Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama's toughest grilling to date at Thursday debate. William Ayers becomes a factor.


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — ABC News has produced some of the toughest reporting on Barack Obama and at the Thursday debate ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos gave Obama the full front-runner treatment: a rare going over with questions about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, wearing flag pins, those “bitter” comments and gun control views Obama held as a 1996 Illinois state Senate candidate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton had her own explaining to do — over her wrong claim she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire. But for a good chunk of the debate Obama was on the defensive. If Clinton complained that in prior debates she got all the hard questions, Obama got his share and more at the debate.

This was the first debate in seven weeks, and the first since two damaging events hit the Obama campaign, the surfacing of comments by Wright, the ex-pastor of Obama’s church, and Obama’s remarks at a San Francisco fund-raiser about “bitter” down-and-out Pennsylvanians who cling to God and guns.

If Obama does become the Democratic nominee—highly likely, even if he does not do well in the April 22 Democratic primary — Thursday’s debate could be seen as a preview of what Obama will be hit with by the Republicans.

That Obama would be grilled about Wright, wearing a flag pin and the “bitter” controversy was predictable.
What was unanticipated was how Gibson and Stephanopoulous pressed Obama over his association with William Ayers and that they would press Obama about his support for gun control in a questionnaire filled out for the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization in 1996.

Though there had been a few stories about Ayers and a perceived change on guns — a big issue for Pennsylvania with its large NRA membership — the Clinton campaign had been frustrated that more of the mainstream press was not covering these two matters.

Ayers is a former member of the Weather Underground — as was his wife, Bernardine Dohrn. After years on the lam from the authorities, they returned to Chicago years ago, settled in Hyde Park, and went on to become members of high standing in certain civic circles in town.

Ayers is a noted education specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But to Fox News — which has relentlessly been playing up Obama’s associations with Ayers — Ayers is an unrepentant terrorist. Obama made it seem like he barely knew him, though they bother served on Chicago's Woods Fund board.

Obama did well in defending himself. It’s just that he’ll have to be doing it now again and again.


From what I've gathered, Charlie Gibson was mainly concerned about his Capital Gains Taxes going up.

The best question of the night was the "does he wear flag pins?" The Flag pins issue is my main voting issue so I'm glad that was resolved. It's hard to believe it took 20 debates to get to that. But they didn't ask him how he feels about the flag, and that is my second most important voting issue, it's a deal breaker for me personally. So I'm still undecided.

Would agree with most of article except in regards to Obama defending himself well. Most of undecideds thought he lost debate. Also, he was caught in an outright lie about the questionaire about guns. His handwriting WAS on it, and he had to know that because it was brought to his attention previously.

Are you surprised that Obama claimed to barely know Ayers even though they served on a board together? I've served on several boards myself and there have been many people I served with who I barely got to know and most of those people I only knew from the few hours a month we spent together at board meetings.

Obama's supposed "high road" candidacy was sorely tested today.

When he is finally asked the tough questions, he falters badly.
I am reposting this post by UM:

What about this blatant lie from Obama?
Obama said earlier his campaign had only mentioned Clinton's Tuzla story because it was asked.

Sen. Obama Falsely Claims His Campaign Only Talks About Bosnia When Asked
4/16/2008 9:27:24 PM

Senator Obama just said the only reason his campaign has raised Bosnia was because they were asked about it. That is not the case. The following are some examples of the proactive attacks they have launched:

Obama campaign memo: 'Clinton's fantastic invention of a sniper-raked landing is only one in a growing list of instances in which she has exaggerated her role as first lady.' "'Clinton's fantastic invention of a sniper-raked landing is only one in a growing list of instances in which she has exaggerated her role as first lady, particularly with respect to domestic policy,' a scorching campaign memo said in one of the harshest broadsides to date." [New York Post, 3/27/08]

Obama campaign memo: 'Unfortunately, Clinton's fantastic invention of a sniper-raked landing is only one in a growing list of instances where she has exaggerated her role as First Lady, particularly with respect to domestic policy.' [Obama campaign memo, 3/26/08]

Obama campaign memo: 'Senator Clinton's claims about her visit to Tuzla, Bosnia - and the footage disproving her account - have created quite a stir. And with good reason.' Senator Clinton's claims about her visit to Tuzla, Bosnia--and the footage disproving her account--have created quite a stir. And with good reason. As the Associated press wrote yesterday: "What makes Clinton's situation unique--and the Bosnia embellishments so damaging--is the fact that the New York senator has built her candidacy on the illusion of experience. Any attack on her credentials is a potential Achilles heel." [Obama campaign memo, 3/26/08]

