One of the big questions in advance of tonight’s third and final presidential debate is whether John McCain will bring up William Ayers, the former member of the radical Weather Underground with whom Barack Obama has had intermittent contact during his political career.
McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have made a major issue of Ayers recently on the campaign trail, but McCain didn’t bring up the subject during the second debate, despite the urging of many Republicans.
Afterward, Obama and running mate Joe Biden subtly and then not-so-subtly taunted McCain for lacking the gumption to bring up the association to Obama’s face. McCain practically boiled with rage when Charles Gibson of ABC News repeated what Obama had said.
Now that McCain’s been provoked, will he talk about Ayers? Perhaps moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS, whose June interview with Wes Clark has made him a member of Talking Points Memo’s “Tire Swing” club, will bring it up on his own.
Either way, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, isn’t particularly concerned. When we spoke with her last week, she said the country’s desperate economic condition has rendered the Ayers issue irrelevant. People just aren’t interested, she said.
“I think it’s meaningless,” said Eshoo (pictured above). “I don’t think the American people are in the mood for the day-in and day-out junk of campaigns. They are worried sick about their own state of affairs and that the country is practically on its knees right now.”
“In the context of the stock market dropping,” she continued, “do you think that anyone in this country — even if they know who Bill Ayers is — cares?”
As for why McCain hasn’t brought it up in a debate, Eshoo thinks “he’s embarrassed to — he knows that in a candidate forum he would embarrass himself.”
McCain has had occasion to look feel embarassed recently, though for other reasons.
But we think that embarassment won’t stop him from referring to Ayers tonight. It’s desperation mode for the McCain campaign. The only reason he won’t bring it up is if his campaign has decided it would do more harm than good, politically.