Heard something this morning on NPR that I really liked—right before a talk show was aired, the announcer warned us, “This show was taped prior to changing events.” I didn’t actually hear anything on the show that warranted that warning, but then I wasn’t really listening that carefully. I just like the warning that almost all “news” is subject to being pre-empted by even newer news.
Anyway, that sort of raises the issue of Palin’s latest attack on Obama as hanging out with “domestic terrorists.” She was talking about Bill Ayres, with whom Obama served on the board of a public interest organization. Ayres used to belong to the Weather Underground, back well before Obama was born. In that capacity, he is believed to have been involved in a bombing of the US Capitol Building, which resulted in damage to some plumbing in a men’s room there. No one was killed or injured. Currently, Ayres is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
This is neo-McCarthyism, although Palin undoubtedly wouldn’t recognize the word, the concept, or its eponym. Guilt by the most remote and long-past association. The fact that Palin’s husband was once a member of, and Palin herself once spoke before, an organization supporting the secession of Alaska from the United States, apparently doesn’t rate the same level of attention. (Umm, isn’t secession treason?)
Lots of currently respectable people have disreputable pasts. Most of the leaders of the post-colonial states of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East had previously done time in British jails, under “terrorism” charges. Many of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have done time for similar reasons.
Many of the most successful Oscar-winning film writers and directors were members of, or closely associated with, the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the purge of communists from the movie industry. Did Palin ever see the movie “Spartacus”? It’s from a book written by a communist, and a screenplay by one of the Hollywood Ten. Does that make her an associate of reds? Did Palin ever watch the tv horror series “Svengoolie”? The first Svengoolie was Jerry G. Bishop, whose mother was a communist. I know—I’ve met her. Did Palin ever see “The Maltese Falcon”? It’s from a book written by Dashiell Hammet, who did time for refusing to testify before a red-baiting congressional committee. You get the picture (so to speak.)
In previous elections, candidates left such sleaze-peddling tactics to their “independent committees.” It’s a bad sign, or at any rate a sign of McCain’s increasing desperation, that this year, one of the candidates is doing it hands-on. One can only hope that we are not in for a decade of making “the children of the 60s” and their younger associates sit in the stocks repenting for some of the best things they have ever thought, said, and done.