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CBS: GOP Attempts to Tie Obama to Blagojevich 'A Tough Sell' --12/11/2008


1. CBS: GOP Attempts to Tie Obama to Blagojevich 'A Tough Sell'
Wednesday's CBS Early Show worked hard to put as much distance as possible between Barack Obama and disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as correspondent Chip Reid reported: "Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have both been leaders in Illinois Democratic politics for years, but long-time observers say that's about as far as the connection goes." Reid later dismissed Republican efforts to question Obama's connection to the indicted Governor: "...that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together...Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell."

2. George Stephanopoulos: Blago is Obama's 'Best Character Witness'
Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to downplay the connection between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, and President-elect Barack Obama. He helpfully argued that the profane references to Obama on the FBI's tapes indicate that "Blagojevich himself is the President-elect's best character witness." Stephanopoulos and co-host Diane Sawyer did discuss the apparent contradiction between Obama's claim on Tuesday that he had "no contact" with the governor and chief spokesman David Axelrod's comments on November 23 in which he asserted, "I know he's talked to the governor." A very credulous Stephanopoulos explained, "Well, first of all, David Axelrod put out a statement late yesterday, where he said he simply misspoke there...That is backed up by everyone else on the team, as well." So, while an ABC graphic read, "Political 'Crime Spree': Will Allegations Affect Obama," the former Clinton aide obviously didn't think so.

3. NY Times' Tom Friedman to Obama: Go 'Radical' on the Environment!
During an interview on CNN's No Bias, No Bull program on Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman expressed his confidence in President-elect Obama's "vision" for environmental policy and urged that the future executive be given "means...that are as radical as its ends" to carry out this policy: "[I]t's great to say we're going to have green jobs and green homes and green-collared jobs to re-insulate people's homes, install solar panels. Those jobs won't get taken up unless you change building codes around the country. So...I think, the challenge for President-elect Obama will be to have the standards, regulations, the means that are as radical as its ends so we can really achieve those ends."

4. Matthews to Ayers: 'I Agitate My Way, You Agitate Your Way'
Chris Matthews invited on Bill Ayers on Wednesday night's Hardball, and actually confronted him about his bombing of Capitol Hill during his days as a member of the '60s terrorist group Weather Underground, as the former Capitol Hill police officer emotionally observed: "I was a Capitol policeman at the time, so I was one of the guys that could have been killed obviously at the time you put that, your guys put that bomb in there. So I have a little personal interest. It wasn't just vandalism. To me it was life-threatening to the guys I worked with. And there were some pretty good guys working there." However Matthews, who paradoxically may not even be alive to conduct this interview today if the Weather Underground's bombs were more devastating, devoted most of the interview tossing softballs Ayers' way, as the two often agreed with each other on Barack Obama and Iraq policy as the Hardball host pointed out they only really differed on how to spread their points of view: "Well, Mr. Ayers, with all due respect, you agitate your way, I agitate my way."


CBS: GOP Attempts to Tie Obama to Blagojevich
'A Tough Sell'

Wednesday's CBS Early Show worked hard to put as much distance as possible between Barack Obama and disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as correspondent Chip Reid reported: "Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have both been leaders in Illinois Democratic politics for years, but long-time observers say that's about as far as the connection goes." Reid later dismissed Republican efforts to question Obama's connection to the indicted Governor: "...that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together...Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell."

In a segment that followed Reid's report, co-host Harry Smith asked Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet: "Does any of this rub off on Barack Obama?" Sweet replied: "A little bit does. Because these are his -- this brings up the whole -- we're talking about the Senate seat for sale, but the criminal complaint does bring up Tony Rezko, it does bring up questions about the associations-" Smith interjected: "Which the Republicans tried so hard during the campaign to say Barack Obama is a Chicago politician." Sweet dispelled that characterization: "Right. And here's the thing, Obama does not come out of this culture."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Earlier, Reid also explained that Obama was above typical Chicago politics: "Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass says Mr. Obama has worked hard to position himself above the machine culture of Chicago politics." A clip of Kass was played: "I don't think he gets tainted by what happened today." Reid concluded his report by observing: "One other factor working in Mr. Obama's favor is that he played a major role in passing tough ethics laws in Illinois, cracking down on the kinds of crimes the governor is now alleged to have committed."

