McCain connections coming back to haunt him
Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday October 7, 2008

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Shared stage with abortion doc shooter sympathizer

John McCain, who along with his running mate has been attacking Obama over decade-old associations with unseemly figures, is not without his own nefarious associations.

One association, which seems to have gone unreported until now, involves a delegate who represented McCain at this year's Republican convention and previously expressed sympathy for an activist accused of shooting a doctor who performed abortions.

Applying the same logic as Sarah Palin, one could argue that the members of the GOP ticket are "palling around" with abortion clinic attack sympathizers, supporters of right-wing militants, perpetrators of political espionage and revolutionaries seeking to secede from the United States.

More attention is falling on the Arizona senator's own past since his attacks on Obama and former radical Bill Ayers. The Obama campaign's disquisition on Charles Keating just scratches the surface of what's out there, as reporters and liberal activists dig into McCain's web of connections.

Blogger Jed Lewison highlighted McCain's opposition to a 1994 law that made it a federal crime to bomb or blockade abortion clinics or to attack abortion doctors. McCain's vote against the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act put him in league with the Senate's most radical anti-abortion advocates, who split with more than two dozen anti-abortion senators who voted to crack down on clinic bombers as a matter of preserving law & order.

What's received less notice is where McCain was a few months before casting that vote.

In August 1993, McCain traveled to the Pacific Northwest where he earned the illustrious distinction of becoming the first major politician to address the ultra-far-right Oregon Citizens Alliance. He was apparently making good on a promise he had made to the group the year before as he and other GOP leaders negotiated to prevent the Christian conservatives from running a third-party candidate against Sen. Bob Packwood, who would resign a few years later amid a sex scandal.

The OCA attracted national attention in 1992 for sponsoring an anti-gay ballot initiative in Oregon, and McCain ignored advice to steer clear of the gathering. At the Portland fundraiser, McCain gently admonished the group to observe the "essence of tolerance," according to contemporaneous news reports.

His speech was preceded by some kind words for an anti-abortion activist accused of shooting a doctor.
McCain quickly got a first-hand flavor for the OCA. Marylin Shannon, the vice chairwoman of the Oregon GOP, had a spot on the program to give an opening prayer. In short order, she praised the Grants Pass woman accused of shooting an abortion doctor in Wichita and thanked the Lord ``for Lon Mabon and the vision you put in his heart.''
Shannon, the GOP chairwoman, referred to the accused shooter of the abortion doctor as a "fine lady," who shouldn't be judged solely based on the single act of violence, according to a letter she wrote to The Oregonian, which was accessed via Lexis Nexis.

While she did not endorse violence against abortion providers, she wrote, she recognized the "debate stirring within the anti-abortion movement" over whether killing abortion providers was a "just cause."
My kind comments about Shelley Shannon, the Grants Pass woman accused of wounding abortion provider George Tiller, (``I'm not related to Shelley Shannon, but I think she's a fine lady,'') reflected what I had learned about her from people who have known her for many years. They say she has led a responsible life as a wife, mother and concerned citizen and don't want her judged by this one action.

Acknowledging this side of her does not meant that I approve of others doing what she did. I do not. However, since that night I have learned much about the current debate stirring within the anti-abortion movement: Is killing abortion providers a ``just cause''?

There's no indication that McCain took issue with Shannon's comments, and it's unclear whether any group members lobbied him regarding the abortion clinic protection bill. A search of the Congressional Record in 1993 and 1994 indicates McCain did not speak during debate over the bill, and McCain's campaign did not immediately return RAW STORY's request for comment.

Shannon traveled to the Republican convention as a McCain delegate, and she proclaimed herself a huge fan of Palin as McCain's VP pick. She could not be reached for comment.

To be sure, there is nothing to suggest that McCain supports bombing abortion clinics. But there's also nothing to suggest Obama supports the Weather Underground bombings, which by the way were carried out when he was 8 years old. McCain at least was a sitting member of Congress who took a legislative position on clinic bombings when they were a current issue.

Other ties McCain might prefer to forget include his membership on the board of the US Council for World Freedom, which The Associated Press describes as "part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America."

McCain was something of a de facto member of the group as he launched his political career in the early 1980s, just one of several prominent "names on a letterhead," as the council's founder told AP. But, that membership at least seemed to indicate a tacit endorsement of its goals in Central America, supporting the contras.
Elected to the House in 1982 and at a time when he was on the board of Singlaub's council, McCain was among Republicans on Capitol Hill expressing support for the Contras, a CIA-organized guerrilla force in Central America. In 1984, Congress cut off CIA funds for the Contras.

Months before the cutoff, top Reagan administration officials ramped up the secret White House-directed supply network and put National Security Council aide Oliver North in charge of running it. The goal was to keep the Contras operational until Congress could be persuaded to resume CIA funding.
[Retired Army Maj. Gen. John] Singlaub's private group became the public cover for the White House operation.
McCain says he was unaware of the full extent of the group's activities and claims to have resigned from the council in 1984 and asked to have his name removed from its letterhead two years later. According to AP, that's all news to founder Singlaub.

"I don't ever remember hearing about his resigning, but I really wasn't worried about that part of our activities, a housekeeping thing," Singlaub said. "If he didn't want to be on the board that's OK. It wasn't as if he had been active participant and we were going to miss his help. He had no active interest. He certainly supported us."

Earlier this year, when Obama's past connection to Ayers first crept into national headlines, some observers began to remember McCain's "own Bill Ayers -- in the form of G. Gordon Liddy." The Watergate break-in mastermind, who spent more than four years in prison for his crimes, has called McCain an "old friend" and hosted the candidate on his conservative talk radio show.

Palin, McCain's running mate whose "gloves off" approach has aided Ayers return to the headlines is not without her own questionable connections. Her husband is a past member of the Alaska Independence Party, and she has addressed the group on several occasions. The party's goal is Alaska's secession from the United States and its founder has said "the fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government."

Beyond a 13-minute documentary on Keating, who was a key player in the savings & loan crisis of the late 1980s, the Obama campaign doesn't seem too concerned about publicly digging for dirt in McCain's past.

Economic concerns have spurred a spectacular rise in Obama's poll numbers, and a struggling McCain campaign seems to be doing all it can to stop the election from slipping away.