Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Charles Keating And John McCain Versus William Ayers And Barack Obama

The link between Charles Keating and John McCain is more than “guilt by association.” John McCain abused his power as a member of Congress.

The link between William Ayers and Barack Obama is “guilt by association.” If Obama used his power to favor Ayers it would become more than “guilt by association.” So far, Obama has not done this.

From Democrats in guilt-by-association counterpunch by Geoff Elliott:

Mr Keating owned the Lincoln Savings and Loan group and contributed more than $US100,000 to Senator McCain's political campaigns in the 80s.

When federal regulators began looking into Lincoln's questionable lending practices and investments, Mr Keating turned to five senators whose campaigns he had helped fund, including Senator McCain.

Senator McCain attended two meetings with regulators at Mr Keating's request, and in subsequent congressional hearings it emerged Senator McCain's position was that he was seeking information on behalf of a constituent who was an important employer in his state. But the regulators concluded Senator McCain was pressuring them to act favourably for Mr Keating.

The Lincoln group's collapse cost US taxpayers more than $US2 billion. Mr Keating spent four years in jail before his sentence was overturned on a technicality. A Senate ethics committee report found Senator McCain had been guilty of "poor judgment".
In a world filled with political corruption this may not rank as one of the worst things that a politician can do, but it wasn’t the right thing to do. Even John McCain says that it wasn’t. Do we want to trust John McCain and his “poor judgment” to lead us as President of the United States?

I watched Bill Moyers Journal last Friday and was very disappointed to hear this exchange between Mr. Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson:
BILL MOYERS: There was an Obama film released this week that offended me as a journalist because they used the filmmaking process to suggest the credibility for the charge about McCain and the Keating Five that they wouldn't have had in a 30-second commercial. Take a look at this.

[OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD] MALE NARRATOR: If you think about what fraud is. Fraud is the creation of trust and then its betrayal.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, this — first, this is a web ad of some sorts. I mean, I don't know if you call something that long an ad. But it's a web ad. You see it on the web. It's not the documentary form that's problematic. It's the inference that's invited by juxtaposition.

And this has been a week of juxtaposition. We've got William Ayers, Barack Obama friends in one set of claims. You've got all the scandals of the current weeks on Wall Street allied to McCain.

And we put them together, draw the inference that it's causal, draw the inference that he really was responsible, not that there was a Keating Five, that he was the most responsible, and that somehow it's linked to all of these current scandals that we have right now. And so what we have in this past week is a text, you know, kind of textbook case of guilty by association and argument from juxtaposition.

BILL MOYERS: Is that the pattern of consequential deception that emerged this week in both the stump speeches and the ad? Was there a theme to this week's ugly politics?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, the first theme to the ugly politics is deception about each other's policy positions that will relate to governance.

That's the first category this week. Meaningful policy deception. You draw inferences from those about the candidates' stance, and you're wrong. You draw inferences about what they'll do in governance, and you're wrong. The second category is this guilt by association and argument by visual juxtaposition.

And the American people need to say about that what relevance does any of that juxtaposition have for governance? First, what's the inference and is it accurate? But secondly, does it pass the test of relevance even when you come down to what's accurate? I'd like to say about all of these guilt-by-association moves, first, what are the basic facts? Let's make sure we've got those right.

And then based on what we know, what do you infer about how they would act as president, about how they would engaged in policy decision making, about the policies they would offer? And if the answer is, I can't find any way that it forecasts any of that, do we actually believe that because William Ayers hosted a coffee for Barack Obama and they served on a board together and they had some association of school reform efforts in Chicago that Barack Obama supports what William Ayers did?

It reminds me of something that happened in 1964, but we have a change now. And one of the questions underlying all questions about dirty politics are, is it different or not? And here's the difference. In 1964, the team that you were part of or the administration that you were a part of-


KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Put together an ad that shows pictures of the Ku Klux Klan and burning crosses and Klansmen marching. And it's very evocative. It's very powerful. A drum is beating in the background.

MALE NARRATOR: "We represent the majority of the people in Alabama who hate niggerism, Catholicism, Judaism, and all the -isms in the whole world." So said Robert Creel, Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. He also said, "I like Barry Goldwater, I believe what he believes in."

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Now, Barry Goldwater had repudiated that endorsement. The campaign in '64 decided not to air that very expensively produced ad because they were afraid if they aired it, it would create a backlash. And I went through all the records in the LBJ Library. And I didn't find anybody standing up and saying, "It would be morally wrong to do it." But I did find people who thought that it would create a backlash.

Now, why were they concerned? If Goldwater had repudiated the endorsement, they assumed that the press would point it out and the public would be smart enough to say, "Well, then it means nothing." It means that these horrible despicable people have endorsed, but it doesn't mean anything. Barry Goldwater has repudiated. Now let's jump forward. William Ayers, Barack Obama. Barack Obama has repudiated what William Ayers did in the Weather Underground — '64 it didn't become part of the campaign.


KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Now it is. That's a change. And it says our tolerance for those kinds of inappropriate inferences is different. The confidence that that inference somehow is legitimate now where there wasn't confidence that it was in '64 is now present. And that's problematic. I worry about that.

