In the New York Times, Scott Shane has written a piece about Barack Obama and terrorist Bill Ayers that treats the men’s long collaborative relationship as no more than a case of coincidental meetings worthy of an implausibly bad sitcom script. The opening is a classic:
At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.
Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.
Their paths “crossed sporadically” at a party Ayers threw to launch Obama’s political career? Sure, no different from running into each other at a bus-stop.
In any case, 1995 is only the year Obama officially began serving on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge along with Ayers. It’s highly improbably that the two had not at least met before working together. For more on this go here.
Shamefully, the piece does not only serve as an alibi for Obama, but as a partial commutation of Ayers, as well.
Mr. Ayers has largely been rehabilitated.
Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family. His father, Thomas G. Ayers, had served as chief executive of Commonwealth Edison, the local power company.
Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.
“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, 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.”
Call me old-fashioned, but I judge a person by their decision as a legal adult to bomb American targets. I’m also not terribly interested in the charitable works of say, Josef Mengele, in his later years in South America. And even if I were interested in the entire works of Bill Ayers, I’d come up against his 2001 claim that, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
In the piece, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt says, “The suggestion that Ayers was a political adviser to Obama or someone who shaped his political views is patently false.” But Shane goes on to write,
“In 1997, after Mr. Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Mr. Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which Mr. Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.”
So: Obama read the book and derived enough benefit from it to praise it in an interview and give a blurb for its cover — but it didn’t influence his political thinking one iota.
Meanwhile, these two non-friends who share no political inclinations were once again tossed together by happenstance:
In addition, from 2000 to 2002, the two men also overlapped on the seven-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity that had supported Mr. Obama’s first work as a community organizer in the 1980s.
Just a two-year “overlap.” Nothing to see here. And never mind that also serving on the Woods Fund board were associates of Obama’s criminal buddy Tony Rezko and radical Palestinian academic Rashid Khalidi. Also, pay no mind to the fact that the Woods fund funneled money to left wing voter registration group ACORN and to Obama’s own wacky church, Trinity United of Christ.
Shane closes with a quote from no less a progressive personality than Tom Hayden:
“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”
Too far for me–on both counts.