McCain Errs About Ayers

By Lee Speigel

Oct 9, 2008 10:22pm

ABC News’ Ron Claiborne reports: In his interview with Charles Gibson on "World News," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., makes a point of saying the former 1960s radical William Ayers said on 9-11, of all days, that he wished he had committed more acts of violence against the U.S. government.

"I don’t care about Mr. Ayers who, on Sept. 11, 2001, said he wished he’d have bombed more," McCain said, while explaining that what really matters is that Obama hasn’t been forthcoming about his association with Ayers.

Ayers admits to having bombed a number of government buildings during his days with the radical Weather Underground. The quote McCain referred to was Ayers teling a newspaper reporter, "I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough."

That he would say such a thing on 9-11 suggests not just an "unrepentant terrorist," as McCain labels Ayers, but someone especially cruel, vicious and insensitive to utter such chilling words in the midst of a national tragedy.

The only problem with this account is that Ayers did not say that on Sept. 11. He said it some days earlier. It happened to appear in the New York Times on Sept. 11. Ayers’ memoir, "Fugitive Days," had been published the day before and he did a number of interviews, including with the Times, to promote the book.

McCain also told Gibson several times that Obama has dismissed any relationship with Ayers by saying he was "just a guy in the neighborhood."

"He said he was a guy in the neighborhood," McCain said. "We know that’s not true."

"He wasn’t a guy in the neighborhood," he continued a little later. "He launched his political career in his living room, in Mr. Ayers’ living room. And I don’t care about two washed-up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America. But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him and whether he’s being truthful and candid about it."

In the McCain campaign’s new Web ad, "Ayers," the narrator details Ayers’ violent acts as a leftist radical and points to Obama’s ties to him years later. It concludes ominously: "When Obama just says this is a guy who lives in my neighbhorhood, Americans say, ‘where’s the truth, Barack?’ Barack Obama. Too risky for America."

Obama made the "guy in my neighborhood" comment about Ayers in answer to a question about their relationship at the Democratic presidential debate, just before the Pennsylvania primary last April. He clearly tried to downplay his acquaintance with Ayers, but he did more than just breezily dismiss hum as some neighbor he barely knew.

Obama said, "This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."

The McCain campaign asserts there must be more to their relationship because Obama attended a political get-together in Ayers’ home in the early 1990s, and because they served together for a few years on two nonprofit organizations in Chicago.

To McCain, these intersection connections are evidence that Obama had a closer relationship with Ayers than he will admit to and that’s he’s hiding something.

McCain raises suspicion, but he and his campaign have never said what they suspect.

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