And I worry about on the other side, by the way, about Senator McCain. What does it mean that he was involved in the Keating Five scandal? Well, first, we need to get the facts right. But more importantly, he has said it was the worst mistake of his life.

BILL MOYERS: He's repented that.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: He has essentially said he's learned from it. Do we now draw the inference that because of it he's going to act as he did back then in whatever way was inappropriate back then, if he becomes president? Or do we believe that he learned from it and, as a result, he's far less likely to act in any way that would suggest that kind of a problem?

If you looked at his career since then, you'd say reasonably the inference is he learned a lesson and he will not go anywhere near that kind of problem in the future. That's what motivated McCain-Feingold. That's what motivated his attacks on earmarks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the notion that something can be accurate but not relevant is one that we're missing as we assess these claims.
This is what offended Bill Moyers. Why he finds it offensive baffles me. To the best of my knowledge it is factually accurate. What more do you need? How can Moyers be offended by someone else doing essentially the same thing that he does every week?

I believe that Kathleen Hall Jamieson is stretching the truth when she says that we “… draw the inference that it's causal, draw the inference that he really was responsible, not that there was a Keating Five, that he was the most responsible, and that somehow it's linked to all of these current scandals that we have right now.” This is not the conclusion that I draw from the Obama video. It is ridiculous to say that McCain is responsible for the current financial crisis. It is not ridiculous to conclude that McCain’s past record in Congress is a questionable one. I believe that this is what the Obama video is trying to say.

I believe that Kathleen Hall Jamieson is going too far when she says that “… the inference is he learned a lesson and he will not go anywhere near that kind of problem in the future.” Also when she says: “ So the notion that something can be accurate but not relevant is one that we're missing as we assess these claims.” The fact that McCain said he learned from his “mistake” is relevant, but so is the fact that he made the mistake in the first place. We should let the voters decide how important all of this is, not the media, not Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

I believe that Kathleen Hall Jamieson is correct in her assessment of Obama and Ayers, however, I think that her assessment of McCain and Keating is incorrect. I am also disappointed in both Jamieson and Moyers for following the recent media trend of lumping both of these issues together as if they were the same, when they are not. I also think that Bill Moyers should think about replacing Jamieson, or at least limiting her time on the air, and letting someone else give their viewpoint.

I am disappointed in Bill Moyers over this. I expect better from him. Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. A look at the comments in response to Partisanship, Dirty Politics, and the Truth shows that others feel the way that I do.

From Robert O’Brien:
I have to take issue with what Kathleen Hall Jamieson said on your October 10th show about smear campaigns. While it's true that the Ayers business is simply nonsense, I believe that the Keating Five story is completely relevant today. His profuse apologies notwithstanding, Senator McCain was involved in a sleazy operation that ultimately cost taxpayers a lot of money (maybe not compared to the $850 billion tab we have now, but still a lot).

McCain has been a champion of deregulation his whole public career, and deregulation is what got us in our present predicament.

Obama, by contrast, is guilty of nothing vis-à-vis Bill Ayers.

Ms. Jamieson is guilty of offering one of those false equivalencies Paul Krugman has been talking about.
From Louis Erlanger:
I was very disappointed in Dr. Jamieson's discussion of "dirty politics". Comparing the Keating Five scandal to Barack Obama's association with William Ayers is comparing apples to oranges. John McCain was part of the Keating Five scandal. He lobbied to push back regulation of the Lincoln Savings and Loan after receiving favors from Keating. Regretting that he took part does not absolve him of guilt, and he has continued to oppose most attempts at regulations in the financial sector. Barack Obama served on a board with William Ayers and participated in functions that Ayers also participated in, but he was not involved in any of Ayers' activities as a Weatherman. In fact, he has spoken out against Ayers' past radical activities, and has only supported Ayers' work in the education arena.

In addition, Dr. Jamieson's comments about Social Security are just plain wrong. She said that if Social Security had been privatized before the current economic crisis, no one would have lost money because the Social Security dollars would have been invested in instruments that are outside of the current failing market. I would love to know what instruments those are, because I'd like to invest in them, and I'm sure the rest of your viewers would too.

This was the first time on Bill Moyers' Journal that I have seen attempts to present a "balanced" view at the expense of the truth, a practice that has made the mainstream media such a poor source of good information. Let's hope we do not see any more of this in the future.
I am also disappointed in Frank Rich. In an otherwise excellent op-ed he wrote:
What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin.
This is in reference to the same things that Moyers and Jamieson were talking about. Rich makes an excellent point about the “Weimar-like rage” and I totally agree with him. It is despicable. What troubles me is what is left out of the picture that Rich portrays. There is more that “makes them different” than simply rage and anger. The facts make them different. Obama has not abused his power to do favors for Ayers, McCain did abuse his power for Keating. I wish that Rich would have written at least one sentence pointing out that this also "makes them different."

If we were to use the McCain standard of guilt-by-association (and take it just a little bit further), then we are all friends with terrorists, including John McCain. After all, both Obama and McCain belong to the same organization.

Am I "smearing" Obama? I feel so dirty. Talk about guilt by association.

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