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‘Good Morning America’s’ Chris Cuomo Grills ’60s Radical Bill Ayers

William Ayers, the 1960s radical whose violent history became a focal point in the 2008 presidential election, said today that the Republicans unfairly “demonized” him in an attempt to damage the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama.

Ayers remained militant in his defense of his bomb-throwing past and repeated a statement that has infuriated his critics: “I don’t think we did enough.”

The college professor also argued to “Good Morning America’s” Chis Cuomo today that the bombing campaign by the group he helped found, the Weather Underground, was not terrorism.

The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon and the New York City Police Department to protest the Vietnam War.

“It’s not terrorism because it doesn’t target people, to kill or injure,” Ayers insisted.

Ayers became a bogeyman for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, who demanded to know more about Obama’s relationship with his Chicago neighbor. Palin accused Obama of “palling around … with a terrorist.”

Breaking his silence, Ayers told Cuomo that the GOP attack was a “dishonest narrative…to demonize me.”

He added, “I don’t buy the idea that guilt by association should have any part of our politics,” he said.

Ayers scoffed at the Republican effort to make his ties to Obama appear suspicious.

“This idea that we need to know more, like there’s some dark, hidden secret, some secret link,” Ayers said. “It’s a myth thrown up by people who want to exploit the politics of fear.”

But he was unapologetic about his militant actions during the Vietnam War.

“What you call the violent past, that was a time when thousands of people were being murdered every month by our own government… We were on the right side,” he told “GMA.”

The co-founder of the Weather Underground was, as McCain has claimed, unrepentant about the the bombings his group committed during the 1960s.

“The content of the Vietnam protest is that there were despicable acts going on, but the despicable acts were being done by our goverment… I never hurt or killed anyone,” Ayers said.

“Frankly, I dont think we did enough, just as today I dont’ think we’ve done enough to stop these wars,” he said.

Ayers Says He Is ‘Family Friend’ of Obama
Ayers did soften his stand on violence during the “GMA” interview.

“We knew it was wrong. We knew it was illegal. We knew it was immoral,” he said, but they felt they “had to do more” to stop the Vietnam war.

He urged people today “to participate in resistance, in nonviolent,direct action” to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ayers, 63, currently a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, became a political piñata for McCain, R-Ariz., and Palin during the presidential campaign.

Despite Obama’s attempt to portray their relationship as a distant one, Ayers, in a new afterward to his book “Fugitive Days,” describes Obama as a “neighbor and family friend.”

On “GMA,” Ayers again downplayed any close ties to Obama despite the reference to”family friend.”

“I’m talking there about the fact that I became an issue, unwillingly and unwittingly,” he said. “It was a profoundly dishonest narrative… I’m describing there how the blogosphere characterized the relationship.”

“I would say, really, that we knew each other in a professional way on the same level of, say, thousands of other people,” he said.

He added, echoing a phrase that Obama used to describe Ayers, “I am a guy around the neighborhood.”

Ayers acknowledged that he held a reception in his home when Obama began his political run for state office.

“He was probably in 20 homes that day,” Ayers said.

During the campaign, Obama tried to defuse the Ayers issue by condemning Ayers’ past actions as “detestable.”

“The notion that … me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense,” Obama argued.

Sarah Palin Still Concerned About Ayers Tie
Ayers made a point of remaining silent during the presidential race, but his proximity to Obama was highlighted on Election Day when the two men nearly ran into each other in the same polling place. As recently as Wednesday, Palin was still raising the Ayers’ issue, telling NBC that she was still concerned about Obama’s relationship to the former radical. Palin was the fiercest critic of the Obama-Ayers tie, accusing Obama of “palling around with a domestic terrorist.” Ayers was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group said responsible for a militant bombing campaign against government targets.

While he was a fugitive, he married Bernardine Dorhn, another member of the Weather Underground.

Obama and Ayers have several connections. The two men have also served on boards together, including the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Thursday that questions about Democratic rival Barack Obama’s association with a former war protester linked to Vietnam-era bombings are part of a broader issue of honesty.

In his strongest personal criticism since his faltering campaign began casting Obama as an unknown and unacceptable candidate, McCain told supporters that Obama had not been truthful in describing his relationship with former radical William Ayers. The Arizona senator also said Obama himself has “a clear radical, far-left pro-abortion record.”

