There is now a website on which fellow academics are invited to express solidarity with the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education’s Distinguished Professor:
It seems that the character assassination and slander of Bill Ayers and other people who have known Obama is not about to let up. While an important concern is the dishonesty of this campaign and the slanderous McCarthyism they are using to attack Obama, we also feel an obligation to support our friend and colleague Bill Ayers. Many, many educators have reached out, asking what they could do, seeking a way to weigh in against fear and intimidation. Many of us have been talking and we agree that this one gesture, a joint statement signed by hundreds of hard-working educators, would be a great first step.
So far 3247 educators and administrators have signed on and signed up.
Paul Berman, a man whose intellectual accomplishments are as gold standard as his liberal credentials are copper-bottomed, addresses these misguided signatories in an excellent piece written for The Daily Beast.
Dear 3,247 signatories, and, for that matter, dear Bill Ayers (who may or may not remember me, but I remember you): allow me to remind you of some of the consequences of the armed left-wing movements that were influenced by the Weather Underground. In California, the Symbionese Liberation Army, of which Patty Hearst was first a victim and then a member, succeeded in assassinating the first black schools chancellor of Oakland. In New York in 1981, an offshoot of the Weather Underground staged a hold-up in Nyack, N.Y., that managed to kill the first black person to win a job in the Nyack police department. The armed left-wing movements of those years claimed to be the champions of black advancement, and yet made a point of destroying the actual black people who were advancing.
And Mr. Berman puts the Obama-Ayers association in sensible perspective:
Obama never shared, not even for the briefest second as a kid in high school or college, the political imagination of Bill Ayers. A few hot-headed moments in someone’s youth may well testify to a sturdy character. But Obama is authentically Mr. Cool. Hot-headed moments have passed him by. Nonetheless he is saddled with Ayers, and for an obvious reason: the Republicans have found a stick and are using it, as anybody would do in a political election. But Obama is saddled with Ayers also because of a culture of mendacity on the far left in America—the mendacity that allows Ayers to go on proclaiming his own nobility and ideals, quite as if his own principles were those of any liberal-minded person, which they are not.
Meanwhile, in today’s Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute’s Sol Stern has a very definite take on the nature of the Distinguished Professor’s scholarship and contribution to the profession:
I’ve studied Mr. Ayers’s work for years and read most of his books. His hatred of America is as virulent as when he planted a bomb at the Pentagon. And this hatred informs his educational “reform” efforts. Of course, Mr. Obama isn’t going to appoint him to run the education department. But the media mainstreaming of a figure like Mr. Ayers could have terrible consequences for the country’s politics and public schools.
The education career of William Ayers began when he enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College at the age of 40. He planned to stay long enough to get a teaching credential. But he experienced an epiphany in a course offered by Maxine Greene, who urged future teachers to tell children about the evils of the existing, oppressive capitalist social order. In her essay “In Search of a Critical Pedagogy,” for example, Ms. Greene wrote of an education that would portray “homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.”
Personally, I have less than zero sympathy for Ayers, his works and/or his pomps. But I continue to consider his connection with Senator Obama a non starter as far as the 2008 election is concerned. In 1969, during the “Days of Rage” when Mr. and Mrs. Ayers and several of their Weathermen comrades cocked their snooks at one Chicago Mayor named Daley and were named in federal indictments, Mr. Obama was only eight years old. And in 1997, when Mr Obama was only 36, another Mayor Daley named Mr. Ayers “Chicagoan of the Year”.
I don’t feel any differently now than I did back in August when the controversy was just emerging:
In the course of working in a community and running for office a man will meet many people and acquire many “friends” —more accurately friendly acquaintances— that help him on his way. No doubt both Ayers’ pasts were known; indeed, well known. But in many ostensibly respectable quarters, people with those kinds of past are celebrated rather than scorned. Distance lends enchantment, and with our skewed sense of celebrity, radical associations seem to add more cachet and glamour than raise questions about morality and accountability. When radical cooks are making the omelets, liberals are much less judgmental about how the eggs get broken.
But in 2008 it strikes me as unfair to hold Senator Obama personally responsible for the failings of so many others for so many years —the State of Illinois, the universities, the institutes, the foundations, the organizations, the neighbors, society itself— to have taken a stand and excluded the Ayers from the comforts of decent society until they finally render honest accounts of their actions and renounce them.