Here is the full transcript of the first segment, including Reid's report:

7:00AM TEASE:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Senate seat for sale? The Illinois Governor caught on tape allegedly selling Barack Obama's old job.
PATRICK FITZGERALD: The most appalling is the fact that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.
RODRIGUEZ: But is the president-elect connected?

7:02AM SEGMENT:
JULIE CHEN: But first, the stunning series of corruption charges leveled against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested yesterday but then released from custody. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds is in Chicago with the story. Dean, good morning.
DEAN REYNOLDS: Good morning, Julie. Well, it's important to keep in mind about Rod Blagojevich is that he is still Governor of Illinois and he still has the power to appoint a successor to Barack Obama as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. His arrest Tuesday on corruption charges sparked calls for his resignation, but his defense attorney indicated, the governor feels there are no grounds.
SHELDON SOROSKY: The governor is very, very surprised by all this and feels certainly that he didn't do anything wrong.

REYNOLDS: Prosecutors think otherwise.
PATRICK FITZGERALD: The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.
REYNOLDS: In a 76-page criminal complaint, the government said Blagojevich allegedly put his services up to the highest bidder, shaking down a children's hospital for a political donation, strong arming the Chicago Tribune to fire editors he disliked or lose tax breaks, and scheming to get the most for his appointment of Obama's successor. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald read from FBI logs of the tap on the governor's phone.
FITZGERALD: 'It's a bleeping valuable thing -- thing, you just don't give it away for nothing,' close quote. Another quote, 'I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden. I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing.'
REYNOLDS: Prosecutors said Blagojevich was heard on tape complaining that Obama would not play the favors game regarding the Senate seat. On Tuesday, Obama steered clear of the whole thing.
BARACK OBAMA: I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not -- I was not aware of what was happening. And as I said, it's a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment.
REYNOLDS: But a top Obama advisor did say late last month that Obama and Blagojevich had had conversations about the open seat and the range of potential candidates, though, last night, a transition spokesman for Obama said that that top advisor had mis-spoken. Julie.
CHEN: CBS's Dean Reynolds, thanks, Dean. And now here's Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Americans this morning are wondering if the case against Blagojevich will have any real impact on President-elect Obama and his transition. CBS News correspondent Chip Reid has that part of the story.
CHIP REID: Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have both been leaders in Illinois Democratic politics for years, but long-time observers say that's about as far as the connection goes.
MIKE FLANNERY: I don't think, though, that you can fairly say that Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich were anything but the most distant allies.
REID: In fact, Flannery, a long-time Chicago political reporter, says Obama has often gone out of his way to avoid any close association with the ethically challenged governor. But that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together. In a statement, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said: 'Given the president-elect's history of supporting and advising Governor Blagojevich, he has a responsibility to speak out and fully address the issue.' Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell.
FLANNERY: I don't recall them collaborating closely on anything -- not on a piece of legislation, not on a campaign.
REID: Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass says Mr. Obama has worked hard to position himself above the machine culture of Chicago politics.
JOHN KASS: I don't think he gets tainted by what happened today.
REID: But that doesn't mean the questions are going to stop.
KASS: What will happen now is that there will be pressure on Barack Obama to address this.
REID: One other factor working in Mr. Obama's favor is that he played a major role in passing tough ethics laws in Illinois, cracking down on the kinds of crimes the governor is now alleged to have committed. Chip Reid, CBS News, Washington.

Here is the full transcript of Smith's segment:

7:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: We're joined now by Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, good morning, all.
PAGE: Good morning.
SMITH: I'm reading your column this morning Clarence, I grew up in Illinois, I remember Paul Powell, the former secretary of state, who was hiding checks, they were stuck in card board boxes in his attic for crying out loud. Where does this fit in the pantheon of corruption of this state?
PAGE: I think this one is shocking mainly in that it was so brazen, by all indications. We always have to remember, the governor's innocent until proved guilty.
SMITH: Right.
PAGE: But just the testimony, the transcriptions you see of the conversations that were eavesdropped upon by the FBI in the 75, 78-page affidavit are shocking, even by Chicago's standards.
SMITH: Wow. Lynn Sweet, let me ask you this, Blagojevich knows he's under investigation, has probably been under investigation for a couple of years. Does he not suspect he's being wiretapped? He -- in this tape we hear him, he's egotistical, he's crude, is he also crazy?
LYNN SWEET: Well, he does not think so, which is why when he said the other day, 'go ahead and wiretap me, no problem.' I -- I've known him and I've covered him for a number of years, Harry, I actually think he thinks he was invulnerable.
SMITH: Invulnerable.
SWEET: That he could just go forth and do this. And that's kind of the -- you know, that is the Chicago way. You walk up to the line. A lot of guys do it. And this is the culture of corruption that, you know, Clarence and I have covered for years coming up through the streets of Chicago politics. And sometimes the guys just don't know where the line is, where you and I, and a lot of other pols know how to finagle the right way and stay on the right side of the law, he just didn't see that line. Or the line kept moving. And you know, the goal posts that other people see, for him, just kept moving down the street.
SMITH: Unbelievable. Even -- I think the thing that was most stunning to me, not just the idea of this Senate seat being for sale, but even right down to this hospital, which had -- the funding had been approved for, he's going to pull that back unless he gets the money, Clarence? This is -- this is -- this is -- it's unseemly.
PAGE: It truly is. He seemed to have just lost his moral compass and treated his office like a big ATM machine. And, you know, as Lynn mentions, he's been under investigation for a while. It's been in the headlines over the last four years we've seen something like 13 different associates of his who've been indicted or convicted. And yet, these offenses that we're talking about occur just in the last month or so.
SMITH: Unbelievable.
PAGE: It's just amazing how he just seemed to lose his moral compass entirely.
SMITH: Lynn Sweet, here's my question for you, does any of this rub off on Barack Obama?
SWEET: A little bit does. Because these are his -- this brings up the whole -- we're talking about the Senate seat for sale, but the criminal complaint does bring up Tony Rezko, it does bring up questions about the associations-
SMITH: Which the Republicans tried so hard during the campaign to say Barack Obama is a Chicago politician.
SWEET: Yes. Right. And here's the thing, Obama does not come out of this culture. It will just bring up questions about -- it will bring up questions that he could live without, it is a major distraction. I'm sure top advisors now in the White House, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, would rather not be asked about exactly how it happened, is there a back story? What do you think? Because they, you know, they are -- they're all, in a sense, players in-
SMITH: They -- they could end up being called in for questioning, yeah, for testimony-
SWEET: -in this -- Well, because you have to figure out what's going on. And I don't want to say that they are and I don't know that they are. But what it is, is that if you're talking about Governor Blagojevich and investigations it's not good for President-elect Obama.
SMITH: There you go. Lynn Sweet, Clarence Page, thank you both for taking the time to speak with us today. Do appreciate it.
PAGE: Thank you.
SWEET: Thank you.
SMITH: Alright, what a story.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: This governor was unpopular to begin with because he's been under investigation for so long they were talking about impeaching him even before this happened.
SMITH: 13-point approval rating.
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and he said if they impeached him he would -- he would take the Senate seat himself to avoid impeachment. It's just -- crazy.
SMITH: It's higher than Dave Price, though.
DAVE PRICE: How many governors since '74? What is it?
SMITH: Who have been indicted or-
PRICE: Three and potentially -- yeah, four indicted, am I right? I mean, it's a remarkable history. And what a press conference yesterday?
SMITH: Phenomenal. Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald, we were going back and forth, 'you watching this thing?'
PRICE: Unbelievable.

George Stephanopoulos: Blago is Obama's
'Best Character Witness'

Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to downplay the connection between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, and President-elect Barack Obama. He helpfully argued that the profane references to Obama on the FBI's tapes indicate that "Blagojevich himself is the President-elect's best character witness."

Stephanopoulos and co-host Diane Sawyer did discuss the apparent contradiction between Obama's claim on Tuesday that he had "no contact" with the governor and chief spokesman David Axelrod's comments on November 23 in which he asserted, "I know he's talked to the governor." A very credulous Stephanopoulos explained, "Well, first of all, David Axelrod put out a statement late yesterday, where he said he simply misspoke there...That is backed up by everyone else on the team, as well." So, while an ABC graphic read, "Political 'Crime Spree': Will Allegations Affect Obama," the former Clinton aide obviously didn't think so.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

In addition to playing the contradictory clips of Obama and his spokesman, Sawyer did observe, "I have to think this is like being handed TNT in the Obama transition. Are they nervous that somebody from the camp will be on one of those tapes?" However, Stephanopoulos appeared to be going out of his way to isolate the damage to Blagojevich. At one point he derided, "And they're [Obama aides are] very dumbfounded by how brazen and delusional the governor appears in these tapes."

