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Barack Obama’s relationship with William Ayers is finally getting some play in the media due to a commercial being run by a 527 group, the American Issues Project. The ad itself is below. But first, watch this clip from a Hillary-Obama debate in Philadelphia earlier this year.

Hillary is prophetic of course. The Republicans will be mercilous. There was a great quote I saw on the internet the other day addressing how the Republican attack machine hasn’t been thrown into high gear yet: “But there is a very strange air about Republican operatives. In the last three weeks, I’ve talked to real insiders in VA, GA, AL and here. They all remind me of a unit waiting to cross the line of departure on an attack. Quiet, determined, last cigarette, last “can of peaches out of the ration,” radio checks, confident. They all use the term “safely nominated” when referring to Obama. That is weird.”

But not everyone is waiting. Here is the Ayers ad paid for by the American Issues Project. (Bonus points if you can name the other commercials the announcer is famous for. Answer here. And here. And here.)

Obama has fought back with his own ad, but he is not limiting his defense to the airwaves and stump speeches.

Sen. Barack Obama has launched an all-out effort to block a Republican billionaire’s efforts to tie him to domestic and foreign terrorists in a wave of negative television ads.

Obama’s campaign has written the Department of Justice demanding a criminal investigation of the “American Issues Project,” the vehicle through which Dallas investor Harold Simmons is financing the advertisements. The Obama campaign — and tens of thousands of supporters — also is pressuring television networks and affiliates to reject the ads. The effort has met with some success: CNN and Fox News are not airing the attacks.

My thoughts on the Obama/Ayers relationship are in a state of flux right now. I was in the process of drafting and including in this post a weak defense of the Obama/Ayers relationship based upon my minimal understanding of Chicago politics. On how Ayers was a part of the Chicago political elite that Obama had to join in order to advance his political ambitions.

Initially, I was ready to conclude that political reality required that no matter how talented or charismatic or well-spoken Obama is he needed to gain the acceptance of the political elite in order to get into Chicago politics.

The selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate has caused me to question that line of thinking. I need to take some time to reflect on Obama’s association to Chicago politics in light of Palin’s history attacking the Republican establishment in Alaska. If Palin could gain power by attacking the elite, then why couldn’t Obama?

That examination will be upcoming. In the mean-time I’ll focus solely on the free speech aspects of this issue.

Up until now I’ve had little to no opinion on campaign finance reform. I read that Republicans have never liked the law but I never understood why. They equated it with free speech and I never understood why.

Now I do.

That a candidate for the office of President of the United States can ask the Justice Department to investigate and shut down ads like this is not something that Americans can stand for. The issues in the ad are trivial, to the extent that an issue can be considered trivial in a close presidential election.

But the Obama campaign is not alleging any untruth in the ad itself. Obama does not deny the decade long working relationship which he has had with Ayers. As a result, this relationship is something that the American voter has a right to know about. If Obama can explain that relationship in satisfactory form, all the better.

That the news media is refusing to air these ads partially as a response to the threat of boycotts by Obama supporters would have bothered me more in the days before the internet. Today, that media is dying and no longer has a monopoly on conveying information to the public.

But I find it extremely problematic if the government were to make an attempt to shut down these ads.

Free speech cannot be curtailed in the name of campaign finance reform. One thing that we Americans do well is to let ideas compete with each other in a public forum. In this election, one of those ideas is that Barack Obama’s past associations should negatively weigh on his chances of becoming our president. That the Chicago politics that he cut his teeth on lies outside of mainstream America.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Its a question that each of us is asked to decide for ourselves. We can’t answer the question however if the government prevents it from even being asked.

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