Oct 142008
Authors: Ryan Nowell

Last week, in light of your plummeting poll numbers, you guys (and gal, golly gee!) at the McCain campaign decided to dabble in the art of far-fetched character assassination by insinuating that Barack Obama “palled around” with known terrorists.

“Who is the real Barack Obama?” you asked at a rally last Monday. Stated, really, like a lurid “E! True Hollywood Story” narrator. “You ask such questions and all you get is another angry barrage of insults.”

Oh, well. Terribly sorry, John. Who are we to stand in the way of your entirely legitimate intellectual inquiry? Or was it philosophical? I couldn’t tell, many of the subtleties were lost in the din of your supporters shouting “Terrorist!”

Since I can tell you’re earnest in your quest for answers, let me clear this up for you: You posed the question in regards to Barack’s association with Bill Ayers, a former member of the leftist radical group the Weather Underground. You were elsewhere at the time, but they spent a good chunk of the ’60s and ’70s blowing up federal real-estate agencies. Don’t worry, they always phoned ahead. Radicals were more considerate back then.

In 1993, Obama served on a committee called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an initiative proposed by a Republican-controlled legislature, backed by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, to help reform Chicago’s lagging public school system. It was what we call a “bipartisan effort.” Remember when you used to advocate those?

He served alongside many liberal and conservative businessmen and philanthropists, including Arnold R. Weber. You may recognize his name. He worked for Nixon and Reagan, and is currently one of your campaign contributors.

In fact, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge should ring a few bills, as Leonore Annenberg is yet another contributor to your campaign. Still don’t remember? It’s okay, John. If you go to Wikipedia you can see a picture of her. She’s the one standing next to Ronald Reagan.

Among this rogues gallery of left-wing nut jobs was Bill Ayers, who since the ’70s has become something of a cornerstone in Chicago’s education circles. The Annenberg Foundation tapped him to help with the reform proposals, and he, Obama and a dozen other prominent Chicago figures met for roughly half a dozen meetings, after which they all went their separate ways.

Whether Ayers and Obama engaged in any pre-meeting games of Nerf football that could constitute this alleged “palling around” is up for speculation, John, but if the meetings themselves count, you might want to consider returning some funds, lest you be caught taking money from terrorist sympathizers.

But that’s not really the most pressing issue you’re facing now, is it? Your poll numbers are looking pretty bad, and since this move was your big bid to reel in independents (and I don’t have to tell you, it did the opposite), they’re probably looking worse. But again, I’d argue that’s not the biggest debacle on your hands.

I think you got the first glimmer of the bigger issue at your rally on Friday, when a supporter told you he’d be “afraid” to raise his unborn child under an Obama presidency; when a woman said she doesn’t trust Obama because he’s an “A-rab.”

And what did the crowd do when you tried to set them straight? When you told them that Obama is American, and that he is “a decent person, a person you do not have to be scared (of) as president of the United States.” Do you remember?

They booed you, John. They heckled their own candidate.

But it’s a little late to appeal to their better nature, isn’t it? You’ve courted the lowest common denominator in these people and you’re getting it back in spades. They’re in front of your campaign chanting it: “Kill Obama,” “Bomb Obama,” “Traitor!” “Terrorist!” The word “violent mob” has been used more than once.

I hope you realized as they booed exactly what this could turn into. You’ve laid a groundless, salacious claim at the feet of people who have proven they are all too willing to hate, who are ignorant enough to push your character assassination into terrible, literal directions.While you may be coyly suggesting that Obama is a terrorist, posing leading questions and peddling half-truths with shrugged shoulders, they are out there screaming it in the street.

Pray, John, that one of them doesn’t act on the fear you have filled them with.

Ryan Nowell is a senior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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