Column: McCain Should Leave Guilt-by-association Attacks At Home

This story was written by Gabriel Dobbs, Cornell Daily Sun

After an exhausting and masturbatory20-month-long election cycle, thank god the end is finally in sight. Obama and McCain are approaching the last mile of this marathon, and despite a flurry of new attacks and policy proposals, Obama has cleared the hurdles placed before him.

Some discouraging numbers for those who value their constitutional right to shoot wolves from helicopters: Averaging recent polls, Obama is up almost 8 percent nationally (the past two elections have been decided by a margin of less than 3 percent). Recent favorable/unfavorable polls shows Obama is liked by 71 percent of Americans, versus 54 percent for McCain. The eerily accurate Intrade political futres market correctly predicted the outcome of every swing state in the 2004 election (in the face of many polls that predicted a Kerry win on election day). Intrade is now offering a four to one payout for any soul brave enough to put their beans in McCains electoral basket. Things look bleak for the Mac Attack, but as they say, it aint over til its over.

After performing so-so in the past two debates, John McCain was not relying on a slam dunk performance at Hofstra to swing momentum in his favor. But with time running out, there are few avenues left for a Republican victory this November. McCains campaign has struggled throughout the primary and general election season to find a unifying message to rally the American people. In an election defined by the change mantra, many Americans arent buying the 26-year veteran of the Senates pitch that he is a maverick here to shake up Washington. After all, you cant teach an old dog new tricks. So what does an old dog do when hes backed into a corner by the new, hotshot pooch in town? He bites back.

In the final days before Nov. 4, the McCain campaign has made clear with little subtlety that their attacks on Obama will intensify. The recent national spotlight on the economy has led many to the astounding realization that maybe intellectualism isnt such a bad thing (it might be good to have smart people running our country for a change!). McCains long history of deregulation and his connection to the ever unpopular Bush presidency isnt exactly helping him lay the blame for the economic mess on the junior senator from Illinois. So according to a senior McCain aide, their campaigns last best shot it to attack Obamas character: his trustworthiness, honesty and past associations.

Stage right, enter Bill Ayers: the radical, 1960s militant anti-war activist. By making the case that Obama is an unknown with a questionable background (hes black and Hawaiian),McCain is making a thinly veiled attempt to characterize Obama as a radical, someone who is not like you and me. The problem with this last ditch effort to paint Obama as a man who sips martinis with terrorists is that guilt-by-association arguments are too often contrived and unconvincing.

Here is an example of a logical fallacy based on an irrelevant association: Hitler was a vegetarian. Hitler was also a Nazi. Therefore, all vegetarians are Nazis. Not convinced that John McCain is using this argument? Bill Ayers is on a charitable board focused on education. Bill Ayers was also a 1960s radical. Because Obama was on that same philanthropic board, he too must be a 1960s radical (despite the fact Obama was8 years old at the height of Ayers "terrorist" activities). For the sake of argument, if past associations did matter, it is not difficult to prove that McCains buddies havent exactly been saints either.

Right-wing televangelist pastor John Hagee was courted early on by the McCain campaign as a man who could help energize the Republican partys religious base. Shortly after McCain stated that he was honored to have won Mr. Hagees endorsement, the media pounced on some ofHagees more controversial sermons. Turns out Hagee thought that god sent Katrina to New Orleans to punish the sins of the gays (McCain repudiated the endorsement shortly thereafter).

But what about the racist views of that fiery Reverend Wright? I call your Reverend Wright, and raise you a white supremacist. Richard Quinn, a longtime advisor to McCain, recently helped the campaign win in crucial South Carolina. (The McCain campaign has paid Quinns firm at least $184,000 this cycle.) Quinn has his own grab bag of offensive and outrageous positions: He called the MLK holiday profane and vitriolic, labeled Nelson Mandela a terrorist and promoted KKK leader David Duke as a maverick (sound familiar?) who should run for the presidency.

As a politician, Obama and McCain have each connected with literally thousands of leaders across the country with personal histories and philosophies across the political spectrum. Why should we hold politicians responsible for every single stupid thing that their acquaintances have done or said? I know people who steal; does that make me a thief, or even someone who promotes stealing? The only friends, acquaintances, or board members whose character should matter in the upcoming election are those who the next president chooses as advisers and members of his cabinet. The Straight Talk Express is stuck in the gutter. The only way for McCain to make any ground before election day is to steer his campaign onto the high road and focus on the issues at hand.