The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

'Obama secretly partied with Bill Ayers last Summer'


So reports an article in Gawker, but the partying turns out to be … attending the same wedding:

On Aug. 30, 2014, MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner and former White House chef Sam Kass got married at a private wedding north of New York City. It was widely reported at the time that President Obama, a longtime friend of the groom, attended the ceremony with his family. There were two other notable guests, however, whose attendance has been successfully kept secret: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the former campus radicals whose loose association with the Obama family over the years has inspired countless Fox News fever-dreams and led to Sarah Palin's famous accusation that Obama "pal[s] around with terrorists." …

While the fact that Obama was literally partying with former advocates of violent struggle against the U.S. government will no doubt be taken by his critics as further evidence that he hates America, the most interesting thing about the wedding is the shocking proof it offers that—at long last!—Obama truly no longer gives a fuck about keeping up political appearances. It's unthinkable that the Obama of the 2008 or 2012 campaigns would have been permitted to go anywhere near Ayers or Dohrn, for fear of fueling the unhinged right-wing narrative that he is a radical leftist.

I thought the complaints about then-candidate Obama's links to the ex-Weathermen were legitimate, and Obama has been a leftist, though not a particularly radical one. David Bernstein's observations about the significance of those links struck me as quite sound: "Obama's ties to Ayers and Wright suggest to me NOT that Obama agrees with their views, but that he is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh."

But this isn't a political fundraiser at Ayers' and Dohrn's home—it's a wedding of a mutual friend, to which both couples are invited. I would hope that we haven't stooped so low that a politician would refuse to go to a friend's wedding because he expects some "former advocates of violent struggle" to be there. I don't mean to be too sentimental, but let me say it again: It's a wedding. You know, an event that people attend to wish joy for their friends. Not everything that's personal is political.

The article goes on:

While the Obama White House obviously no longer cares about serving up softballs to the Drudge set—indeed, the decision to party with Ayers borders on active trolling—his Secret Service may have taken a different view. According to the Washington Post, the agency typically bars "people with … arrests or convictions for assault and related offenses or any history of mental illness … from having any access to the president." Even though Dohrn can hardly be regarded as presenting a threat to anyone these days, her conviction for aggravated battery—reportedly related to an attack on a police officer at a Chicago protest in 1969—is the sort of history that the president's protectors would normally take an interest in.

"Take an interest in" is a broad term, but if the Secret Service spent a lot of time worrying about an aggravated battery conviction 45 years ago, then the well-known problems with the Secret Service are even worse than I thought. Finally, the closing:

Of course, the people taking the biggest risk in showing up at the wedding were Dohrn and Ayers, who have now been revealed as willing to briefly set aside their anti-war principles so they could hang out with someone they regard as a war criminal.

Or maybe even old radicals mellow with time, and come to realize that you don't politically vet the guest list at your friend's wedding before you say, "How lovely! I'd be delighted to attend!"