Commentary Magazine


Ayers’s Delusions

I never thought the Bill Ayers-Obama connection was significant enough to make Obama a problematic candidate. (This connection seems of even less importance considering Obama’s initial weak response to the Blagojevich scandal). Obama has had some troubling connections, but Ayers isn’t the most problematic of the bunch. However, Ayers himself is a different story. Throughout the campaign, the press treated him with shameful indifference. Today, finally, Charles Lane of the Washington Post gives Ayers the treatment he deserves – calmly, politely, and without political bias.

Ayers seemed to interpret Obama’s victory as confirmation of his own decency. Last week, in a long and sanctimonious article published by the New York Times, Ayers labeled those concerned about his relationship with Obama silly hacks playing silly pre-election politics. He was almost magnanimous in tone, as if willing to forgive his detractors their idiocy:

With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.

Unfortunately – and unwisely – instead of sticking to that strategy, Ayers decided to speak up.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

“Some people might buy this, but not if they know the actual history,” writes Lane today. He exposes Ayers’s posturing and destroys the credibility of the New York Times piece:

As Todd Gitlin, a former ’60s leftist and a historian of the period, put it: “They planned on being terrorists. Then their bomb blew up and killed several of them and they thought better of it. They were failed terrorists.”

Ayers told me this week that he did not know about the nail bomb in advance — and condemned it afterward. I take him at his word. So why obfuscate in the Times? Editors cut the article, he protested — before conceding that his original version left it out, too.

The former terrorist mellowed into a self-righteous liar.