While the Obama coronation proceeds apace in Denver, it is in Chicago that Americans are getting a disturbing demonstration of his thuggish methods of stifling criticism.
Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Harvard-educated social anthropologist and frequent contributor to National Review, among other publications. He is widely respected for his meticulous research and measured commentary. For months, he has been doing the job the mainstream media refuses to do: examining the background and public record of Barack Obama, the first-term senator Democrats are about to make their nominee for president despite the shallowness of his experience and achievement.
Kurtz has written extensively, and with characteristic attention to factual detail, about Obama’s early career as a “community organizer,” his cultivation of benefactors in the most radical cauldrons of Chicago politics, his long-time pastor’s immersion in Black Liberation Theology, his ties to anti-American zealots, and the years in the Illinois state legislature this self-styled agent of change spent practicing the by-the-numbers left-wing politics of redistribution and race-consciousness, remaining soft on crime and extreme on abortion.
This has led Kurtz, naturally, to scrutinize the relationship between Obama and one of his early political sponsors, William Ayers. Ayers, as we have previously detailed, is a confessed terrorist who, having escaped prosecution due to surveillance violations that came to light during his decade on the lam after a bombing spree, landed an influential professorship in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As he has made clear several times before and after helping to launch Obama’s political career, Ayers remains defiantly proud of bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other targets. He expresses regret only that he didn’t do more. Far from abandoning his radical politics, he has simply changed methods: the classroom, rather than the detonator, is now his instrument for campaigning against an America he portrays as racist and imperialist.
Obama supporters risibly complain that shining a light on the Obama/Ayers relationship is a “smear” and smacks of “guilt by association.” A presidential candidate’s choice to associate himself with an unrepentant terrorist would be highly relevant in any event — does anyone think the Obamedia would keep mum if John McCain had a long-standing relationship with David Duke or an abortion-clinic bomber?
But we are talking about more than a mere “association.”
Bluntly, Obama has lied about his relationship with Ayers, whom he now dismisses as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” Ayers and Obama have made joint appearances together; they have argued together for “reforms” of the criminal justice system to make it more criminal-friendly; Obama gushed with praise for Ayers’ 1997 polemical book on the Chicago courts; and they sat together for three years on the board of the Woods Fund, a left-wing enterprise that distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their ideological allies. Most significant, they worked closely together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC).
The CAC was a major education reform project, proposed by Ayers, which was underwritten by a $49.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, complemented by another $100 million in private and public funding. The project ran for about five years, beginning in 1995. As the liberal researcher Steve Diamond has recounted, Ayers ran its operational arm, the “Chicago School Reform Collaborative.” Obama, then a 33-year-old, third-year associate at a small law firm, having no executive experience, was brought in to chair the board of directors, which oversaw all “fiscal matters.”
By the time the CAC’s operations were wound down in 2001 it had doled out more than $100 million in grants but had failed to achieve any improvement in the Chicago schools. What little is known about the grants Obama oversaw is troubling. As Diamond relates, one of the first CAC awards in 1995 was $175,000 for the “Small Schools Workshop,” which had been founded by Ayers and was then headed by Mike Klonsky. It was only the beginning of the CAC’s generous funding of Klonsky — a committed Maoist who had been an Ayers comrade in the radical Students for a Democratic Society (the forerunner of Ayers’ Weatherman terrorist organization), and who hosted a “social justice” blog on the Obama campaign website until his writings were hastily purged in June after Diamond called attention to them.
The CAC records, said to comprise 70 linear feet of files, have long been maintained at the library of the UIC, the public university where Ayers teaches. This summer, Kurtz made an appointment to review them and, after being assured access, was blocked from seeing them by library administrators, who stammered about needing permission from the “donor” — whom they declined to identify. Kurtz energetically raised public awareness to the stonewalling, and the library finally relented this week. That is, as Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democrats’ nomination tonight, the records of his only significant executive experience just became available for review on Tuesday.
Kurtz began his review, and on Wednesday was invited on Milt Rosenberg’s radio program to discuss it. Rosenberg is a Chicago institution. His program, “Extension 720,” has aired for more than 30 years — a civil forum where knowledgeable guests from across the political spectrum discuss important issues in revealing two-hour interviews. What happened Wednesday night was stunning, as even the normally unflappable Rosenberg observed.
The Obama campaign — which has emissaries appearing everywhere — declined Rosenberg’s invitation to have a representative appear on the program and respond to Kurtz’s factual assertions. The campaign did, however, issue an “Obama Action Wire” that encouraged supporters to contact the program (telephone information was provided) and use scripted “talking points” to disrupt Kurtz’s appearance, which it deemed “unacceptable.” As the Politico’s Ben Smith reported, the campaign also urged supporters to demand that Rosenberg scrap the appearance of Kurtz, whom the campaign libeled as a “smear-merchant” and a “slimy character assassin.” The rant was reminiscent of the work of the left-wing media “watch-dog” Media Matters for America.
Other than denigrating Kurtz for being conservative, Obama’s operatives have provided no response to the substance of his claims. In their only pretense of engaging him, they accuse him of telling “a flat out lie” that Ayers recruited Obama for the CAC. Though it is a reasonable inference that Ayers recruited Obama, the careful Kurtz has stopped short of making it — observing only that Obama offers no explanation of how he was recruited if not through Ayers, his friend and the CAC’s driving force.
The station, WGN, has made a stream of the broadcast available online, here, and it has to be heard to be believed. Obama’s robotic legions dutifully jammed the station’s phone lines and inundated the program with emails, attacking Kurtz personally. Pressed by Rosenberg to specify what inaccuracies Kurtz was guilty of, caller after caller demurred, mulishly railing that “we just want it to stop,” and that criticism of Obama was “just not what we want to hear as Americans.” Remarkably, as Obama sympathizers raced through their script, they echoed the campaign’s insistence that it was Rosenberg who was “lowering the standards of political discourse” by having Kurtz on, rather than the campaign by shouting him down.
Kurtz has obviously hit a nerve. It is the same nerve hit by the American Issues Project, whose television ad calling for examination of the Obama/Ayers relationship has prompted the Obama campaign to demand that the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation. Obama fancies himself as “post-partisan.” He is that only in the sense that he apparently brooks no criticism. This episode could be an alarming preview of what life will be like for the media should the party of the Fairness Doctrine gain unified control of the federal government next year.