(CNN) — Sen. Barack Obama on Sunday charged that Sen. John McCain’s campaign is launching “Swift boat-style attacks” on him instead of addressing the country’s problems.
“Sen. McCain and his operatives are gambling that they can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance. They’d rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up,” Obama said at an event in Asheville, North Carolina.
“That’s what you do when you’re out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time,” he said.
The comments come a day after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate, claimed that Obama associated “with terrorists who targeted our own country.”
“The last four weeks of this election will be about whether the American people are willing to turn our economy and national security over to Barack Obama, a man with little record, questionable judgment, and ties to radical figures like unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement.
“Americans need to ask themselves if they’ve ever befriended an unrepentant terrorist, or had a convicted felon help them buy their house — because those aren’t smears, those are true facts about Barack Obama.”
The back-and-forth comes during a weekend of intensified attacks. The McCain campaign has said that it plans to step up attacks on the Democratic presidential candidate with just a month left before the November general election.
Palin on Saturday slammed Obama’s association with former anti-war radical Bill Ayers and accused Obama of associating “with terrorists who targeted their own country.”
Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan called Palin’s comments “offensive” and “not surprising” given the McCain campaign’s statement that “they would be launching Swift boat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation’s economic ills.”
The term “Swift boat” refers to how Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched attacks against Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. Kerry was criticized for not quickly condemning the personal ads.
In a new ad that begins airing Monday, the Obama campaign calls the new McCain campaign attacks a “dishonest, dishonorable assault on Barack Obama”.
The ad tries to paint McCain as “erratic” and “out of touch,” quotes taken from newspaper editorials.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said she found Palin’s attack on Obama “shocking.”
The Statement: Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin said Saturday, October 4, that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is “someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
The Facts: In making the charge at a fund-raising event in Englewood, Colorado, and a rally in Carson, California, Palin was referring at least in part to William Ayers, a 1960s radical. In both appearances, Palin cited a front-page article in Saturday’s New York Times detailing the working relationship between Obama and Ayers.
In the 1960s, Ayers was a founding member of the radical Weather Underground group that carried out a string of bombings of federal buildings, including the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, in protest against the Vietnam War. The now-defunct group was labeled a “domestic terrorist group” by the FBI, and Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn — also a Weather Underground member — spent 10 years as fugitives in the 1970s. Federal charges against them were dropped due to FBI misconduct in gathering evidence against them, and they resurfaced in 1980. Both Ayers and Dohrn ultimately became university professors in Chicago, with Ayers, 63, now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Obama’s Chicago home is in the same neighborhood where Ayers and Dohrn live. Beginning in 1995, Ayers and Obama worked with the non-profit Chicago Annenberg Challenge on a huge school improvement project. […] Also from 1999 through 2001 both were board members on the Woods Fund, a charitable foundation that gave money to various causes, including the Trinity United Church that Obama attended and Northwestern University Law Schools’ Children and Family Justice Center, where Dohrn worked.
CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which the two men were involved.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told CNN that after meeting Obama through the Annenberg project, Ayers hosted a campaign event for him that same year when then-Illinois state Sen. Alice Palmer, who planned to run for Congress, introduced the young community organizer as her chosen successor. LaBolt also said the two have not spoken by phone or exchanged e-mail messages since Obama came to the U.S. Senate in 2005 and last met more than a year ago when they encountered each other on the street in their Hyde Park neighborhood.
The McCain campaign did not respond Saturday to a request for elaboration on Palin’s use of the plural “terrorists.”
Verdict: False. There is no indication that Ayers and Obama are now “palling around,” or that they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years. Also, there is nothing to suggest that Ayers is now involved in terrorist activity or that other Obama associates are.