In Karen Tumulty’s TIME MAGAZINE article, In Battleground Virginia, a Tale of Two Ground Games, she writes about visiting the GOP’s “Gainesville operation on Saturday morning, to get a first-hand glimpse of its ground game in Prince William County, Virginia, a fast-growing area about 30 miles from Washington, D.C.”
In her article, Tumulty describes her experience observing GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick as he “climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.” It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama’s controversial association with William Ayers, a former 60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. “And he won’t salute the flag,” one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, “We don’t even know where Senator Obama was really born.” Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii.”
Now, let’s talk a bit about this whole Bill Ayers connection the GOP (particularly Sarah Palin) love to reiterate and distort beyond recognition. Bill Ayers earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in American Studies in 1968. Ayers became interested in the student activist organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1965 when then SDS President asked the question, “How will you live your life so that it doesn’t make a mockery of your values?” Ayers commented that his feeling at the time was, “You could not be a moral person with the means to act, and stand still… To stand still was to choose indifference. Indifference was the opposite of moral.”
In 1965, Ayers joined a picket line protesting a Michigan pizzeria for refusing to seat African Americans. The first time Ayers was arrested was at a sit-in at a local draft board.
Ayers eventually became one of the leaders of SDS. The particular group of members Ayers headed in Detroit later became known as the Weathermen. In 1969, Ayers participated in planting a bomb at a statue dedicated to riot police casualties in the 1886 Haymarket Riot confrontation between labor supporters and the police. The intention was to destroy the statue, not kill or injure anyone. And no one was.
Ayers also participated in the Days of Rage riot in Chicago in October 1969. According to Ayers:
“The Days of Rage was an attempt to break from the norms of kind of acceptable theater of ‘here are the anti-war people: containable, marginal, predictable, and here’s the little path they’re going to march down, and here’s where they can make their little statement.’ We wanted to say, “No, what we’re going to do is whatever we had to do to stop the violence in Vietnam.”
In 1970, several associates of Ayers, including his then girlfriend, were killed in a nail bomb-making explosion in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. Shortly after the explosion, Ayers and other Weathermen members went “underground”. Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and The Pentagon in 1972. Again, no one was killed or injured.
By 1977, federal charges were dropped against Ayers due to Prosecutorial Misconduct. In 1980, Ayers and his girlfriend, Bernardine Dohrn (a former Weathermen member and mother of their two sons) turned themselves into authorities.
In 2001, Richard Elrod, a city lawyer injured in the Weathermen’s Chicago “Days of Rage,” received an apology from Ayers and Dohrn for their part in the violence. As Elrod remembers:
“[T]hey were remorseful. They said, ‘We’re sorry that things turned out this way.'”
In 2001, A New York Times article quoted Ayers as saying:
“I don’t regret setting bombs” and “I feel we didn’t do enough”, and, when asked if he would “do it all again” as saying “I don’t want to discount the possibility.”
In a Letter to the Editor published September 15, 2001, Ayers responded to the quotes with:
“This is not a question of being misunderstood or ‘taken out of context’, but of deliberate distortion.”
Ayers insisted then and still maintains that when he said he had “no regrets” and that “we didn’t do enough” he was referring to his efforts to stop the United States from waging the Vietnam War. The statements were not intended to imply the he wished they had set more bombs.
In the forward of Ayers’ memoir, he comments on his reflections about his time as part of the Weathermen:
[I am] embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way. The rigidity and the narcissism.
In a 2001 interview, Ayers pointed out:
“We weren’t terrorists. The reason we weren’t terrorists is because we did not commit random acts of terror against people. Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States.”
In a letter to the editor of the same paper, Ayers wrote:
“I condemn all forms of terrorism — individual, group and official”
In 2004, Ayers was asked again: “How do you feel about what you did? Would you do it again under similar circumstances?” His reply:
“I’ve thought about this a lot. Being almost 60, it’s impossible to not have lots and lots of regrets about lots and lots of things, but the question of did we do something that was horrendous, awful? … I don’t think so. I think what we did was to respond to a situation that was unconscionable.”
“The one thing I don’t regret is opposing the war in Vietnam with every ounce of my being…. When I say, ‘We didn’t do enough,’ a lot of people rush to think, ‘That must mean, “We didn’t bomb enough shit.”‘ But that’s not the point at all. It’s not a tactical statement, it’s an obvious political and ethical statement. In this context, ‘we’ means ‘everyone.'”
Where is Ayers today? What has he done with his life? According to Wikipedia:
Ayers is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education. His interests include teaching for social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.
He began his career in primary education while an undergraduate, teaching at the Children’s Community School (CCS), a project founded by a group of students and based on the Summerhill method of education. After leaving the underground, he earned an M.Ed from Bank Street College in Early Childhood Education (1984), an M.Ed from Teachers College, Columbia University in Early Childhood Education (1987) and an Ed.D from Teachers College, Columbia University in Curriculum and Instruction (1987).
He has edited and written many books and articles on education theory, policy and practice, and has appeared on many panels and symposia.
During the 90’s, Ayers worked with Chicago then Mayor Richard M. Daley in shaping the city’s school reform program, and was one of the co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that won $49.2 million for public school reform. In 1997 Chicago awarded him its Citizen of the Year award for his work on the project.
Ayers has served on the board of directors for the Woods Fund of Chicago, an organization devoted to poverty relief and the promotion of social mobility.
