Smelling Smoke In The Ayers
Posted by Jay Tea
Published: August 29, 2008
I like to consider myself a reasonably good writer, and one of the
hallmarks of a good writer is the general avoidance of cliche's. But
there's a reason why a phrase degenerates into a cliche': it's
because it has more than a grain of truth. And as I consider the
story of the relationship between Senator Barack Obama and
unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, and in particular the
actions taken by Senator Obama's presidential campaign, I keep
hearing certain tired and trite phrases:
"Where there's smoke, there's fire."
"When you find yourself taking the heavist flak, you know you're over
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much."
And as much as I eschew cliche's, I also try to avoid conspiracy
theories. Hell, some of my favorite pieces were aimed at debunking
some of them. But there's enough in this matter for me to go out on a
limb -- at least a couple of inches -- and say that there's something
very, very suspicious going on here.
Here are the facts: Senator Obama and Bill Ayers have had at least
some sort of political connections over the last 15 years or so, at
various times and under various circumstances. Obama has, at every
opportunity, downplayed and minimized this relationship, and
Ayers, for the record, was a leader of the now-defunct domestic
terrorist group The Weather Underground. That group, who drew its
name from a Bob Dylan lyric ("You don't need a weatherman to know
which way the wind blows"), were dedicated to the violent overthrow
of the US government. They started out in the 1960's and remained
active into the 1980's. They carried out a series of bombings, riots,
Fortunately, none of their bombings cost any lives. That changed when
they were preparing a bomb in a townhouse in Greenwich Village in New
York City. That bomb went off prematurely and killed three members.
The bomb in question was a nail bomb -- one specifically designed not
to just damage a building, but to kill and maim people, and was
intended to be set off in a military social club.
Ayers spent several years underground, as a fugitive, during which
time he married fellow Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn,
before they surrendered to police. They were put on trial for their
crimes, but the charges were dismissed because of police misconduct.
Upon his release, Ayers described himself as "guilty as hell, free as
a bird -- America is a great country."
Ayers is now a Distinguished Professor of English at the University
of Illinois at Chicago, and a influential community activist. And he
holds absolutely no remorse over his past -- indeed, he revels in it,
boasting that "they didn't do enough."
Anyway, enough background. Who and what Ayers is is indisputable, but
not the point I'm making here. What has been discovered by the
investigations into the Ayers-Obama relationship, and even more
importantly the reactions to those investigations, are what are
drawing my attention.
Obama, initially, dismissed Ayers as "some guy from my neighborhood"
and "someone I've met a few times." Then it turned out that Obama's
first major political appearance was at a gathering in Ayers' home,
where Obama was introduced to some of Chicago's major movers and
shakers in the Democratic party machinery. Then it turned out that
they had served together on a board. Then it came out that Obama had
been both a board member and chairman of a foundation that Ayers had set up.
Now that the investigations have begun, though, it's the way that the
Obama campaign has reacted that really has me fascinated. Their
conduct is reaching near-Nixonian levels of paranoia.
One guy in Texas is so unhappy with the thought of Obama becoming
president that he funded an ad discussing Obama's relationship with
Ayers. The ad in question:
[See URL for video]
The Obama campaign is so incensed over this ad, they have launched
attacks on TV stations that air it and even filed a legal complaint
with the government over it, trying to get the American Issues
Project shut down for alleged violations of election finance laws.
And they even released an official campaign-sponsored ad in response
to the American Issues Project ad:
[See URL for video]
As Ed Morrissey notes, there has to be a certain concern here from
those concerned with civil rights -- if Candidate Obama is willing to
go to such lengths to suppress his opponents, just what would
President Obama do? But that's another issue -- perhaps even a more
important one -- but not the one I'm addressing now.
Anyway, this is not the only troubling example of the Obama camp's
overreaction on the Ayers matter.
Stanley Kurtz is a Harvard-educated social anthropologist, a senior
fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a frequent
contributor to National Review. In other words, he's a scholarly
conservative. He's been investigating the records of the Chicago
Annenberg Challenge, the organization set up by Ayers and run by
Obama that I alluded to above. Obama first served as chairman of the
board for four years, then stepped down to "member" for another three
years, until it dissolved in 2002.
