Conservatives blast Obama for ties to ex-Weatherman
Chad Livengood • News-Leader • August 25, 2008
Conservative commentators in this presidential election have railed
on Sen. Barack Obama for his association with Bill Ayers, an
unrepentant 1960s radical who bombed the Pentagon as part of the
Weathermen terrorist group.
On Thursday, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn appeared at Bass Pro Shops
Outdoor World in Springfield for a "Sportsmen for John McCain" event
with McCain supporters.
When asked what stories the national media have not covered in this
election campaign, Coburn brought up the Obama-Ayers connection.
Ayers, who is now an English professor at the University of Illinois
at Chicago, lives in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood with Obama.
They served together on the board of a Chicago-based charity. Obama
left the board in December 2002. Obama also was the first chairman of
a Chicago school reform group Ayers founded.
Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's state Senate campaign in 2001 and
once hosted a meet-the-candidate party for Obama in the mid-1990s.
When Obama was asked about his relation with Ayers at a primary
debate in April, he questioned the relevance of ABC's George
"The notion that somehow as a consequence of me 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 said.
Obama then brought Coburn into the debate.
"The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most
conservative Republicans in the United States Senate," Obama said,
"who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to
apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."
Coburn made it obvious Obama's dodge-and-spin from the question burns
him to this day.
"He said 'I'm a friend of Tom Coburn and he thinks people who kill
babies ought to have a consequence,'" Coburn told McCain supporters.
Coburn said Obama should level with the American people why he
remains associated with Ayers, who after the Sept. 11 attacks made
headlines when he told the Chicago Tribune that the Weathermen
"weren't terrorists ... 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."
The Weathermen group, which bombed the U.S. Capitol in 1971, never
killed innocent people with their bombs -- but members of the group
did blow themselves up during bomb production.
"Here's a faculty professor who still professes almost-Marxism in
Chicago, and yet he is a confidant of Barack Obama," Coburn said.
"Why shouldn't Barack answer that question?"
Send political news and announcements to reporter Chad Livengood at
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Obama Needs to Explain His Ties to William Ayers
August 22, 2008
In my U.S. News column this week, I make a brief reference to the
unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist bomber William Ayers and
his connections to Barack Obama. They were closer than Obama implied
when George Stephanopoulos asked him about Ayers in the April 16
debatethe last debate Obama allowed during the primary season. To
get an idea of how close they were, check out Tom Maguire's Just One
Minute blog and Steve Diamond's Global Labor and Politics. The
Obama-Ayers relationship is also mentioned in David Freddoso's The
Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of
the Media's Favorite Candidate.
Ayers was one of the original grantees of the Chicago Annenberg
Challenge, a school reform organization in the 1990s, and was
cochairman of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, one the two
operational arms of the CAC. Obama, then not yet a state senator,
became chairman of the CAC in 1995. Later in that year, the first
organizing meeting for Obama's state Senate campaign was held in
Ayers's apartment. Ayers later wrote a memoir, and an article about
him appeared in the New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001. "I don't regret
setting bombs," Ayers is quoted as saying. "I feel we didn't do enough."
Ayers was a terrorist in the late 1960s and 1970s whose radical group
set bombs at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
You might wonder what Obama was doing working with a character like
this. And you might wonder how an unrepentant terrorist got a huge
grant and cooperation from the Chicago public school system. You
might wonderif you don't know Chicago. For this is a city with a
civic culture in which politicians, in the words of a story often
told by former congressman, federal judge, and Clinton White House
counsel Abner Mikva, "don't want nobody nobody sent." That's what
Mikva remembers being told when he went to a Democratic ward
headquarters to volunteer for Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s, and it
rings true. And it's a civic culture in which there's nobody better
to send you than your parents.
That's how William Ayers got where he was. When he came out of hiding
because the federal government was unable to prosecute him (because
of government misconduct), he got a degree in education from Columbia
and then moved to Chicago and got a job on the education faculty of
the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle. How did he get that job?
Well, it can't have hurt that his father, Thomas Ayers, was chairman
of Commonwealth Edison (now Exelon) and a charter member of the
Chicago establishment. As Mayor Richard M. Daley said recently, in
arguing that the Ayers association should not be held against Obama,
"His father was a great friend of my father."
In none of our other major cities is genealogy so important. I
remember a story that Bill Plante of CBS News has often told. Plante
was working for WBBM, the Chicago CBS-owned and -operated affiliate,
during the violence-plagued Democratic National Convention. At a
press conference, he asked the late Mayor Richard J. Daley a question
"da mare" thought was impertinent. Daley's answer was, "Sometimes
even in the best of families there's a bad apple." It baffled the
members of the national press, but not those from Chicago. Plante's
father and brother were Democratic precinct committeemen in the 49th
Ward. The late Mayor Daley had the whole city of Chicago in his head.
