Dinner with Terrorists
Unrepentant criminals fundraise for a government-funded organization.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Dec. 3, 1980


Mona Charen

If you were running the Illinois Humanities Council and a famous terrorist offered to help in your fundraising drive, what would you do? If you said “slam down the phone,” or something to that effect, it just shows how remote you are from the sensibilities of the Obama age. Because, in fact, when Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers offered to auction “dinner for six” at their house, the IHC cheerfully accepted.

Ayers and Dohrn were members of the Weather Underground in the 1960s and early ’70s. They set off bombs at the New York police headquarters, the U.S. Capitol building, and the Pentagon. In 1970, the group blew up the Park police station in San Francisco, killing Sgt. Brian V. McDonnell, a 45-year-old father of two, and wounding eight others. The San Francisco Police Association has claimed, as recently as 2009, that “there are irrefutable and compelling reasons to believe that Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn . . . are largely responsible for the bombing of Park Police Station.”

In a New York Times interview, published (ironically) on Sept. 11, 2001, Bill Ayers was asked whether he had repented. He said, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Even now, he continued, he finds a “certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.”

That “poetry” for the late Sergeant McDonnell took the form of “blood everywhere,” especially from the wounds to his “neck, eyes, face and brain,” as the first rescuer on scene put it, where the fence-post staples that had been loaded into the bomb made contact.

Neither Dohrn nor Ayers served a day in prison for their crimes, though Dohrn was featured on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for three years. That’s the way it often goes in the American justice system. Evidence is thrown out. Statutes of limitations toll (though, even in California, there is no statute of limitations for murder). They got away with it.

That Sergeant McDonnell and his fellow victims never got justice is bad enough. But more inexplicable is the smooth segue of two unrepentant criminals into members in good standing of the liberal intelligentsia. Bill Ayers became a professor at the University of Illinois and Dohrn taught at Northwestern Law School. The pair were very friendly with fellow left-wing academic Barack Obama — but it was considered very bad taste to mention that during the 2008 campaign. They and Rev. Jeremiah Wright could have burned the Constitution on the Capitol steps in 2008 and gotten scarcely a mention.

The Illinois Humanities Council receives a check every year from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is headed, at the moment, by former congressman Jim Leach. Leach is understandably chary of commenting on the IHC fundraiser (a call requesting comment went unreturned). If his boss had no trouble befriending Ayers/Dohrn, how can he express dismay?

But it’s doubtful in any case that Leach is offended. Leach, the first Republican to endorse Mr. Obama, seems to love nothing more than bloviating on politically correct topics such as how much Republicans “love war,” and the need to “contain prejudice and counter forces of hatred.” (Powerline blog is keeping a running tab.)

The NEH is one of those superfluous federal creations that, at best, is a waste of taxpayer money, and at worst is a menace to common sense. Under Bush, the agency had pushed something called “We The People,” a project to put literary and historical classics in classrooms and libraries (unnecessary, but at least laudable). Under Obama/Leach, that’s been replaced by the “Bridging Cultures” and “Civility” projects. The NEH now underwrites “conferences” and “workshops” (a.k.a gab fests) to examine Islamic culture and our supposedly benighted attitude toward it. At the University of Minnesota, NEH funded “a colloquium exploring the influences of Islamic cultural and intellectual traditions on the development of Western humanist and scientific thought.” You get the point: We must be instructed to appreciate Islamic civilization because our ignorance is the cause of strife.

On the “civility” front, NEH spent our money to finance any number of discussions like this one in California: “Participants will explore topics such as the history of contentious conversations, the role of compromise in democracy, the difference between incivility and impassioned dissent, and the future of public discourse in the digital age.”

Such sweet language of tolerance and civility — of resolving our differences amicably. It masks the harsh reality that these people offer dinner with terrorists without a flicker of shame.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.