The group's records are currently held by the University of Illinois
at Chicago, where Ayers teaches. When Kurtz first sought to see the
records, he was granted permission. Then, when he actually showed up
to look at them, he was turned away. Finally, the permission was
re-granted, and he started poring over them.
And while he hasn't found any real bombshells (um... perhaps I
shouldn't use that term when referring to Ayers, because he has a
very real history with very real bombs) in them, he's provoked a
virtual firestorm (there I go again) of a backlash from the Obama campaign.
The attacks on Kurtz are remarkable. He appeared on a long-running
Chicago talk show to discuss what he had learned so far, and the
Obama campaign coordinated an effort to jam the phone lines with
"debunkers," armed with talking points that did all they could to
bury what Kurtz had discovered thus far.
When I first started thinking about this, I found myself reminded of
how the Obama campaign handled the whole "Obama's birth certificate"
kerfuffle. When rumors first started circulating that there might be
something about Obama's birth that would, somehow, disqualify him for
the presidency or otherwise damage him, the Obama camp did exactly
nothing. They could have ended the whole thing by simply releasing
the actual certificate, but rather chose to ignore the whole thing for weeks.
I thought the whole thing was bullshit from the outset, and ignored
it too. But as the heat grew and grew, I read one theory that
explained perfectly what was going on, and it's one that I think is
pretty close to true:
The Obama camp knew, immediately, that the whole birth certificate
issue was bogus. It was a valid document, showing that Obama was born
in the United States and a citizen thereof, and had nothing like a
different name or declaration of religion or anything else. But
someone in the Obama camp heeded Napoleon's legendary counsel to
"never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake," and let the
nuts run with the story for weeks, knowing that all the energy poured
into this red herring would be energy that would not be funneled into
other, more potentially fruitful, alleys.
Of course, this gives the Obama camp credit for more brains than
they've exhibited in other areas, but I'm willing to extend them that
So, could this bit about Ayers be another form of diversion? To
convince the most fervid anti-Obama folks that there really might be
something worth digging? That there, as the old joke goes, really be
a pony under that big pile of horse manure?
I don't think so.
With the birth certificate mess, the Obama camp did literally
nothing. They just refused to cooperate. Hell, they refused to
acknowledge that there was any kind of question at all.
In the Ayers matter, they are not just ignoring it. They are taking
active steps to put down the investigations. They produced the above
ad dismissing the American Issues Project ad. They are trying to get
the government to shut down the AIP. And they are rallying their
followers to hound and harass Stanley Kurtz.
This much energy focused on this one matter has my spider-sense
tingling. If this is, indeed, merely a gambit like they played with
the birth certificate issue, then it's a damned expensive one. And
risky, too -- the tactics they are using are very heavy-handed, and
do not reflect well upon Obama himself.
Kurtz has found some fairly interesting things in his digging into
the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge thus far -- for
example, one program to teach math to kids was rejected, while a
Maoist and former Ayers crony got a grant for $175,000 to run the
"Small Schools Workshop." Kurtz has also uncovered minutes of
numerous meetings where both Obama and Ayers were in attendance.
The Obama camp is acting precisely like you'd expect them to act if
they knew -- or at least believed -- that there was something
devastating to Obama in his relationship with Ayers. And Obama has
already been caught downplaying and minimizing and misleading the
nature of his relationship with Ayers.
No, I don't know just what that might be. Hell, I don't know if it
even exists. But I wholeheartedly believe that we need to keep
looking into the matter -- because, if nothing else, as Ed Morrissey
noted, it's giving us a priceless insight into how a President Obama
would handle adversity -- and before he has the full power of the
executive branch of the government at his disposal.
That, alone, is worth its weight in gold.
Bill Ayers. Get used to the name. You'll be hearing it for the next 67 days.
by Chris Reed
August 29, 2008
Given that I thought the Hollywood soundstage, with its faux columns,
would make Barack Obama's nomination speech seem strange and offbeat,
my prognostication skills aren't much. The speech was superb -- not
as good as his race speech, or his 2004 convention speech, but very
But I see trouble on the horizon for him. This attack ad now being
aired by 527 independent groups is going to shake up a lot of people
who didn't know about Obama's friendship with former Weatherman Bill
Ayers. I think it's far more damaging to Obama than Rev. Wright.
