Panel on Obama and Ayers

Panel on Obama and Ayers

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - October 7, 2008


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R-AK) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It turns out one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Bill Ayers isn't involved in this campaign. Bill Ayers isn't going to be involved in this campaign except when John McCain brings it up.


HUME: So who is this guy Bill Ayers? Among other things, he is a guy that said in an interview with our own James Rosen back in 2004 for James' book, he said, and I quote, talking about 9/11, "Was that an act of pure terror? It absolutely was. And there are many other acts of terror carried out by our government even recently that are comparable.

And there are other acts of terror that have gone on in places like Bosnia that we forgot to notice." That for James Rosen's book, "Strongman: John Mitchell and the secrets of Watergate."

Does that name ring a bell with you if you remember this from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright?


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT: We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.


HUME: Well, those are two Obama associates who both seem to have similar views of 9/11, that it was not really worse than anything we did as a nation.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, all are FOX News contributors.

There doesn't seem to be much doubt, Juan, that, in political terms, William Ayers and square Jeremiah Wright are undesirables. So the question that arises, and we know about Jeremiah Wright really, and we recognize that Obama once sort of sat at his feet and had him a mentor, but he has cut his ties to him.

But what about the Ayers relationship? You heard Robert Gibbs- Obama says I really didn't know the guy very well. What do we know?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Actually, David Axelrod, one of Obama's top people, has said that they did have a relationship.

But it's one of these situations where if you look at the reality, and several people now have looked at it, including going into the files of the Annenberg group, a school reform group in Chicago, where Obama was the head of this group but appointed, apparently, with Ayers' help to run this school reform organization.

There were some ties, the attended some meetings. There also was a time when, I think it was Alice Palmer, who was leaving the state legislature and had Obama as her chosen successor, introduced Obama at a meeting at Ayers' home. So there were some connections.

Now, does Barack Obama subscribe to the words we just heard? I don't see any evidence of that. And does Barack in fact have a close relationship in which Ayers would act as an advisor? I don't see any evidence of that.

But there is a tie, and no doubt it will be exploited by the McCain campaign.

HUME: I suppose the question most Americans have is not whether they are truly close now--obviously you shed all such ties when you are getting ready to run for president--but whether Obama has shown in the past a certain tolerance of radical views about the United States of America.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think that the difference between Wright and Ayers is huge. I think that he was in his church for 200 years. He used a book title for one of his sermons and he baptized his kids. That was a close relationship.

I think the Bill Ayers relationship is exactly as it has been described--their kids went to the same school, and David Axelrod said they were "certainly friendly" because they say each other at school function, plus they sat on the Wood's Foundation board together.

But beyond that --

HUME: Well, wait a minute. You do have the fact that there was an Obama political--

LIASSON: And the first coffee(ph) was held at Ayers' house.

There is no evidence that he continued to rely on him for advice or even had some kind of close relationship with him.

I think it's legitimate to ask him, you know, about Ayers. He completely disassociated himself from those views and condemned them. And he certainly wasn't around or a contemporary of Ayers in any way.

I think the Wright connection is the one that has substance to it. I think the Ayers connection is pretty tenuous.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I agree that the Wright connection is much more important. Obama was in the church for 20 years and it lasted up until just a few months ago when Wright became a clearer problem for the Obama presidential campaign.

I think the Ayers relationship was a little bigger. You did have the Chicago Annenberg Fund, and Obama was the head of it. And he funded these very radical student education problems that Ayers had. Ayers wanted to turn students into radical revolutionaries fighting oppression in America, and Obama helped fund those things.

But it's clear that the McCain campaign would rather very aggressively link Obama to Ayers, a white guy, than to go back and go through all of the Reverend Wright stuff, Jeremiah Wright stuff, which is much more incriminating than Ayers.

HUME: Why do you suppose that is?

BARNES: It is because they are all on tape, and--

HUME: I know, but why do you suppose that the McCain campaign seems to want, with the exception of an occasional comment by Sarah Palin, who thinks it's fine, why does McCain want it off limits?

BARNES: Well, I think it's because he doesn't want to be called a racist. Look, that was some story, Brit. You must have seen it, this story an associated press reporter--just by linking Obama to Ayers some AP reporter says it-

HUME: He called it "racially tinged."

BARNES: "Racially tinged," So imagine what AP will say if he goes after a connection between Obama and Jeremiah Wright.

HUME: Nobody said that about-

LIASSON: I think there is another reason. John McCain himself during the primaries made the statement about an statement that was running, I think it was in Tennessee, actually, by some Republicans that had the Reverend Wright, and he somehow seemed to draw a line that Reverend Wright--

HUME: What did he do that?

LIASSON: I don't know, but he decided that that was--I can't even remember--it might have been the content of the ad in particular linking a Democratic congressional candidate, if I remember correctly, to Reverend Wright, which was clearly a big leap.

