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Giuliani Blasts Obama on Ayers Ties

On a McCain campaign conference call with reporters today, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani used a leading question about Sen. Barack Obama’s work with former Weatherman William Ayers on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — a program to improve the city’s schools — as a launching pad from which to attack the Democratic presidential nominee for his connection to the controversial 1960s figure.

First, I’d like to say something about the question — from someone named Sherry Lief (I’m unsure of the spelling.) None of my TWI colleagues have heard of her, and Google and Technorati searches yield nothing. I tried every spelling of her name I could think of, and tried searching in combination with Obama and Ayers. If anyone has any insight, I would be interested to learn more about her.

In any case, here is her question:

You had mentioned that Barack Obama has no experience when it comes to a budget. I would like to beg to differ. He was involved with Ayers as a chairman for the Annenberg Project, and apparently, from the research I’ve done, was able to help decide where$450 billion [!] went into spending, for educational projects. Every time math and science came up, he threw it out the window, and spent the money on educational programs that were socialistic in their genre. My research shows he failed. Isn’t that a huge point to be able to bring up?

That’s quite a question — by far the most partisan I’ve ever heard on any of the dozens of these conference calls I’ve sat in on. This is also noteworthy because Giuliani took only three questions, and another was similarly partisan — from a conservative blogger named Chuck Pardee, who asked a question critical of TV comedians who have mocked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s and “make a living embellishing facts.” The other question was not partisan, but came from the conservative Website Townhall.com’s Matt Lewis.

Usually, on these calls, the questioners are a mix of mainstream journalists, asking straight questions. That all three questions came from conservatives — and two were of a decidedly partisan nature — struck me as strange. Perhaps it was a coincidence. I certainly don’t have enough information to accuse the campaign of planting questions or cherry-picking questioners.

But this definitely did not “smell right,” as David Letterman would say.

Anyway, on to Giuliani’s comments:

That’s very interesting. That is an area of Sen. Obama’s background that seems to be very much hidden, and the media doesn’t seem to be spending very much time on it, and I really would like to know more about it. I don’t want to come to any conclusions about it until I know more about it. But, he was involved with [the Assn. of Community Organizers for Reform Now]. When he was a community organizer, I believe, it was a group, including ACORN, that recruited him. He did give out a lot of money, and I know Ayers was on the same board he was on. I also know, from the [unintelligible] that I’ve done, that a lot of the projects failed miserably.

This is an area that could be examined. You do know that he is often attacked for having never run a budget. He never mentions this as a budget that he ran — which is a telltale sign to me that he isn’t very proud of how he managed this budget. Unfortunately, I don’t have the details at my fingertips, but I’ll get them now that you’ve mentioned it, about how exactly he managed that budget, how large it was, what responsibility he had. I’ve just kind of exhausted my knowledge of it with what I’ve told you.

I have, in the past, said that I find his involvement with Ayers to be very troubling. Maybe this is, in part, my background as a U.S. attorney who had to deal with some of the aftermath of the Weather Underground, and as someone who has five uncles who are police officers. I find the involvement with a man who blew up public buildings, and still remains proud of it, I find that to be very troubling. And I don’t find that to be an unfair area to examine, if all we’ve got to go on with Barack Obama is his judgment.

Look, being honest, he doesn’t have the experience – and if you say he has experience, he doesn’t have much. But if he doesn’t have experience, what does he have? Judgment. Then we’ve got to examine his judgment, and being on a board with Ayers, who is a, still, proud member of the Weather Underground, having done the first fund-raiser for him, when he ran for public office — along with, I believe, Ayers wife, Bernadette Dohrn, who was another member of the Weather Underground.

These are troubling facts that have to be examined — if Barack Obama is running on judgment — and it’s not unfair to examine them. Considering what they’re examining Sarah Palin on, how does it become unfair to be digging in and trying to find out how close was his involvement with Ayers? How successful was their program together? If they gave money to housing, did the housing work? Did they give it to legitimate housing projects, or did they reward friends? Was it Chicago-style projects, or was it more independent-style politics. All of these are very fair questions. So I will look into some of them. Thank you, and thank you for alerting me to it.

For someone who said he didn’t know much about Ayers and Obama, he sure had a lot to say on the subject off the top of his head.

One point of fact-checking: Giuliani repeated the false claim that Ayers hosted Obama’s “first fund-raiser.” Ayers did host an early event at his home when Obama first announced his plans to run for the Illinois state senate. However, it was not a fund-raiser, and Politico’s Ben Smith reports that Ayers did not contribute financially to “Obama’s first campaign, according to Illinois state records.”

It is also worth noting that the last time Ayers came up was also on a McCain campaign conference call. A McCain campaign adviser made the claims about Obama and Ayers on the aforementioned call that Smith fact-checked last week. When the campaign raised the issue directly, along with a slew of other claims, it didn’t have the desired impact.

Considering the urgency created by McCain’s recent slide in the polls — and the short time left until November — the fact that it came up this time in such an unusual way seems suspicious.

UPDATE: Others who sat in the call report the mystery questioner’s name as Sherry Riggs. Maybe I need a better recorder. Nonetheless, I still can’t find anything about her.

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