[In 1996] at a luncheon meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Ayers hosted for Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.
A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Ayers, whom he has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.”
Obama campaign aides said the Ayers relationship had been greatly exaggerated by opponents to smear the candidate.
Bill Ayers is still an educator. Back in the 60’s, he and his wife Bernardine Dohrn were in the Weather Underground and participated in a number of bombings, among other crimes.
They spent ten years underground, then finally surfaced, and turned themselves into the FBI. All federal charges against them were eventually dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct. In his book Fugitive Days, Ayers says the FBI committed so many crimes trying to catch them that they couldn’t use any of the evidence in court.
Violence as a political tactic seems pointless to me, as well as being ethically and morally compromised. It terrifies noncombatants, enrages the other side, and accomplishes little politically. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect, it drives people away from a political viewpoint, rather than attracting them to it. Setting off a bomb in the Pentagon to protest the violence of the Vietnam War is in and of itself violent. The message is contradictory, to put it mildly.
The Bill Ayers of today does not appear to be the Bill Ayers of 40 years ago. Nor is Obama’s relationship to him anything but slight. It is ludicrous overreaching to attempt to manipulate and exploit this tenuous connection for political gain. By the same flawed logic, the current Mayor Daley of Chicago has also been consorting with a terrorist:
Ayers worked with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in shaping the city’s school reform program and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that in 1995 won $49.2 million over five years for public school reform.
Bill Ayers blogs at billayers.wordpress.com.