Stanley Kurtz and the Anti-Obama Smear Machine

National Review writer Stanley Kurtz put himself into the headlines earlier this month by pushing the guilt-by-association link between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama because they both worked on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to improve public schools. When Kurtz went to look at the Annenberg files at the University of Illinois at Chicago, librarians temporarily blocked access out of concerns about whether they had the proper permission to open them to the public. UIC quickly changed their dumb decision, and this week Kurtz went to read the Annenberg papers. Previously, Kurtz had speculated that "access to the CAC records promises to provide a treasure trove of documentary evidence."

And what did he find? Absolutely nothing. Kurtz's great conclusion: Ayers and Obama went to the same meetings! And this brilliant attack by Kurtz: Obama is "comfortable working with people" on the left. Well, that's no surprise, since he's also comfortable working with people on the far right.
But although Kurtz smears failed for lack of even a sliver of any evidence, he and the far right have come up with another line of attack.

Today, Rush Limbaugh claimed Kurtz was a victim of repression by the Obama campaign. Why? Because Obama's campaign sent out an email urging people to call into Milt Rosenberg's radio show where Kurtz appeared last night. Limbaugh claimed, "Obama does not want people to know how close he is to Bill Ayers." According to Limbaugh, asking people to call into a radio show to criticize Kurtz's lies was a "brutal sleaze and smear tactic."

Unlike Limbaugh, I listened to Kurtz on Rosenberg's show. More than half the show was devoted to Kurtz's laughable attacks on Obama (in one case, Kurtz started reading from an innocuous book on global justice that he admitted Obama probably never read, but which he linked to Obama because Obama knows the man who runs the foundation that produced the book). There were a couple of people just reading from the Obama campaign email, but plenty of anti-Obama people had the chance to call and were apparently given preferential treatment to get on the air (Rosenberg even called back notorious Obama critic Steve Diamond because his line was bad). So Limbaugh was lying about an "effort made to clog up the phone lines."

Amazingly, Kurtz and Rosenberg played the same victimization card as Limbaugh. During the show, Kurtz accused the Obama campaign of "stifling reasonable debate and free inquiry" by sending out an email encouraging people to call in to the show and express themselves. He claimed, "this is an effort to silence me illegitimately." And you agreed: "It sure has that ring to my ears."

Well, I got the email, and it says nothing about stifling debate. Here's what the email says:
In the next few hours, we have a crucial opportunity to fight one of the most cynical and offensive smears ever launched against Barack.

Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.
Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse.
Call into the "Extension 720" show with Milt Rosenberg at (312) 591-7200
(Show airs from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. tonight)
Then report back on your call at
Kurtz has been using his absurd TV appearances in an awkward and dishonest attempt to play the terrorism card. His current ploy is to embellish the relationship between Barack and Ayers.
Just last night on Fox News, Kurtz drastically exaggerated Barack's connection with Ayers by claiming Ayers had recruited Barack to the board of the Annenberg Challenge. That is completely false and has been disproved in numerous press accounts.
It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies.
Kurtz is scheduled to appear from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. in the Chicago market.
Calling will only take a minute, and it will make a huge difference if we nip this smear in the bud. Confront Kurtz tonight before this goes any further:

The campaign also offered this advice:

Tips for making your call:
Be honest, but be civil.
Be persistent. It may take a few attempts to get through to the show. Just keep trying. Your call is important.
Use the talking points above to help you speak confidently and concisely.

Everything in the Obama email was correct, and it never urged censorship (or even rudeness) of any kind. By contrast, Kurtz has been guilt of numerous inaccurate smears.

According to Kurtz, "just after Barack Obama effectively secured a seat in the State Senate, the University of Chicago invented a new job, for which it hired Michelle Obama. In that job, Michelle would be able to channel University of Chicago students into the radical anti-American groups that she and her husband worked with, and whose ideology has received far too little scrutiny. Some of these organizations, even if unofficially, provided campaign workers for Barack Obama on election day."

This is total nonsense. It's noteworthy that Kurtz doesn't actually mention the names of any of these "radical anti-American groups." Does he know what these groups were that the Community Service Center was involved with? Or is he just making things up? I challenge Kurtz to identify the groups Michelle "channeled" students into, and which of these are "radical anti-American." Kurtz likes to smear every liberal group as "deeply radical and anti-American," which is an indication of anti-intellectual propensities.

Kurtz also likes to speculate about bizarre conspiracy theories: "So we see here an unusual arrangement between the University of Chicago and its new teacher/State Senator. The Senator's wife provides political cover for the university with the community, in return for which the university provides a previously non-existent and prestigious position to the Senator's wife, which allows her to funnel students into hard-left political groups that sometimes provide campaign workers to the Senator."

This kind of crackpot idea is both insane and loathsome. The "prestigious" position that Michelle Obama took was a relatively low-level administrative post with few resources. I know, I interviewed her at the time for a campus newspaper. The Community Services program was politically bland, not "hard-left" unless you're an extreme right-winger who thinks every group that helps people is vaguely communist.

The Ayers smear by Kurtz is part of a larger right-wing smear movement, such as the advertisement claiming that "Barack Obama is friends with Ayers, defending him as quote 'respectable' and 'mainstream.'"

This is false. Obama is not friends with Ayers. The proof offered is Axelrod calling them "friendly," which is not the same as friends. Obama is friendly to lots of people. Also, Obama never defended Ayers as "respectable" and "mainstream." His campaign posted a newspaper article which said that (and it's true).

But rather than admit that they're engaged in a low-life smear campaign without any proof, the far right has decided to claim that criticism of their actions is a form of repression. It's a sign of how low the conservative movement in America has sunk, where they refuse to engage in an honest debate of ideas.

Crossposted at ObamaPolitics and DailyKos.