It is only natural that his son should vouch for someone by saying
that their fathers were great friends.
The voters of Chicago and Illinois respect family ties in a way that
voters in no other state or city do. The current Mayor Daley is, of
course, the son of the late Mayor Daley; the two Daleys have been
mayors, and effective and competent mayors, of Chicago for 40 of the
last 53 years. The attorney general of Illinois is the daughter of
the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. The governor of
Illinois is the son-in-law of the Democratic ward committeeman in the
33rd Ward. The congressman from the 2nd Congressional District is
Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson's predecessor-but-one in the district was
Morgan Murphy Jr., whose father was chairman of (get this) Commonwealth Edison.
But my favorite example of the importance of family ties is 3rd
District Rep. Dan Lipinski, who was first elected in 2004 to replace
his father, Bill Lipinski, who was first elected in 1982. Bill
Lipinski won the Democratic nomination in the March 2004 primary. But
on August 13, he announced he would not seek re-election and would
resign the Democratic nomination. The deadline for replacing him was
August 26, and a meeting was set on August 17 for the 19th Ward and
township Democratic committeemen to choose a new candidate. Lipinski
announced his support for his son, who was then a professor of
political science at the University of Tennessee and had not lived in
Chicago for many years. Among the committeemen making the decision
were: 11th Ward committeeman and County Commissioner John Daley, son
of the late mayor and brother of the current mayor; 13th Ward
committeeman Michael Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House and
father of Attorney General Lisa Madigan; 14th Ward committeeman
Edward Burke, who succeeded his father as a council member in his 20s
and and was longtime chairman of the Finance Committee, and whose
wife is a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court; 19th Ward
committeeman Tom Hynes, former Cook County Assessor and father of
Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes; and 23rd Ward committeeman Bill
Lipinski. An electorate more averse to an argument against nepotism
cannot be imagined. Lipinski advanced his son's name and said, "I'm
optimistic, but one never knows in politics until the votes are
counted." It did not take long to count them: Dan Lipinski was
nominated without opposition. To the charge that the nomination was
rigged, one participant dryly noted that anyone could have run.
To which it should be added that Dan Lipinski has since won two
seriously contested Democratic primaries to hold the seat
(Republicans are not a factor in this district). One reason that
Chicago and Illinois voters have acquiesced to the politics of
nepotism is that its productsor many of themare quite competent.
Mayor Richie Daley, if I can call him that, has on the whole been an
excellent mayor. Edward Burke is a cultured man of high intellect.
Michael Madigan seems to be a solidly competent sort, and for all I
know his daughter is, too. Dan Rostenkowski was a highly competent
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for 14 years, until he
was laid low by a bit of cheap chiseling; at that point he and his
father had been the 32nd Ward committeemen for just about 60 years.
(The younger Rostenkowski got his seat in the House in 1958 because
his father, Joe Rostenkowski, had supported the late Mayor Daley in
the 1955 Democratic primary against fellow Polish-American Benjamin
Adamowski.) There are exceptions. Many political observers would put
Rod Blagojevich, the son-in-law of 33rd Ward committeeman Dick Mell,
on the top of the list of the nation's dumbest governors. But then,
for Chicago, it has always been more important who is mayor than who
is governor (not to mention out-of-town jobs like U.S. senator).
Which leads us back to Barack Obama, who is now a U.S. senator and
will shortly become the Democratic nominee for an office that even
Chicago regards as more important than mayor. And the question
presents itself: How did this outsider from Hawaii and Columbia and
Harvard become somebody somebody sent? His wife, Michelle Robinson
Obama, had some connections: Her father was (I believe) a Democratic
precinct committeeman, she baby-sat for Jesse Jackson's children, and
she worked as a staffer for the current Mayor Daley. Obama made
connections on the all-black South Side by joining the Rev. Jeremiah
Wright's church. But was Obama's critical connection to le tout
Chicago William Ayers? That's the conclusion you are led to by Steve
Diamond's blog. And by the fact that the National Review's Stanley
Kurtz was suddenly denied access to the records of the Chicago
Annenberg Challenge by the Richard J. Daley Library at the University
of Illinois-Chicago Circle. (Kurtz had already been given an index to
the records.) Presumably the CAC records would show a closer
collaboration between Ayers and Obama than was suggested by Obama's
response to Stephanopoulos that Ayers was just a guy "in the neighborhood."
