fortunes of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I'm afraid conservatives looking for new dirt will have to look elsewhere."

That's not how so-called "conservatives" work.

They aren't looking for "new dirt", i.e. actual facts that reflect badly on Obama. They are just looking for a pretext to continue suggesting that Obama is a scary-angry-black-man and bomb-throwing anti-American radical. The mere fact that this article appeared in the WSJ is more than sufficient pretext for them to do that.

Indeed for their purposes of racist culture-war fear-mongering, fact-free innuendo is preferable, since it provides no actual facts to be challenged or refuted.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 23, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I believe that's "move along before I run youse in."

Posted by: davido on September 23, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Lie and the MSM will surely come and quote you.

Posted by: SteveA on September 23, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think the best way to treat these sorts of articles is pure, unadulterated mockery. This is pretty much my approach to every Bill Kristol column.

Posted by: Jake on September 23, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I try not to read dailykos but I've been searching for info on the bailout from any source. There's alot of screeching going on over there that Obama has sold us down the river and thrown his support behind the bailout.

Is this true? It seems like hysterical caterwalling but I'm just trying to make sure before I have to go phone bank. I might pull the plug on my support if he bends over on this too.

Posted by: grinning cat on September 23, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Secularanimist wrote: They aren't looking for "new dirt", i.e. actual facts that reflect badly on Obama. They are just looking for a pretext to continue suggesting that Obama is a scary-angry-black-man and bomb-throwing anti-American radical. The mere fact that this article appeared in the WSJ is more than sufficient pretext for them to do that.

They already did:

... I also hope that the New York Times follows the recently published article on the WSJ online edition that shows, via documentation from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, that Obama and Ayers relationship was much closer than just "neighbors", and also reveals the radical activism of CAC. ...

Posted by: Scott on September 23, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Why in the world is the media not talking about the Keating 5 scandal, I would say that it is pretty relevant now.

Posted by: JS on September 23, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Mistah Kurtz, he dumb.

Posted by: Joseph Conrad on September 23, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Never mind. This kind of editorial isn't written for people who read past the headlines.

Posted by: T-Rex on September 23, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, given how the McCain campaign has been working lately, I fully expect to find out that McCain or his campaign staff actually has a close relationship to Bill Ayers. Or that Cindy McCain actually used to be a member of the Weather Underground herself.

I mean, McCain accuses Obama of being an elitist, and then McCain can't remember how many houses he owns. McCain accuses Obama of having ties to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mucky-mucks, and then McCain turns out to have hired Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae lobbyists to run his campaign.

Hell, at this point I wouldn't be surprised to find out that McCain is the one who's secretly a Muslim. At this point you almost have to figure he's looking in his own closet for skeletons to pin on Obama.

Posted by: NonyNony on September 23, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

This kind of editorial isn't written for people who read past the headlines.

You can say that again. I just read it, and it's long on innuendo and short on facts. One sample:

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

If Kurtz had written a lede that went "I'm pig-biting mad over Obama's association with William Ayres!," it could have passed for an Ed Anger column.

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

After reading the article, I still don't know what "radical" ideas Obama or anyone else pushed on schools.

Oh, it's in there:

Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression.

...CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education.

Shocking!

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation?

Especially since, as a community organizer, he had no responsibilities whatsoever.....

Forget about guilt by association -- this is more like guilt by free-association.

Posted by: Stefan on September 23, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Forget about guilt by association -- this is more like guilt by free-association.

Stefan, I'm sure you noticed how that paragraph doesn't at all contradict Obama's assertion that "Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him." It notes that Ayres was a member of the working group that assembled the board and asserts that "No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval."

Which may be true, but that has nothing to do with who recruited Obama, and there's nothing to indicate that Obama was even privy to the deliberations of the working group.

But, again, like so much right-wing bullshit, Kurtz' article isn't meant to stand up to scrutiny; it's meant to reinforce the negative impression movement conservatives have about Obama.

In that it's already been successful, as I cited above, but so what? Movement conservatives aren't the key bloc in this election. To the contrary, this election will demonstrate how irrelevant they are to the nation's rejection of the incompetence and corruption of Republican rule.