A transcript of the December 10 segment, which aired at 7:08am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And let's see what the bottom line this morning is on this scandal. ABC's chief Washington correspondent, host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. Good morning, George.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Diane.
SAWYER: I have to think this is like being handed TNT in the Obama transition. Are they nervous that somebody from the camp will be on one of those tapes?
ABC GRAPHIC: Political "Crime Spree": Will Allegations Affect Obama?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they're more annoyed than anxious about this. And they're very dumbfounded by how brazen and delusional the governor appears in these tapes, even talking about running for president in 2016. At the same time he's talking about selling a senate seat. But they're not that worried that anything will come up here that will put the president-elect in a bad light. And the irony here, of course, is that Blagojevich himself is the President-elect's best character witness. He's the one that's just so angry on all of these tapes about the fact that he's not going to get anything from the Obama team.
SAWYER: Right. Edmund Levin, as you know, one of our great political writers, said this morning, you got to be so glad on a morning like this to be called a bleeping bleep, on those tapes. But, let me ask you a couple things that came up yesterday that people were examining. First was President-elect Obama himself in a meeting with former vice president Al Gore. Talking about this. And he switched pronouns in the middle. Let's listen again.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: I had no contact with the governor, or his office. And so, we were not- I was not aware of what was happening.
SAWYER: And then, a lot of people were saying this is in contrast to what David Axelrod, of course, the chief strategist for the campaign, had said in a Fox News interview, talking about the President-elect and the governor. Here, again.
DAVID AXELROD I know he's talked to the governor. And, you know, he's- there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced. And he's- I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.
SAWYER: So, talked to the governor. Contradiction?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first of all, David Axelrod put out a statement late yesterday, where he said he simply misspoke there. That the governor did not speak to President-elect Obama. That is backed up by everyone else on the team, as well. But, you're right, that telling move from we to I, was interesting by the President-elect Obama. I think that's because he can't be sure that no one connected to him in any way spoke with Blagojevich or emissaries of Blagojevich. The reason they can't talk about it, they say, right now is because this is an ongoing criminal investigation. And they want to make sure that they have their stories straight before they go out and say anything more publicly. The one thing they will say, unequivocally, is that President-elect Obama did not talk to Blagojevich. And clearly Blagojevich did not get anything, as he was trying to bait the hook.
SAWYER: And as we said, earlier, the governor is still the governor. Technically, can still appoint that senator. Is there any chance that he would try to do it?
STEPHANOPOULOS: He might try. But it's not going to happen, Diane. Next week, the Illinois legislature's going to go into session and call for a special session, to set a special election, to fill the seat. Even if Blagojevich tries to appoint someone, the Illinois secretary of state has the power not to seat that person, not to certify that election. The Senate has the power not to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich. And everyone I talked to on Capitol Hill yesterday, said there's no way that a Blagojevich pick is ever going to be seated. So, bottom line, Governor Blagojevich will not pick the next senator for the state of Illinois. And that was probably the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's main objective yesterday, was to put that to rest by getting Blagojevich out of the way.
SAWYER: Did you notice, someone as a joke, put the Senate seat on eBay this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I did see that.

NY Times' Tom Friedman to Obama: Go 'Radical'
on the Environment!

During an interview on CNN's No Bias, No Bull program on Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman expressed his confidence in President-elect Obama's "vision" for environmental policy and urged that the future executive be given "means...that are as radical as its ends" to carry out this policy: "[I]t's great to say we're going to have green jobs and green homes and green-collared jobs to re-insulate people's homes, install solar panels. Those jobs won't get taken up unless you change building codes around the country. So...I think, the challenge for President-elect Obama will be to have the standards, regulations, the means that are as radical as its ends so we can really achieve those ends."

Host Campbell Brown devoted two segments to her interview of Friedman. During the second segment, Brown brought up "Obama's attempt to take on the enormous environmental challenges facing the country and the world." She first asked the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist if the President-elect's plan for creating green jobs was "visionary" enough and if he has "the leadership ability to get this done?"

