Obama and Ayers in the News — Finally

It’s amazing that the press is now acting as if Senator Barack Obama’s relationship with terrorists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn is a lighting bolt that’s suddenly come out of the clear blue sky. It’s not and it’s not “Swift Boating” to merely recite facts.

As we reported in Foundation Watch, Obama and Ayers have had at least a working relationship since 1995 when Ayers and Dohrn, both former leaders of the communist terrorist group known as the Weather Underground, hosted a fundraising event for the then-virtually unknown Obama in their living room. At the time, Obama was seeking election to the Illinois state senate. One attendee at the Ayers-Dohrn soiree that helped launch Obama’s career in electoral politics said the couple was “introducing [Obama] to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread.”

It is hard to believe that Obama and Ayers, two passionate activists, exchanged no ideas about political goals and tactics while they both served on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. The two also appeared on academic panels together. One panel dealt with juvenile justice issues, and at that time Obama said Ayers’s book on the topic was “a searing and timely account.” Both also worked to reform Chicago’s education system. They were comrades.

Now the New York Times reports that, contrary to earlier speculation by bloggers and others, Ayers had no role in Obama’s appointment as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. According to the NYT article

Instead, it was suggested by Deborah Leff, then president of the Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based group whose board Mr. Obama, a young lawyer, had joined the previous year. At a lunch with two other foundation heads, Patricia A. Graham of the Spencer Foundation and Adele Simmons of the MacArthur Foundation, Ms. Leff suggested that Mr. Obama would make a good board chairman, she said in an interview. Mr. Ayers was not present and had not suggested Mr. Obama, she said.

The Joyce and MacArthur foundations are both reliably liberal funders. (For more on MacArthur, see CRC Senior Fellow Martin Morse Wooster’s profile of the foundation in Foundation Watch, September 2005.) 

Stanley Kurtz has also done excellent research on Obama’s ties to Ayers, as has David Freddoso, author of The Case Against Barack Obama. (We interviewed Freddoso. Partial transcript here, audio file here)

It remains to be seen if voters will care about all this, but we think it’s interesting.

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