But he seems to have ruled it out as a legitimate line of attack.

WILLIAMS: I don't understand why, and I say that as a black person. Somebody on the Republican camp said it is time to turn mama's picture to the wall and get dirty here! I think Ayers--

HUME: Get dirty or rough?

WILLIAMS: Get dirty or get rough, whatever you want to say.

But I think Ayers is a stretch. But Wright I think is a legitimate point of discussion in terms of understanding who this man is. And that's where the McCain camp is now. They want to go at Barack Obama's character, and, boy is Jeremiah Wright a part of that story.

HUME: Quickly.

LIASSON: The big question is this year, unlike all other years, because there is such an overriding, overwhelming concern of voters on the economy, maybe those attacks won't find any purchase.

HUME: We are a month from Election Day, and we will talk next about the state of the race. Stay tuned.



DOUG SCHOEN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Barack Obama has got a clear, discernible, definable advantage. He is six or seven points ahead. He is ahead in virtually every battleground state save Missouri, which is within the margin of error.

MIKE DUHAIME, MCCAIN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Go tell John McCain he is an underdog. I think he will just enjoy it and smile and fight that much harder.


HUME: He might have to fight harder than that. Since Doug Schoen's has spoke, the pollster and FOX News contributor spoke, the lead, which was six or seven, as Doug correctly said, has grown to eight, and Missouri, well, that is now an Obama state by three.

So life is not good for John McCain in terms of where the polls put this race tonight. The question is can anybody see, based on what we now know about the issues being raised, the arguments that are being had, the ads that are being put out, the whole state of this campaign, any way that John McCain can turn this around--Fred?

BARNES: Well, it doesn't pop right in my mind.

I think Doug Schoen is right, there is a clear discernible lead, and we know all the reasons. Look, all the big trends this year favor Obama--the economy, party ID, party registration, it's a change election, and so on.

And then comes this financial crisis, which has been the real killer for the McCain campaign, which is really-I guess it's the last three weeks. Three weeks ago he was either ahead or right there.

HUME: Sort of defying gravity, wouldn't you say?

BARNES: Yes--a little bit, yes. I didn't think that McCain would win.

So what does he have to do? One is he has to raise doubts, as they are doing now, about whether Obama is ready to be president, whether he is experienced enough and has good judgment, and so one.

Secondly, I think the McCain campaign needs a consistent theme. McCain touched on one at the end of his speech today in Albuquerque, the "I'm a fighter. I have always fought for you," and so on.

But, thirdly, he needs Obama to screw up.

LIASSON: Yes, and the point --

HUME: Fat chance, huh?

LIASSON: What he needs is something to happen that is basically out of his control. That is not a good situation to be in.

Either he needs some event, like a foreign policy crisis, as it did over the summer with Georgia to shift the tide back to him, or he needs Obama to make a mistake, which I think is highly unlikely.

Of all the states that are toss up, meaning that they are within the margin of error, now a single one is one that Kerry won in 2004. They are all previously red states, which means Obama is fighting on McCain's territory.

And it's hard to imagine what he does to turn this around. The Wall Street crisis just tilted an already-tilted landscape even more to Obama.

WILLIAMS: So if I'm advising Senator McCain, I say you've got to go out there and make the case, especially tomorrow night in this town hall setting, which is, again, to McCain's advantage, you have to speak to people and say "Are you really willing to trust Barack Obama with this difficult economy? Or do you want to trust me and my record, and what I have stood for?"

"Do you believe that Barack Obama is going to cut your taxes? Let me tell you about Barack Obama's record on taxes, and let me tell you about the most liberal Senator."

"Let me tell you, when it comes to drilling and energy independence in this country, my record and where I stand right now compared to Barack Obama. Who do you agree with?"

And, finally, let's talk about the war and talk about who sacrificed for this country, and let's talk about who has not served this country in a time of war and made such a sacrifice.

I think John McCain--

HUME: You think that could turn it around at this stage?


BARNES: But that would help.

HUME: Juan, let me ask you, for your impressions. We have about 30 seconds here, and we will talk about this later as well, about the so called Bradley effect or the Wilder effect, where an African-American candidate going into an Election day will be polling at this level and the vote comes below this level. What about it?

WILLIAMS: About give points, I would say.

HUME: You think it's worth that much?

WILLIAMS: I think that's what people inside the Obama camp say.

HUME: So they need to be ahead by more than five points to win?

WILLIAMS: They think generally that it is about five points in any one state. But right now you are getting up to eight and nine points, and then it doesn't really matter.

But you have a certain percentage of people who won't acknowledge they won't vote for a black man.

HUME: All right, Juan, we'll talk about this more at a future date.

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