Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama and Bill Ayers

Caribou Barbie's (Sarah Palin for those of you who never listen to Mike Malloy) latest wink fest is to try and once again associate Barack Obama with former Weather Underground radical William Ayers (now, a respected education Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois). This says more about the total and complete bankruptcy of the McCain-Palin campaign than anything else, but if there is even one right-brained reader of this blog who is convinced by such calumny, I suggest that you check out the article in yesterday's NY Times entitled "Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths."

First and foremost, Barack Obama was 8 years old when Bill Ayers was plotting and carrying out acts of violence. As Steven Benen reports in the Washington Monthly:

"OBAMA AND SOME GUY HE BARELY KNOWS.... About a week or so ago, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran an 1,100-word piece from conservative writer Stanley Kurtz about Barack Obama's past with 1960's-era radical William Ayers. The Journal gave it a provocative headline -- 'Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools' -- and far-right blogs got really excited about it.

"There was one small problem: Kurtz, after exhaustive research, couldn't find any meaningful dirt.

"But the hunger for a scandal remains, and unhinged Republicans just know there's more to this story, if only major media outlets would bother to keep digging. So, the New York Times kept digging, and published a 2,100-word piece today, detailing the 'crossed paths' of Obama and Ayers. Presumably, the report is intended, and will no doubt be used, to push the Ayers "story" back into the political discussion of the day.

"And yet, there's that problem again: the Times couldn't find any meaningful dirt, either."

Even if Ayers is somewhat less than repentant about his past bombing days (and it is certainly arguable about which is a more an act of violence - blowing up statues and parts of buildings without loss of a single human life or shooting wolves, an endangered species, from airplanes), he is clearly no advocate of "terrorism."

From Wikipedia:
"Much of the controversy about Ayers during the decade since the year 2000 stems from an interview he gave to the New York Times on the occasion of the memoir's publication.[18] The reporter quoted him as saying 'I don't regret setting bombs" and "I feel we didn't do enough', and, when asked if he would 'do it all again' as saying 'I don't want to discount the possibility.'[14] Ayers has not denied the quotes, but he protested the interviewer's characterizations in a Letter to the Editor published September 15, 2001: 'This is not a question of being misunderstood or 'taken out of context', but of deliberate distortion.'[19] In the ensuing years, Ayers has repeatedly avowed that when he said he had 'no regrets' and that 'we didn't do enough' he was speaking only in reference to his efforts to stop the United States from waging the Vietnam War, efforts which he has described as '. . . inadequate [as] the war dragged on for a decade.'[20] Ayers has maintained that the two statements were not intended to imply a wish they had set more bombs.[20][21] The interviewer also quoted some of Ayers' own criticism of Weatherman in the foreword to the memoir, whereby Ayers reacts to having watched Emile de Antonio's 1976 documentary film about Weatherman, Underground: '[Ayers] was 'embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way. The rigidity and the narcissism.' [14]

"'We weren't terrorists,' Ayers told an interviewer for the Chicago Tribune in 2001. 'The reason we weren't terrorists is because we did not commit random acts of terror against people. Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States.'[2] In a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune, Ayers wrote, 'I condemn all forms of terrorism — individual, group and official'. He also condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks in that letter. 'Today we are witnessing crimes against humanity on our own shores on an unthinkable scale, and I fear that we may soon see more innocent people in other parts of the world dying in response.'"[22]

While Professor Bill Ayers is not universally beloved in Chicago, here's what the mayor has to say about him:

“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago’s mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.

“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”

For me the most interesting reference to Bill Ayers that I have come across was in a marvelous and inspiring book called "Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation", by Eboo Patel, "On Faith" columnist for the Washington Post and the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international non-profit dedicated to building the interfaith youth movement. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Patel speak at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale this past summer. He is a young, profoundly religious man man who has dedicated his life to setting up institutions that, on one hand, PREVENT the conversion of youth into terrorists. In his acknowledgments, Patel thanks Bill Ayers for convincing him to tell his story.

Finally, if Ms Palin has been chosen to keep this the fires lit under the overblown relationship of Barack Obama with a man who, frankly, I would have no problem associating with today, then I suggest that we Democrats bring something to the table, too.

Todd Palin, the "first dude," is a former member of the Alaska Independence Party, an association of anti-American secessionists. Sarah Palin charges that Obama "is not a man who sees America as you and I do." Does Sarah see America like her husband did, to quote Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic "comfortable belonging to and being associated with a political party whose founder seemed to delight in denouncing the principles that hold our union together?"

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