Obama campaign memo: 'The claims Senator Clinton makes turn out to be little more than stories.' "The refrain that Senator Clinton 'has the experience to lead on Day One' has been repeated endlessly since she entered the race. On closer inspection, the claims Senator Clinton makes turn out to be little more than stories. With the next primary less than a month away, it's time for Senator Clinton to finally face the 'vetting' she's so fond of discussing. Badly trailing in delegates, votes, and states won, she's going to need more than a new script to win the nomination. But if she wants to regain the trust of the American people, it would be a good place to start." [Obama campaign memo, 3/26/08]

Obama Press Release: '"Misspoke"? Clinton's Prepared Remarks on Bosnia Join Similar Stretches on FMLA, SCHIP, and NAFTA' [Obama Campaign Press Release, 3/24/08]

This debate was exclusively about character assassination with more treatment given to minor issues than the real substantive issues we as a country need to know about. Healthcare, gasoline prices, Iraq war, foreclosures, Corporate welfare, would have been much more debate worthy topics than a simple flag pin or the guilt by association arguments levied against Obama.

What a shame. And the major networks wonder why people are turning more and more away from them.

Observed the latest so called debate. It was a total waste of time for the candidates, and, myself included. There was no need for it. A few "debates" ok but this is getting ridiculous! They have nothing new to say and the questioning was more like heckling. These so called debates have been a disaster for the democratic party. All McCain has to do is sit by and watch the Dems implode.

Who are the inept advisers encouraging the candidates to literally make fools of themselves in public? A few more of these silly appearances and McCain will step into the White House unchallenged.



Obama misses the point about Ayers--"Bill pardoned him--that's worse than sitting on a board rubbing elbows with the guy for 10 years after a fund-raising event 13 years ago (sic)."
No, the worse thing about Ayers is he is unrepentant about the violence.
Make no mistake--that violence terrorized SDS out of existence in America. And it was cointelpro style infiltration and false incitement to violence which ruined, disparaged and rendered impossible the yippie style 'spectacle' strategy for opposition groups like peace movements. The FBI, in my mind, almost intentionally ruined the possibility to prosecute Ayers and Dohrn. Given the fact pattern presented on paper, any educated president, looking at the record, would have HAD to pardon Ayers.
When I read Ayers' comment about how unrepentant he is for his statements and W.U. membership, I wondered briefly how a conservative institution like U of C took him into its orbit. And then I remembered the cointelpro program.
Obama seems ever more like a spoiler candidate for the fall. He had to fall in with a bad gang in Chicago to get the money he needed--a campaign finance system Bill Clinton fought with the first act put forth as President.
Clinton saved us from the Republicans in 1992, in 1994 he had to beat back the Gingrich revolution (and did) and he successfully fought efforts to subvert the 1996 election results.
Hilary would do a better job of beating McCain and uniting America. But not if Obama continues this campaign which divides us via class, age, gender, race and even 'style'.
Join Hilary's ground game now--don't hem your political views to abide by the latest fashion.


It's hard to know where to begin with this, less than an hour after you signed off from your Democratic presidential debate here in my hometown of Philadelphia, a televised train wreck that my friend and colleague Greg Mitchell has already called, quite accurately, "a shameful night for the U.S. media." It's hard because -- like many other Americans -- I am still angry at what I just witnesses, so angry that it's hard to even type accurately because my hands are shaking. Look, I know that "media criticism" -- especially when it's one journalist speaking to another -- tends to be a genteel, colleagial thing, but there's no genteel way to say this.

You implied throughout the broadcast that you wanted to reflect the concerns of voters in Pennsylvania. You asked virtually nothing that reflected our everyday issues -- trying to fill our gas tanks and save for college at the same time, our crumbling bridges and inadequate mass transit, or the root causes of crime here in Philadelphia. In fact, there almost isn't enough space -- and this is cyberspace, where room is unlimited -- to list all the things you could have asked about but did not, from health care to climate change to alternative energy to our policy toward China to the deterioration of Afghanistan to veterans' benefits to improving education.

You ignored virtually everything that just happened in what most historians agree is one of the worst presidencies in American history, including the condoning of torture and the trashing of the Constitution, although to be fair you also ignored the policy concerns of people on the right, like immigration issues.

Lynn--I think HRC's frustration about the Ayers thing is that it's the theme most likely to be used against the Dems should Obama be at the top of the ticket. And it would be good to see how all this plays with people before Obama is allowed on the ticket at all.
Ayers is held at arm's length by people who know about the Cointelpro program to infilitrate and render vulnerable peaceful groups. If Obama hadn't been overseas and apparently not reading newspapers in the 70's--he'd have known that.
This is why Obama wants young, text-message driven robots in his version of a Democratic party. Mayhill Fowler's audio gathered Obama's intention to replace party ground workers with his 'trained' workers.
Obama needs seasoning and a real vetting. And he whines about the vetting he's received to date--and that ain't much.

