It was good advice, one of the things you find yourself remembering even if you heard the words so very long ago. Imagine yourself an overly sensitive teenager – as if there were any other kind – trying to figure out how to fit into things, not quite yet sixteen so you can’t borrow the family car and be cool, and wondering if you can be smart in class or should be a surly rebel, as each has its benefits and costs, or wondering if whether what interests you, playing music and your reading that has you knowing things the others don’t know, and really don’t care about, is going to make you a total loser, or kind of interesting and cool. You cannot figure it out – any of it. Then someone mocks you, someone who you think is on top of things – and they use something about you that you know is beyond minor, some silly detail of what you said or some comment about your liking classical music, or something. Yeah, you shrug it off – but it eats at you.
Then that teacher who sort of sometimes seems to be on your side, or maybe isn’t, sees you brooding, and somehow knows what happened – they’re not all rigidly unobservant – and raises an eyebrow and says something useful. “Consider the source” – and you nod and amble off, still in a funk.
But then you think about it – what was said to you, those mocking words, have a context. Those words came from someone who has his or her own issues, and those issues are not your problem, really. Everyone is trying to arrange the world around them, assigning importance here and dismissing something else there, so that, given who they are, they can feel okay about themselves. They say this-is-how-the-world-is and you got suckered into believing them. But you suddenly realize that everyone does the same thing – even you – and it’s kind of nonsense.
You feel better – from now on you’ll consider how others, and you, make up value-sets, as self-protection. You’ll know yours, and know they are yours alone, built to protect your ego, but really a construct. And when someone else comes down on you you’ll know they’re frightened and assigning you a place in their own world, one that they made up to keep that pesky existential despair away.
In short, you grow up. Of course you grow up being a skeptic, and probably a liberal. When anyone says, well, this is just how things are, you don’t impulsively agree – you’re looking at what’s behind that claim. Why does this person see things that way? What wolf are they keeping from their door? Fixed and eternal values and truths become interesting – sure there are such things, but you want to get to them without the overlay of insecurities that make others just grab onto anything at all so they don’t blow their brains out.
Of course this also makes you a pain in the ass – one of those people who just cannot see the obvious. You don’t see that gay couples getting married is that big a deal – the harm that does is pretty abstract and two people in a stable and mutually beneficial relationship, and paying taxes and all the rest, seems like a good thing. You don’t know if abortion is murder – when life begins has been argued for centuries, and that question being settled now by politicians seems absurd, so you’re inclined to step away from that one, and wish the politicians would too. And as for the last eight years, the wars and talk of national honor and justice, and all that talk about threats that turned out not to be threats at all, and things you thought needed done that weren’t done – getting the actual bad guys – those years have been disheartening. Everyone is so sure. They always are. But you consider the source.
And thus the current presidential campaign drives you crazy. Saturday, October 4, there was this Associated Press item:
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday accused Democrat Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists” because of an association with a former ’60s radical, stepping up an effort to portray Obama as unacceptable to American voters.
Palin’s reference was to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the group the Weather Underground. Its members were blamed for several bombings, including a pipe bomb in San Francisco that killed a police officer and injured another. Obama, who was a child when the group was active, has denounced Ayers’ radical views and activities.
Well, if nothing else, Sarah Palin is sure of herself. You’ve learned to raise an eyebrow at that. You’ve turned into that teacher from long, long ago. That’s odd.
But what’s this? The Associated Press is saying that she is flat-out wrong:
While it is known that Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood, served on a charity board together and had a fleeting political connection, there is no evidence that they ever palled around. And it’s simply wrong to suggest that they were associated while Ayers was committing terrorist acts.
Nonetheless, Palin made the comments at two appearances in separate states.
Is the press allowed to say that, that one of the candidates is just making up stuff, sure of what just isn’t true? We’ve come to expect the press to just report he-said she-said and saying absolutely nothing else – like with John Kerry and the Swift Boat folks last time around. So and so says their opponent tortures squirrels, and in sport news today…
Something is odd here, but Palin is sure:
“Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country,” Palin told a rally of about 10,000 gathered at a tennis stadium in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles.
That echoed comments she made earlier in the day to donors at a private airport in Englewood, Colo.: “Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
… The campaign was clearly prepared to raise the Ayers’ connection to Obama. In addition to Palin’s comments at her appearances Saturday, the McCain campaign distributed Palin’s comments to reporters.
“This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” Palin said. “We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”
And she says she’s just doing what people really want:
Palin, Alaska’s governor, said that donors on a greeting line had encouraged her and McCain to get tougher on Obama. She said an aide then advised her, “Sarah, the gloves are off, the heels are on, go get to them.”
The escalated effort to attack Obama’s character dovetails with TV ads by outside groups questioning Obama’s ties to Ayers, convicted former Obama fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
You see it – “This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America.” Wow, that takes you back to ninth grade.
Of course, while out here in Carson, and at the other appearances, Palin was saying even the New York Times reported on the Ayers connection.
Well, they did – Scott Shane in the New York Times with Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths.
Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly adds perspective:
About a week or so ago, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran an 1,100-word piece from conservative writer Stanley Kurtz about Barack Obama’s past with 1960’s-era radical William Ayers. The Journal gave it a provocative headline – “Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools” – and far-right blogs got really excited about it.
There was one small problem: Kurtz, after exhaustive research, couldn’t find any meaningful dirt.
As for the Times investigation, there wasn’t much:
At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.
Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.
… The two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts forty years ago, when I was eight.”
