Obama Ad Links McCain to Keating Scandal

By Charles Babington | October 6, 2008 | 7:47 AM EDT
Asheville, N.C. (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama, reacting to Republican charges about his links to a 1960s radical, fired back late Sunday with a Web video about John McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal from the early 1990s.
The short video, being e-mailed to millions of Obama supporters, summarizes a 13-minute Web "documentary" that the campaign plans to distribute Monday, spokesman Tommy Vietor said. He said McCain's involvement with convicted thrift owner Charles Keating "is a window into McCain's economic past, present and future."
The video release capped a day of complaints and warnings from Obama supporters. They said McCain was inviting a harsh examination of his past by having his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, repeatedly criticize Obama's association with Bill Ayers, a founder of the Vietnam-era radical group, the Weather Underground.
Palin said Obama sees America as so imperfect "that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." She was referring to Ayers, whose strongest tie to Obama appears to be a 1995 meet-the-candidate event he hosted early in Obama's political career.
Weather Underground members were blamed for several bombings when Obama was a child. Obama has denounced Ayers' radical views and activities.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Democrat and Obama supporter, warned against McCain's strategy on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday.
"If we are going to go down this road -- you know, Barack Obama was eight years old, somehow responsible for Bill Ayers," he said. "At 58, John McCain was associating with Charles Keating."
"If we really want to talk who is associating with who, we will," Emanuel said. "The American people will lose in that transaction."
A short time later, speaking to thousands of people in Asheville, N.C., Obama said McCain and his aides "are gambling that he 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. It's what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time."
Noting the nation's serious economic problems, Obama said: "Yet instead of addressing these crises, Senator McCain's campaign has announced that they plan to turn the page on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching Swiftboat-style attacks on me."
Just months into his Senate career, in the late 1980s, McCain made what he has called "the worst mistake of my life." He participated in two meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating, a friend, campaign contributor and S&L financier who was later convicted of securities fraud.
The Senate ethics committee investigated five senators' relationships with Keating. It cited McCain for a lesser role than the others, but faulted his "poor judgment."
Also Sunday, Obama unveiled a TV ad on the economy that says McCain was "erratic in a crisis." Some see that as a reminder of McCain's age, 72.
The day's events seemed to point to rising rhetorical heat in the campaign's final month. McCain adviser Greg Strimple recently predicted "a very aggressive last 30 days" of the campaign.
"We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans," he said in a conference call with reporters.
Associated Press reporters Stephen Ohlemacher and Mike Baker contributed to this report.