On "This Week with George George Stephanopoulos" this morning, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., unprompted, raised the issue of the connection between Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and William Ayers, a former member of the radical group the Weather Underground.
On the subject of whether McCain would attempt to attack Obama on patriotism, the presumptive GOP nominee said, "I’m sure he’s very patriotic. But his relationship with Mr. Ayers is open to question. … if you’re going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he’s unrepentant, that he wished they had bombed more."
McCain said he was most offended by Obama’s comparison of Ayers to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., during Wednesday night’s ABC News debate. Obama had said he doesn’t subscribe to the views of all his friends, and cited Coburn’s anti-abortion rhetoric as an example.
"The worst thing of all, that I think really indicates Senator Obama’s attitude, is he had the incredible statement that he compared Mr. Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, with Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn, a physician who goes to Oklahoma on the weekends and brings babies into life," McCain said. "It’s very insulting to a great man, a great doctor, a great humanitarian… (H)ow can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people?"
After Stephanopoulos pointed out that Obama had said he doesn’t agree with comments Ayers has made, McCain said, "Doesn’t agree with them? Does he condemn them? Would he condemn someone who says that they’re unrepentant and wished that they had bombed more?"
When asked, McCain said he had condemned any anti-Catholic statements made by Pastor John Hagee, an evangelical leader in San Antonio who had endorsed him.
McCain said it was "probably" a mistake to solicit and accept Hagee’s endorsement, "but I admire and respect Dr. Hagee’s leadership … of his church. I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel" and is "glad to have his endorsement."
McCain’s attack came just a couple days after his deputy campaign manager, Christian Ferry, sent out a fundraising e-mail attacking Obama for favorable comments about the Democrat made by an official of Hamas, a Palestinian group the U.S. government classifies as "terrorist."
On WABC radio last week, Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said, "actually, we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, a great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with domination and arrogance."
Said Ferry, "We need change in America, but not the kind of change that wins kind words from Hamas … John McCain’s foreign policy provides a stark contrast to the policies of Barack Obama."
Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded to McCain’s comments about Ayers today, saying, "Unable to sell his out-of-touch ideas on the economy and Iraq, John McCain has stooped to the same smear politics and low road that he denounced in 2000. The American people can’t afford a third term of President Bush’s failed policies and divisive tactics."
The Obama campaign also pointed out that the attack seemed to contradict comments made on MSNBC last month by McCain campaign senior adviser, Charlie Black, who said, "What Senator McCain has said repeatedly is that these candidates cannot be held accountable for all the views of people who endorse them or people who befriend them. … He believes that people who endorse you, people who befriend you, are entitled to their own views, but you are not held personally accountable. That when somebody endorses you or befriends you, they’re embracing your views, the candidates’ views, not the other way around."