Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin went from winking hockey mom to snarling attack dog this weekend, tuning up the GOP smear machine with claims that Democrat Barack Obama "pals around" with terrorists and linking him with one of the founders of the Weather Underground.
The attack is not surprising, given the recent slide of John McCain and Palin in polls and Obama’s surge as the economy takes center state as a major campaign issue.
What might be surprising, however, is the viciousness of the attacks. Obama, on the other hand, appears prepared for the onslaught.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday accused Democrat Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists" because of an association with a former ’60s radical, a harsh attack on his character that she repeated at three separate campaign events without substantiation.
Palin’s reference was to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the group the Weather Underground. Its members were blamed for several bombings, including a pipe bomb in San Francisco that killed a police officer and injured another. Obama, who was a child when the group was active, has denounced Ayers’ radical views and activities.
While it is known that Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood, served on a charity board together and had a fleeting political connection, there is no evidence that they ever palled around. And it’s simply wrong to suggest that they were associated while Ayers was committing terrorist acts.
Nonetheless, Palin made the comments at three appearances in separate states.
"Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," said told donors at a private airport in Englewood, Colo. Palin echoed the line later in Carson, Calif., and Costa Mesa, Calif.
Falling behind Obama in polls, the Republican campaign plans to make attacks on Obama’s character a centerpiece of candidate John McCain’s message in the final weeks of the presidential race. Coming late in the campaign, Palin’s remark could be particularly incendiary, either backfiring on McCain or knocking Obama off his focus on the troubled economy — or both.
The campaign was clearly prepared to raise the Ayers’ connection to Obama. In addition to Palin’s comments at her appearances Saturday, the McCain campaign distributed Palin’s comments to reporters.
"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," Palin said. "We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism."
The Obama campaign called Palin’s remarks offensive but not surprising in light of news stories detailing the campaign’s come-from-behind offensive.
Obama apparently expected the new smear campaign.
Reports The Politico:
Branding his opponent as “erratic in a crisis,” Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is preempting plans by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to portray him as having sinister connections to controversial Chicagoans.
Obama officials call it political jujitsu – turning the attacks back on the attacker.
McCain officials had said early in the weekend that they plan to begin advertising after Tuesday’s debate that will tie Obama to convicted money launderer Tony Rezko and former Weathermen radical William Ayers.
But Obama isn’t waiting to respond. His campaign is going up Monday on national cable stations with a scathing ad saying: “Three quarters of a million jobs lost this year. Our financial system in turmoil. And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy. No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject.
“Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonorable, dishonest ‘assaults’ against Barack Obama. Struggling families can’t turn the page on this economy, and we can’t afford another president who is this out of touch.”
Then Obama says: “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message.”
McCain officials told Politico that the new offensive is likely to focus on Rezko and Ayers. The officials said the campaign will not bring up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, because McCain has forbade them from using that as a weapon. Without being specific, the officials said outside groups may focus on Wright.
When word of the planned attacks leaked Saturday, Obama officials said within hours that it was an attempt by McCain to distract voters from the economy.
“We think the McCain campaign made a huge error by telling the press that their strategy was to distract from the most important issue facing voters,” a senior Obama official said. “Every attack going forward will be easy to characterize for what it is – an attempt to distract from the Bush-McCain economic record."