The Spectacle Blog

What’s The Big Deal Isn’t A National Security Policy

By on 10.14.08 | 12:33PM

Conor puckishly suggests the differences between an aging hippie and Al Qaeda:

This is where J.P.'s argument becomes absurd. Does he really doubt that Barack Obama is serious about fighting Al Qaeda? Does he really doubt that Obama wants to capture Osama bin Laden, to weaken terrorist camps in Pakistan, to undermine the Taliban in Afghanistan? How exactly does using a relationship with Bill Ayres to advance his political career "smudge the promise" that Obama wants to fight Al Qaeda? It doesn't!!

Indeed there are very stark contrasts between Ayers and Bin Laden (though I wonder what he thinks they are). But Conor's too eager to assume that when looking at terrorism, we ought to use binoculars. The most deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11 was the Oklahoma City Bombing carried out by two U.S. citizens in the heartland. The undergirding philosophy of this attack was in support of a militia movement, sure, but the enabling belief was that innocents can and should be killed for the greater good. As it happened, Ayers, in his fight against the Vietnam war, was willing to kill children, and in recent years has said that he doesn't regret setting the bombs.

He doesn't regret setting the bombs. Think about that in all its italicized glory.

He wasn't just a member of the Weathermen. He was a leader of it.

To Conor's ear, this guy isn't much of a threat. If I get on a plane with him, the logic goes, I'd be ridiculous to be as fearful as I would if I were to get on a plane with Al Qaeda. Well, sure, but I've checked a lot of seating plans. Turns out most airlines don't force you to pick between sitting next to Mohammed Atta and Bill Ayers. The culpability of one doesn't exonerate the other.

The intent is to exploit the fact that Bill Ayres can accurately be labeled a terrorist, thereby saying that Obama is sympathetic to "terrorists" knowing full well that many Americans who hear that charge will think not that Obama once associated with an anti-Vietnam radical who bombed government buildings years before, but that he is sympathetic to the Islamic radicals we're fighting in the War on Terror.

This reminds me of something John "Terrorism is a Law Enforcement Issue" Kerry suggested. To many of his supporters, the idea of the "War on Terror" is that we nail Al Qaeda, and then we eat a sandwich. There's a valid policy debate on how to treat domestic and foreign terror, but it's not a debate about what's the greater priority. 

For many on both sides of the aisle, "War on Terror" is just a phrase for a renewed effort to dedicate resources to fighting terrorism in general. Terrorism didn't become a word after 9/11. It's just that quite a few people started thinking about it more after 9/11. And 9/11 was, in part, a consequence of our lack of response to earlier attacks, something that Bill Clinton will wag his finger at the moment you bring up. During the 90s, many Americans made a false distinction between terrorists that kill their fellow countrymen, versus the ones who leave their country to kill.

The first one is more heinous. After all, Ayers enjoyed American privilege throughout his life, yet was willing to put a young boy's life in jeopardy, just because he was the son of a judge who was doing his job.

So there's no "sleight of hand" when I refer to Ayers as an unrepentant terrorist. The McCain campaign isn't trying to "confuse" people. They'd be "confusing people" if Ayers didn't place "threatening innocent lives" as a qualification on his resume. Did he do terrorist-y things? You betcha.

Now, a closing note, referencing another point Conor makes:

I don't see any candidates running for president who haven't associated with unsavory characters who were willing to throw a fundraiser or donate to their campaigns. As for working on the board of an education non-profit with Ayres, I don't see why Obama should've refused to do so. Again I ask my readers - were you named to the board of a charity you thought to be worthwhile in its mission, and one of the other dozen people on the board was an unsavory character, would you work with him to advance the mission of the non-profit that you find worthwhile, or would you refuse to work with the non-profit?

This is the most dangerous sort of equivocations. "Unsavory characters"? Is that what people are calling  Ted Kazcynski who didn't have the benefit of a popular political protest to hide behind after he had performed his own reign of terror? Please don't confuse Jack "Never Met A Tribe I Couldn't Swindle" Abramoff with a man whose own chemistry set martyred two of his own friends.

Worse, it suggests that everything is fair game when you're an aspiring politician. It's a tacit endorsement to the character flaw of overturning character in favor of political expediency. This has become a feature of the Democrats and the far left, a fear that repudiating what is clearly wrong would undermine appeals to their constituency. Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah moment was effective because he understood the wisdom of skirting the fringe. Just because you're looking for attention doesn't mean you hire a prostitute.

Yes, I do expect Barack Obama to have a problem with sitting on the board of a non-profit until Ayers is removed from it. (If Ayers was so dedicated, he might be willing to drop the ego and take a backseat for the sake of the greater mission.) Or to protest the anti-American slurs rolling off the tongue of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If that's asking too much, if it's simply too hard for him to make higher office without condoning such behavior, then we've gained a very valuable insight into the next likely president of the United States.

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