Random (aka Random Lurker) is a long-time commenter here. (He doesn’t have a blog of his own, or I’d provide a link. Random prefers to make mischief on other people’s blogs.)
I’m impressed that Random has toughed it out with me, given that we come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
I aim to promote respectful, constructive dialogue among people who disagree with each others’ views. Accordingly, I asked Random if he would like to offer a guest post on Barack Obama’s association with William Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground.
Readers already know that I enthusiastically support Barack Obama as the next president of the USA. In this guest post, Random (a McCain supporter) explains why he believes Barack Obama deserves to be destroyed.
TERRORISM IS NOT A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
Why Barack Obama’s choice of Friends matters.
On Friday, March 6th 1970 in a townhouse in Greenwich Village a group of terrorists of the Weather Underground were assembling bombs. The intended target was a dance for NCOs and their dates at Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. However something went wrong, and one of the bombs exploded during assembly killing three of the putative terrorists, Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins. Two other members of the group, Kathy Boudin and Cathlyn Wilkerson, escaped with minor wounds and managed to evade arrest in the confusion. This would in the event turn out to be the joint largest loss of life in any Weather Underground operation (a joint WU and Black Panther bank raid in 1981 also featuring Boudin would also kill three people), however if it had gone ahead as planned it would have killed hundreds more.
On the same day in Detroit 34 sticks of dynamite planted in the 34th Police District headquarters by William Ayers (Oughton’s boyfriend at the time) and Bernadette Dohrn were discovered before they can go off, Ayers and Dohrn (like Boudin and Wilkerson) went into hiding in the aftermath. “Some Weathermen were ready to be mass murderers” in the words of Todd Gitlin, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society, from which organisation the Weathermen splintered.
Fast-forward ten years. Over this period the Weathermen carry out a string of other attacks (though after Greenwich village they are rather more careful about avoiding casualties) and in May of 1970 a communiqué issued by Dorhn in the name of the WU justified the group’s turn towards violence as a “Declaration of a State of War against the United States Government”. Dorhn and Ayers also got married during this period, and finally turned themselves in to the authorities in 1981. All charges against Ayers were dropped owing to prosecutorial misconduct, whilst Dorhn pled guilty to several minor charges and received probation (she would later spend several months in prison for refusing to testify against Boudin and others after the Brinks robbery of 1981, for which Boudin received a life sentence, not being paroled until 2003).
Fast-forward a few more years, and Ayers and Dohrn have turned respectable. They have graduated from college and taken up a variety of educational posts and enjoy a comfortable social life in the sort of tolerant liberal circles where a declaration of war on the United States and a campaign of violence organised on Marxist-Leninist principles in furtherance of it is regarded as a minor character flaw, at most. In 1995 Ayers played a crucial role in the setting up of the Chicago Annenberg Fund, which during its history would donate something like $49M in grants to improve education in Chicago. As the first Director of the fund Ayers picked a rising young Chicago politician called Barack Obama, who would stay involved with the fund in one capacity or another until 2003.
Ayers was evidently impressed by Obama, for around the same time he and Dohrn hosted a fundraiser for Obama’s first run for the Illinois state senate. (Note that although it’s clear what Obama gained from these early acquaintances, it’s less clear what Ayers gained – the Annenberg fund was basically a failure and although many of the people involved with it are lavish with praise for Ayer’s role in setting up the fund Obama’s name comes up much less often.) The two men stayed in regular contact over the next few years, with Ayers joining Obama in 1999 on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an organisation Obama had been on the board of since 1993. Obama’s role in getting Ayers the Woods job is unclear, but the board of such non-profit organisations are usually elected and we can be sure that as an absolute minimum Obama did not veto his membership.
Fast forward a few more years, to September 11th 2001 when with exquisite timing Ayers has written a book and is being interviewed by the New York Times. Asked if he has any regrets about his terrorist past he says “I don’t regret setting bombs” and “I feel we didn’t do enough”, and, when asked if he would “do it all again” says “I don’t want to discount the possibility.” These remarks do not seem to trouble Barack Obama however, who continues to be associated with Ayers on the Woods fund until at least 2002.
Fast forward one last time, to April 2008 and Barack Obama is running for President of the United States and is finally receiving some hostile scrutiny about his links with one of America’s more notorious home-grown terrorists. This relationship of more than seven years standing is dismissed with the words “This is a guy who lives in my neighbourhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from”. He added that to suggest “knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense.” (Obama was born in August 1961, which does indeed make him 8 years old at the time of the events that opened this article. He was however at least 18 when the authorities finally caught up with Ayers and Dohrn and was probably in his early twenties when Dohrn – arguably the more extreme and dangerous of the pair, who is not mentioned at all in his apologia – was serving time for her peripheral involvement in the Brinks robbery.) Incidentally, Obama certainly knew at this point that Ayers was a professor of Education, not English. So why the mistake? Panic, or an attempt to pretend he knew less about Ayers than he actually did?
In Ireland during the long years of terrorism there, there emerged a fairly common stereotype of figures on the more nationalist end of the spectrum who would disown the use of violence themselves but who would profess an understanding of the motives of those who did resort to violence. The delightful expression “sneaking regarder” (as in “I would never do such things myself, but I have a sneaking regard for the boys who do”) was coined for such people. Is Barack Obama a sneaking regarder? There is on balance no real evidence for this – although his long association with Ayers does not offer encouragement in this regard. What is clear however is that Obama was comfortable with moving amongst people who certainly were (Ayers’ – and Dohrn’s – career is frankly difficult to explain in any other way than the patronage of such a group) and saw no problems with soliciting their support.
Obama was comfortable in being associated with Ayers for many years whilst he was rising through the ranks of a Chicago Democratic political scene that saw left wing anti-American terrorism as at worst a symptom of youthful over-enthusiasm. Now however he is running for President of the United States, and is finding that the majority of the population do not see such activities in such an indulgent light. Barack Obama is friends with people who once declared war on the United States, and does not seem to understand why this is outrageous in someone who wants to be president. You can tell a lot about someone from his choice of friends. What this friendship reveals is that when it comes to the ethical standards required to be president, Obama has work to do and no understanding that he needs to do it.
If a Republican candidate had had a friendship of many years standing with somebody who had bombed abortion clinics and protected armed robbers and who didn’t regret it and refused to rule out doing it again, and furthermore if the candidate showed no real understanding as to why this association was repugnant to normal civilised standards then that Republican would quite rightly be destroyed by the link. Barack Obama deserves to be destroyed for his links with the Weathermen.