October 14th, 2008
12:15 PM ET
6 years ago

Ayers will come up at debate, McCain says

 McCain plans to criticize Obama's ties to Ayers at Wednesday night's debate.
McCain plans to criticize Obama's ties to Ayers at Wednesday night's debate.

(CNN) – John McCain and Sarah Palin appear to have dropped the subject of Barack Obama's connection to 1960's radical Bill Ayers from the campaign trail, but the Arizona senator said in an interview that aired Tuesday he'll likely bring it up at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night.

The comments, during an interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX, come after Obama and Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden were sharply critical of McCain for targeting the Illinois senator over Ayers at campaign rallies, but not when the two last met for a presidential debate.

"I was astonished to hear him say that he was surprised I 'didn’t have the guts' to do that, because the fact is the question didn't come up in that fashion," McCain said of the last debate. "I think he's probably ensured it will come up this time."

McCain and Palin stepped up their criticism of Obama's past relationship with Ayers last week, as the GOP ticket's poll numbers continued to slide in the homestretch to Election Day. The campaign also released a string of ads that questioned Obama's truthfulness on the matter, in an effort to raise doubts about the Illinois senator's political origins and character. But the subject of Ayers was noticeably absent from both McCain and Palin's stump speeches Sunday and Monday, leading many political observers to conclude the campaign had deemed that line of attack ineffective.

Watch: Palin Renews Obama Attack

In the radio interview, McCain made clear he still thinks it's an issue.

"It’s not that I give a damn about some old washed up terrorist and his terrorist wife, who in 2001 said they wish they'd bombed more - what I care about, and what the American people care about, is whether he's being truthful," McCain told the St. Louis radio station.

soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. Bruce

    Hillary got no traction from this, and McCain is making something out of nothing..it has been disproven and I truly wish McCain woould use the porper term that Ayers was called at the time..a radical....
    He is using current terminolgy for something that is not .typical fear mongering...
    Funny he walks a line because bringing that up will open him up to keating 5, his service record ( read the rolling stone article) and the fact that he gave in to his captors.
    McCain is grasping at straws and is going to be more bitter, more erratic, and more desperate.

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. slick

    As long as he's willing to discuss Keating too. Sure bring it up.

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  3. Lorna, NY

    This is probably the biggest mistake he will ever make. He will end up looking like a complete idiot. John, if I were you, I would stick to the issues. You have a lot of shady characters in your past and present.

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  4. RASHEEDA IN NEW YORK

    I hope he brings it up so Obama could talk about how Palin is palin around with secessionist. Her husband, a former member of the Alaskan Independence Party, should be relevant and an issue in this campaign. The Vice Chairman at this year's second AIP convention said that he was so glad that they got Palin into office and that labeling her as a republican is a way to start the Christian Exodus.

    Anyone who consider themselves Alaskans first and not American should NOT have ANY place in the highest office in the land.

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  5. True Blue Ohio

    And while you are at it McCain lets talk about actual attrocities instead of alleged ones. Some of us haven't forgotten about Abu Ghurab and the victimization that the Iraqi prisoners suffered at the hands of American Troops, who you fully support. Do you support the abuse of people, or is it only justified when they don't look like you?

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Daina

    Let him bring Ayers up, Obama will certainly bring up G. Gordan Liddy! someone that was actually convicted of his crime!!

    October 14, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. Dem in NW

    Is he desperate or what? Why don't we bring everything in Mccain's past too. The Republicans don't get it. It is about the issues. People are suffering and Mr. Mccain does not have any solution. Pleople are hungary for new and inovating ideas to get their lives back in order again.

    October 14, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. jason

    maybe this time mccain will realize obama can give punches as good as he can take them ... if he wants to open this up at the debate, mccain better be ready for obama to return the favor

    October 14, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  9. Transparency please

    John and Sarah,
    Where are your tax returns? Still waiting. Those were promised to us a long time ago. We have not forgotten. Where's the transparency and accountability that you spouted?

