The “devastating” Wall Street Journal exposé on Obama’s connection to William Ayers, the leftist professor and former domestic terrorist, has finally dropped. Its allegations are – how to put this gently? – less than impressive (emphases mine):
From 1995 to 1999, he [Ayers] led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.
The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama’s first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers’s home.
Some additional context is instructive. According to the Politico, “Obama did hold a 1995 campaign event at Ayers’ house. It was not, however, a fundraiser, and Ayers did not contribute money to Obama’s first campaign, according to Illinois records.”
But wait, there’s more! Ayers may (or may not) have been involved in recruiting Obama for a position on the board of his educational foundation. Perhaps Ayers had a nose for identifying radical tendencies at an early age?
One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s “recruitment” to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.
Of course, the article later concedes that Ayers only met with the board six times, but radicalization through osmosis is (evidently) a rapid process. Ayers’ foundation also had some wacky ideas about education:
Mr. Ayers is the founder of the “small schools” movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to “confront issues of inequity, war, and violence.” He believes teacher education programs should serve as “sites of resistance” to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his “Teaching Toward Freedom,” is to “teach against oppression,” against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.
The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming “guilt by association.” Yet the issue here isn’t guilt by association; it’s guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.
In light of this astonishing disclosure, my question is this: What, if anything, is the relevance of Obama’s extremely tenuous connection to Ayers? Is he planning to implement Ayers’ educational reforms once he takes office? His website left out the section on “teach against oppression,” but I suppose Obama wouldn’t want to advertise his radical program for indoctrinating America’s youth.
Would a politician as consummately skilled as Obama risk hard-earned political capital on an educational program he was only tangentially involved with? Of course not. Does the fact that Obama may have changed his views on education since the early 90s disqualify him for the presidency? If so, McCain should look to his own schizophrenic record on any number of issues.
The Journal article isn’t interested in challenging Obama’s stance on elementary education. The author doesn’t imply that Obama secretly favors domestic terrorism of the type once perpetrated by Ayers, his “mentor.” Instead, the goal of all this is to contribute to the electorate’s vague sense of cultural unease about Obama’s candidacy. McCain’s record of questionable associations certainly isn’t lacking, but bandying about words like “radicalism,” “oppression,” and “terrorism” does more than question Obama’s personal judgment. Deep down, Obama isn’t like us, isn’t one of us, and his ties to over-the-hill radicals do more to reinforce this narrative than a thousand attacks on his policy positions.
What’s worse, Republicans have evidently decided that this vague appeal to cultural distrust is their only plausible electoral strategy. Poll after poll has demonstrated Democrats’ immense advantage on nearly every major issue. But instead of challenging this dominance, Republicans have fallen back on vapid slogans (“Drill, baby, drill!”), procedural issues that no one outside Washington could describe, much less vote on (Earmarks), and a jingoistic approach to foreign affairs that holds “diplomacy” as the ultimate insult.
After wading through this nonsense, I’m not sure Republicans deserve to win the presidency.