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Candice C. Cusic/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Newscom

What lies beneath

Election 2008 | Hyped media coverage of Obama may be covering up other issues

Issue: "Not over till it's over," Nov. 1, 2008

The deeper problem to lopsided, hyped media coverage of frontrunner Barack Obama in the final days of the presidential race is what else it may be covering up:

Contentious connections

Media outlets blamed Palin for stoking anti-Obama sentiment with her comments suggesting Obama was "palling around with terrorists," and that he "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." The living room belonged to William Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground, a radical, anti-government group blamed for setting bombs in the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ayers, now an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, told The New York Times in a story published Sept. 11, 2001: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

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Obama has denounced Ayers' terrorist activities and says he's "not someone I exchange ideas with on a regular basis," but Obama-Ayers connections keep popping up. Obama served on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an educational group created by Ayers and others to improve Chicago's public schools. Obama was chairman of CAC from 1995-1999, and remained on the board until 2001, helping manage CAC's finances, according to Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Stanley Kurtz. In a Wall Street Journal column, Kurtz said the archives show "that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda," which included funding ACORN, the leftist Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (under scrutiny for accusations of voter registration fraud in swing states like Ohio).

Kurtz says the documents show that some CAC-funded groups focused on political issues more than traditional education, and that when CAC in-house evaluators studied the programs' effectiveness on the test scores of Chicago public school students: "They found no evidence of educational improvement."

The Obama campaign points out McCain's own troubling connection to the Keating Five scandal of the 1990s, and produced a 13-minute, online documentary of the savings-and-loan debacle. The video describes McCain's participation in two meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a campaign contributor and S&L financer. Keating was later convicted of securities fraud and a Senate ethics committee faulted McCain for "poor judgment" in the scandal that ensnared five other senators in ethics investigations and that McCain has called "the worst mistake of my life."

Sealed Senate

What looked impossible a few months ago by early November became a distinct possibility-that Democrats will gain enough Senate seats to secure a filibuster-proof majority-something that hasn't happened for either party in 32 years.

Could the party win enough seats to cross the 60-seat threshold needed for a super majority that could break any Republican filibuster aimed to block legislation? "Remarkably, yes," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told WORLD. Sabato said most Senate-watchers doubted Democrats could cross the 60-seat mark until a few weeks ago: "Since the financial meltdown, the bottom has fallen out for many Republicans."

Republicans who were once considered safe-like Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky-are now in jeopardy. At least ten other Republican seats could turn blue as well. And Democrats hold significant leads over incumbents in Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska. Only one Democratic incumbent-Mary Landrieu of Louisiana-faces a close election.

Democrats need nine seats to reach the 60-seat mark, but would likely need even fewer seats to move major policy initiatives if moderate Republicans crossed over to vote with Democrats on sweeping policy initiatives like nationalized health care. "It will be economic Marxism," said Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Sabato believes a Democratic super-majority may be limited by one thing: The economic crisis and enormous federal deficit. No one really knows how big it will be, he said.

Economic reality

In the final days before the election, voters told pollsters that what most concerns them is their bottom line. Both candidates responded with sweeping economic proposals, but media coverage did not include scrutiny of whether either plan would actually work.

Both candidates promised to rein in the federal budget, notes Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, but neither has offered a realistic plan. Obama proposes a pay-as-you-go system that would require that tax cuts and entitlement expenditures be fully offset. Obama has not identified the source for the $1 trillion such a plan would cost over 10 years.

McCain proposes balancing the federal budget by 2013. But the candidate hasn't outlined how he would reduce spending levels by more than $600 billion, which is required to achieve that goal. And McCain faces fierce criticism from his own base over his American Homeownership Resurgence plan-a proposal for the federal government to spend $300 billion to buy risky mortgages from homeowners and banks, and replace them with more affordable mortgages. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute said the proposal would swell government spending, encourage people to stop paying their mortgages, and punish responsible homeowners: "McCain's cure is worse than the disease."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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