Tonight we're due for our second Presidential debate, this time in a "townhall" format with the venerable Tom Brokaw moderating. It's John McCain's preferred format – he's better with the honest ad lib and the quick retort than he is with a set speech – and it's only 30 days out from election day. It seems like a critical moment of decision for the McCain campaign, and discouraged conservatives are shouting that it's time for McCain to "take the gloves off" and take the fight to the enemy, leaving Obama bloodied and broken. If such an outcome is possible and if the McCain campaign has any hope of victory, this seems to be the most opportune time to hit Obama and hit him as hard as possible.
McCain loves consensus and compromise, but in this campaign he has been too merciful to his opponent and too gentlemanly in his criticisms. He has avoided certain controversies and certain topics, and refused to take certain lines of attack against Obama and against the Democratic party in general. Such caution is understandable if he is concerned about being able to work with Democrats once he is in the White House, but he seems to be forgetting that he won't be in the White House at all if he doesn't win, and he's not going to win the election unless he starts playing hardball. We're past the point of collegial rhetoric. It's time to take out the bats and start breaking some knees.
If McCain seriously intends to win this election, there are heretofore taboo topics which absolutely must be raised in this debate. There are names of people and of organizations which must be named and forbidden words which must be spoken. These include:
• ACORN. The new Federal Electoral Fraud Task Force launched a major raid on their headquarters in Las Vegas today. That gives McCain a reason to mention them and to go into some detail on Obama's history as a paid activist working for ACORN front group Project Vote, as an ACORN trainer and as a lawyer working for ACORN's housing program which is suspected of massive misuse of federal funds. The "community activism" of which Obama is so proud was mostly on behalf of ACORN and related groups whose goal is to disrupt the electoral process and promote massive voter fraud, using money taken from the taxpayers under false pretenses. During this campaign Obama was caught making illegal payments to ACORN. A reckoning is coming for ACORN and Obama needs to account for his connections to them.
• Alinsky. Obama's devotion to the radical Marxism of Saul Alinsky has to be addressed. Obama wrote a chapter in a book on Alinsky. His wife quoted Alinsky in her speech at the DNC. Alinsky's son described Obama as one of his father's "disciples." And Obama's supporters have certainly used Alinsky's radical methods in promoting his campaign. Sure, Obama was too young to work directly with Alinsky, but he came up through the radical institutions of Chicago street politics where Alinsky was the patron saint and Marxism was the mantra. Obama may deny his Marxist history, but it wasn't very long ago in his political career that he openly espoused these beliefs and allegiances, and he needs to be held accountable for them.
• Raines and Johnson. It's past time for McCain to take up the issue of the role Democrats played in the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and make the obvious link to Obama through his campaign advisers Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson who helped run those institutions into the ground. Obama was actually considering Raines as a possible Treasury Secretary in his administration – talk about the fox watching the henhouse! It's time for McCain to call for an investigation and indictments to take down Raines and Johnson and anyone associated with them, including Obama. They all need to be held accountable for their role in the current economic fiasco.
• Angelo Mozilo. Bankrupt mortgage giant Countrywide is now at the heart of the corruption which McCain needs to focus on, as is its former CEO Angelo Mozilo. It was Mozilo who engineered sweetheart loans by breaking and bending lending rules for Democratic insiders like Chris Dodd, Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Donna Shalala and Kent Conrad. These Democrats profited as Mozilo ripped off stockholders and taxpayers while driving his company into the ground. Countrywide's VIP loan program, which offered loans at far below market rates to "friends of Angelo," was nothing but a system of financial bribery, and the Democrats took with both hands. Mozilo is the target of scores of lawsuits and his cronies in the government ought to be held accountable too.
• Terrorist Ties. It can't be ignored any longer. It's even breaking into relatively mainstream media outlets. Obama has a bizarre history of turning to terrorists for fundraising assistance. Let's just throw out Bill Ayres. After all, he hasn't blown anything up on decades, though his personal ties to Obama are clearly much closer than Obama supporters will admit. Much more troubling is Obama's association with Hatem El-Hady and Mazen Asbahi, both of whom raised money for his current campaign and have ties to terrorism. Asbahi has only marginal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and resigned from the campaign as a result in August. El-Hady is the more serious problem, because he was the head of the largest terrorist fundraising group in the US before the government shut it down, and was so closely tied to Obama that he had a fundraising page hosted on Obama's campaign homepage. None of this means that Obama is a Muslim or a terrorist himself, but these associations show such terrible judgment in his associations and such a willingness to turn a blind eye to almost anything for money that Obama really has to be held accountable.
Accountability is at the heart of all of these issues. Obama thinks that with charm and great speeches he can talk his way into the White House without answering for the actions and associations of his past. His political career has been short, and that past isn't very far away. It was only a decade ago that he was spouting Marxist rhetoric, hanging out with Bill Ayres, and helping ACORN defraud the voters and the taxpayers. As the leader of his party he is also accountable for their behavior, and the Countrywide scandal, mortgage crisis, and bailout are current events. He cannot realistically expect us to ignore them. Even the short memories of voters aren't that short.
Obama needs to be held accountable for his past actions, associations and allegiances. It may not happen in a court or in a congressional hearing or even in the press, but this crucial moment in the campaign is the perfect time for John McCain to take the gloves off by raising these issues and demanding that the people hold Obama accountable, in the voting booth if nowhere else.