Barack Obama is striking back fiercely and swiftly to stamp out an ad that links him to a 1960s radical, eager to demonstrate a far more aggressive response to attacks than John Kerry did when faced with the 2004 “Swift Boat” campaign.
Obama not only aired a response ad to the spot linking him to William Ayers, but he sought to block stations airing the commercial by warning station managers and asking the Justice Department to intervene. The campaign also planned to compel advertisers to pressure stations that continue to air the anti-Obama commercial.
In a letter to station managers, Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote: “Your station is committed to operating in the public interest, an objective that cannot be satisfied by accepting for compensation material of such malicious falsity.”
Bauer also wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, noting that the ad is a “knowing and willful attempt to evade the strictures of federal election law.”
For those like me who are supporting Obama at least partly due to his superior stand on civil liberties and free speech, this news is extremely disappointing. Obama has in the past strongly expressed his support for free expression and he has helped pass criminal justice reform laws to protect the civil rights of detainees. But do you want a president who will be willing to bully opponents into not saying certain things?
On the other hand, here’s a real quote from John McCain, the man behind the anti free-speech McCain-Feingold law, which, ironically, is the law that Obama is now trying to use against the Ayers folks:
I know that money corrupts…I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected.
And here’s one from his campaign:
Neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
It’s a frustrating choice for libertarians. Taking foreign policy, the religious right and the war into account, Obama seems a slightly better choice, but not by much.