Loud cheers from 4,000 people gathered at a sports complex near Milwaukee greeted McCain’s attacks over Ayers, who helped found the Weather Underground, a Vietnam protest group that bombed government buildings 40 years ago. Obama has pointed out that he was a child at the time and first met Ayers and his wife, ex-radical Bernadine Dohrn, a quarter-century later.

“Look, we don’t care about an old, washed-up terrorist and his wife,” McCain said. “That’s not the point here.”

“He’s a terrorist!” a man in the audience screamed without making clear to whom he was referring.

“We need to know the full extent of the relationship,” McCain replied. Later, McCain told ABC News: “It’s a factor about Sen. Obama’s candor and truthfulness with the American people.”

Obama has denounced Ayers and his violent actions and views. He dismisses McCain’s criticism as an effort to “score cheap political points.”

The AP and other news organizations have reported that Obama and Ayers, now a college professor who lives in Obama’s neighborhood, are not close but that they worked together on two nonprofit organizations from the mid-1990s to 2002. In addition, Ayers hosted a small meet-the-candidate event for Obama in 1995 as he first ran for the state Senate.

David Axelrod, a senior campaign adviser, says that Obama, who was a child living in Indonesia and Hawaii in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was not aware of Ayers’ radical past at the time of that campaign event. Some McCain supporters have expressed skepticism about that.

Some of those at the rally questioned why McCain was trailing Obama and why no one was talking about Obama’s past associations.

Obama’s history with Ayers was explored during the primaries in news reports and in a campaign debate. It has been resurrected by the GOP campaign as the economic crisis deepened in recent days.

Responding to McCain’s criticism, Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said, “Its now clear that John McCain would rather launch angry, personal attacks than talk about the economy or defend his risky bailout scheme that hands over billions in taxpayer dollars to the same irresponsible Wall Street banks and lenders that got us into this mess a scheme that guarantees taxpayers will lose money.”

One person at the rally here suggested McCain get tougher in his final debate with Obama next week: “I am begging you, sir.”

“Yes, I’ll do that,” McCain said.

To press its argument, the McCain campaign also released a 90-second Web ad about Obama and Ayers.

“Barack Obama and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Friends. They’ve worked together for years,” the ad says. The ad also claimed that one of the nonprofits on which Obama and Ayers worked was a radical education foundation.

That educational foundation was The Annenberg Challenge; it was funded by the Annenberg Foundation, a charity set up by longtime Republican backer and newspaper publisher Walter Annenberg. Annenberg has since died, but his wife has endorsed McCain this year.

McCain and his campaign have sought to raise doubts about Obama, who is seeking to become the first black president. Supporters have used Obama’s middle name, Hussein, during introductions of McCain and Palin this week — trying to remind voters that he shares a name with deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The Obama campaign denounced the move, which also plays to Internet rumors that Obama is a Muslim, even though he grew up in a secular household and is a Christian. After the fact, the McCain campaign said in an e-mailed statement that it did not condone using the middle name.

McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, joined McCain at the town hall — the first of three in this swing state with 10 electoral votes — and blamed “mainstream media” for not asking Obama tough questions about his proposals.

“Are Americans having an opportunity to ask all the questions and are we receiving straight answers from our opponent?” Palin asked. The crowd shouted, “No!”

In a response for the Obama campaign, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said that it was preposterous to suggest Obama hadn’t been scrutinized during one of the toughest primaries and general elections in modern history.

McCain also repeated the false claim that Palin opposed the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, for which she campaigned in her race for governor and accepted federal money to build. When the project drew national scorn as an example of wasteful spending, Congress withdrew its support for the bridge but Alaska kept the money for other projects.

A poll released Wednesday by WISC-TV in Madison showed McCain trailing Obama by 10 points, the Arizona senator’s largest deficit in Wisconsin since July when polls also showed Obama with a double-digit lead.

“Do you know how many times the political pundits in the last two years have written off my campaign?” McCain asked.

Source: AP

Three crashes early in his career led Navy officials to question or fault his judgment.

John McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider on an overcast Texas morning in 1960 when he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane’s wings.

McCain recounted the accident decades later in his autobiography. “The engine quit while I was practicing landings,” he wrote. But an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Center found no evidence of engine failure.

The 23-year-old junior lieutenant wasn’t paying attention and erred in using “a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn,” investigators concluded.

The crash was one of three early in McCain’s aviation career in which his flying skills and judgment were faulted or questioned by Navy officials.