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

First, the headline is unhelpful.

You're telling me.

The sad truth is that the headline alone will stick in the tiny brains of the intellectually incurious. Far more people will read the headline than actually read the article.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on September 23, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Notice how Kurtz turns the innocuous phrase "resistance to American racism and oppression" into "America's system of oppression". The former phrase means to promote resistance to the oppression that DOES occur to varying degrees and incidences, while the latter phrase association attempts to damn the whole American system as oppressive.

Strawman comes to mind.

Posted by: JWK on September 23, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

It's time for McCain to release his FULL military record, don't you think?

Posted by: fry1laurie on September 23, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Steve,

Please stop calling misleading headlines "unhelpful." They're misleading or lying or full of it. They are probably very helpful to the liars who write them.

Posted by: DanG on September 23, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

oh my god..Obama in favor of empowering students against oppression and violence? Such a scandal!

I suppose it would be better to drill them to become fearful docile submissives to authoritarian conservatives...

Posted by: bruce on September 23, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The sad truth is that the headline alone will stick in the tiny brains of the intellectually incurious. Far more people will read the headline than actually read the article.

Even if they do read the article, check out the language -- lacking anything really factually damning, Kurtz lays the innuendo on thick. Obama supported radical education policies! How do we know they were radical? Obama supported them! Look at the scare quotes!

What's truly pathetic is that the article is an example of one of the oldest fallacies in the book: Appeal to emotion. There really isn't much there there, but by golly, Kurtz works hard to make you feel like something's wrong (look at the scare quotes! The SCARE QUOTES!!!).

Movement conservatism is utterly, absolutely bankrupt intellectually (since the Republican rule in the Bush Administration proved that pretty much none of their pet policies work, it can't help but be). When was the last time a conservative made anything resembling a convincing argument in these forums?

So it's now purely an emotional appeal designed not to convince, but to reinforce an existing belief system. The article gives a negative impression of Obama, even if it doesn't stand up to intellectual scrutiny, and I'm sure the WSJ editorial board is satisfied.

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

William Ayers is an Eagle Scout compared to some of the thugs John McCain has aligned himself with, such as Albanian terrorist groups.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 23, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Do these idiots not know who Annenberg is, you know the guy who awarded the grant to Ayers? Hello? Republican philanthropist? Might as well accuse St. Ronnie of having ties to a terrorist.

Posted by: on September 23, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

For having access to so much material, it is pretty telling that the WSJ needed to publish this bit of propaganda not in the reported part of the paper, but in its Opinion section.

Posted by: cassandra m on September 23, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools". Now repeat that with your eyebrows raised as high as you can get them. See? OMG!!!WTF!!!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on September 23, 2008 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Repubs are always intensely interested in the relationships between men.

Posted by: Kenji on September 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

I guess it's easy grasping for straws when all you have is straw man arguments.

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 23, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Time to pull out all stops with arugula.

Fact. Did you know it's really a weed?

Fact. Obama likes it. Therefore he likes weed.

Got 'im. He sprinkles weed onto his salads. Psst pass it on.

I've been saying it for weeks. The repugnacans will try to knock BO out of the race on nothing more than arugula. Windsurfing doomed Kerry. "Al Gore invented the Internet" sunk him. And now

ta da. Arugula. The most detestable uppity elitist stuff any black-arab(*)-american could eat


(*) thanks to Rush Limbag for insinuating that Kenya is actually an arab country. WTF?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 23, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama-Ayers connection is worth more to the right when it isn't investigated deeply. A deep investigation would reveal that there's absolutely nothing there.

Hey, they got 8 years and $200 million of government money out of Whitewater, a land deal where the Clintons lost money. So they're used to being allowed to generate lots of smoke with no fire in sight.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on September 23, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

oh my god..Obama in favor of empowering students against oppression and violence?

He wants students to resist oppression, violence, AND sexual abuse? What a terrifying vision of things to come.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on September 24, 2008 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly