WESTERVILLE, Ohio — John McCain ducked a direct invitation this morning to criticize Barack Obama over Obama’s relationship with his one-time pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
"The issue of Pastor Wright has been pretty well known" by Americans, McCain told Jewish Americans on a telephone conference call this morning, when asked by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin why he won’t "hammer" Obama hard for this association. Riskin, from Brooklyn, is a leading rabbi in Efrat, Israel, where he resides.
McCain told the listeners that his campaign is more interested in highlighting Obama’s relationship with one-time Chicago radical William Ayers, saying the issue is whether the Illinois Democrat has given a "complete account" of his relationship with someone McCain described as an unrepentant terrorist.
The comment reflected McCain’s general uneasiness about trying to go after Obama and Wright, despite a desire by many in his campaign that he make more of an issue of Wright’s incendiary statements, which were a source of controversy during the Democratic primary.
On Fox News Sunday, McCain also vigorously defended the robocalls his campaign has been making about Ayers and said they were quite different from calls attacking him during the 2000 GOP primary in South Carolina. Some Republicans, like Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have called for the campaign to stop the calls, but McCain told host Chris Wallace he would not do so.
"These are legitimate and truthful, and they are far different than the phone calls that were made about my family" in 2000, McCain said.
During the call with Jewish leaders, McCain and his friend, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), also tried to reassure Jewish voters about running mate Sarah Palin, whose association with the Wasilla Bible Church has worried some Jews. Lieberman said Palin holds some views on social issues that he does not agree with — but that she is "respectful" of different views. He hailed her "deep love for the state of Israel."
"Luke Ford reports all of the 'juicy' quotes, and has been doing it for years." (Marc B. Shapiro)
"This guy knows all the gossip, the ins and outs, the lashon hara of the Orthodox world. He’s an [expert] in... all the inner workings of the Orthodox world." (Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff)
"This generation's Hillel." (Nathan Cofnas)