Worse than Jeremiah Wright? As bad as David Duke?

Here's something Ben Stein calls interesting, and I think it is interesting:

Interestingly, McCain chooses Ayers as a line of attack, rather than Wright (perhaps because he has his own troublesome pastor).

"I think not only a repudiation, but an apology for ever having anything to do with an unrepentant terrorist is due the American people," McCain said earlier today.

Via Hugh Hewitt, who asked the question which drew the statement from McCain -- and who has posted the audio here.

Regardless of how the two might play out politically (and Wright still gets the lion's share of attention), I think Bill Ayers makes Jeremiah Wright look like small potatoes. As I have said in countless posts, I am very uncomfortable with attributing guilt by association. However, I have to admit that as guilt by association claims go, the Ayers Obama connection is a near 10 on the Richter scale, while Wright is in the 5-6 range.

Here's why: Wright is an incendiary speaker, but Ayers is an actual, unrepentant, hands-on terrorist. A man who not only advocated killing, but who did his best to practice what he preached, and who regrets that he didn't do more. (Anyone who wants to see this laid out in numbing detail should read this excellent discussion by Rick Moran, who supplies plenty of links.)

Wright may have talked the talk, but Ayers walks the walk. This, IMO, makes it necessary for Obama to address the issue head-on, instead of issuing evasive statements about how Ayers is a neighborhood English teacher who did bad stuff in the past, but who's now become "respectable."

Unfortunately, the latter happens to be very true. I think it's a major reason Obama wants to duck the issue. Ayers and his evil wife should never have been allowed to become respectable. That they did is not an indictment of Obama, but an indictment of the left -- especially the academic, America-hating, left. These people are deeply embedded in the highest echelons of the Democratic intelligentsia, and Obama does not want to offend them.

This Democratic propensity for being soft on terrorism, IMO, explains partially why Hillary dare not kvetch too much about left-wing terrorist connections. She's also very vulnerable on the pardon issue, and while that had been comfortably relegated to historical obscurity, she knows that this could bust it wide open. As I said earlier,

...if voters start wondering about terrorist pardons. (So let's us Democrats just agree not to talk too loudly about that one, OK?)
But forget the election for a moment. Ayers is so thoroughly and completely beyond the pale that he is fair game on his own, entirely apart from any friendship he has with Obama. That Obama denies that they're really friends may or may not be true, but he has to do more than that, or else he will be hopelessly unelectable if he is the candidate in the fall. (I hope he keeps ducking this, and that he is the candidate, because McCain will cream him.)

A few weeks ago, I took issue with the idea that Jeremiah Wright was like David Duke:

I don't think the comparison of Duke to Wright is completely valid, because Duke is a Klan leader, while Wright is reacting emotionally to people like Duke. Duke is more wrong than the people who react to him -- for the simple (if childish) reason that he started it. That's because people who overreact -- even in an improper manner -- are not as culpable as the people who started it.

It is hardly a defense of Wright, but he is no David Duke.

Another reason that Wright is not like Duke is that by heading a terrorist organization -- the Ku Klux Klan -- Duke does more than advocate; he becomes a de facto terrorist. Wright is a hateful motormouth, but so far as I know, no one has shown him to be a terrorist.

In that major respect, Ayers is more like Duke than Wright is. Actually, Ayers is worse than Duke, because Duke has never been convicted of any terrorist actions.

But having said Ayers is worse than Duke, I just put my finger on the problem, which involves another grotesque double standard.

Ayers is respectable. Duke is shunned by all decent people.

To illustrate, imagine if John McCain admitted to a friendship with David Duke, and it turned out that the two had served on a board together, and appeared at a "public intellectual" forum together.

It would absolutely kill McCain's candidacy. Few Republicans would defend him. No amount of backtracking or denunciations of Duke by McCain could possibly save the latter.

Once again, I will admit what's probably a form of personal weakness. I try to be so fair-minded person that I'd apply the same standard to McCain that I apply to Obama. So, I probably wouldn't tar McCain with guilt by association if he denounced David Duke, and repudiated any friendship they might have had.

But that's just me. I'm not the voting public.

Ayers is a problem for Obama, because he is like David Duke.

But I have a couple of lingering questions which go beyond Barack Obama.

Why is Ayers respectable?

What makes David Duke so much worse than a convicted, unrepentent terrorist?

CORRECTION: Commenter DRE notes that Ayers was never convicted of anything. Rather, he and Dohrn "escaped federal prosecution because of government misconduct in gathering evidence, but they don't pretend they were innocent."

My mistake, so I'll restate the question:

What makes David Duke so much worse than an admitted, unrepentent terrorist?

MORE: Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn, was convicted and served some time:

The couple turned themselves in to authorities in 1980. While some charges relating to their activities with the Weathermen were dropped due to governmental misconduct[4], Dohrn pled guilty to charges of aggravated battery and bail jumping, receiving probation. [5] She later served less than a year of jail time, after refusing to testify against ex-Weatherman Susan Rosenberg in an armed robbery case[6]
Rosenberg, it should be noted, was sentenced to 58 years, but was "pardoned by President Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001, his final day in office."

Soon afterwards, Rosenberg was rewarded with a nice teaching post at Hamilton College.

