Obama responds on Ayers, McCain releases attack ad

The discussion raised by the McCain campaign in recent days over Obama’s alleged connections to former Weather Underground domestic terrorist William Ayers has reach somewhat of a boiling point. Speaking with Charlie Gibson, Obama was questioned about McCain’s attacks and responded saying that McCain didn’t have the courage to say it to his face and that this is simply distracting from the real issues.

Report from ABC News:

Sen. Barack Obama says the personal attacks levied against him by the campaign of his presidential rival, Sen. John McCain, particularly references to his association with 1960s anti-war radical Bill Ayers, are an attempt to “score cheap political points.”

“Why don’t we just clear it up right now,” Obama told ABC News’ Charlie Gibson in an exclusive interview for World News. “I’ll repeat again what I’ve said many times. This is a guy who engaged in some despicable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old. By the time I met him, 10 or 15 years ago, he was a college professor of education at the University of Illinois . . . And the notion that somehow he has been involved in my campaign, that he is an adviser of mine, that . . . I’ve ‘palled around with a terrorist’, all these statements are made simply to try to score cheap political points.”

Obama said that the McCain campaign is making personal attacks “the centerpiece of the discussion in the closing weeks of a campaign where we are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and we’re in the middle of two wars.”

“I think that makes very little sense, not just to me but to the American people,” Obama said.

Obama said he believes the personal attacks are an attempt to “change the subject” and draw attention away from the issue at the front of most voters’ minds: the struggling economy.

“I mean, you’ve had their spokespeople over the last couple of days say if we talk about the economic crisis, we lose. I mean, you can’t be much more blatant than that,” he said.

Obama also said he was surprised some of those attacks weren’t brought up by his opponent at the debate Tuesday night at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

“I am surprised that, you know, we’ve been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn’t willing to say it to my face. But I guess we’ve got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.”

Video of Obama discussing this with Charlie Gibson:

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign has released an even stronger ad, going all out on this issue:

Report from the Politico:

John McCain’s campaign released a new 90-second Web ad Thursday on Barack Obama’s relationship with 1960s radical William Ayers.

Ayers is referred to as a terrorist throughout the ad, which highlights his “friendship” with Obama.

“Barack Obama and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Friends. They’ve worked together for years. But Obama tries to hide it. Why?” the narrator says, before running off a litany of Obama’s links to Ayers and the actions of the former Weather Underground member.

“Obama’s friendship with terrorist Ayers isn’t the issue,” the narrator then claims.

“The issue is Barack Obama’s judgment and candor. When Obama just says, ‘This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood,’ Americans say, ‘Where’s the truth, Barack?’ Barack Obama. Too risky for America.”

McCain surrogates have been linking Obama to Ayers in recent interviews, as has Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who on Saturday accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” Ayers had been a consistent part of Palin’s stump speech, though she did not make mention of him Wednesday.

Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), called the attacks leveled by the McCain campaign “mildly dangerous” and dismissed them as “malarkey” on Wednesday.

“You know, the idea here that somehow these guys are, once again, injecting fear and loathing into this campaign, I think, is mildly dangerous,” Biden said. “Look, this really is a case where, when you don’t have anything to talk about, attack. And it gets really over the edge.”

Obama’s video above basically gave a challenge to McCain to bring up the Ayers issue at the next debate. Obama, however, does have a point in that McCain’s attacks are distracting from issues such as the economy, which isn’t helping McCain. The next question, what will voters respond to more?