Halperin On Ayers: As Stupid As It Gets

11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Well everyone, it's time for another installment of "UGH...The Effing Page" with its zombie-prince proprietor, Mark Halperin. You know, it wasn't long ago that I actually praised Mark Halperin for a rare moment of making a lick of damn sense up in the newshole! I remember the date: it was September 10, and I was marveling at Halperin, passionately saying things on CNN such as, "I think this is the press just absolutely playing into the McCain campaign's crocodile tears," and, "This is a victory for the McCain campaign in the sense that every day they can make this a pig fight in the mud. It's good for them because it's reducing Barack Obama's message even more. But I think this is a low point in the day and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign. To spend even a minute on [lipstick on a pig], I think, is amazing and outrageous."

But today, the man has got a video up on The Page in which he fully indulges himself in the "low point" of the campaign's latest "amazing and outrageous turn," namely, the reinjection of William Ayers into the political conversation. Mind you, we are at this point because the McCain campaign is all out ideas on how to win and can do nothing else, and we know that the McCain campaign is all out ideas on how to win and can do nothing else because this is precisely what they told the press at the start of this week! But McCain wants to jump off a bridge, and I guess Mark Halperin has to follow.

So he engages Obama campaign flack Robert Gibbs in an interminable interrogation over William Ayers, signaling that the exchange is going to be full-on idiotic by beginning the interview with this question: "Have you ever been on a board with any terrorists?" From there, Halperin accepts two aspects of the Ayers story as true: first, he acknowledges that it is clear that Obama, himself, does not support terrorism, domestic or otherwise, from the Weather Underground or anyone. Second, he's willing to accept that the two men enjoy no close friendship or relationship, and that William Ayers radical viewpoints are specifically divergent from Obama's. You'd think that, having accepted these two principles, there'd be little else to talk about.

But Halperin soon gets to his harangue, asking Gibbs repeatedly, "Does Barack Obama think it's okay to have professional associations with Bill Ayers?" In this case, remember, by "professional associations," Halperin means "coincidentally ending up on a pair of boards with each other." Halperin asks the question because there's really no way to answer it -- these "associations" happened in the past, which is immutable. Just as John McCain's associations with lefty radical David Ifshin are in the past and cannot be changed. But let's not leave Gibbs off the hook, either: Gibbs is here as a campaign flack, and so his answer has to be a safe, politic answer.

It's a dumb, purely gotcha question, and its one that Gibbs, as a P.R. man, cannot answer truthfully. So I will answer it truthfully: while it's never okay to associate with anyone in the commission of a criminal act, it is absolutely, and always, okay to associate professionally with William Ayers on such activities as the Annenberg Challenge board. And here's why.

In the first place, if you want to pin down the responsible party for putting Obama and Ayers in the room together on these boards, you really have to go to whoever is responsible for naming people to the board itself. Obama and Ayers have no say in the matter, other than to agree or disagree to participate. In my previous life as a government contractor, I assembled grant review boards all the time, and the task basically boiled down to this: find any warm body I could to fill the positions we needed filled. Acting in concert with the appropriate agency, I worked very hard to keep known idiots and antisocial weirdos off the panels, but if someone ridiculous ended up serving, that was on me -- the other people that I put in the room were not responsible.

But, you say! Once Barack Obama learned about William Ayers radical politics and criminal past, shouldn't he have left the board, refused to participate? Again, from my own experience as a government contractor, I'll say this: Thank God people don't actually do this! I would have rarely, if ever, completed a grant review process on schedule! But more to the point: why would someone in Obama's position, continue to serve alongside someone with a repellent point of view? Well, as it turns out, there are people out there that put what's good for other people ahead of what's good for them. It's possible that Obama is one of them!

If you're a budding politician, with ambition and a bright career, and you find yourself sitting on some sort of committee, that makes real decisions, with real impact, alongside someone who you, and others, find objectionable, you are absolutely entitled to quit. Why not? You just spared yourself some potential embarrassment down the road. You want to have a career in politics, right? Well, go ahead. Leave that committee! Wash your hands of it. No one's ever going to blame you for your decision. Indeed, in all likelihood, no one will ever even know about it.

Except for you of course! And one of the things you might have to accept, in quitting this hypothetical panel, is that your decision to quit has potentially increased the influence of a deluded radical over important decisions. If you're the type who puts themselves first, this will not bother you. But if you're the type who puts others first, can it not be said that you have an obligation to sit in that room and serve as a strong voice that shepherds the decision-making process away from someone who's viewpoint is toxic? Is it not your duty to offset the opinions and beliefs of a man like William Ayers? Isn't this why parents join the PTA? To ensure that the bad decisions of misguided people can be opposed?

Let's be absolutely clear. I am not trying to convince anyone that this was Obama's line of thinking. He'll have to do his own convincing on that regard. Honestly, it seems to me that Obama did not find cause to rigorously oppose Ayers' in the context of their professional associations, though I'll let his condemnation of Ayers' past stand as sincere. Personally speaking, I'm much more concerned about Obama's "friendship" with Tom Coburn, who's always seemed like an outright loon to me.

But practically speaking, there's nothing anyone can do about the fact that these two men "associated professionally" at some point in the past. It would appear, however, that for all the alarmist blather we've had to endure over the matter, these "professional associations" have done no discernible harm to our Republic. This is more than I can say for some more pressing, and current concerns that we face as a nation. But if Mark Halperin just cannot get back to being the person who a month ago decried the very nonsense he's now yammering into his flipcam without first getting an answer to his question, "Is it okay to have professional associations with Bill Ayers?" then the answer is yes. Now, please, let's move along.