In 2004, Roger Kimball asked similar questions to the ones I'm asking now:

As it happens, a key witness in the Brinks case refused to testify as the trial approached. Prosecutors dropped their earlier charges against Ms. Rosenberg, figuring that she could serve a long prison term anyway for weapons possession. At the time, she was quoted in the New York Times saying: "We're caught, but we're not defeated. Long live the armed struggle!" When she was indeed sentenced to 58 years, she announced that "we were busted because we vacillated on our politics. . . . Our own principles were not strong enough to fight to win." According to Mr. Castellucci, one of the officers who apprehended her interpreted this statement to mean that "she regretted not shooting them." Given the context, Mr. Castellucci notes, "he was probably right."

So why isn't Susan Rosenberg still in prison? Because in January 2001, Bill Clinton commuted her sentence. The outcry at the time was loud and furious. And no wonder. Just as important: Why is Hamilton College opening its doors to her?

Hamilton College is just following the same terror-normative standard that is all too common in academia.

In light of the Dohrn and Rosenberg standard, I suppose I could ask the question again that technically does not apply to Ayers:

What makes David Duke so much worse than a convicted, unrepentent terrorist?

And while I'm at it, didn't Dohrn host the same Obama campaign launch? And didn't they both speak at the same "public intellectuals" event?

Far be it from me to explain why hobnobbing with terrorists is worse than pardoning them, however. Sheesh. (If I don't leave off with this moral relativism, I might start asking about Hillary hobnobbing with IRA leaders. That "not all terrorists are equal" business can get divisive.)

MORE: While I was not thinking about the respective races of Wright or Ayers when I wrote this post, it is certainly true that Wright is black, while Ayers is white. Apparently, it is considered by the McCain forces to be a worse offense to attack a black radical than a white radical:

....McCain continues to give himself special dispensation to challenge Obama’s relationship with Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers.

Because, you see, raising questions about a Radical of Color is “not appropriate and unhelpful,” but raising questions about a Radical of Pallor is McCain-tested and RNC-approved.

While there is certainly a double racial standard, I think this goes beyond race, because of the huge distinction between radical speech, and terrorist actions. (If Ayers were instead, say, Mumia abu Jamal, the analogy would IMO be more apt.)

Via this post by Ann Althouse, which caused Glenn to note that the commotion "ensure(s) wide circulation of the ad beyond North Carolina."

Regarding the same ad, M. Simon asked,

Are you so stupid about the Internet that you fail to realize that such a call will only draw more attention to it?
Well, all I can say is that the topic of promoting things by condemning them is an old one here!

posted by Eric on 04.26.08 at 10:36 AM


"What makes David Duke so much worse than a convicted, unrepetent terrorist?"

Ayers wasn't convicted of anything.

"It's not as though Ayers and Dohrn have denied or repudiated their crimes. After emerging from years in hiding, they escaped federal prosecution because of government misconduct in gathering evidence, but they don't pretend they were innocent. In 2001, Ayers said, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough.""

dre   ·  April 26, 2008 10:54 AM

Ms. Dohrn was the manager at Broadway Baby, a store which was implicated in false identifications used in robberies in the NYC area in the early 1980s.

From the New York Times (“BEHIND THE BRINK'S CASE: RETURN OF THE RADICAL LEFT,”M.A. FARBER ,16 February 1982 )

“..the police are studying an apparent connection between the rental of the vehicles and personal identification supplied several months earlier by unsuspecting customers at Broadway Baby, an Upper West Side children's wear shop that was managed by Bernadine Dohrn, a former Weather Underground leader”
This probably explains why Dohrn went to jail instead of testifying in the Brinks case.

Gringo   ·  April 26, 2008 3:44 PM

I watched most of the Susan Rosenberg – Timothy Blunk trial, which followed their arrests for possession of explosives and firearms. (I was a law clerk at the time.) They were determined to turn it into a Chicago Seven type circus, but Judge Lacey stayed one step ahead of them. Shortly after the beginning of the trial, they insisted that they wanted to represent themselves. Judge Lacey granted their requests (as required by case law), but advised them that he had appointed two federal public defenders to sit in the back of the courtroom to monitor the proceedings as “standby counsel” should they later change their minds.

They tried behaved like animals by doing such as putting their manacled feet on the defense table and generally raising hell. After several warnings, Judge Lacey finally had them removed from the courtroom. Anticipating that they would later squawk that they were denied their right to confront witnesses, Judge Lacey arranged for a television feed of the proceedings outside their cells and provided a means for them to return to the courtroom at any time.

The evidence against the two was overwhelming, and when the guilt phase of the trial was over, it was time for Judge Lacey to sentence them. I wish I would have written down the judge’s speech at sentencing. In handing them the maximum (58 years), he stated for the record words to the effect that, “I only hope someday when each of you is being considered for parole, the parole board reads this, because having presided over this trial and having heard all the evidence and witnessed your demeanor and lack of contrition, it is my recommendation to that future parole board that you never be granted parole.” (It was much more detailed and much harsher, but I don’t remember the details.)

It was because of the long sentences handed down by Judge Lacey that the prosecution against Rosenberg for the Brinks case was dropped.

In Blunk’s case (It came out during the trial that, prior to being caught with the explosives, Blunk had thrown acid in someone’s face at a demonstration at the U.N.), the future parole board didn’t heed Judge Lacey’s advice, and Blunk was paroled after having served twelve years.

As for Rosenberg … well, we know what happened.

Some background here.

Jim - PRS   ·  April 26, 2008 8:35 PM

The Ayers of the world assist progressives in coming to power, so all is forgiven.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  April 26, 2008 10:58 PM

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