Opinion: Now, a McCain debate warning: Watch for a contrast of his known bio with someone else’s


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NASHVILLE -- Look for Sen. John McCain to draw a personal contrast with freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at tonight’s debate.

This, according to McCain confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

McCain may segue into the realm of personal biography by saying, “When it comes between me and Sen Obama, you know me,’’ Graham said in an interview with The Times’ Peter Nicholas here before the debate.

“One thing I want you to know about him is,’ Graham continued, as if he was McCain speaking, ‘when [Obama] started in politics he started in the left lane in Chicago. And Bill Ayers [the former 1960s radical and Weather Underground co-founder] was somebody well-known to the left. He was a guy who could get you started and he did. Did a fundraiser for him. Been sort of an associate in Sen. Obama’s political aspirations. And now he’s trying to deny those associations because most Americans wouldn’t feel comfortable having Bill Ayers jump-start your campaign.’’


This is the second advance warning from a campaign today. As The Ticket reported here a brief time ago, Obama’s chief....

...strategist threatened to bring up the Keating Five savings and loan scandal if McCain raised Obama’s 12-year friendship with Ayers.

Campaigns issue these kinds of forewarnings for several reasons: 1) It’s a feint to cause the opposition to waste time preparing for something that isn’t coming,

2) they really think the audience is so dumb that people might miss their candidate’s verbal pivot without a pre-announcement or

3) the speaker is the dumb one who just can’t keep his/her mouth shut when flattered by the attentions of an inquiring reporter so they actually tip off the enemy.

Rarely in a national political campaign are many sources tempted by silence.

Graham hinted that McCain may also raise the issue of Obama’s flip-flop on campaign public financing. Obama had initially said he wanted to forgo private financing in the general election, relying instead on public money, as McCain is doing.


But with donations pouring into the Obama campaign, he changed his mind, figuring public money would never match what he could raise privately, now in excess of $400 million.

A senior advisor to Obama, Robert Gibbs, said in another interview before the debate that if McCain brings up Ayers, expect Obama to raise the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s.

McCain and four other former senators were accused 20 years ago of intervening with federal regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, who headed a savings and loan that collapsed. McCain was cleared of wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee, though he was found to have “exercised poor judgment.’’

-- Peter Nicholas

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