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The Baltimore Sun

Presidential politics moved into the realm of character assassination this week with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's remark about Sen. Barack Obama "palling around with terrorists." The connection the Republican vice presidential candidate was making was to 1960s radical William Ayers, whom Mr. Obama knows chiefly because they both served on a charitable board involved in education reform.

Considering the Illinois senator has said he does not share the political views of the founder of the Weather Underground and describes him as "somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8," one would think the "palling around" claim beyond the pale.

Surely with a nation at war and the economy in crisis, there's something more worthwhile than making these kinds of unsubstantiated guilt-by-association charges. Wasn't Sen. John McCain supposed to be a different kind of Republican candidate?

Democrats will no doubt counter by reminding voters that Mr. McCain has his own rogues' gallery of acquaintances, including Charles H. Keating Jr., whose failed savings-and-loan roiled the financial markets (and rocked Mr. McCain's political career) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Keating may lack Mr. Ayers' counter-culture cache; he was just a crook in a nice suit. Such character assassination by association won't elevate the discourse, but one can hardly blame them for packing their own brand of mire to what's quickly evolving into a muck-slinging contest.

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