While the nation faces an uncertain future, the two presidential campaigns want you to think about the past. Past associations of the candidatesâ€™, that is. The John McCain campaign has decided to refocus on Barack Obamaâ€™s association with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers while Obama is dredging up McCainâ€™s involvement with Charles Keating and the infamous Keating Five scandal.
Obamaâ€™s past associations with Ayers have nagged him throughout the campaign. From what I can tell, the association was much more one of political opportunity than ideological congruity. Itâ€™s one more piece of evidence that the politics of hope are indistinguishable from politics as usual. Disappointing but not disqualifying. (Note: if anyone can find a decent, non-partisan article on this relationship, please offer a link. This is one of those issues that every piece of writing either minimizes or sensationalizes the matter.)
As for McCainâ€™s role in the Keating Five scandal, he was cleared of impropriety but criticized for poor judgment. Some people still believe that McCain was only included in the investigation by Democrats desperate to make the scandal seem to be a bi-partisan affair. Nevertheless, McCainâ€™s relationship with Charles Keating was questionable at best.
Iâ€™m surprised itâ€™s taken until October for the Obama campaign to resurrect the Keating scandal. My guess is thatâ€™s because they know the issue is a loser. Itâ€™s complicated and McCain was officially cleared of wrongdoing. But as a counterpunch to the Ayers controversy, the Keating scandal may work. After all, major mediaâ€™s desire to achieve â€œbalanceâ€ will likely lead to every Ayers story being abutted to a Keating story.
This could end up a draw for the candidates. But itâ€™s a loser for voters. Neither story from the candidatesâ€™ pasts are nearly as important as their plans for their future.