After weeks of hammering Barack Obama for having an association with a former Weather Undergound member, John McCain was asked Thursday afternoon about his own connections to a past felon: G. Gordon Liddy.
The question came, of all places, from late night comedian David Letterman, who pressed the Senator to explain why he was friendly with the man who was convicted in the Watergate scandal of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. McCain - according to an advanced report of the show - initially said that he "met" Liddy before adding, "He paid his debt, he went to prison, he paid his debt." Here is another segment of the interview:
Dave: Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?
McCain: Uh, I met him. I --
Dave: Did you attend a fundraiser at his house?
McCain: Gordon Liddy's?
Paul: I object, your honor.
Dave: We will be right back here... (laughter)
And yet, important to note in all of this, is that Liddy has been publicly unrepentant for his actions, much like Ayers. In an interview with the UK Independent Liddy said he didn't regret burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee.
In addition to the burglary - for which he served a four-and-a-half year sentence - Liddy broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He also admitted to plotting both the murder of journalist Jack Anderson - a harsh Nixon critic - and the firebombing of the Brookings Institute.
The parallels between Ayers in Liddy are stretched in the regard that Ayers was part of a group that did undertake bombings (though all of them were designed to avoid casualties). But McCain seems to be suggesting that an association is legitimate if the individual served a jail sentence, something Ayers, too, would have done had the FBI not mangled its investigation.
Liddy's relationship to McCain has ventured somewhere between the personal and political. Liddy donated $1,000 to the Senator's presidential campaign and has hosted him on his radio program. Media Matters for America reports that Liddy once described McCain as an "old friend."
In addition to addressing Liddy - for what seems the first time in this campaign - McCain was asked by Letterman if his running mate had really said that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists." McCain, according to a write up of the appearance, "started to say he didn't know, then said 'Yes. And he did.'"
That line has been the subject of much debate over the past week, with Palin actually removing it from her stump speech after Republicans and Democrats alike criticized her for inciting already rabid crowds. McCain, during the debate on Wednesday night, also sought to downplay that angle, saying the issue with Ayers was not one of terrorism, but rather whether Obama was being fully truthful with voters.