[See URL for video]
Whenever I wirte something on the national campaign, commenters often
jump in to say I'm a partisan, I'm a hater, blah blah blah. In this
case, I want to explicitly say up front that I don't think Obama's
association with Ayers is a big deal. Obama's a Chicago pol. Ayers is
a Chicago pol of a sort too, someone who was accepted in Democratic
circles there despite his past. I post this because I am absolutely
sure that at some point Ayers will be a big deal in the fall campaign
-- and because ads like the one above, if they get enough air time,
could hurt Obama badly.
Why does Obama's association with Bill Ayer's matter again?
Posted by Cassy Fiano
Published: August 28, 2008
Barack Obama has tried to make his association with Bill Ayers as
innocuous as possible. He tries to brush it off as radicalism that
faded as he got older, or misguided youthful rebellion. He tries to
minimize the possible damage that could be done by his close
friendship with a man that bombed the Pentagon, bombed the Capitol,
bombed police headquarters in New York, and said he wished he had
done more. Liberals like to brush off this friendship as no big deal,
and they especially like the defense that Obama was "only eight!"
when all of this happened, but it's irrelevant. Why you would choose
to make an unrepentant terrorist a friend and mentor is beyond me,
and it shows at the very least a disturbing lack of good judgement.
At the worst, it should make you question Obama's radicalism and
views. Bill Ayers and his organization murdered people. They
destroyed property and tried to destroy lives. How anyone can defend
that is beyond me, and in my opinion, it's completely reprehensible.
John Murtagh writes a brilliant article about his experience with the
terror Bill Ayers wrought:
"In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court Justice,
was presiding over the trial of the so-called "Panther 21", members
of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York
landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of February 21,
as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our
home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the
third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of
course, we'd call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two
blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days
earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act
whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that
doubtless saved multiple lives that night.
I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was
lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I
remember my mother's pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running
to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows
overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames
below. We didn't leave our burning house for fear of who might be
waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in
Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight,
the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on
our sidewalk: FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.
Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the
Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich
Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron
Jacobs in The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather
Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the
Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers's wife, promised
As the association between Obama and Ayers came to light, it would
have helped the senator a little if his friend had at least shown
some remorse. But listen to Ayers interviewed in the New York Times
on September 11, 2001, of all days: "I don't regret setting bombs. I
feel we didn't do enough." Translation: "We meant to kill that judge
and his family, not just damage the porch." When asked by the Times
if he would do it all again, Ayers responded: "I don't want to
discount the possibility."
Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his
ability to engage our imaginations, and especially for his ability to
inspire the young once again to embrace the political system. Yet his
myopia in the last few months has cast a new light on his "politics
of change." Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois
responsible for his friends' and supporters' violent terrorist acts.
But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of
judgment in his choice of mentors, associates, and friends, and for
showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred
they have demonstrated for this country. It is fair, too, to ask what
those choices say about Obama's own beliefs, his philosophy, and the
direction he would take our nation.
At the conclusion of his 2001 Times interview, Ayers said of his
upbringing and subsequent radicalization: "I was a child of privilege
and I woke up to a world on fire."
Funny thing, Bill: one night, so did I."
Actions have consequences. If Barack Obama didn't want to be
associated with an unrepentant terrorist, then he shouldn't have
struck up a friendship with him. What would've been even better is if
Obama had declined an association with Ayers not because of how it
would look to be associated with him, but because it went against his
values. Shouldn't that have been enough? Shouldn't the fact that Bill
Ayers was a terrorist who said he didn't do enough be enough for
Obama to not want to be his friend? These are the kind of people
Obama associates with -- Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko --
and yes, it does matter. The people you choose to surround yourself
with can be more telling than anything you can possibly say to the
contrary, no matter how pretty a speech you can give.
Obama's entire defense -- that he was a kid when it happened and it
doesn't make a difference now -- is ludicrous. Danny Rolling went on
a killing spree in Gainesville when I was six, but if I buddied up to
him as an adult right before he died, wouldn't that say something
about my character? Knowing what kind of person Bill Ayers is, Obama
should've had the good sense, judgement, and character to not
befriend him. But he didn't. And that speaks volumes about him, no
matter how much liberals scream about it.