A perfectly good fishing expedition gone to waste

A PERFECTLY GOOD FISHING EXPEDITION GONE TO WASTE…. Just yesterday, in a conference call, John McCain’s chief strategist and campaign manager, returned to the William Ayers issue. Desperate to change the subject away from the economy, Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis said Ayers, the ’60’s-era radical, and Barack Obama had a “greater relationship” than we’ve been led to believe. They didn’t have any evidence, but like their boss, they insisted they are right, whether the facts support it or not.

This morning, picking up where the campaign left off, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a 1,100-word piece from conservative writer Stanley Kurtz about Obama’s past with Ayers. The Journal gave it a provocative headline — “Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools” — and far-right blogs seem really excited about it.

So, what did Kurtz dig up? What new angles are there to explore? Have we learned anything of any consequence? I’m afraid conservatives looking for new dirt will have to look elsewhere.

First, the headline is unhelpful. After reading the article, I still don’t know what “radical” ideas Obama or anyone else pushed on schools.

Second, Kurtz had access to the everything he wanted, so if there’s dirt to be found, he was supposed to get it. Indeed, Kurtz demanded — and received — access to “the internal files” of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which he was certain would “illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers.”

And like Jason Zengerle, I went through Kurtz’s discovery looking for news. There wasn’t any. Ayers helped lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and Obama served on the CAC board, but evidence of this “relationship” remains elusive. Zengerle explained:

Well, lo and behold, Kurtz finally gained access to those 70 linear feet of material, and, judging by the op-ed he’s produced in today’s Wall Street Journal, it looks like he found less an inch worth of damning material. Not that Kurtz would admit as much. His WSJ article is titled “Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools,” but the evidence for that consists largely of scare quotes (“leadership,” “organized,” “external partners,” etc) and leaps of logic designed to substitute for actual evidence. […]

So Kurtz spends days wading through 70 linear feet of material, suffers lord knows how many paper cuts, and the best he can come up with is that Ayers was part of a five-person “working group” that signed off on Obama joining CAC’s board? That’s pretty weak.

There’s nothing to see here. Move along, move along.