A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers…
I’m not even sure what the point of the article is; it simply reinforces what anyone who cares about facts already knows: the reports of Obama’s “close ties” to Ayers are absurd. I guess the Times invested a lot of energy into checking this out, so it ran the lengthy story anyway, despite the fact that there’s nothing new to report.
Well, no – that wasn’t the point. The Times decided that people had been talking about this, so they did the actual research – that tedious reporting stuff – and they’re reporting back, just doing their job. There’s nothing there.
You know the reaction. See “The Big Trunk: at Power Line – BAM’S BOMBIN’ BUDDY: THE TIMES’ TIMELY WHITEWASH – and yes, it was all caps.
But you know Power Line. They once gave us this:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
A real publication, however, the National Review, offered NYT’s Ayers-Obama Whitewash – this couldn’t be so.
Also see Steve Diamond at Global Labor and Politics with this – Scott Shane at the Times talked to the wrong people, as the truth must be out there somewhere.
Garance Franke-Ruta at the Washington Post is just puzzled that Palin is citing the New York Times item:
In fact, both a Washington Post article in April and today’s New York Times piece revealed Obama and Ayers to have had only a casual association: the former radical hosted a coffee for Obama’s first bid for state Senate, they served together on an educational charity board and both live in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Maybe Sarah Palin doesn’t read the papers after all. Or perhaps she has a problem with reading comprehension – both papers, after a lot of legwork, said nope, nothing there. Palin said, see, even the New York Times said there was something there. Maybe she just skimmed the headline.
Steve Benen again:
First, we already learned, just today, that Obama is not tied to William Ayers in any meaningful way. I know Palin struggles to keep up with current events, but her attacks are obviously and demonstrably wrong.
Second, the McCain campaign is surprisingly transparent in its desperation. Faced with daunting challenges here and abroad, McCain, Palin, and their team of Bushies have decided they’d lose if voters have issues and substance on their minds. They’re left with lies, personal attacks, and bogus smears. It’s surprisingly pathetic.
Third, does Palin really want to play the guilt-by-association game? Isn’t she married to someone who joined a fringe political party that wants to secede from the United States? Didn’t she attend a church where a literal witchdoctor laid hands on her?
The truth is, running for national office in a time of war and crisis is difficult. It takes real courage, strength, and character to challenge voters to weigh the seriousness of the moment, and make a decision about our collective fate based on substance.
And therein lies the point about the McCain/Palin campaign: we’re dealing with a team that lacks courage, strength, and character. Running away from the issues, deceiving voters, cynically distracting the public are all signs of political cowardice.
The McCain campaign hit the bottom of the barrel a while ago, but they figured out a way to dig a hole in the barrel, fall through, and scrounge around underneath it.
McCain was given a choice: lose his honor or lose the election. He’s clearly made his decision, but if there’s any justice, he’s about to lose both.
Yes, that a little angry. Perhaps it’s best to go back to what that teacher said so many years ago. Consider the source.
It seems Obama may have had the same teacher. Late the same day, Mike Allen at Politico published an exclusive:
Branding his opponent as “erratic in a crisis,” Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is preempting plans by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to portray him as having sinister connections to controversial Chicagoans.
Obama officials call it political jujitsu – turning the attacks back on the attacker.
That goes like this:
McCain officials had said early in the weekend that they plan to begin advertising after Tuesday’s debate that will tie Obama to convicted money launderer Tony Rezko and former Weathermen radical William Ayers.
But Obama isn’t waiting to respond. His campaign is going up Monday on national cable stations with a scathing ad saying: “Three quarters of a million jobs lost this year. Our financial system in turmoil. And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy. No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject.
“Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonorable, dishonest ‘assaults’ against Barack Obama. Struggling families can’t turn the page on this economy, and we can’t afford another president who is this out of touch.”
Then Obama says: “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message.”
It all comes down to those three words that helped some of us grow up. Consider the source.
Here’s the exclusive part:
McCain officials told Politico that the new offensive is likely to focus on Rezko and Ayers. The officials said the campaign will not bring up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, because McCain has forbade them from using that as a weapon. Without being specific, the officials said outside groups may focus on Wright.
Ah, use the first two directly, and since McCain has some honor, or squeamishness, left him, have the independent 527 groups run the Jeremiah Wright clips – and McCain can say he wishes those groups weren’t doing that, but there’s nothing he can do to stop them, really.
In any event, the consider-the-source campaign is underway:
When word of the planned attacks leaked Saturday, Obama officials said within hours that it was an attempt by McCain to distract voters from the economy.
“We think the McCain campaign made a huge error by telling the press that their strategy was to distract from the most important issue facing voters,” a senior Obama official said. “Every attack going forward will be easy to characterize for what it is – an attempt to distract from the Bush-McCain economic record.”
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds hinted at the tough new line Saturday on “Fox & Friends” – “There are associations that are important to who Barack Obama is as a candidate, who he’d be as president,” Bounds said.
Obama-Biden communications director Dan Pfeiffer said about the new ads: “If John McCain thinks he can ‘turn the page’ on the economic crisis facing American families, he is even more out of touch than we imagined. Now there may be no good answers for John McCain due to his erratic response to the financial crisis, but his desire to avoid discussing the economy is something we will remind voters of everyday for the next month.”
Consider the source. What wolf are they keeping from their door? Those AP folks keep running those damned headlines – Economy Sheds Most Jobs since 2003, More Cuts Seen and Payrolls Drop By Most In 5 Years; More Pain Ahead and Factory Orders Drop By 4 Percent In August and Jobless Claims Pushed To 7-Year High.
Anyone can see what’s up, anyone who remembers that teacher.