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Wednesday afternoon on MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Friedman began his answer by gushing over Obama and then continued by giving his "radical" proposal:

BROWN: You know, our President-elect, Obama, has proposed what amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars of spending on public works to create new jobs, and some of them [are] green jobs, exactly what your new book says America needs. This is part of what he and Al Gore discussed just today. Do you think, what we know of his plan -- do you think it's visionary enough? Do you think he's got the leadership ability to get this done?
FRIEDMAN: I do. I think he definitely has the vision. I've been really impressed with what he's been laying out. I'm totally in sync with all those ideas. I think the real challenge for him at this time is to have means, okay, that are as radical as its ends. That is, you know, it's great to say we're going to have green jobs and green homes and green-collared jobs to re-insulate people's homes, install solar panels. Those jobs won't get taken up unless you change building codes around the country. Let's say to home builders, you want to build this home, it's got to be at these higher efficiency standards. Those technologies won't be taken up. So, Campbell, I think, the challenge for President-elect Obama will be to have the standards, regulations, the means that are as radical as its ends so we can really achieve those ends.

Brown then followed-up by asking what would "convince people that will cut through this impasse we've had on this issue [the environment] for so long." Friedman replied by emphasizing that "the next great global industry is going to be energy technology -- clean power, clean water, clean energy. It simply has to be -- otherwise, we're not going to survive as a planet. I know that for sure, Campbell." After expressing his hope that the leader of this "next great global industry" would be U.S., he repeated his earlier point, that Obama will " have to pull the country and Congress along to give him all the enabling taxes, standards, and regulations to bring that about."

Earlier, during the first segment of the interview, Friedman repeated his longstanding call for higher gasoline taxes:

BROWN: You know, high gas prices killing people over the summer, but now oil is back below $45 a barrel, gas prices the lowest they have been since 2004, and this goes, I think, certainly in conjunction with what you're talking about. You think that that's actually bad news, that what everybody, not just the car companies, what we all need is a bit of a motivator, and it would actually be good for us if the prices were a lot higher right now.
FRIEDMAN: Well, and why do European countries have, you know, cars with better average mileage -- smaller cars? Because they have had very high gasoline taxes. So, they innovated around that. Detroit, all these years, you know, fought higher gas prices, created a universe where they could only make money-selling SUVs. And now, you know, when the price went up, they weren't prepared, basically, with the cars people want. Now, the price will go down -- they will sit back and say, you know, we can relax now, and continue to make, you know, bigger cars, and you surely know in a world that is 'hot, flat, and crowded' -- basically, more and more demand for oil -- in time, that price is going to go back up. They'll be in the same place. So, what is the point? The point is, unless we have a gasoline tax that brings gasoline, on average, to around $4 a gallon -- that's when we saw real change of behavior -- you're not going to get a change of behavior.
BROWN: But would you say, even at this moment, when people are hurting as badly as they are, that this is the moment that Obama, once he takes office, should increase taxes on oil and gas?
FRIEDMAN: Well, what I'm saying is this -- yes, you should increase the gasoline tax, but it should be revenue-neutral. It should be combined with a reduction equal in payroll taxes, so that the total hurt to people is zero. But you are encouraging companies to hire workers and to people to work by lowering payroll taxes and you are discouraging them to buy gas-guzzling vehicles by raising gasoline taxes. There's lots of ways to do this.

For a previous instance where Friedman called for higher gasoline taxes, see the June 25 CyberAlert item, " NBC's Today Features NYT Columnist Pushing $1 a Gallon Gas Tax," at: www.mrc.org

Matthews to Ayers: 'I Agitate My Way,
You Agitate Your Way'

Chris Matthews invited on Bill Ayers on Wednesday night's Hardball, and actually confronted him about his bombing of Capitol Hill during his days as a member of the '60s terrorist group Weather Underground, as the former Capitol Hill police officer emotionally observed: "I was a Capitol policeman at the time, so I was one of the guys that could have been killed obviously at the time you put that, your guys put that bomb in there. So I have a little personal interest. It wasn't just vandalism. To me it was life-threatening to the guys I worked with. And there were some pretty good guys working there."

