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Tilting at Windmills

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October 17, 2008

LETTERMAN CONFRONTS MCCAIN ON LIDDY.... John McCain recently annoyed David Letterman quite a bit, blowing off a scheduled interview to talk to Katie Couric. The "Late Show" host has been mocking McCain, rather mercilessly, ever since.

Hoping to make amends, McCain appeared on Letterman's show, hat in hand, and acknowledged that he'd erred. As it turns out, though, that's not the interesting part. The real news here is that Letterman did what most reporters have been unwilling to do.

Questioning the premise of McCain's relentless guilt-by-association attacks, Letterman noted that people in public life can't necessarily be held accountable for everyone they've interacted with. When McCain protested a bit, Letterman asked two highly relevant questions: "Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?" and "Did you attend a fundraiser at his house?" McCain, looking confused, conceded to having "met" Liddy. After a commercial break, McCain added, "I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt, he went to prison.... I'm not in any was embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy."

That's an interesting response. Liddy is, of course, a convicted felon who has "acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in 'if necessary'; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a 'gangland figure' to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap 'leftist guerillas' at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis." Liddy also once famously gave his supporters advice on how best to kill federal officials (he recommended shooting them in the head because they might be wearing flak jackets).

Despite this scandalous past, McCain has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from Liddy, attended a fundraiser in his honor at Liddy's home, and told Liddy that he's "proud of" him.

Also remember, Liddy can be fairly described as "unrepentant." When asked if he regretted his felonies, "A vein twitches angrily on one of his scales, but he replies in a level voice, 'No.'"

As of last night, McCain is "not in any was embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy." I have a follow-up question: Why not? And one more: what does it say about McCain's character that he pals around with an unrepentant convicted felon who's talked openly about killing federal officials?

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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It's important for a political campaign, especially a presidential campaign, to have surrogates who bring up lines of argument and points of attack that it would be awkward or inappropriate for the candidate himself to mention. McCain has loads of these people, from Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman down to assorted local GOP officials. Obama, for some reason, does not.

It's a shame that it falls to Dave Letterman to fill this role, but looks like he's doing it very, very well. Go for it, Dave!

Posted by: Basilisc on October 17, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Was anyone else struck as I was with McCain's non-apology? He said (in regard to standing Letterman up last month) "I screwed up " and then he laughed. And when pressed, he said it again. He seemed to think that was enough. It wasn't. He ought to have said, "I lied, I shouldn't have, I am sorry." He made no excuse or apology. In my book that counts as cowardly dweeb.

I was glad that Dave brought up the Liddy business, and amazed that McC seemed to think palling around with Liddy was okay compared to Ayers because Liddy went to jail and Ayers managed to avoid it. (!?)

Posted by: Richard on October 17, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't Liddy heap tons of praise on executed domestic terrorist Timothy McVey? I'd be interested to hear what Liddy said about that episode.

Posted by: citizen_pain on October 17, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Unbelievable!!! McTroll has been reduced to a grumpy old hypocrite.. total LOSER.

Posted by: k-money on October 17, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

McCain claimed to be open about Liddy, but that was only after he'd clammed up about it. 2 minutes earlier.

Letterman could have saved us all a lot of trouble, then, by asking if McCain and Palin are insinuating that the Annenbergs and the presidents of UI and Northwestern also "pal around" with terrorists.

Posted by: duBois on October 17, 2008 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

I saw that exchange and wondered why we have to rely on the ladies from the View and David Letterman to ask the really tough questions. I am looking at you David Gregory.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 17, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

It's nauseating to realize that David letterman had to be the one to ask McAce about his relationship with Liddy, and how his pick for VP was asinine. "Real" journalists, which by the way, appear to be vestige at this point in our history, have failed miserably in the "fairness" they they highly seek by not asking these questions of McAce but are willing to fill volumes of air time hammering Obama about similar acquaintances. It's truly despicable how the press has shown such such a lack of eagerness to address these points.