    October 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. Diing

    When are we going to talk about McCain’s wife and the bombing of school bus?

    October 14, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. richard hampton

    mccain cannot win on issues .he lies again i would not vote for him

    October 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  12. gaea

    Obama should donate some money to the McCain campaign to shut him up about this issue and maybe McCain will finally discuss real issues. McCain apparently has no qualms about people "palling around with terrorists" as long as he benefits (Annenberg) from it.

    October 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Chuck

    I just listened to McCain's economic speech this morning and, again, he cannot do a speech without attacking Obama.

    Obama gave his economci speech yesterday, and, not once, did he invoke McCain or attach him in any way.

    What is wrong with McCain? He keeps saying he's going to run his campaign with respect for the other candidate in an honorable way.

    Where is his honor, his respect?

    October 14, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. ep

    Ayers all you got John? Not enough to stop the train. The American people are smarter this time around. Can't wait to NOT see you on prime time or my daily paper spewing your crap and getting folks all riled up about nothing important.

    October 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    y a w n

    October 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Steve - Minneapolis

    It is great news that McCain still wants to push the Ayers issue. Everyone knows it is a bogus smear and he just looks less presidential every time he tries to use it. And Barack will be SO ready for it that it will totally backfire.

    It is good to see that McCain is learning from Barack's economic proposals. I hope he doesn't try to propose them as his own, however. I'd like to see Barack (as President) working with McCain (as Senator) in 09. Once he is finished with the campaign and gets back to being McCain the two might work well together.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 14, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. L-Mani

    Please Bring it up. Please do Mr. McCain.

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  18. kj

    What is it with the Ayers thing? NO ONE CARES!! I can't figure out how he thinks this is an ISSUE. The more he chews this bone, the worse it will get for him. And Palin, putting down her own supporters because she mistook them for "anti-war" protesters!! I think I see a common theme here... It's called PARANOIA. One of them is bitter and the other is confused. Can't wait for Nov. 4 to put this circus behind us!

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Debi

    Did anyone notice in McCain's speech today that he said, "in my term as president"?
    This means he is running for one term. This will open the door for Palin to run in 2012. One heartbeat and one term from being away from the presidency.
    McCain is having a problem with keeping on the subject of issues, so he would rather bring up something that happened when Obama was 8.
    Please, Obama, bring up Troopergate, she was not exonerated as she would have her followers believe. Please, Obama, bring up the Keating 5 and how the S&L scandal of the 80's caused many people to loose there houses. Please, Obama, bring up the fact that McCain, the man that wants nothing to do with Bush, is using Karl Rove to run his campaign.

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. Mark-Virginia Beach

    Maybe John should READ the actual comments made by Ayers in 2001, who said he wished that they had DONE more to stop the war in Vietnam. He NEVER said anything about "bombing" more!

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. Betty

    If Ayers is a legitimate subject, then so is Keating-5 and any other less-than-transparent dealings McCain has gotten into over the past 26 years.

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. Chris

    If I could advise McCain's campaign, I'd tell them to keep their mouths shut on Ayers. It'll only make them lose more states and make them look even more desperate. I can only hope Obama will shove the Keating 5 scandal down his throat if McCain's dumb enough to bring it up. At least it can be proven McCain was up to his eyeballs in that, even though he was miraculously reprimanded and not impeached. Two weeks from now, McCain will go from calling himself an "underdog" to a "lost cause".

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. Chris

    Beating a dead horse...

    October 14, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. SoCal

    Yes McCain... make sure you look pathethic even in the last debate...

    October 14, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Mac is Back

    You folks do not get it, you are not hearing it all, just what you want to hear.

    The question is not what this guy did while Obama was 8; it is judgment and honesty. We are to believe that this Harvard grad, the "smartest" guy ever to run for president (according to you) didn't know about weather underground? Didn't know about Ayers past? He says he didn't... either he is a liar or has no clue. I think we all know he has a clue.

    October 14, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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