The increasingly sharp McCain campaign had the wit to ask the
University of Illinois to open up the CAC records. But it doesn't
seem likely the university will open them up; as John Kass puts it in
a characteristically pungent column in the Chicago Tribune, "Welcome
to Chicago, Mr. Kurtz."
Does it matter if William Ayers was the key somebody who made Barack
Obama a somebody somebody sent? I think it does. Not that Obama
shares all of Ayers's views, which surely he does not. Or that he
endorses Ayers's criminal acts, which, as he has pointed out, were
committed while he was a child in Hawaii and Indonesia. But his
willingness to associate with an unrepentant terrorist is not the
same as Daley's (expressed, as George W. Bush's thoughts are, in
disjointed prose but the product of a considerable intellect and
"Bill Ayers, I've said this, his father was a great friend of my
father. I'll be very frank. Vietnam divided families, divided people.
It was a terrible time of our country. It really separated people.
People didn't know one another. Since then, I'll be very frank,
(Ayers) has been in the forefront on a lot of education issues and
helping us in public schools and things like that.
"People keep trying to align himself with Barack Obama. It's really
unfortunate. They're friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the
past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects
back and he's been making a strong contribution to our community."
For Daley, family is paramount, and Ayers is admitted into le tout
Chicago because his father is one of its pillars. And electoral
politics is also paramount: In a city that is roughly 40 percent (and
falling) white ethnic and 40 percent black, with an increasing
gentrified white population, the current Mayor Daley has maintained
very strong support from lakefront liberals, including the Hyde
Park/Kenwood leftists like Ayers who were the original movers behind
Obama's 1996 state Senate candidacy. It's in Daley's interest to work
with these people and against his interest to do anything that seems
like disrespecting them. As Bill Daley told me when I asked him some
years ago whether his father would have approved of Richie marching
in the gay rights parade, "Our father always told us when a group was
big enough to control a ward, we should pay attention to them."
Staying mayor is real important to Daley, and Daley staying mayor is
real important to le tout Chicago. An unrepentant terrorist? Hey, we
know your dad. And you control the 5th Ward.
For Obama, the outsider who gained the trust of the insiders, the
position is different. He was willing to use Ayers and ally with him
despite his terrorist past and lack of repentance. An unrepentant
terrorist, who bragged of bombing the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon,
was a fit associate. Ayers evidently helped Obama gain insider status
in Chicago civic life and politicshow much, we can't be sure unless
the Richard J. Daley Library opens the CAC archive. But most American
politicians would not have chosen to associate with a man with
Ayers's past or of Ayers's beliefs. It's something voters might
reasonably want to take into account.
Obama's Radical Friends And What They Reveal
Those who oppose Democrat Presidential Barack Obama often express
their doubts about him as a simple question: "Who is he?" But it is
more than just a question. It is a worry, and for many good reasons.
One reason is the University of Illinois' refusing to release records
of Mr. Obama's affiliation with a non-profit outfit under the command
of former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. The Weather
Underground, you may recall, was that group of fine young Americans
skipping thither and yon tossing bombs and killing cops during that
infantile conniption known as "the '60s."
What should concern everyone about Mr. Obama isn't just Mr. Ayers,
although this unpunished formerly hirsute bomb-thrower is bad enough.
It is Mr. Obama's lifelong, abiding infatuation with radical leftists
and at least one outright communist. Throughout his career, Mr. Obama
hasn't just bumped into these characters by accident. He sought their
friendship. He sought their advice. And he sought their help.
Aside from Mr. Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, another
unrepentant America-hating leftist, we have that inestimable guru of
black liberation theology, Jeremiah Wright. Mr. Obama's connection to
this vile character is a serious concern, just as a direct connection
between John McCain and a Christian Identity minister would be a
When the media revealed Mr. Wright's "god damn America" speech, Mr.
Obama did nothing. Not until Mr. Wright became an obvious political
liability did Mr. Obama jettison the crazed lunatic. Aside from that,
we have Mr. Obama's tortured explanations that he doesn't believe
"black liberation theology," that he never heard Mr. Wright's
incendiary anti-American and anti-white sermons, and that the man who
made racially inflammatory speeches was a different man from the one
Mr. Obama knew. Those dogs just won't hunt.
Mr. Obama sat in Mr. Wright's pews for 20 years. Mr. Wright
officiated at Mr. Obama's wedding. He baptized Mr. Obama's children.
Truth is, Mr. Obama knew exactly what Mr. Wright believed, and he
attended the church despite it. Indeed, he may have attended the
church because of it. So much for Mr. Obama's minister.