Now… Barack Obama’s “association” with Ayers: Both men worked separately on education reform in Chicago. The two men met at a luncheon meeting about school reform when Obama was named to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Project Board of Directors to oversee the distribution of grants in Chicago.
In 1995, Ayers hosted a “coffee” for Mr. Obama’s first run for office.
Sen. Obama also served as one of the board of directors of the above mentioned Woods Fund of Chicago between 2000 and 2002. The board met twelve times.
According to the Chicago Sun Times:
Ayers and Obama interacted occasionally in their roles with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a not-for-profit group charged with spending tens of millions of dollars it obtained through its affiliation with a school-improvement foundation created by late Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg. Obama chaired the Chicago Annenberg Challenge’s board of directors. Ayers served on the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, which made recommendations to the board on which organizations should get grants. The groups worked on school-reform efforts between 1995 and 2000.
In April 2001, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama’s re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate.
Mr. Obama has openly condemned the actions of the Weathermen. He was only 8 when Ayers was active in the group.
CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the two men’s involvement together in non-profit projects. Reviews by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic came to the same conclusion. The New York Times said that “their reporting doesn’t support the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship.”
Chicago political strategist Marilyn Katz had this to say about Ayers:
“What Bill Ayers and Bobby Rush [Black Panther-turned-U.S. Rep.] did 40 years ago has nothing to do with [the presidential campaign. Ayers] has a national reputation. He lectures at Harvard and Vassar. He writes the textbooks that are the standard for innovative approaches to reaching inner-city youth.”
You can decide for yourself what you think of Bill Ayers and whether or not you believe Mr. Obama’s “connection” to Ayers is “worrisome” and whether that connection makes Mr. Obama himself–as many McCain/Palin supporters have suggested–a terrorist. I, for one, know how I feel. And it’s not the same as Sarah Palin. Which brings me to another point…
Sarah Palin considers herself a good Christian. An extremely religious, church-going, creationist-believing Christian. Now I may have a vast misunderstanding of the Christian faith, but I was under the impression that a large part of that faith was about forgiveness. So where is Sarah Palin’s forgiveness of Bill Ayers actions almost 40 years ago? Has he not proven himself to be a valuable member of society? Has he not expressed regret at some of the actions he took that may have caused harm? Has he not given back to society, at least in part, that which he may have taken away? Where is, at the very least, the ability to understand and show compassion? I do not see it. What I see is someone pointing fingers, calling out “terrorist” and inciting others to do the same. What part of Christianity does Sarah Palin claim to practice and represent? And why not this part?
Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, was an active member of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP). This party is decribed on Wikipedia as:
A political party in the U.S. state of Alaska that advocates a state vote which includes several options, including increased state autonomy, territorial status, becoming a separate nation or commonwealth state, and, failing that, nationhood. It calls for increased Alaskan control of Alaskan land, gun rights, privatization, home schooling, and reduction of governmental intrusion in the private lives of its citizens with adherence to the founding documents of the United States. The party has appeared on the ballot in Alaska in all state elections since 1970.
But what else is it? According to Salon.com:
The AIP was born of the vision of “Old Joe” Vogler, a hard-bitten former gold miner who hated the government of the United States almost as much as he hated wolves and environmentalists. His resentment peaked during the early 1970s when the federal government began installing Alaska’s oil and gas pipeline. Fueled by raw rage — “The United States has made a colony of Alaska,” he told author John McPhee in 1977… During a gubernatorial debate in 1982, Vogler proposed using nuclear weapons to obliterate the glaciers blocking roadways to Juneau. “There’s gold under there!” he exclaimed.
Here’s where it gets interesting:
Vogler convinced Richard Nixon’s former interior secretary, Wally Hickel, to run for governor under his party’s banner. Hickel coasted to victory, outflanking a moderate Republican and a centrist Democrat. An archconservative Republican running under the AIP candidate, Jack Coghill, was elected lieutenant governor.
Hickel’s subsequent failure as governor to press for a vote on Alaskan independence rankled Old Joe. With sponsorship from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Vogler was scheduled to present his case for Alaskan secession before the United Nations General Assembly in the late spring of 1993. But before he could, Old Joe’s long, strange political career ended tragically that May when he was murdered by a fellow secessionist.
Hmmm… the Islamic Republic of Iran… Now I’m not saying good, bad, or otherwise. I’m just talking about connections here. Todd Palin, Sarah Palin’s husband, and the Alaskan Independence Party which talks of seceding from the Union, run by an America-hating extremist… Just saying. It could beg the question, How much do Sarah and Todd Palin really believe in the McCain/Palin slogan ‘Country First’? And what about their link to a “terrorist country” like Iran? You know, the country we’re talking about invading? My point here is, lines can be drawn connecting people to certain belief systems and certain people. And this connection is far greater and far more worrisome (or at least should be) in the Palins’ case than it is in the Ayers/Obama case.
One last thing, though records show that Sarah Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982, AIP Chairmen and members continue to suggest that Mrs. Palin was an AIP member herself. Regardless of membership or not, Mrs. Palin has spoken at AIP conventions as recently as this year quoting “Keep up the good work.” And her personal ties to the organization go even deeper than that as is pointed out in great detail by Salon.com and The Nation’s Max Blumenthal on the Rachel Maddow Show:
See how easy it is to start drawing connections between candidates and extremists?
Am I making my point here?