Politics & Policy

William Ayers, Model Citizen?

The Obama campaign's lame defense.

The Obama campaign’s response to Jerome Corsi’s book about Senator Barack Obama makes clear that they are determined to delegitimize even legitimate criticisms of the senator by mixing them up with smears. Even mainstream journalists have noted that their rebuttal document at times employs risible arguments and overreaches in attempting to defend certain aspects of Senator Obama’s career.

One example is the defense of Obama’s relationship to William Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn — two unrepentant former members of the domestic left-wing terror movement known as the Weathermen.

Amazingly, instead of disowning Ayers — which would make a lot more sense — Obama’s rebuttal document defends the man who implicated himself in terror bombings in his own 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days. The document calls it a “lie” that Ayers is an “unrepentant domestic terrorist” and that “the impression of Ayers’s good citizenship is incorrect.” It attempts, with endorsements from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and two university professors, to make the case that Ayers is really a model citizen.

A model citizen — at least if you overlook the sworn congressional testimony that ties Ayers to a murder.

Ayers and Dohrn were credibly accused, in classified testimony before a Senate subcommittee in 1974, of involvement in the murder of a police officer in San Francisco, as well as an attempted (and unsuccessful) anti-personnel bombing in Detroit. It is an aspect of Ayers’ story that the mainstream media has completely ignored and even covered up.

Ayers and Dohrn were never prosecuted for their alleged involvement in Weatherman terrorism because of government misconduct in gathering evidence against them. But Ayers has freely admitted to involvement in Weatherman bomb plots, and he has said he does not regret planting bombs. Ayers has defended his actions, arguing, “The reason we weren’t terrorists is that we did not commit random acts of terror against people.”

But Larry Grathwohl, an FBI mole within the Weathermen, connected Ayers to the planning — and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, to the execution– of a police station bombing in San Francisco in February 1970 that killed one officer and injured two others.

Grathwohl testified that Ayers had discussed the deadly incident after the fact. The revelation came as Ayers was talking about the organizational difficulties in running a terrorist cell:

[H]e cited as one of the real problems that someone like Bernardine Dohrn had to plan, develop, and carry out the bombing of the police station in San Francisco, and he specifically named her as the person that committed that act. . . . He said that the bomb was placed on the window ledge and he described the kind of bomb that was used to the extent of saying what kind of shrapnel was used in it. . . . [I]f he wasn’t there to see it, somebody who was there told him about it, because he stated it very emphatically.

Grathwohl also testified about an unsuccessful Weatherman bombing in Detroit, which he said Ayers had planned to be executed when the maximum number of people would be present:

The only time that I was ever instructed or we were ever instructed to place a bomb in a building at a time when there would be people in it was during the planning of the bombing at the Detroit Police Officers’ Association building and the 13th precinct in Detroit, Mich., at which time Bill said that we should plan our bombing to coincide with the time when there would be the most people in those buildings.

Grathwohl tipped off police to this latter plot, and they cleared the area. When they finally found the Detroit bomb, it was unexploded. It contained 13 sticks of dynamite with an M-80 firecracker to detonate them, along with a burnt-out cigarette.

“The only thing Bill didn’t take into consideration in making his bomb,” Grathwohl testified, “was the fact that these wicks, those fuses on those firecrackers are waterproof with heavy paraffin, and a cigarette burning by itself does not always have enough heat to melt that paraffin and light the powder. And I didn’t volunteer any information to the contrary.” Grathwohl did not know who had actually planted the bomb.

The wide-ranging testimony — first brought to my attention by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, which I subsequently found on file in the Library of Congress — appears to be very credible. In covering the controversy over Bill Ayers, the mainstream media has so far pretended it does not exist.

It would be irresponsible and wrong to assert that Sen. Obama is somehow “guilty by association” of anything Ayers or Dohrn have done, or that he has any sympathy toward terrorism. He does not. Obama was only a child when these events occurred.

But the senator’s choice to associate with domestic terrorists evinces an appalling lack of personal judgment that is part of a broad pattern in his adult life.

This argument is extremely easy to make, given Obama’s many, many choices to build relationships that are most charitably described as “problematic.” By what criteria does a man choose his friends and associates and end up with the likes of Tony Rezko, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Bill Ayers? Given that he had a choice of political allies, why would he align himself with and endorse in elections the worst perpetrators of Chicago’s crooked machine politics? Why would he choose as campaign and outreach advisors two men (Robert Malley and Mazen Asbahi) who have since had to resign over alleged ties to Hamas, as well as others who advocate reparations for slavery (Charles Ogletree) and praise Hugo Chavez as a champion of democracy in Venezuela (Cornel West)?

Given his lack of judgment, what sort of nominations can we expect a President Obama to make? What kind of diplomacy will he conduct when he meets “without precondition” with leaders of terror-sponsoring states? Diplomacy consists largely in making personal judgments about other people and their character and intentions — precisely the sort of judgments Obama has shown he is incapable of making.

These are legitimate questions, and the Obama research team’s shoddy arguments do not answer them.

David Freddoso is a staff reporter for National Review Online. This essay is adapted from his newly released book, The Case Against Barack Obama.


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