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?
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.