Get Sick, Get Well, Hang Around the Ink Well

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Ben Smith does some digging and discovers a 13-year old rendezvous between Barack Obama, then a candidate for state senate, and reformed Weather Underground terrorists Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.

Neither Ayers nor the Obama campaign would describe the relationship between the two men. Dr. Young described Obama and Ayers as "friends," but there's no evidence their relationship is more than the casual friendship of two men who occupy overlapping Chicago political circles, and served together on the board of a Chicago foundation.

But Obama's relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides.

I'm extremely familiar with Ayers and Dohrn. On September 11 the New York Times published an interview with Ayers promoting his tendentious, ropey memoir Fugitive Days, and a few hours before their city exploded New Yorkers read this:

"I don't regret setting bombs," Bill Ayers said. "I feel we didn't do enough."

And if there were another Vietnam, he is asked, would he participate again in the Weathermen bombings?

By way of an answer, Mr. Ayers quoted from "The Cure at Troy," Seamus Heaney's retelling of Sophocles' "Philoctetes:" " 'Human beings suffer,/ They torture one another./ They get hurt and get hard.' "

If you can't tell, Ayers didn't grow up on the mean streets: His father was a multimillionaire Northwestern University trustee, and since he and his wife left the underground in 1981, and charges against them were dropped (surprise, surprise, the FBI broke the law going after them) they've found respectable perches in Chicago academia. They had it made: Steady jobs, scholarly respect, wink-wink radical chic. They seemed genuinely rattled and pissed off that, after 9/11, people were criticizing their Weather days again. When I saw Ayers speak in 2001 he was unapologetic about what he told the Times. Here's part of the Q&A, where one of the two critical questioners tried to nail him down on whether terrorism was justified.

AYERS: Here is the context in which we acted. And again, this is not a defense or a manifesto about that, but the fact is that there was an official policy of our government to create terrorism in Vietnam.

It was official policy. Whole areas were designated "free fire zones." Millions of people were murdered, innocent people, by our government. That was official policy. How you resisted that policy to me was a burning question, and it's still a good question.

For example if you saw … Say you lived in Southern Afghanistan right now, and you knew that there was a group of people who had terrorism as their policy, and you could see them and they were close to you. You couldn't quite get to them, and you could try to stop them. Wouldn't you try to stop them? Of course you would in that context. The fact is that our government had a policy of terrorism and we were trying to stop the terrorism.

Q: Where was the bomb that your friends were going to … that blew up your friends? Where was it going to be? Was it at the Pentagon?

(crowd laughs)

AYERS: Well, you're right, and as you say … In those three years there was something like 20,000 arsons and bombings against U.S. government targets in this country. Something like 20,000, and as far as I know one person was killed and, you know, that is unforgivable. There's no way to defend it, because he was an innocent person and he did nothing, so you're absolutely right but every day that that war went on, well, what was the right action to take? What did you do to stop it?

Q: I did nothing to stop it.

AYERS: That's the problem. We have Bill Clinton, George Bush, Dick Cheney, all these guys did nothing and they supported it in their own words, but they did nothing to stop it.

I don't think this'll be a big problem for Obama; I don't even think, as Allahpundit does, that hanging with Ayers is comparable to breaking bread with Eric Rudolph. Apart from one friendly fire accident that killed three Weathermen, none of the group's bombs ever killed anyone. But the chip-chipping away at Obama's image is starting.

I reviewed the very watchable Weather Underground documentary about five years ago.

UPDATE: Here's what happens when people stop bothering you about your radical past. You start a blog. And you give this speech in Venezeula.

Despite being under constant attack from within and from abroad, the Bolivarian revolution has made astonishing strides in a brief period: from the Mission Simoncito to the Mission Robinson to the Mission Ribas to the Mission Sucre, to the Bolivarian schools and the UBV, Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failings of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome. Venezuela is a beacon to the world in its accomplishment of eliminating illiteracy in record time, and engaging virtually the entire population in the ongoing project of education.

Well, uh, at least he's learned his lessons. And here's a video of Ayers and his adopted son Chesa Boudin talking about revolution with Luis Bonilla-Molina. In front of a portrait of Che Guevara.

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  1. On a personal note, my sister went to prom with the son of Robert Fassnacht, who died in the Sterling Hall Bombing, and I was friends with his twin daughters.

    Not a Weather Underground bombing, but these damn hippies and their bombs do have nontrivial consequences.

  2. This guy Ayers sounds disgusting. But how can you link to the Ben Smith article without noticing that it’s an attempted smear on Obama? The language you quote is tell-tale.

    After conceding that Obama’s “relationship” with the guy consists of no more than running into him on occasion and being civil, Smith says that “Obama’s relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides.”

    What on earth does this mean? It’s either an insinuation (completely unsupported) that Obama’s rise “in record time” was somehow aided by an unrepentant terrorist, or it means nothing at all. It’s an artfully worded attempt at guilt by association.

    The item has no news value unless there’s some significance to the supposed link with Obama. Quoting from this, while saying you don’t think this will be a big problem for Obama, comes off as a hypocritical way of passing along a smear. Not an impressive performance, David.

  3. Best Headline Ever.

    “Obama once visited ’60s radicals”

  4. Yeah, there’s no story here. If this is the best smear the Republicans have, Obama will win 40 states or so come November.

  5. While it’s true that the Weather Underground didn’t kill anyone with their bombs, others of the same mindset did:

    Wikipedia reference to University of Wisconsin bomb

    Fassnacht, who was killed, was a close friend of one my best friends in college. And he was just a prototypical geek watching his job run overnight in the computing center.

  6. The recent movie about the weather underground was an honest attempt to paint their backgrounds in the best light possible – or at the very least was sympathetic to them if not denying they were useless/misguided.

    The film basically reveals them all to be total schmucks. Whoever made it probably watched it a year later and went, “oh shit. thats not what i thought we did.”

  7. The most effective smear the Republicans will have against Obama is that his middle name is Hussein.

    This should cost him at least 5% of the popular vote.

  8. I have at times been in the same circles with idiots and criminals also. I’ve been civil to them as well. Who hasn’t? Much ado about nothing.

  9. Obama, who brags how he ground cigarette butts out in the dorm halls and played his stereo really loud to show his resistance to bourgeois society, must really envy (or admire) a guy who had the balls to try to blow people up.

  10. We can all play this game.
    Here’s a picture of McCain with the son of a Nazi sympathizer and a former member of a well-known domestic terrorist organization.

  11. Interesting ‘six degrees’ case here–an old buddy of mine from the early Objectivist days in Toronto was a classmate of Fassnacht’s, and C’s sister went out with Fassnacht’s son… Small world.

  12. On the other hand, the last time Obama LOST an election was to a former Black Panther.

  13. Maybe Ayers and Dohrn can blow something else up and give Michelle Obama two proud moments in her adult life.

  14. “Geoff Nathan | February 22, 2008, 1:12pm | #

    While it’s true that the Weather Underground didn’t kill anyone with their bombs, others of the same mindset did:”

    So Obama once had dinner thirteen years ago with somebody who had the same mindset as somebody who killed somebody?

  15. Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failings of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome.

    What is this capitalist schooling he’s raving about? There’s practically none in the US, I know that.

    And what about the US system of tax-supported, mandatory attendance state schools run by locally elected school boards isn’t “full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment” to this drooling Marxist idiot?

  16. While it’s true that the Weather Underground didn’t kill anyone with their bombs, others of the same mindset did:”

    So Obama once had dinner thirteen years ago with somebody who had the same mindset as somebody who killed somebody?

    Nah, I didn’t say that. I said Ayers and Dorn had that mindset–Obama wasn’t even born then. He seems to be okay, aside from the usual set of leftist agendas. But he’s nowhere near as mean as Hillary, or as dangerous as McCain–if the LP can’t come up with something I may even end up voting for him. Or not voting at all–scrume all!

  17. I hear there’s a guy named Larry Sinclair, he’s sick of having Obama shoved down his throat.

  18. I’d love to see Ayers go to Mision Sucre in the hills of Caracas WITHOUT an armed bodyguard. At night. Odds are 50-1 he wouldn’t walk out.

  19. What a stupid fucking evil clueless privileged fucking asshole piece of shit.

    And his stupid fucking clueless privileged asshole adopted son’s parents – who will be spending the rest of their lives in prison, I think, and hope – are just as bad.

    I hate the 60s. I really fucking hate the 60s.

  20. I’m not sure if this is going to amount to much. A bunch of wealthy politicos (some of whom were bored rich kids who got teh radical) in the Chicago area with overlapping circles make contact.

    I mean, I got no love for any of these Weather Underground pricks, but I think we’d have to have a little more than this to philosophically tie them together.

  21. ok, i just can’t quite place teh song lyric even though it’s very familiar

  22. “What on earth does this mean? It’s either an insinuation (completely unsupported) that Obama’s rise “in record time” was somehow aided by an unrepentant terrorist, or it means nothing at all. It’s an artfully worded attempt at guilt by association.”

    He’s trying to get a job at the NYT.

  23. Johnny’s in the basement
    Mixing up the medicine
    I’m on the pavement
    Thinking about the government
    The man in the trench coat
    Badge out, laid off
    Says he’s got a bad cough
    Wants to get it paid off
    Look out kid
    It’s somethin’ you did
    God knows when
    But you’re doin’ it again
    You better duck down the alley way
    Lookin’ for a new friend
    The man in the coon-skin cap
    In the big pen
    Wants eleven dollar bills
    You only got ten

    Maggie comes fleet foot
    Face full of black soot
    Talkin’ that the heat put
    Plants in the bed but
    The phone’s tapped anyway
    Maggie says that many say
    They must bust in early May
    Orders from the D. A.
    Look out kid
    Don’t matter what you did
    Walk on your tip toes
    Don’t try “No Doz”
    Better stay away from those
    That carry around a fire hose
    Keep a clean nose
    Watch the plain clothes
    You don’t need a weather man
    To know which way the wind blows

