John McCain returns to David Letterman’s Late Show in an attempt to redeem himself after his erratic behavior and earlier cancellation.
It is the oddest thing, that entertainment show hosts such as Letterman ask harder and more persistent questions about questionable campaign techniques than do the hard news interviewers.
The McCain appearance on Letterman had a few laughs, but mostly was deadly serious.
For laughs, you have to go to the candidates themselves and their performance at a roast (see below).
Letterman at one point took McCain on about his sleazy smear campaign against Barack Obama for having been in the same room with Bill Ayers. Letterman pointed out that McCain has had a close relationship with G. Gordon Liddy. Carl Bernstein had blown the whistle on the McCain-Liddy connection, and pointed to the series of plans for domestic terrorism that Liddy had thought up. McCain excused Liddy on the grounds that he had done his jail time.
See also Oliver Willis and also Matthew Yglesias.
Letterman also pointed out that Sarah Palin said Obama ‘pals around with terrorists’ with an ‘s’. McCain responded by saying that lots of things get said in a campaign. This turn to the passive voice was designed to erase his own decision to ask Palin to say those things, which she decided to do. They don’t ‘get said’. People decide to say them. In this case, the whole thing is a non-issue and a transparent attempt at distraction, which only dittoheads and the clueless could possibly take seriously (there, I’ve been redundant).
There is reason to be skeptical about McCain’s depiction of Ayers nowadays. Despite McCain’s misquotation, Ayers did not say after 9/11 that he wished he had bombed more. He said he wished that the underground had done more to stop the Vietnam War, and he avers that he meant political action, not bombings. Ayers never was involved in killing anyone, contrary to the impression given by calling him a ‘terrorist,’ and erasing from the record all the regrets he has expressed about his involvement in violence. McCain also does not mention that charges were dropped against Ayers because the government itself engaged in misconduct with the COINTELPRO program.. Ayers is now a respected professor of education who has been honored by and served on committees with prominent Republicans.
Newsday suggests that McCain probably wished by the end of it that he had not shown up.
On the lighter side, McCain and Obama joked around at a roast at the Al E. Smith memorial dinner.