However Matthews, who paradoxically may not even be alive to conduct this interview today if the Weather Underground's bombs were more devastating, devoted most of the interview tossing softballs Ayers' way, as the two often agreed with each other on Barack Obama and Iraq policy as the Hardball host pointed out they only really differed on how to spread their points of view: "Well, Mr. Ayers, with all due respect, you agitate your way, I agitate my way."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoff Dickens, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Matthews, who back in October dismissed Sarah Palin's mention of Ayers, as "the politics of distraction," began the interview by setting up Ayers to play down any association he had with Obama:

MATTHEWS AFTER A CLIP OF SARAH PALIN: That was Sarah Palin on October 4th of this year and the "palling around," reference was to William Ayers. He became a flashpoint in the election because of his association with Barack Obama and his association with the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group active in the 1970s. William Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago and his 2001 book Fugitive Days: Memoirs of An Anti-War Activist has been re-released with a new afterward. Mr. Ayers thank you for joining us. I know you don't do much of this and I appreciate you coming on. Your book is out in paperback. Let me ask you what was your personal reaction when you saw Governor Palin exploiting your relationship with Barack Obama?
WILLIAM AYERS: I think I saw it after everybody else saw it because I don't tend to watch television news. And I have three grown sons who kind of filter those things and they sent it to me. And I thought it was outrageous really. Really it was outrageous and profoundly dishonest and I chose not to react to it at the time. I couldn't see any honest way to react to it.
MATTHEWS: What's the phrase, "palling around," mean in reality? You weren't pals, with Barack Obama, obviously. Well explain. What was your relationship with him?
AYERS: Well you know I, I, again, I don't know what, what they were thinking exactly. We certainly, I, I was on a board with President-elect Obama. We did live in the same neighborhood. But the dishonesty of the narrative really is about the fact that if you can place two people in the same room or prove that they can take bus downtown together, that they're somehow responsible for one another's politics, policies, outlook and behavior. And that seems to me, patently absurd. It's guilt by association and I think, thankfully the American people rejected it this time.

Then later in the interview Matthews turned to the "lesson of Vietnam" and how it applied to Bush's Iraq policy:

MATTHEWS: What's the lesson of Vietnam for America?
AYERS: Well I think one of the lessons is that we should be, very, very wary when the United States government tells us that we must invade and occupy a country. We should be very wary of led down, being led down that path. And we should be rethinking, right now, most of all, we should rethink America's role in the world. Do we have to be the policemen of the world? Do we have to be the one and only superpower? Or could we imagine ourselves a nation among nations. Could we imagine a foreign policy based on justice, rather than power.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Aren't you scared a little bit, I certainly am, by the willingness of the American people to assume language, brand new language like "weapons of mass destruction," "Homeland Security," all these references to a new kind of foreign policy? "Forward leaning." "A preemptive, preventive war." Preventive war sounds like an oxymoron to me. But aren't you scared that the American people bought every one of those words, bought the whole argument that we had to go to Iraq?
AYERS: I actually think that those are contested. And I think you're right to worry about how much we did buy into that. But on the other hand I think we should be very hopeful that people rejected quite, a month ago, rejected eight years of the politics of fear, the politics of terror, the politics of violence and war and said, "Let's turn in a different direction." So we're, we've ended the era, I think, of 9/11, or at least turned a page on it.
MATTHEWS: Yeah.
AYERS: And we've entered an era of "Yes We Can!" But the question remains, "Yes we can, what?" And in foreign policy can we become a nation among nations? Can we become a nation who believes in justice for everyone.
MATTHEWS: Yeah well those are good things. I think you're a different man. I think you're a different man than the one that was in the Weather Underground and you've said so. Let me ask you are you concerned that the centrist positions of the people, Senator Obama, President-elect Obama has named -- Senator Clinton, Jim Jones, General Jim Jones, Bob Gates, the holdover Defense chief -- are you concerned that she's putting establishment figures, who, who, who supported the war authorization in Iraq in powerful positions of influence over him? That the people in the room, all around him now, will be people who disagreed with him and you about the Iraq war? Are you worried about that?
AYERS: A bit but I think that people like you and me, and probably most of the people who watch your show are suffering a kind of postpartum depression. That is we were so used to reading the polls and getting agitated about every nuance of what was happening that we now don't know what to do with ourselves. So we try to read the mind of the President-elect. I think it's much less important that we do that, than that we pay attention to building, on-the-ground, forces that want to rethink-
MATTHEWS: Yeah.
AYERS: -and, and re-imagine what America could be.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Ayers, with all due respect, you agitate your way, I agitate my way. Thank you very much for coming on Hardball.

To read about how Matthews dismissed Ayers as an issue for Obama during the campaign see: newsbusters.org

To see compare how ABC News' Chris Cuomo interviewed Ayers back in November: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker