6 Degrees Of Terror: Obama, McCain, Ayers & Liddy


David Letterman stirred things up a bit this week when he had Sen. McCain on his show (after McCain recently cancelled on Letterman to talk to Katie Couric instead). Letterman pressed McCain hard for answers and explanations. He challenged McCain and his and Sarah Palin’s ongoing insistence that there is hidden information and suggestions of a hidden agenda in Barack Obama’s fleeting association with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers. We all know about these claims, they’ve been discussed and debunked ad nauseum. But McCain and Palin and many of their supporters are not yet satisfied, convinced that the media, Democrats and Liberals are “avoiding the truth” and “sweeping the facts under the rug.”

I wrote about Obama and Ayers recently in my post, Obama, Ayers & The UnAmericanization Of Sarah Palin. There’s a lot of info there and links to even more. But I will reiterate some points in this post that I feel bear repeating. But first, let’s take a look at a clip from McCain’s visit on Letterman earlier this week:

As you can see, Mr. McCain is quite fond of telling Americans that Bill Ayers said in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks that Ayers wished he had bombed more. Let’s look at what Ayers actually said and also his follow-up to its misinterpretation:

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 a 2004 interview, Ayers was quoted as saying:

“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.’”

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.

Today, Ayers is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education 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.

So the question here, is John McCain telling people what he wants to believe Bill Ayers said, or what Bill Ayers actually said? Ironically for me, even if Mr. Ayers had claimed that he wished he’d bombed more, I still wouldn’t find Mr. Obama’s association with him any more disturbing than I do now. They served on a board together. Along with many other members. And Mr. Obama has always maintained that he openly condemns the actions Mr. Ayers partook in as a member of the Weathermen. If they were close friends and Mr. Obama thought of Bill Ayers as a hero? That would be a different story. But that’s not this story. There isn’t a respectable newspaper or publication that has not debunked McCain and Palin’s tired accusations trying to link Barack Obama to terrorists and their none-too-mild suggestion that Obama’s actually an enemy of this country and secretly wishes it, and all of us, harm.

Now let’s take a look at Mr. McCain’s association with G. Gordon Liddy. I’m not writing about this to suggest we should be concerned about John McCain’s association with the man, but to highlight how easy it is to have associations with people that may be politically and morally questionable. And I think Mr. McCain’s association with Mr. Liddy appears to be far closer than Barack Obama’s ever was or is with Bill Ayers.

According to Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune:

Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him…

Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as “an old friend,” and McCain sounded like one. “I’m proud of you, I’m proud of your family,” he gushed. “It’s always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.”

Now McCain claims on Letterman that Liddy has paid his debt to society. And while it’s true that Bill Ayers never went to jail due to a legal technicality, he has most certainly given back to society in his involvement and founding of many various education reforms and youth programs. And has been widely recognized for such. What has G. Gordon Liddy been doing and saying since his release from prison?

Shortly after the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, Liddy commented to his radio listeners:

“Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests… They’ve got a big target on there, ATF. Don’t shoot at that, because they’ve got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots… Kill the sons of bitches.”

Later, Liddy claimed that he was just suggesting that people should defend themselves if federal agents came in firing weapons:

“I was talking about a situation in which law enforced agents comes smashing into a house, doesn’t say who they are, and their guns are out, they’re shooting, and they’re in the wrong place. This has happened time and time again. The ATF has gone in and gotten the wrong guy in the wrong place. The law is that if somebody is shooting at you, using deadly force, the mere fact that they are a law enforcement officer, if they are in the wrong, does not mean you are obliged to allow yourself to be killed so your kinfolk can have a wrongful death action. You are legally entitled to defend yourself and I was speaking of exactly those kind of situations. If you’re going to do that, you should know that they’re wearing body armor so you should use a head shot. Now all I’m doing is stating the law, but all the nuances in there got left out when the story got repeated.”

But then Liddy proceeded to state that he should have suggested shots to the groin instead of the head.

So, in addition to appearing on Liddy’s radio show and publicly praising the man, McCain also allowed Liddy’s home to be the site of a McCain fundraiser at which guests could have their pictures taken with McCain and Liddy. Over the years, Liddy has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to Sen. McCain’s campaigns — including $1,000 this year. Sound familiar? In 1995, Bill Ayers hosted a “coffee” for Mr. Obama’s first run for office. He then donated $200 to Sen. Obama’s campaign. Once.

In discussing Obama’s tenuous link to Ayers, McCain has publicly proclaimed:

“I think not only a repudiation but an apology for ever having anything to do with an unrepentant terrorist is due the American people.”

By that same manner of thinking, I would certainly expect, at the very least, the same from Sen. McCain. But on Letterman, McCain instead stands behind G. Gordon Liddy and defends their friendship.

Now understand fully Liddy’s history and his crucial actions against America and Americans; Liddy was the chief operative for the White House Plumbers during Richard Nixon’s Presidency. Liddy masterminded the first break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building to plant bugs and photograph documents. This was 1972. The same time Mr. Ayers was an active member of the Weathermen. Liddy’s act of burglary was covered up and became the now infamous Watergate scandal which eventually led to President Nixon’s resignation and Liddy himself was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping and received a 20-year sentence. He served four and a half years before his sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter.

But wait, there’s so much more. During his years as the chief of the White House Plumbers under Nixon’s rule, Liddy suggested firebombing the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. (where classified documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg were being stored), kidnapping anti-war protest organizers and transporting them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention, and luring mid-level Democratic campaign officials to a house boat in Baltimore where they would be secretly photographed in compromising positions with call girls. Luckily, most of Liddy’s suggestions were rejected. However, his suggestion of breaking into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office was given the go-ahead by the Nixon Administration. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. The Pentagon Papers was a top secret, 14,000 page government report about the history of the Government’s internal planning and policy concerning the Vietnam War. The actual name of that report was United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. As a result of Ellsberg’s copying and giving portions of this report to the New York Times, the Times began publishing excerpts as an article series in 1971. 

Oh, and one last thing that may or may not be important. Liddy has stated that as a child he listened to Adolph Hitler’s speeches and they “made me feel a strength inside I had never known before. Hitler’s sheer animal confidence and power of will [entranced me]. He sent an electric current through my body.”

Liddy later stated that he condemned Nazism and believed Hitler was evil.

Once again, my point here isn’t to smear McCain, but to shine a light on people and their relationships to others and how easy those relationships are to exploit (see also McCain Campaign Smears Snap Back Again With William Timmons). And like Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, and his associations with bigots and America-haters as a member of the AIF, McCain has some deep, dark skeletons in his closet that are at least as disturbing as anything he claims of Barack Obama. And to my mind, worse. At least Mr. Obama condemned the actions of the young Mr. Ayers, while John McCain publicly defended his friendship with and pride in G. Gordon Liddy just days ago.

If there’s anything to be swept under the rug, now might be a good time.

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6 Degrees Of Terror: Obama, McCain, Ayers & Liddy

Obama, Ayers & The UnAmericanization Of Sarah Palin


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.”

He continued:

“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 TimesThe Washington PostTime magazine, The Chicago Sun-TimesThe 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?

Obama, Ayers & The UnAmericanization Of Sarah Palin