I don't like saying this, but this Ayers thing seems to be ballooning. The right-wing blogs are loving McCain and Palin's questions and attacks, and they are constantly asking questions and urging the media to do so as well. The media has brushed a few questions by Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, here and there, and he and other surrogates have given some weak answers. Part of the media's reluctance is that they know Obama is right; the economy is what voters care about right now (how many points did the Dow drop today?). But nonetheless, those tenacious right-wing bloggers keep plugging away, uncovering things here and there about Ayers' views on education reform (as expressed 2 years ago with Hugo Chavez by his side), while McCain releases a 2-minute web ad, and he and Palin attack at rallies and take questions from guys like this who accuse Obama of being a socialist.
What doesn't help is that those right-wing folks have dug up some Obama connections to the Chicago New Party, a group related to the Democratic Socialists of America. We knew that the New Party endorsed Obama's state senate run, which doesn't really bother me, as I'm not concerned that Obama is anymore a socialist than most Americans that appreciate police and fire protection, entitlement programs, etc. He's never tried to, or suggested we should, nationalize industry or anything like that, and the most "socialist" thing about him is his health care plan, which barely qualifies (and which I support). That being said, it also doesn't bother me that the right-wing folks have discovered that in the mid-90s, the Chicago New Party referred to Barack Obama as a member on several occasions. The right-wing blogs are freaking out about this, though some commentators, such as Rick Moran, are able to think (a more permanent link, though with just an excerpt, is here) a little more clearly about this revelation than others:
Calling Obama a '93socialist'94 simply isn'92t logical. He doesn'92t share the belief that industries should be nationalized by the government or even taken over by the workers as many American Marxists espouse. He may not be as wedded to the free market as a conservative but he doesn'92t want to get rid of it. He wants to regulate it. He wants '93capitalism with a human face.'94 He wants to mitigate some of the effects of the market when people lose. This is boilerplate Democratic party liberalism not radical socialism.
(The rest of that article is worth reading as well.)
That New Party stuff is something that will probably have to be reported on by the national media, which furthers the point I'll make in one paragraph.
All this stuff does is tie more deeply into the "Obama is a radical" meme which is not true, but the right-wing loves it they believe, correctly I think, that some people fear it. The meme is tangentially supported by legitimate concerns about voter-registration organization ACORN (seriously, just stop submitting fraudulent and forged voter registrations, is that so hard?), the Bill Ayers thing, and Rev. Wright. And also the right thinks "liberal" is a dirty word that means radical (but as some blogger whom I can't find now noted the other day, it's not that dirty after 8 years of Bush--see "change" as a campaign slogan).
My point is this: the right keeps demanding that Obama answer some questions about these things (mostly Ayers), and frankly, I think they're right. Not because I think Obama has done anything wrong. All of the media's investigations into Ayers have found little to suggest that. I think that, in fact, it's clear that he hasn't done anything "radical" or wrong. But this Ayers thing has become an undercurrent that Obama needs to address. He and Biden have made some moves in that direction today and yesterday, and I think they feel safe about the issue, and are willing to address it. Since they've called out McCain for not talking about Ayers at the last debate, I am willing to bet it might come up in the next debate, and Obama's campaign seems happy with that. They don't want to legitimize the issue by talking about it though (and consequently not talking about the economy), and that may be a good plan. But sooner or later it's going to have to be addressed.
I think the debate setting is the best place for it. McCain almost has to bring it up, and then immediately Obama can address his minor ties to Ayers in a decent way, then hit McCain on Keating Five and running a campaign on fear that takes away from the issue of the day, which is the economy (FYI, apparently the economy trumps racism). He wins that point. No contest.
Alright, now on to other news. According to a recent poll, Obama is up frickin' 8 points in West frickin' Virginia. According to national polls (most notably Gallup), Obama has gained points nationally despite all these negative attacks and maintained his lead. And now, even without winning a toss-up state, Obama could win the electoral college.
Also, in a pretty stunning move, Obama bought 30 minutes of prime-time air-time on October 29 from NBC, and deals are in the works with other networks.
