Politics & Policy

Obama’s Weathermen Pals Should Worry You

Youthful indiscretion does not cover mayhem and murder.

Barack Obama and his supporters have trivialized his connections to former domestic terrorists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, co-founders of the radical Weather Underground. “This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on April 16, when this issue first gained traction. “He’s not somebody who I exchanged ideas from on a regular basis.” Campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN Monday that Obama “certainly didn’t know the history” of these two barbarians when they introduced him to their friends at a reception in their home when he first ran for the Illinois state senate in 1995.

Obama might not have heard of Ayers and Dohrn’s brutality from the ’60s through the ’80s had they merely tossed a rock or two in anger. But these two went much, much farther.

As a declassified FBI dossier observed in 1976, William Charles Ayers “was one of the authors of the ‘Weatherman Statement’ upon which the WUO [Weather Underground Organization] was founded in 1969 and has been considered to be one of the leaders of the organization since its founding.” Here is how Ayers has described himself: “I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist.”

In 1970, Ayers encapsulated the Weathermen’s worldview: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents.”

In his 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, Ayers brags that he helped blast NYPD headquarters in 1970, the U.S. Capitol in 1971, and the Defense Department in 1972. “Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,” Ayers writes. “The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.” Ayers also appreciates “a certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.” He called dynamite “That most romantic of nineteenth-century radical tools.”

For her part, Dohrn was an equally stalwart subversive.

“There’s no way to be committed to non-violence in the middle of the most violent society that history’s ever created. I am not committed to non-violence in any way,” Dohrn said in 1969.

That July, while John McCain languished in the Hanoi Hilton, Dohrn and five other Weathermen flew to Cuba to conspire with the National Liberation Front, America’s North Vietnamese enemies.

She later said this about the Charles Manson family’s August 9, 1969, murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her friends in her Beverly Hills home: “Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach. Wild!”

Dohrn issued the Weather Underground’s “Declaration of a State of War” against America on May 21, 1970. “We are not just attacking targets, we are bringing a pitiful helpless giant to its knees,” Dohrn said in another 1970 communiqué. “Guard your planes. Guard your colleges. Guard your banks. Guard your children. Guard your doors.”

The FBI places Dohrn on its 10 Most Wanted List. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most dangerous woman in America.”

Throughout the 1970s, under the leadership of Ayers, Dohrn, and other top terrorists, the Weathermen blasted the State Department, Gulf Oil’s Pittsburgh headquarters, San Francisco’s Presidio military base, New York’s Queens Courthouse, and Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, among at least 18 targets. (See a partial list here.)

Thankfully, one particular bomb never reached its intended destination. Weathermen Ted Gold, Diana Oughton (Ayers’ then-girlfriend), and Terry Robbins, fatally blew themselves up on March 6, 1970, while building the device inside a townhouse at 18 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. Amid the smoking rubble, police found 60 sticks of dynamite and an anti-tank shell.

The Weathermen planned for the nail-filled bomb to explode at New Jersey’s Fort Dix Army base during a non-commissioned officers’ dance. Soldiers, their spouses, and dates would have been maimed and likely killed. As Ayers has said, the bomb would have ripped “through windows and walls and, yes, people too.”

After a decade undercover, Ayers and Dohrn finally surrendered to Chicago authorities on December 3, 1980. Dohrn was defiant, not contrite, about her destructive cause.

“Rebellion is inevitable and continuous,” Dohrn told journalists after coming in from the cold. “Resistance by every means necessary is happening and will continue to happen within the United States, as well as around the world. And I remain committed to the struggle ahead.”

Few of the Weathermen, including Ayers and Dohrn, were jailed for their crimes in the ’60s and ’70s. Most charges were dropped because the FBI itself broke the law as they zealously pursued these violent revolutionaries.

Dohrn was jailed in May 1982 for seven months for refusing to testify against Susan Rosenberg, a Weatherman involved in the October 20, 1981 robbery of $1.6 million from a Brink’s armored car in Nanuet, New York. A subsequent shootout in Nyack, New York killed guard Peter Paige and Nyack policemen Waverly L. Brown and Edward J. O’Grady. (Cops caught Rosenberg in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1984 with 740 pounds of dynamite.) Ayers and Dohrn reared Chesa, the young son of Weathermen Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. Boudin, who survived and fled 1970’s accidental Greenwich Village townhouse blast, spent 22 years in jail for participating in the Brink’s heist. Ayers sat beside Boudin in court as she was sentenced. Gilbert remains incarcerated.

No wonder Obama has been so evasive about his ties to Ayers and Dohrn. His relationship with these extreme leftists goes far beyond waving at some folks who live nearby. It defies belief that Obama never learned that they hated the USA and loved TNT.

‐Obama chaired the charitable Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which Ayers inaugurated. Obama and Ayers helped draft the group’s by-laws and jointly attended at least seven top-level CAC oversight meetings between March 1995 and September 1997. Obama and Ayers collaborated in granting $160 million to support public-school outreach by Leftist groups, including ACORN — which currently is embroiled in vote-fraud probes in 13 states. After recently perusing boxes of the CAC’s records, NRO’s Stanley Kurtz concluded: “The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.”

‐Ayers and Dohrn invited Windy City liberals into their living room to meet Obama when he first ran for Illinois state senate in 1995. “They were launching him” — as Chicago’s Maria Warren recalled in her Internet diary, “Musings and Migraines” — “introducing him to the Hyde Park Community as the best thing since sliced bread.”

‐Obama praised Ayers’ book, A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, in December 21, 1997’s Chicago Tribune. He called it “A searing and timely account of the juvenile court system, and the courageous individuals who rescue hope from despair.”

Obama and Ayers were co-panelists at a November 20, 1997 University of Chicago juvenile-justice colloquium. “Ayers will be joined by Sen. Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the Law School, who is working to combat legislation that could put more juvenile offenders into the adult system,” Jennifer Vanasco explained in the November 6, 1997 University of Chicago Chronicle.

‐Obama and Ayers met a dozen times as board members of the non-profit Woods Fund of Chicago between December 1999 and December 2002. As CNN reported, the fund granted $6,000 to the Trinity United Church, led by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, “in recognition of Barack Obama’s contributions to Woods Fund as a director.” While Obama and Ayers served on the Woods Funds’ board, Chicago ACORN received $190,000 in Woods’ money. The Fund’s spokesman, Valerie Denney, confirms that it paid ACORN the following sums: $45,000 in 2000; $30,000 and $45,000 in 2001; and $30,000 and $40,000 in 2002. She added: “All decisions are made by the board as a whole. This is not just a function of having Obama and Ayers on the board.”

‐Ayers donated $200 to Obama’s re-election campaign on April 2, 2001, and Obama accepted Ayers’ contribution. Multiple searches of the websites of the Federal Election Commission, Illinois State Board of Elections, OpenSecrets.org, and NewsMeat.com indicate that this is the only disclosed political contribution that Ayers has made. (Dohrn has no campaign donations on record at any of these government or “watchdog” websites.)

‐Obama and Ayers were co-panelists again at an April 19 – 20, 2002 University of Illinois-Chicago seminar titled “Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?” Dohrn also addressed this conference.

‐City Councilman John Murtagh of Yonkers, New York appeared on Fox and Friends Thursday morning to discuss the Weathermen’s attack on his parents’ Manhattan home on February 21, 1970. His father was a judge who then presided over a trial of Black Panthers. The Weathermen set off at least three bombs around the Murtagh’s home as the family slept inside. Murtagh and his family were traumatized but otherwise uninjured.

Murtagh spoke about Dohrn, “the woman who took credit for the bombing at our home and in other New York targets,” He said, “Bill Ayers’ family got her a job at a large Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, in the 1980s. She was a contemporary at that law firm in the ’80s with Michelle Obama. A year later, it’s where Michelle and Barack Obama met. So, I believe if the senator were to come clean and tell us the full story, we’d find out this relationship well predates the fundraiser held in the Ayers’ home. It goes back to the ’80s.”

These considerable ties might be irrelevant if Ayers and Dohrn regretted their actions. Had they apologized and expressed remorse, Obama’s work with these aging urban guerillas could be overlooked while they healed themselves and their victims and left this ugliness behind. But Ayers and Dohrn — currently professors at University of Illinois-Chicago and Northwestern University, respectively — are anything but remorseful. Indeed, they celebrate the Weathermen’s storms of brutality.

‐ “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers said in an interview published September 11, 2001 — while Obama knew Ayers.

‐Obama knew Ayers that August, when Ayers posed for a Chicago Magazine photo (by photogrpaher Jeff Sciortino) in which he stomped on an American flag crumpled in the dirt. Headline: “No regrets.”

‐“We’d do it again,” Dohrn told ABC in 1998. “I wish that we had done more. I wish we had been more militant.”

‐“The fact that we were trying to link into the revolutionary worldwide movement still makes sense to me,” Ayers said in January 2004 on the commentary track of the riveting, Academy Award winning documentary, The Weather Underground. Dohrn concurs: “It still makes sense to me.”

If these facts are news to Obama, he must be the most oblivious man on Chicago’s South Side. But if he knew about Ayers and Dohrn’s background, he is being untruthful about it. At the very least, Obama showed dreadful judgment by closely and repeatedly associating with these violent traitors.

More important, while Obama today calls Ayers’ behavior “detestable acts,” the question nevertheless occurs: What did Ayers and Dohrn see in Barack Obama? What inspired these unrepentant, hard-Left, former domestic terrorists to hand the chairmanship of Ayers’ foundation and share their home, friends, and Ayers’ only recorded campaign contribution with the charismatic then-35-year-old whose current 95.5 percent Left-wing vote record made him The National Journals “Most Liberal Senator In 2007?”

Groucho Marx once quipped: “I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member.” Likewise, why would Barack Obama accept any support that Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn would offer?

Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution. © 2008 Scripps Howard News Service.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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