    Get sick, get well
    Hang around a ink well
    Ring bell, hard to tell
    If anything is goin’ to sell
    Try hard, get barred
    Get back, write braille
    Get jailed, jump bail
    Join the army, if you fail
    Look out kid
    You’re gonna get hit
    But users, cheaters
    Six-time losers
    Hang around the theaters
    Girl by the whirlpool
    Lookin’ for a new fool
    Don’t follow leaders
    Watch the parkin’ meters

    Ah get born, keep warm
    Short pants, romance, learn to dance
    Get dressed, get blessed
    Try to be a success
    Please her, please him, buy gifts
    Don’t steal, don’t lift
    Twenty years of schoolin’
    And they put you on the day shift
    Look out kid
    They keep it all hid
    Better jump down a manhole
    Light yourself a candle
    Don’t wear sandals
    Try to avoid the scandals
    Don’t wanna be a bum
    You better chew gum
    The pump don’t work
    ‘Cause the vandals took the handles

  24. You know, as bad as the Iraq war is today, atleast we don’t have fucking morons going around doing the same shit like they did in Vietnam. Sometimes, parts of the baby boom generation really really disgust me.

  25. “Sometimes, parts of the baby boom generation really really disgust me.”

    Can you say “Draft”?

  26. You know, as bad as the Iraq war is today,

    By any historical standard, the Iraq war really isn’t bad at all. Not nearly as bad as Viet Nam, for example.

  27. By any historical standard, the Iraq war really isn’t bad at all. Not nearly as bad as Viet Nam, for example.

    It’s strange that this is absolutely a true statement while so many people over there and over here have had their lives utterly destroyed. I suppose even a historically mild hell is still hell.

  28. L.I.T.,

    I’ve got nothing against hating on the Boomers, but I imagine there would be some GenX and Y types who’d go around the bend if American deaths in Iraq hit 50,000, or if Iraqi deaths hit 3 million, like in Vietnam.

  29. 1) Obama didn’t do anything – this is a smear that Joe McCarthy would consider beneath him.

    2) As to Ayers, he gives com-symp 60s radicals a bad name.

  30. “Fassnacht, who was killed, was a close friend of one my best friends in college. And he was just a prototypical geek watching his job run overnight in the computing center.”

    Note to leftist terrorist shitheels: If you want libertarian support, don’t murder computer nerds.

  31. Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind, etc., etc., but thank God that the Weathergoons were so stupid that the only people they blew up was themselves.

  32. I’ve got nothing against hating on the Boomers, but I imagine there would be some GenX and Y types who’d go around the bend if American deaths in Iraq hit 50,000, or if Iraqi deaths hit 3 million, like in Vietnam.

    I’m not talking so much about the tragedy, but the compounding of it by all the hatred poured on the veterans and many people stuck in a bad situation.

    No, the death count isn’t and probably never will be Vietnam like and there’s no draft to stoke activist type hatred of the government, but those bombers sound like horrible, disgusting waste of human tissue that should have thanked their lucky stars their trust fund money kept them from getting run through the physical and mental sausage grinder that was Vietnam.

  33. By any historical standard, the Iraq war really isn’t bad at all. Not nearly as bad as Viet Nam, for example.

    no, by historical standards, Iraq is pretty much a minor scuffle in terms of physical and emotional damage, but its not exactly an example of a good war well run and its the worst kerfluffle I’ve witnessed in my life. So, as bad as it is, I’m glad morons are not trying to blow things up over it and I think those idiots should have been locked away and beat with blunt objects for their stupidity.

  34. In any case, joe, anyone that thinks that type of behavior is acceptable as a form of protest deserves Gitmo more than most of the people in there.

  35. there is more to this story. Obama has a very close relationship with the Ayers. they are more than just casual acquaintances.

    while he was only 8 when the bombings happened, he still has an intimate social life with them. It points to his ability to make good decisions.

    also, running around with 60’s radicals doesn’t do a lot to bring the country together-or bring about change.

  36. This guy has given a few lectures at my University about education. Excellent speaker and nice guy but a bit of a hothead; I had absolutely no idea that he’d planted bombs in the 60’s.

  37. Other than Ayers and Dohrn themselves, the most irresponsible actors in this story are the Northwestern & UI-Chicago administrators that gave these terrorists jobs, allowing them to be ‘rehabilitated’ without a shred of contrition on their part.

  38. “Yeah, there’s no story here. If this is the best smear the Republicans have, Obama will win 40 states or so come November”

    Hahahahaha, I don’t know what fucking country you are living in, but the day a Democrat wins 40 states in a presidential election will be the day the world comes to an end. Obama will come absolutely nowhere near winning 40 states. It won’t take an association with a terrorirst group, rather it is his political views that are so far to the left, he makes Trotksy look good, that will sink his chances. Forty states? Not a fucking chance in hell.

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