Posted by: stevio on October 17, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

McCain has loads of these people, from Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman down to assorted local GOP officials. Obama, for some reason, does not.

You're right, and it's maddening. McCain's spinmeisters are more numerous and generally far more adept than Obama's. MIDDLE CLASS MIDDLE CLASS MIDDLE CLASS does nothing to challenge the flood of false equivalencies, misinformation, slander, and lies propagated by the McCain campaign.

Posted by: Lucy on October 17, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

If I'm not mistaken, the Weathermen never plotted to kill people. But I'm afraid too many Republicans don't see much difference between Liddy and a CIA operative sent out to assassinate a terrorist. It's that we vs. they, good vs evil binary logic.

Posted by: Danp on October 17, 2008 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Al Franken used to have "G" on his show all the time.

Posted by: vicky555 on October 17, 2008 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, Letterman must have been PISSED for being brushed off. Glad he has some brass balls. My respect for Dave just went up.

Posted by: Mick on October 17, 2008 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

WHO IS john mccain?

How about a washed up political hack who has risen far above his competency level. McCain is revealing what he never had to begin with. Time to send McCain to dead dick row.

Posted by: lou on October 17, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

What about Ollie North? Convicted for grand theft regarding installation of a fence and security system that Ollie paid for with proceeds from the arms deal with Iran. Central figure in Iran-Contra scandal- i.e. Reagan's attempt to violate the law and Constitution inorder to pursue his own terrorist war in Central America.
Has he ever repented?
I have no desire to lionize Bill Ayers. Civil disobedience does NOT include acts of violence. What Ayers and others did were criminal acts done by those who thought they had a "higher calling" which justified their illegal acts. Sounds alot like Ollie, don't it? I condemn them both as unrepentent CRIMINALS. Yet, Ayers doesn't have his own show on Fox.

Posted by: Bob Blunt on October 17, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

It's sad and deeply disappointing to see McCain humbled and brought low by the unconscionable attacks of this typical Indiana left-wing stooge, David Letterman. People from more mainstream locales, such as NY and DC, such as, wouldn't employ such gauche tactics.

That IS the direction this conversation was heading in, right?

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on October 17, 2008 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

The left has to rely on comedians to do the work of the MSM. They are the only ones allowed to speak the truth.

Posted by: John Henry on October 17, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

If I'm not mistaken, the Weathermen never plotted to kill people.

The Weathermen were pathetic amateurs and fuck-ups and deserve much of the derision heaped upon them. Although he has done more for education than I ever will, I detest Bill Ayers. But so what? His association with Obama is innocuous. This whole Ayers non-issue is designed to and stoke the old Republican fear-and-loathing vote legitimize racists who would never vote for a black man.

Disgusting.

Posted by: Lucy on October 17, 2008 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

When one is the Negro (half black) candidate, you must impart at least an iota of Stepin Fetching persona so as not to appear too uppity!

Posted by: captain dan on October 17, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Steve - Slightly off topic but we need to really focus in on what's happening right now relative to momentum. For whatever reason, I sense that the final debate gave McCain an opening. I think the ACORN story coupled with the "spread the wealth" stuff has given palpable rise to the fear of "liberalism" again. With due respect, what McCain says on Letterman really isn't the story. How can we fight this ACORN thing. We can't let it go unanswered. I expect the national polls to reflect this clearly by the middle of next week, with the corresponding tightening battleground polls the week after. This think will be a nail biter. I'd like more information on GOTV activities around the Country. Anybody who thinks that Obama will win this think in a walk is deluded. Thanks.

Posted by: Scott F. on October 17, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Wait ... wait. a. second.


What is this FOLLOW UP QUESTION of which you speak?

Posted by: Millionaire Journalists All Over America on October 17, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Captain Dan, the term is "Step-and Fetch-It", as in "yassa massa".

I'm really disturbed by the blatant racism on I'm seeing on prominent extreme right blogs. Yesterday, I saw an ass called Jim Lagnese, actually refer to Obama as "O'Stymie".

