Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Guilt by Association Examples: 2008

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2008 Guilt by Association
OBAMA: I am Barack Obama and I approve this message.
NARRATOR: They want us to forget the insults we've put up with,
TEXT: "... stupid and unskilled Mexicans" -- Rush Limbaugh
NARRATOR: The intolerance.
TEXT: "Shut your mouth or get out!" -- Rush Limbaugh
NARRATOR: They made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much. John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces.
TEXT: Caused the failure of immigration reform -- McCain campaign advertisement
NARRATOR: One that lies just to get our vote, and another even worse, continues the policies of George Bush, putting the special interests ahead of working families. John McCain: more of the same old Republican tricks.
-- "Dos Caras" or "Two Faces" ad released by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), September 15, 2008, in his race against GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Rush Limbaugh is a conservative .

Comment: One problem with this ad is that the quotes from Limbaugh were taken out of context. But, supposing that they weren't, is Limbaugh a "Republican friend" of McCain? If he is, does he therefore share Limbaugh's opinion? Does McCain have an obligation to rebuke Limbaugh's views?

Chris Wallace, Fox News anchor: Governor, are you suggesting that bringing up Jeremiah Wright is race baiting and hate and divisive?
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC): Yes, I am suggesting that kind of stuff. I think when you start bringing up candidates that have nothing to do with the issues -- when you start bringing up things that have nothing to do with the candidate and nothing to do with the issues, that's race baiting and that's exactly what it is. Just like Willie Horton was race baiting so many years ago.
-- Fox News: Transcript: Howard Dean on 'FOX News Sunday', May 4, 2008.

Comment: First of all, Horton -- convicted in Massachusetts of murder and given life in prison without parole -- had committed further crimes in 1987 after being released as part of a weekend furlough program. The governor of Massachusetts at the time -- Michael Dukakis -- was a supporter of the furlough program. Dean is referring to a 1988 TV ad that criticized Dukakis -- who ran for president in 1988 -- for supporting the furlough program. This criticism is by no means intrinsically racist. Dean needs to defend his claim that the Horton ad is race-baiting, or is somehow making inappropriate reference to race. Second, there is also a legitimate debate about whether Obama should have distanced himself from Wright sooner, given Wright's history of racial comments. Since there's nothing intrinsically racist about criticizing Obama on this point, either, Dean -- again -- needs to defend his allegation that it somehow makes inappropriate reference to race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: "I want to give Senator Clinton a chance to respond, but first a follow-up on this issue, the general theme of patriotism in your relationships. A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough." An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"
OBAMA: "George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of 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, George. The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those either. So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideas could be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't."
-- Moderator and ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, April 16, 2008, during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Philadelphia, PA, between Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Comment: Obama is correct that he was clearly too young to be associated with Ayers' terrorist and criminal activities (or the activities of Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn). And it's not the case that their relationship is enough to conclude that Obama shares Ayers' views. But did Obama have an obligation to rebuke Ayers' wrongdoing, at least by refusing to associate with him at all? Are Coburn's views on the death penalty as deplorable as Ayers' actions in the past, and therefore demanding of an equal level of protest and defiance?

"Sen. Barack Obama's pastor says blacks should not sing "God Bless America" but "God damn America." The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism." In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." He said Rev. Wright "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family. Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope." An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans."
-- ABC News reporter Brian Ross, March 13, 2008.

Comment: Does Obama's association with Wright necessarily mean that he holds the same views as Wright? Did Obama have an obligation to defy and criticize Wright's opinions?

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