Sarah Palin is taking her gloves off. And other things as well.

She as may as well just strip naked on Capitol Hill because she is all-out revealing her every flaw. Well, maybe not every one, but enough.

According to news accounts, she is telling voters that Barack Obama runs with terrorists. But what does she mean by that exactly?

Understand that Sarah Palin is using the word “terrorist” rather loosely. The popular understanding of terrorist is someone who attacks innocent and unsuspecting civilians in order to make a political point. In other words, when a person of Muslim and Arabic descent drives a car bomb into a Jewish synagogue or a U.S. military base, that constitutes terrorism. The Republican Right Wing operatives, however, want to extend that definition to anyone who commits a domestic crime of a violent nature. Therefore, William Ayers and Timothy McVeigh are terrorists.

The problem is one of definition. In Sarah Palin’s case, she is trying to win an election, albeit one from the position of last place running. It’s the equivalent of the defensive coach on an NFL team that holds last place in its conference saying to news reporters on the beat that the coach of the lead team sends illegal plays into the game in fourth quarters. True or not, the intent is to discredit.

But in this case, whether the allegation is true or not is of prime importance. If it is then the American people ought to think twice about electing Barack Obama as president. After all, why would we want a person who hangs with terrorists in a position that requires of him a strategy to defeat terrorists on the battlefield?

Who Is Bill Ayers?

Central to answering the question, does “Barack Obama run around with terrorists?” is “Who is Bill Ayers?” The answer is, he’s not the type of guy most people who like their government would want in their living rooms.

William Ayers was a prominent radical activist during the Vietnam years. He is a founding member of Weatherman, an anti-war activist group. The organization made a name for itself in 1968 and 1969 when they turned to violence, blowing up government buildings, and engaging in riots.

Whether Weatherman was a terrorist organization or not is disputed. On its website, the FBI calls the organization a domestic terrorist group. Others dispute that Weatherman was ever a terrorist group because it targeted property rather than people. There remains to be a fine distinction between terrorism and underground resistance, which may also be called insurgency. Many people incorrectly refer to some of the bombing activity in Iraq as the activity of terrorists when it is in actuality the activity of insurgents.

It must also be noted that William Ayers has never been convicted of terrorism. Therefore, to refer to him as a terrorist may be a legal distinction that, were he not a public personality, could be subject to libel laws.

Will History Remain History?

Weatherman dissolved around 1976 and its members re-integrated themselves back into normal society. William Ayers is now a respected professor at the University of Chicago. Even if one accepts that Ayers was a terrorist in the years between 1968 and 1975, he clearly is not one now. But even then, can we draw a connection between him and Barack Obama?

The evidence is tenuous. Ayers and Obama have appeared in the same place at the same time on several occasions. But if a Pittsburgh Steeler fan attends every game the Steelers play then you could say that the fan and Ben Roethlisberger are “palling around” based on the logic of Palin and her neoconservative political allies. But the Ayers-Obama relationship does appear to be more than merely one of acquaintance.

According to Andrew McCarthy, in an editorial at CBS News, he states that Obama and Ayers were both speakers on two separate occasions at the same event. At least one of those events was organized by Michelle Obama, the Democratic candidate’s wife. That proves they’re bosom buddies. Right?

Wrong. Inviting someone to speak at an event doesn’t exactly make you the best of friends. Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes appear on TV every night together. That doesn’t make them pals. It makes them co-commentators.

William Ayers is a communist – a communist of political ideology not connected with the Communist Party – who resorted to violence to make his point 30 years ago when Barack Obama was too young to have been a participant. Should Obama pay for the violent past of man with whom he has loose connections when our current president, whose connections with the Saudi Royal Family are much tighter has virtually not been questioned for his alliances and particularly when it can be proven that actual terrorists hail from the Saudi region?

In many ways, the Cold War is still playing out in national politics. The Right Wing’s ardent hatred of Communism causes them to lose any respect for logical thinking when it comes to connecting the dots between those whose ideologies they oppose and their opponents in the political ring. If you can’t win the war of ideas then you try to paint the other guy as a violent radical scumbag that doesn’t deserve a piece of cake.

When Sarah Palin says Barack Obama runs with terrorists, what she really means is he’s been seen in public with a person who, at one time in the past, was a violent person. But she is a Christian, a member of an organization whose founder palled around and cohorted with zealots, who may have been the terrorists of their own day, and other undesirables. Said founder commanded his followers to do the same. Rather than applaud Obama for his courage in doing so, Sarah Palin criticizes him just as the Pharisees in the day of Christ criticized him for running with sinners.

Furthermore, America is a nation founded on terrorism. According to current definitions of terrorism, the Boston Tea Party would qualify. Some of the tactics of Revolutionary soldiers would have been considered terrorist in nature, though guerrilla warfare may be a more apt name.

What’s the point? Terrorism is largely a matter of how you define it. If you are a member of a weak group and you feel like you are being oppressed by a stronger, more powerful group, as many radical activists in the 1960s did, then when you blow up buildings to make your point you might consider that an act of violent resistance. The more powerful group you oppose might call it terrorism. Whose definition should be accepted?

This analysis is not to excuse the violent actions of people who choose to go that route. Rather, the point is to offer an alternative view to the definition of terrorism. Not every act of violence is an act of terrorism. To use terrorism as a scare tactic to persuade less critical members of the voting public to vote for you because you feel like you are the underdog and need an “upper hand” is cheap and warrantless. It offers nothing positive or substantive to the debate. If you cannot tell me what positive assets you have that will give me reason to vote for you then perhaps you do not deserve my vote.

So What Do We Make Of The Terrorism Charge?

Should Barack Obama be president? Probably not. But it isn’t because he runs with terrorists. That’s just playing with words in a rather untidy fashion.

All we know of Bill Ayers is that he committed acts of violence, which some people have defined as “terrorism.” All we know of Obama’s relationship to Ayers is that they have appeared together at several events and that Ayers has contributed $200 to the Obama campaign. Big deal. Is everyone who contributed to the John McCain campaign a pal of his?

Saying that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists is a cheap Republican scare tactic designed to people sitting on the fence a nudge to lean toward McCain. It likely will not influence Republicans who have already made up their minds even if they know the allegation is absurd. If will not influence committed Democrats either. It wasn’t meant to. It was aimed at blue collar workers who love their country, but who may not be fond of its government. They don’t like bureaucrats, but like terrorists even less and if we can prove one of the candidates has a connection to a terrorist then the other candidate will likely win a vote. Don’t trust the rhetoric; do your homework.

Allen Taylor writes the daily News and Media Blog. He invites you to follow him on Twitter.

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