In his most serious lapse, McCain was “clowning” around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout, according to McCain’s own account as well as those of naval officers and enlistees aboard the carrier Intrepid. In another incident, in 1965, McCain crashed a T-2 trainer jet in Virginia.

Corpus Christi, Texas, March 12, 1960
Southern Spain, around December 1961
Cape Charles, Va., Nov. 28, 1965

After McCain was sent to Vietnam, his plane was destroyed in an explosion on the deck of an aircraft carrier in 1967. Three months later, he was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi and taken prisoner. He was not faulted in either of those cases and was later lauded for his heroism as a prisoner of war.

As a presidential candidate, McCain has cited his military service — particularly his 5 1/2 years as a POW. But he has been less forthcoming about his mistakes in the cockpit.

The Times interviewed men who served with McCain and located once-confidential 1960s-era accident reports and formerly classified evaluations of his squadrons during the Vietnam War. This examination of his record revealed a pilot who early in his career was cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits.

In today’s military, a lapse in judgment that causes a crash can end a pilot’s career. Though standards were looser and crashes more frequent in the 1960s, McCain’s record stands out.

“Three mishaps are unusual,” said Michael L. Barr, a former Air Force pilot with 137 combat missions in Vietnam and an internationally known aviation safety expert who teaches in USC’s Aviation Safety and Security Program. “After the third accident, you would say: Is there a trend here in terms of his flying skills and his judgment?”

Jeremiah Pearson, a Navy officer who flew 400 missions over Vietnam without a mishap and later became the head of human spaceflight at NASA, said: “That’s a lot. You don’t want any. Maybe he was just unlucky.”

Naval aviation experts say the three accidents before McCain’s deployment to Vietnam probably triggered a review to determine whether he should be allowed to continue flying. The results of the review would have been confidential.

The Times asked McCain’s campaign to release any military personnel records in the candidate’s possession showing how the Navy handled the three incidents. The campaign said it would have no comment.

Navy veterans who flew with McCain called him a good pilot.

“John was what you called a push-the-envelope guy,” said Sam H. Hawkins, who flew with McCain’s VA-44 squadron in the 1960s and now teaches political science at Florida Atlantic University. “There are some naval aviators who are on the cautious side. They don’t get out on the edges, but the edges are where you get the maximum out of yourself and out of your plane. That’s where John operated. And when you are out there, you take risks.”

The young McCain has often been described as undisciplined and fearless — a characterization McCain himself fostered in his autobiography.

“In his military career, he was a risk-taker and a daredevil,” said John Karaagac, a lecturer at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and the author of a book on McCain. “What was interesting was that he got into accidents, and it didn’t rattle his nerves. He takes hits and still stands.”

McCain, the son and grandson of admirals, had a privileged status in the Navy. He was invited to the captain’s cabin for dinner on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise in 1962, a perk other aviators and sailors attributed to his famous name, recalled Gene Furr, an enlisted man who shared an office and went on carrier deployments with McCain over three years. […]

In Vietnam

… McCain was on his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam when a surface-to-air missile struck his A-4 attack jet. He was flying 3,000 feet above Hanoi.

A then-secret report issued in 1967 by McCain’s squadron said the aviators had learned to stay at an altitude of 4,000 to 10,000 feet in heavy surface-to-air missile environments and look for approaching missiles.

“Once the SAM was visually acquired, it was relatively easy to outmaneuver it by a diving maneuver followed by a high-G pull-up. The critical problem comes during multiple SA-II attacks (6-12 missiles), when it is not possible to see or maneuver with each missile.”

The American aircraft had instruments that warned pilots with a certain tone when North Vietnamese radar tracked them and another tone when a missile locked on them.

In his autobiography, McCain said 22 missiles were fired at his squadron that day. “I knew I should roll out and fly evasive maneuvers, ‘jinking,’ in fliers’ parlance, when I heard the tone,” he wrote. But, he said, he continued on and released his bombs. Then a missile blew off his right wing.

Vietnam veterans said McCain did exactly what they did on almost every mission.

Frank Tullo, an Air Force pilot who flew 100 missions over North Vietnam, said his missile warning receiverconstantly sounded in his cockpit.

“Nobody broke off on a bombing run,” said Tullo, later a commercial pilot and now an accident investigation instructor at USC. “It was a matter of manhood.”

Source: latimes

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