At the top of CNN.com’s most popular stories at midday Wednesday was a commentary by CNN contributor Roland Martin, a relentless unpaid Obama spin controller and host of a series of weekend specials. Martin's commentary argued that the Bill Ayers issue is a "smokescreen" and that if Barack Obama is tarred by working with Ayers, McCain is just as tarred by working with....Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and Robert Byrd, who was "once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a domestic terrorist organization!"
The McCain camp, along with their right-wing media comrades, want to convince you that Obama should not have decided to serve with Ayers, who was named the Citizen of the Year in Chicago in 1987 for his education work, and who is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Now, if someone was seen as an acceptable figure by business, political and education figures, many of whom support both Democrats and Republicans, should Obama be faulted for sitting on a board with the guy?
So, let's use that same logic and apply it to McCain.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat from Chicago who serves as one of the national co-chairs for Obama, told me on The Tom Joyner Morning Show that if we are to use the association tag as evidence of a candidate being unfit for president, what about McCain serving and working alongside people with virulent bigoted pasts like Sens. Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd?
Do we have evidence that these individuals committed specific acts against African-Americans during Jim Crow? No. But we do know that their hateful words, and willingness to uphold laws that were absolutely anti-American, did not represent the best of this nation.
Thurmond ran for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948 with a platform of maintaining segregation. Based on Helms' policies, he didn't see blacks as full Americans.
Bombing the Pentagon is horrible and indefensible. But declaring yourself a patriot while you speak such hateful and venomous words against your own countrymen, who just happen to be black, and then trying to oppress them, is just as indefensible.
So, did McCain work with them? Did he not speak with them? Should McCain have declared that he would not work alongside these men because of their past? Should the self-described maverick who believes in integrity and character have taken the honorable stance of resigning from the Senate to protest these hateful characters serving in the U.S. Senate?
No. And this is why this association argument is so weak and impotent.
For goodness' sakes, Byrd was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a domestic terrorist organization!
Martin did not seem to consider that if these associations were suspect, then Sen. Joe Biden would also match McCain in the bad-associations department. But the difference between these men and Ayers is obvious: unlike the politicians, Ayers is completely unrepentant about his past.
Despite Martin's service in the tank for Obama, he resists being categorized as a liberal. On CNN's Election Center on Tuesday night, deputy political director Alex Wellen promoted CNN.com/forum by noting you could create your own political badge on the site, and used Martin as an example:
Roland Martin has crated his badge. Let's annotate this. There is his name, he's a political analyst. He's a political junkie. And we see that his top three issues, and you will have your own three issues, social issues, the economy and Iraq. Where does he stand on Iraq? He is way left. But when it comes to social issues, he leans to the right.
How can anyone who leans right on social issues be such an Obama partisan? In addition, a peek at RolandSMartin.com finds this hilarious article from Editor & Publisher from March, when Roland was furiously spinning for Obama during the Reverend Wright controversy, noting that Martin objected when Creators Syndicate decided to categorize their columnists as conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and unaffiliated. Martin insisted he was the last one:
Columnists can change their categorization, Fryrear emphasized. For instance, Roland Martin was originally labeled as liberal but asked to switch to unaffiliated. Creators quickly complied.
Brent Bozell is syndicated by Creators, and happily accepts a "C."