Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Obama Asks for the Wrong Discussion

The last month of a campaign always brings out the big guns as candidates jockey for position going into an election. This election is no different. With both John McCain and Sarah Palin bringing back the ties between Barack Obama and William Ayers, Obama has been on the defensive. His initial response was to say he was "ready for a character discussion." Then, his campaign launched into McCain's connection to the Keating Five scandal.

Ah, but the issue isn't about character, Senator. The issue is about judgment.

The William Ayers situation is proving troublesome to the Obama campaign because they thought they dealt with these claims during the Democratic primaries. The problem with that conclusion, however, is that the lack of media attention does not mean the issue goes away. With the media being in the Obama camp, they simply didn't bother to do the legwork, but the issue remains. When Hillary Clinton tried to make the Obama-Ayers connection, it wasn't followed up on to determine whether the connection was real. The most they did was to "fact check" it on a cursory level, which worked best for Obama.

Now that the McCain/Palin ticket has resurrected the Ayers story, Obama is left having to play defense yet again, but against a more aggressive candidate, one with more to gain from discussing Ayers than what Clinton had. And one who can build on the Clinton gambit to establish a real question about whether Obama can lead.

That's why Obama wants to take the attention away from the judgment issue and more into the realm of character. Obama can talk up his character and, compared to some of the things McCain has done in the past, he would win that discussion. But on questions of judgment, he's going to lose because of the multiple questionable decisions he's made during his life, of which his connection to Ayers is just one. Once voters consider the Ayers situation, they might reconsider Obama's connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Jamie Gorelick, Tony Rezko, and others that the media have not covered as extensively as they have with questionable connections involving McCain/Palin. Then, these voters might wonder why Obama has made so many bad or questionable decisions over his life.

And that's not a discussion Obama wants.

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