This blog is great--Celeste 9 is right about the Obama campaign strategy.
And paid bloggers (I'm convinced they are paid workers at HQ) spammed the blogs with irrelevant, intentionally log via double spacing pieces that keep hammering on the Bosnia bit.
Spoiler alert indeed.

With last nights TV Debate ABC and its journalism team were a Total Disgrace to the USA and TV & Journalists!

Why they choose to select the agenda they did the majority of us will never be able to work out, when will some areas of the media understand we are no longer interested in Obama's Church and the wearing of pin badges!

Debating what many of my friends and myself watched there will no strong winner, thanks to ABC TV and its Journalists they gave Barack Obama the edge. We seem clear now even some supporters of Hillary that next Tuesday in PA Our Votes go to Barack Obama!

For me, this debate confirmed what I already knew and felt about Hillary Clinton. If she believes she can go from classless, gun toting, kitchen sink throwing, mudslinging liar to the respectable office of POTUS, then she hasn't taken a good look in the mirror lately. There is nothing presidential about her because the woman has lost all integrity.

Are we supposed to forget about the way she has handled this campaign and vote for her despite this? I think NOT. She and Bill have lost so much rpect in last few months, they will have to go hide away in shame after the primary is over. What a legacy?

The format of this debate seemed to be more fair than in prior debates, in that the moderators directed tough questions at both candidates and monitored how much airtime each candidate was getting. Obama clearly looked uncomfortable and had some difficulty when pressed on touchy subjects. He'd better get used to it, as this was nothing compared to what he will face if he is up against the Republicans in the fall.

Obama was dodging a direct answer when he characterized his relationship with Ayers. From what I've read, he attended a small gathering at Ayers' home where it was announced that Obama would be running for the Illinois state senate, Ayers contributed to Obama's Illinois senate campaign, and they served together for a few years on an 8-person board. They are also neighbors, which was about the only connection he was willing to concede at the debate. Obama would have been better served to fully acknowledge the relationship and then forcefully denounce and reject Ayers' statements and actions. Obama wasn't 8 years old when Ayers made his 2001 remarks.

It also seemed like Obama was dodging a question about the 1996 questionnaire.

On another note, why did the University of Illinois at Chicago hire Ayers as a professor? I can't imagine that the good people of Illinois are happy to have their taxes going toward Ayers' salary.

Ridiculous! The story that came from the so-called debate last night is just how far the news media has fallen. Those were not debate questions, they were a collective farce. And apparently only the public can see it.

Obama showed why he only chooses to go on fluff shows like The View, Tyra Banks, Ellen, and Chris Matthews show. When faced with tough questions, like last night, he shows he has neither the intelligence or the honesty to answer these questions. This upcoming McCain victory in November could possibly be close to a Reaganesque or Nixonesque victory in 1984 and 1972 respectively. When those two great men won 49 states to 1.

Breaking News! The two moderators from last night's debate, Charlie Gibson & George Stephanopoulos, have just been arrested and charged with a hate crime for the way they treated Obama at last night's debate. My sources tell me they and their lawyers will be holding a press conference late this afternoon, after they post bail, to answer these very serious charges.

Well it seems now it will be whose garbage smells worst to the American people Obama's or Clinton's that will air for the remainder of the primaries vs the lame o stuff called ISSUES!!! (economy, global affairs, social security, etc.)? This is sad on so many levels, but I see that both Clinton and Obama camps are becoming more and more "bitter" towards each other, and telling each other to "screw 'em". I guess it is a reminder to both camps that the one that is getting a real kick out of this are McCain and republicans and republican leaning folks like myself who were displeased with how the current republican administration is handling stuff, and was looking for an alternative. The Democrats are driving away those who would have had a thought about actually voting for dems. And I guess with both camps it is more important to talk about who has worst baggage than to talk about how this country needs to be put on a solid foundation again. In my honest opinion McCain could run circles around both Obama and Clinton. And once the democrats lose for the third straight will be the democrats fault for ripping each other up. And I can just hear it now Clinton supporters will blame the dumb Obama because it wasn't his turn (I have soo many problems with that line like the presidency is somehow anointed to someone is so stupid to me...o wait we are talking about the Clintons!!!). Obama supporters will blame Clinton for being negative 24/7 when Obama should have aired the stuff that is now coming out a long time ago!!! Which side is right? well both lost so it doesn't congrats President John McCain!!!!

