I have a word about the direction the presidential campaign has taken — which is to say — straight into the mud. If you've listened to this program or you follow the blogs then you know that last week Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin told a rally in Clearwater, Florida that "this is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America," and that one reason Barack Obama shouldn't be President is that he "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist."
You probably know by now that Gov. Palin was referring to William Ayers who was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that was operating when Obama was a small child. It turns out that Obama and Ayers, who is now a college professor, live in the same neighborhood; their kids go to the same school and they served on the board of some non-profit education group together. Ayers seems to have hosted a small fundraiser for Obama about a decade ago as well.
Can I Just Tell You? I take the point that some journalists, like my colleague and friend Ruben Navarrette, are mad that Obama seems to have minimized his relationship with Ayers. But that wasn't Palin's point, was it? Palin's point seems to be that Obama knows Ayers at all, spoke to him at all, and has any common interests with him at all.
If we're going to be fair, flip the script: if Obama's on-again, off-again association with Ayers — a man who was engaging in radical acts when Obama was a child — is disqualifying and speaks to his judgment, why isn't Sen. McCain's on-again, off-again relationship with prominent members of the Christian right — some of whom slandered Martin Luther King Jr. as a communist just because he was leading a movement for dignity and human rights; some of whom John McCain himself called "agents of intolerance" eight years ago after John McCain was the target of a race based smear campaign?
And let's ask, shall we, what the reaction would have been if Sen. Obama's supporters had shouted at, made obscene gestures to and launched racial epithets against members of the press corp., and uttered slanderous words assailing the patriotism of the Republican ticket (which is what seems to have happened at the Sarah Palin rally)? Do you think that would be considered acceptable behavior? Do you think that Obama would have been called upon to call it out?
And what's all the more depressing is that John McCain has; but that was months ago before his poll numbers began sliding. But now of course, amnesia seems to have set in, and that whole win-with-honor-and-on-the-issues thing? So five minutes ago.
Earlier in the program Ted Koppel told us about a documentary he is presenting tonight about the last recorded lynching in the United States. Now this wasn't in ancient times. This wasn't even in the horse and buggy days. This was in 1981, when black folks and white folks had long since started going to integrated schools together, serving in the armed forces together, making their way up the corporate ladder together. It's a hard film to watch but then again it's important not to turn away; not to rub our faces in the past, but to remind ourselves of what we're capable of when we think nobody's looking and when we know they are.