Palin says Obama friendly with terrorists

Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin accused Democratic candidate Barack Obama on Saturday of ”palling around with terrorists,” marking a shift to a nastier tone in the White House race.

The remark was dismissed by Obama as ”gutter politics” but appeared to reflect an effort by Senator John McCain’s campaign to target Obama’s judgement as the Illinois senator solidifies his national lead and gains an edge in vital battleground states a month before the November 4 election.

It came shortly after McCain’s campaign called Obama a liar and just days after both candidates urged Congress to set aside partisan politics to pass a $700-billion financial rescue package in a bid to revive credit markets.

”There is a time when it’s necessary to take the gloves off and that time is right now,” Palin told thousands of supporters at a rally in a sports arena in Carson, California.

Earlier at a fundraiser in Englewood, Colorado, she departed from her usual speech to question Obama’s character.

”Our opponent though is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he is palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” Palin said of Obama, also calling him an embarrassment.

Palin cited a New York Times story on Saturday that examined Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Vietnam War-era militant Weather Underground organisation who is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Times concluded they were not close.

In Costa Mesa, California, after raising $2-million from donors, the Alaska governor said she and McCain would ”start to tell Americans more and more aggressively, I guess, about the choices” in the election.

The tougher tone comes as McCain struggles to move the theme of the election away from the economy, an issue that has helped Obama build leads in key states, including several won by Republicans in the last presidential election in 2004.

Obama spokesperson Hari Sevugan said, ”Today, the McCain-Palin team took their discredited, dishonorable campaign one desperate step further, announcing that they were going to try ‘turning a page on this financial crisis’ and launching more personal attacks on Senator Obama.”

”Instead of offering solutions for working Americans and families struggling through a failing economy, they have offered more gutter politics and false attacks,” he said in a statement.

‘Bald-faced lie’
Speaking at a fundraiser in Asheville, North Carolina, on Saturday night, Obama made no direct reference to Palin’s remarks but told supporters he would continue to run a positive campaign.

”Most of all [people] are tired of the politics of distraction, the politics of division … that says that the way to win an election is simply to run nasty ads and lie about their opponents,” he said.

Obama served with Ayers on the board of a foundation in Chicago, and has said he was only eight-years-old when the Weather Underground committed its best-known bombing. He has also noted that former president Bill Clinton pardoned two members of the group during the last days of his presidency.

Earlier, McCain’s campaign called Obama a bald-faced liar in reference to how he characterised the Republican’s plan to reform health insurance.

”When you read the fine print, it’s clear that John McCain is pulling an old Washington bait and switch. It’s a shell game,” Obama said of McCain’s plan to reform health insurance.

”He gives you a tax credit with one hand but he raises your taxes with the other,” Obama told about 18 000 supporters in Newport News, Virginia.

McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds shot back: ”Barack Obama is lying to voters. … It’s a bald-faced lie.”

After a week where congressional negotiations over the financial rescue package dominated the campaign, Obama had hoped to use his rally in Virginia to refocus the political discourse on health insurance and economic policy.

About 45-million Americans live without coverage and others worry about losing coverage if they lose their jobs in the economic slump.

Both campaigns say they will improve access to health insurance and make care more affordable. On Saturday, both campaigns derided the other’s plan as ”radical”.

McCain and Obama will get to spar in person on Tuesday when they meet for the second of three nationally televised presidential debates, this one in Nashville, Tennessee. – Reuters

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