I am not a paid blogger. I am amazed anyone would actually believe there is a need for one. Most of the conscious voters in the country are sincerely outraged. And it is all over for George. Watch:

No matter what you think of those questions, Obama looked very uncomfortable and peevish about having to deal with them. He never does as well as Hillary does on policy questions.

When things don't to Obama's way, he tends to look annoyed and unprepared. It seemed that his "high road" politics is just a way to avoid answering tough questions. He's inexperienced and it shows.

I have absolutely no idea why people thing Hillary is a worse liar than Obama is. They are both in a presidential campaign. "Nuff said.

The veteran Clintonite Stephanopolous was almost manic in his attempt to trip Obama up on these absolutely trivial issues. Charles Gibson was simply rude and similarly trivial with both candidates.

I am an Obama supporter who will indeed vote for McCain if Hillary is the nominee because I just want a leader who is independent, is not constantly spinning and going negative. I believe both Obama and McCain share a deep commitment and compassion toward our country, and try to avoid the cliches and polarized catch phrases that have divided us for the last decade or more. I'm not sure if Hilary has the integrity of either--she seems willing to do and say just about anything to get elected.

Obama is new on the seen and as soon as the Blacks saw he was Black the threw Hillary under the bus. We as Blacks better be smarter than you have been. Votes are precious. Dr. Martin Luther King and other have died and put their lives on the line to the right to vote. You cant just listen to all the fluff and sweet stuff about anyone. You need to learn as much as possible and be open to listen even to enemies about true factual information before you vote. You know that Blacks in politics have let us down. We help to get them where they are and then they forget about us as a people. Look at Judge C. Thomas. You better listen to Tavis, get on the government website, look at his voting record and learn all you can instead of, "We all got to support him because he is Black." Yes he is intelligent, but look at how when he is asked a direct questions about facts or something that he doesnt want to answer he deflects to what ever Hillary has done wrong. Hillary is proven. Yes she has her goals and agenda, but dont you! It is proven she has always been there for the lower class people and Blacks. You let the Media rant and rage and make decisions for you. We as a people are going to be bambozzeled if we are not careful. Obama is much a lier as Hillary. They both are going to say what they think you want to hear. But when Obama was behind closed doors, he said what he wanted in front of the elites, by putting middle class Americans down. He is a lier, because you arent going to tell me he did not know or had ever heard J Wright put down America. I could go on and on, but who ever you vote for you better do your own homework. God Bless us all. TJ

Lynn, this debate was aweful. I guess if they reversed the questions and actually challenged the candidates to state their policy stances first on the issues, and then ask about the rhetoric, then maybe it would have seemed less of an assault and more informative for us voters out here. Also, what country were you posting your article from. It says the debate was on Thursday. The other 10.3 million of us watched it on Wednesday.

Obama showed last night he was all show and no go. He danced around every question he was asked. It helped me make up my mind, if not Hillary then I will vote for McCain.

I like that phrase 'ALL SHOW AND NO GO'! Obama can replace his others slogans 'HOPE' and 'CHANGE' and 'YES WE CAN' with that. They were lies anyway.

Like all of the debates, this one lacked substance and penetrating questions. These national campaigns are a joke. They are similar to an election for class president. Who is the most popular in the class? It has nothing to do with real talent and INTEGRITY. We have three left standing after all the torture and none of them are worthy of the office. After seven years of kvetching about Bush's incompetence, you Democrats are running headlong into electing one of your own that is just as incompetent and dishonest. As to Jerry's comment about Barry appearing on any hard-hitting news show: he won't appear on Fox because he knows he will be asked questions that he CANNOT answer for any number of reasons. You want to make a statement this fall, write in your own candidate.

"The best question of the night was the "does he wear flag pins?" The Flag pins issue is my main voting issue so I'm glad that was resolved. It's hard to believe it took 20 debates to get to that. But they didn't ask him how he feels about the flag, and that is my second most important voting issue, it's a deal breaker for me personally. So I'm still undecided."

Wow, I truly hope you're joking.

Obama and Ayers both served on the board of the Woods Fund which donated money to the Arab American Action Network who's leaders such as Rasheed Khalidi an anti-Israel, pro PLO activist. The AAAN uses funds to lobby for open borders, drivers licenses for illegals, college education for illegals, etc. See articles in National Review Online, The Conservative Voice, CBS news website, etc., or google Ayers Obama Khalidi Woods AAAN. There's alot of info that hasn't been widely reported, yet.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 16, 2008 10:26 PM.

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