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Bringing a long spoon

David S. Bernstein invites his readers to Write Obama's Ayers Response, that is, to help Barack Obama prepare for the moment in tomorrow night’s debate when John McCain accuses him of dishonestly hiding his connection with Bill Ayers.

Here’s my bad advice, timed to the best of my imitation at ninety seconds (I can’t remember what their time blocks are in this round):

Idiotic and fictional Obama counterpart who takes advice from random bloggers: You are upset that I’ve somehow hid my connection with William Ayers. I haven’t. I was on a couple of non-profit boards with him. Mr. Ayers and I have worked together on educational issues. We have both taught at Universities in Chicago, where we live in the same neighborhood. I used to see him now and then on his bike, John, before I got so busy with this campaign. Is that honest enough for you? Can we move on, now, to perhaps discuss people who really do influence my thinking, and maybe people who influence yours?

But I do want to say one more thing about William Ayers. I do. Before we move on. I want to say that I condemn, utterly condemn, his acts of violence. I have said that to his face, John, and I say it to yours, now. But twenty years later, long after he turned himself in for the crimes he committed when I was a child, now and in the nineties he is doing a lot of work on educating children in the inner cities. And I do not regret working with him on those issues. I am willing to work with him, despite—I’ll say it again—despite condemning the acts of violence.

You see, I wanted to get something done for our children and for our schools. And I was willing to sit down with the people who were working on that issue, including Mr. Ayers, who was widely recognized as a leader in that field in my city. I was willing to do that. I was willing to sit down with him because I recognize that sometimes you have to work with people, even with people you don’t like, even with people who have done things you don’t like, because the work is more important. You’ve given me a lot of grief, John, about your interpretation of my willingness to work with foreign leaders that I don’t like. It’s not naïveté. I know that sometimes bad things happen. But I do think it’s naïve to believe you can get the important things done without ever sitting down at a table with someone who has done something bad.

But if you want to know what I really think, if you want to know who I listen to, if you want to know my actual policies, well, I hope, now we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about that.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


So, I was putting the little one down to sleep during this part of the debate and missed it entirely. What's your impression?

Well, and of course Sen. Obama did better than I would have done. The transcript doesn’t entirely do it justice, as the best thing was that he did not act flustered, defensive or angry; he was, as Mr. Bernstein suggests, running out the clock

rather than attempting to run up the score. Still, the thing that Sen. Obama did that I didn’t think of, and that I think was particularly terrific, comes in here:

Now, the reason I think that it's important to just get these facts out is because the allegation that Senator McCain has continually made is that somehow my associations are troubling. Let me tell you who I associate with. On economic policy, I associate with Warren Buffett and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. If I'm interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, Joe Biden or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO. Those are the people, Democrats and Republicans, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House. And I think the fact that this has become such an important part of your campaign, Senator McCain, says more about your campaign than it says about me.

I loved that.


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