Now you younger folks may not know the reference but it's from the old black and white comedy from the 50s for kids, called "The Little Rascals". Stymie was a kid version of Steppin' Fetchit.

There must be away to stop these bloggers. I've flagged the blog but I hardly think that'll do jack.

The hate is amping up and I'm really concerned. Any ideas? Should I just stop reading this stuff?

Posted by: MissMudd on October 17, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously Steve - Liddy wipes out Ayers? Are you really trying to argue that the Watergate break in is equal to bombing the Pentagon? Liddy is a felon but at least he loves the country. Ayers hates America.

Please listen to yourself. This is more important than making sure you guy wins.

Posted by: Eric Blair on October 17, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ahhhh, but McCain's political career was not LAUNCHED IN LIDDY'S LIVING ROOM, was it? Bet you don't have an answer for that, do you, smart guy? That fund-raiser could even have been held outside on the deck, for all you know.

For all his bleating about being handled roughly by the press after his kindness to them for all these years, the press will never give McCain the detailed scrutiny he rates. They might float the outlines of something stupid he says, allow him to explain, and then suggest in hurt tones that it is not true, but that's it. Still, it's better than I expected.

Posted by: Mark on October 17, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I love to watch John McCain's reaction when his is pushed against the wall. Bristle and red. Much like the debates where his was intimidated totally by Obama. McCain is great about being a Bully but he cannot take it.
Dave and Obama gave the same reaction to his squirming. Let the man make a fool of himself.
This is really presidential John

Posted by: kristi L on October 17, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Some Dude or other, and you can look it up said "the good tree beareth good fruit, and the evil tree evil fruit. By their fruits shall we know them."
Liddy and Oliver North have spread lies, made people afraid, worked to demonize other Americans. Liddy thrives on publicity and contention, has written bad novels and worse books and been a hatemonger of a major degree; North, much the same, with a Christianist agenda, recently seems to have lied about 'collateral damage' of the US bombing innocent women and children is Afghanistan? Both sought to subvert the Constitution, in service to a misguided loyalty.
Ayres? Taught college, worked on the Annenberg initiative, been low key citizen. Hosted a coffee, wrote a bad and insufficiently apologetic memoir, and given a few squirrely interviews.

I admit some professors of Education have done bad things to schools, but really. Who is more dangerous, Liddy or Ayres?

(And MissMudd, the racists I know, and I include my employer, are not gonna be shamed easily. Look for a new rise in calls of "political correctness" when they are called for this sort of racist nonsense.)

Posted by: MR Bill on October 17, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

From Steve's post:

Liddy is, of course, a convicted felon who has "acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in 'if necessary'; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a 'gangland figure' to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap 'leftist guerillas' at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis." Liddy also once famously gave his supporters advice on how best to kill federal officials (he recommended shooting them in the head because they might be wearing flak jackets).

From "Eric Blair":

Liddy is a felon but at least he loves the country. Ayers hates America.

Please listen to yourself.

That's some good lovin', Eric.

Your wife and kids must have some amazing hospital bills.

Posted by: George Orwell on October 17, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Liddy's trying to destroy the Constitution by criminal acts interfering with an election isn't enough? Too abstract for you? Well, how about something colder? Like suggesting that ATF agents should have their hats painted to make them better targets.

Posted by: duBois on October 17, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

"Eric Blair" wrote: Are you really trying to argue that the Watergate break in is equal to bombing the Pentagon?

Not at all -- Watergate was worse by orders of magnitude.

Posted by: Gregory on October 17, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I love how McCain is trotting out his standard "Oh I screwed up" defense - the same one he trots out every time he's caught flatfooted doing something sleazy, underhanded or even downright criminal (Keating 5, anyone?)

Although every single journalist in the country eats that shit up with spoon, and takes it as another affirmation of McCain's essential goodness, ethical purity and jes' plain maverickyness, Letterman didn't seem too bowled over by apology schtick.