Things are looking bad for McCain/Palin in the Troopergate investigation. We get to see a report on the Troopergate probe tomorrow afternoon, hurray! TPM has the best all-around coverage. Also, the Anchorage Press hits on Palin's use of personal e-mail accounts for state business. Another one: Palin's first campaign manager doesn't particularly like Palin.
Gen. Petraeus reluctantly sides with Obama on the "talking to the enemy" issue.
Speaking of socialism, conservative outlet The National Review slams the mortgage plan that McCain spouted at Tuesday night's debate.
Read This: If McCain loses, lets hope he takes Mark Daniel's advice.
My thoughts on Tuesday night's debate are below (I meant to post this yesterday, but didn't for some reason), and below that are some fun reviews (Rush says don't watch the third debate if the first two depressed you, btw):
McCain tried much harder to connect, and shined a bit more than in the past in this town hall setting. On the very first question he shook the hand of petty officer who asked the question, and even proposed a plan to buy up bad mortgages--definitely trying more to connect with the middle class. He went after Obama on Freddie and Fannie and several other subjects, but he avoided Ayers and other touchy territory. He used some worn-out, standard attack lines ("Senator Obama has never taken on the leaders of his party on a single issue," "We don't have time for on-the-job training, my friend") but he was attacking nonetheless, especially on Obama's tax plan (on the small business tax thing, I'm pretty sure McCain is misleading or inaccurate, but Obama was able to respond).
McCain was surprisingly strong on environmental issues and energy -- the 'fund research on alternative energy and then let the private sector take it and run' answer was much better than Obama's computer development analogy -- and seemed more comfortable talking about those things than he did the economy (duh) or even foreign policy. He needlessly fumbled the question about priorities (why not simply prioritize?) and seemed very weak on healthcare reform. He even fumbled the follow-up to Obama's hard-hitting Pakistan attack, but simply saying "Not true, not true," and it wasn't clear at all what he was referring to. He continued to advocate for Georgia and Ukraine's inclusing in NATO, and lost the Pakistan debate, but nailed the question about Russia being an evil empire.
Obama was smooth tonight, and did much better in the town hall format than anyone though he would. He was on the attack, while being detail-oriented and explaining his plans. He constantly linked McCain to Bush and the last 8 years, while looking forward to the future. Whenever McCain lied about him or was being a hypocrite (the Fannie and Freddie attack comes to mind), Obama hit back hard. He's no John Kerry, and that's so refreshing. Obama shined on the priorites question, listing them as energy, healthcare, and then education. He didn't hit back on Obama earmark for "an overhead projector," and he should have made it clear that the projector in question was the projection apparatus for the oldest planetarium in the United States. But people don't care about earmarks anyway.
I said McCain was strong on energy and the environment, but Obama was stronger. He cited JFK's moonshot challenge in reference to alternative energy, which I thought was great. On health care, he shined. He delivered his plan well (though didn't answer the "fine" question, but Brokaw said no) and stated clearly that he believes health care is a right (citing his mother's illness and death). On foreign policy, he did great on Afghanistan and Pakistan and attacked McCain for rushing to judgment. His follow-up (finally) on Pakistan/foreign policy was great. His biggest fumble, I thought, was the statement that he would "strongly consider" intervention in Rwanda -- he should have made a more aggressive stand on genocide -- but he recovered by hitting on multi-lateralism themes. He talked about anticipation in foreign policy, and trying to "see around those corners," having a more developed strategy for dealing with foreign relations. I thought his final answer (like McCain's) didn't address the "Zen" question, but he delivered his normal stump stuff well.
In the end, I think Obama won outright, and post-debate polls agreed with me. There were no game-changing moments for McCain. The only loser in this debate though was Brokaw and the Commission on Presidential Debates, and the people who have negotiated debate rules throughout this process. Why can't we have more followups? And that was barely a town hall. A couple of seconds isn't long enough to talk about issues like U.S.-Pakistan relations and health care, and even this economy (which both seem kind of reluctant to talk about). These debates have sucked. At least Jim Lehrer tried in the first debate, though.
Links to debate reviews: The conservative blogosphere freaks out, doesn't really think McCain did well, and tries to make the best out of it. It's really fun reading, if you need a lift.