Another of the influences in Mr. Obama's formation, we now know, was
a fellow named Frank Marshall Davis, whom Mr. Obama describes in his
flimsy autobiography, "Dreams Of My Father," as a veritable Grandpa
Walton "with his books and whiskey breath and the hint of hard-earned
knowledge behind the hooded eyes." Mr. Davis, the ever accurate and
enlightening Associated Press reported, was a "left-leaning poet" to
whom Mr. Obama turned as a mentor when the presidential candidate
grew up in Hawaii.
The simple truth belies the benign caricature of Davis as an old
geezer who took a snort while dispensing the wisdom of the ages. Mr.
Davis wasn't just "left-leaning." He was card-carrying Red, a member
of the Communist Party USA, the most slavishly pro-Soviet communist
party on the planet. Indeed, the "left-leaning" Davis was a communist
at a time when Josef Stalin and his apostles of death were murdering
millions. Space here does not permit a full recitation of Mr. Davis'
career. Suffice it say that Mr. Obama didn't have much problem with
Mr. Davis, who advocated the violent overthrow of the country Mr.
Obama now seeks to lead.
Now, if Sen. John McCain had repeatedly affiliated himself with
cosmically radical lunatics, you can bet the media would cover the
story. But leaving aside that truth and the question of why the AP
covered up Mr. Davis' communist affiliation, one must question the
ideology of a man who is bosom pals with terrorists, race hustlers
and communists. He hung out with Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn for years.
He attended Mr. Wright's church for two decades. And his mentor was
an apologist for Stalin.
Who is Barack Obama? The answer is no mystery.
Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons finances anti-Obama ad
DENVER – A Dallas billionaire who helped bankroll the Swift Boat
Veterans attack on John Kerry is the sole funder of a new television
ad linking Barack Obama to a 1960s radical antiwar group.
Harold Simmons gave $2.88 million to the American Issues Project,
which is using the money to air the ad, according to Federal Election
The commercial raises questions about Mr. Obama's relationship with
William Ayers, a University of Chicago professor who three decades
ago was a member of the Weather Underground.
The 60-second spot is playing in Ohio and Michigan, two swing states
where Mr. Obama and John McCain are running close in the polls.
The Obama campaign cried foul.
"It's not surprising that the smear peddlers that bankrolled the
Swift Boat lies four years ago on behalf of George Bush are once
again using old-fashioned Washington tactics to lie about Barack
Obama on behalf of John McCain," said Obama spokeswoman Shannon Gilson.
Christian Pinkston of the American Issues Project defended the ad as
accurate and well-documented.
"This is an issue of substance," said Mr. Pinkston, who also worked
for Swift Boat Veterans. "It goes to Sen. Obama's judgment. And the
fact that he seems to surround himself with people who hate the
United States of America seemed worth exploring."
Mr. Simmons did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Mr. Pinkston said he didn't know how Mr. Simmons, a major McCain
fundraiser, was contacted to bankroll the group's media effort.
Under federal law, it's illegal for independent groups to coordinate
with political candidates. Mr. Pinkston said there was no contact
between his group, which was founded by a former McCain consultant,
and the McCain campaign.
Mr. Simmons, an investor who heads the corporate holding company
Contran, is one of the most prolific political donors in the country.
He was among President Bush's largest campaign contributors and has
given millions of dollars to candidates and groups aligned with the GOP.
He and two other Texans, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and Dallas
oilman T. Boone Pickens, were primary backers in 2004 of Swift Boat
Veterans, which challenged Mr. Kerry's military service. Many of the
group's charges were subsequently discredited, but its ad campaign
proved politically devastating.
Mr. Simmons is a major benefactor of Texas politicians. He has given
more than $500,000 to Gov. Rick Perry and more than $300,000 to both
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Mr. Simmons is the major owner of Waste Control Specialists, which is
seeking state approval to expand its radioactive waste operations in
West Texas to include a higher level of nuclear material. The state's
environmental commissioners are appointed by Mr. Perry.
Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit group that
monitors campaign contributions, said, "Texas is a breeding ground
for this type of dirty politics."
"Given the legal limits on contributions to presidential candidates,
bankrolling so-called independent attack ads is one way for
mega-donors to exercise their clout," he said.
The American Issues Project is one of scores of independent
committees created to support Republican and Democratic candidates in
the presidential race.
Its anti-Obama ad underscores how The Weather Underground claimed
responsibility for bombing government buildings. Mr. Ayers was
indicted but not convicted on conspiracy charges.
Now a college professor, Mr. Ayers served with Mr. Obama on the board
of a charitable organization in Chicago and hosted a fundraiser at
his home in 1995 when Mr. Obama was running for state office.