McCain, you're past your expiration date. And you're starting to look (and smell) like curdled milk.

Posted by: gypsy howell on October 17, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Overall the interview was fairly damaging to McCain. McCain has never gotten the question is "Sarah Palin qualified to handle a 9/11?" That's a question on everyone's mind. Again, we had to get a comedian to ask it as if its not serious enough a topic.


Posted by: John Henry on October 17, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a question - which journalist out there would you like to see interviewing McCain and/or Palin? Which one would ask the follow-up questions and debunk lies on the spot?

I recall Ted Koppel used to do a good job on Nightline... and for those of you familiar with the BBC, Tim Sebastian of HardTalk was also an incisive interviewer.

But who would be up to the task today?

Posted by: Chris on October 17, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

after 30 years, liberals are finally holding conservatives accountable for their crimes and associations

Posted by: mickslam on October 17, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"[Liddy] paid his debt, he went to prison"

Yeah. I guess if William Ayers had served time in prison, the McCain campaign would never have brought him up. Right?

Posted by: DonBoy on October 17, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Liddy is a felon but at least he loves the country. Ayers hates America.
Please listen to yourself."- Eric Blair

You listen to yourself fuckwad. Encouraging federal agents be shot in the head vs. bombing government buildings (with warning) are both despicable but are not equivalent. Your GOP patriotic bullshit doesn't take any more.

Posted by: Jim on October 17, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Eric Blair wrote: "Ayers hates America."

Then why did Walter and Leonore Annenberg, who were close personal friends of Ronald Reagan and served in the US State Department in the Reagan administration, and who in the case of Leonore Annenberg have publicly endorsed John McCain, hire Ayers to serve on the board of the education reform project established by their foundation?

Why did numerous prominent Republicans "pal around" with the America-hating Ayers by serving with him on the same board that Obama served on?

You really are quite the brain-dead dumbass dittohead, aren't you?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 17, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Well done Letterman for bringing this up. It was high time someone did. As for Mr Eric Blair, Liddy loves America just as Hitler loved Germany. The idea that one can love one's country so much that one is exempted from obeying its laws gets one into deep deep trouble.

Posted by: davidp on October 17, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

This is why American's get most of their news from late night talk shows. They ask better questions and do better follow up then the the Washington Press Corp could ever dream of doing.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 17, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Vote for the guy named after my father and his father before him, who will support the government socialism and destroy the small business. Which is an evil facilitator of too many people shaping their own destiny's. Crush this western free trade amongst all and thoughts of being a world ruler. Every American shall feel the power of the governing body and the decisions it makes for the people.

That is the right answer, we have come to power, this man will look like one of yours, but is not. This man will be one with the adjuncts of the sideways society but you will praise him as a freedom fighter, but he is not, he will inject the ancient ways to rule the marketplace and the churches and temples will be purged.

Posted by: others shall work with the hand - he is the hand on October 17, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

. . . never mind McCain's association with convicted ECONOMIC TERRORIST Charles Keating.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on October 17, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously Steve - Liddy wipes out Ayers? Are you really trying to argue that the Watergate break in is equal to bombing the Pentagon? Liddy is a felon but at least he loves the country.

Liddy loves the Republican Party and power, in that order. Working to subvert both the law of the land and the Constitution of the United States is not something that someone who loves his country does.

You like Liddy because he's a terrorist for your side. End of story.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 17, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

what does it say about McCain's character that he pals around with an unrepentant convicted felon who's talked openly about killing federal officials

The more intelligent Republicans AREN'T engaging in guilt-by-association. They are not saying that because Obama associated with William Ayers, therefore Ayers's despicable acts are attributable to Obama, or even that Ayers's attitudes are wholly attributable to Obama.

Rather, they are asking the same question with which Steve concludes, "what does it say about his character?" Was being at that political introduction party so important to Obama that it was OK for it to be at the home of two unrepentant domestic terrorists? Was being president of the CAC so important to Obama that it was OK for the effort to have been originated by Ayers and for him to have a strong hand in the groups that received money? Was being on the board of the Woods Fund so important to Obama that it was OK to be at the table with Ayers?

In my opinion, with the possible exception of the political party (which was self-interest on Obama's part), Obama's associations with Ayers are acceptable because they were done in a professional, not social way, and they were done for an extremely worthy goal: reforming Chicago schools and addressing the problems of poverty in the U.S. I do not think that associating with Ayers in these contexts shows any lack of judgment.

However, Republicans claim that they feel differently, and that while Obama and everyone else in involved in CAC or the Woods Fund might themselves be acceptably decent people, they have revealed themselves to be poor judges of character for having sat at a table with Ayers. Such poor judgment is acceptable in a mere university president or even former ambassador, but is unacceptable for the highest position in the land (and possibly the world).

Posted by: PG on October 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

You like Liddy because he's a terrorist for your side. End of story.

1. How many judges' houses did Liddy firebomb?
2. How many times did Liddy bomb the Pentagon?
3. How many townhouses in New York did Liddy blow up?
4. How many policemen has Liddy killed in the course of committing armed robbery?
5. How many women did Liddy force to have sex with his roomates? (Go look that one up, I dare you)
6. Did John McCain start his political career in Liddy's livingroom?
7. Did John McCain serve on a trust fund board with Liddy and award money to Liddy's friends that no cannot be accounted for?

Answers? Anybody? Bueller?

Posted by: Publius on October 17, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

How many billions of tax dollars in federal bailout did Ayers cost?

How many hundreds of American Families were cheated out of their retirements by Ayers?

Ayers was nothing compared to the immoral evil visited upon this nation by Keating, (and his ilk).

And we're only beginning to see the fallout from the latest round of massive economic terrorism 15 years later. In five years, the result of George Bush's economic policies is going to make 9/11 look like a minor inconvenience by comparison.

These are the folks that McCain pals around with, gets his advice from, not to mention campaign funding.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on October 17, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Publius wrote: "Did John McCain start his political career in Liddy's livingroom?"

No, John McCain started his political career with the financial support of a different convicted felon, and another individual who stole money from a nonprofit organization to buy illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, G. Gordon Liddy has publicly incited people to murder federal officials -- recommending that they be shot in the head -- and John McCain has not only never repudiated or even criticized Liddy for those remarks, but has publicly said that he is "proud" to be associated with Liddy.

By the way, John McCain has also refused to criticize, or repudiate the endorsement of, former Reagan administration State Department official Leonore Annenberg -- who hired Bill Ayers to serve on the board of her organization.

Why do you have no objection to Leonore Annenberg and other prominent Republican McCain supporters who embraced the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

To Pubic-hair,

Do you really think comparing two-assholes makes much sense? Because you can keep running around with this bullshit, but it doesn't change the facts.
1. Tying Ayers to Obama is ridiculous, and you know it's bullshit
2. Tying the O in the Ohio flag to him is bullshit
3. Tying his repainted campaign plane to him being unpatriotic is bullshit
4. Tying his not wearing a flag pin on a certain day as unpatriotic is bullshit.
5. Tying his ancestry to radical Islamic terrorists is bullshit.
6. The list of bullshit from the right goes on for miles, and miles.
7. The fact the right hasn't come up with any real dirt just pisses you off.

Posted by: Jim on October 17, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

So Letterman thinks the relationship between Liddy and McCain is the same as Obama and Ayers? When did McCain and Liddy squander 100 million dollars of other people's money like Obama and Ayers did on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge?

As someone already mentioned, Franken and Liddy have a close relationship, and Franken has helped to advance Liddy's views. Will Letterman now unendore Franken? (link on my name)

Posted by: liontooth on October 17, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Letterman at his very best!!! Especially in the 2nd half! Good to see that both -at least somewhat- kept their sense of humor in all of this though.

Posted by: Stop Smoking on October 17, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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