October 15, 2008
"ex" bombers and double standards
Jeff Jacoby takes issue with the claim that calling attention to Barack Obama's close working relationship with Bill Ayers constitutes unfair guilt by association:
...Obama's defenders have been insisting that to call attention to these deplorable associations is to engage in ridiculous and unfair "guilt by association."With Ayers, it's more than an association. It's collaboration. And repeated attempts at covering up by the Obama campaign.
I do see a problem with pointing the finger at Obama alone, though. After all, he wasn't the one who made Ayers a respectable mainstream figure, and it isn't fair to stick him with the blame for Ayers' respectability, which Obama used as a stepping stone to advance his political career as would many an aspiring young leftist politician in a similar position.
What is being missed by nearly everyone is that morally speaking, the only difference between Ayers and Ted Kaczysinski is that the latter accomplished more of what he set out to accomplish. While both are "ex" bombers in the sense that they don't bomb people now, the idea of either one of them ever becoming respectable ought to be unthinkable.
But the buck has to stop somewhere. Mainstreaming Bill Ayers went too far, and for the good of the country, it should be stopped right now by Barack Obama. He should admit his mistake, and while I know it will sound hypocritical, I think that for the good of the country, he should throw Ayers under the proverbial bus.
However he has not. Who cares how old Obama was when the Weather Underground bombs went off? Does anyone care how old anyone was when the Unabomber's bombs went off?
The point that matters that Ayers is and remains unrepentant.
Why won't Obama simply denounce Ayers not as the moral reprobate that he was but as the moral reprobate he still is? Can anyone imagine Barack Obama describing Ted Kaczynski as just "a respected mathematician" (which he was) or as "a guy in the neighborhood"? Even if he were released and worked in a Chicago community for ten years?
No, and I submit that the difference is only because the latter is not considered respectable. Ayers' respectability is the main reason Obama gets a pass.
Regardless of how Ayers came to be respectable and mainstream, though, the people who made him respectable are not running for president. Obama is, and so the issue of Ayers -- and his respectability -- is fair game. It is not enough for Obama to say Ayer's "past" is despicable if Ayers does not repent it. Nor does hiding behind the "everyone else did it" claim of Ayers' respectability.
The question is not whether Ayers' past actions were despicable, but whether Obama thinks being unrepentant about terrorism is despicable.
Similarly, the question is not whether Ayers is respectable, but whether Obama thinks he should be respectable.
I think these are not only legitimate questions, but important ones.
Much more disturbing than Obama's minor association with these people is the way Chicago's well-heeled progressive social-political elite have, over time, completely absolved the pair of their crimes and elevated them to radical chic status. Given the couple's standing within Chicago's high-status Democratic political hierarchy, it's not surprising at all that their paths would have crossed with Obama's repeatedly. Considering Ayers' and Dohrn's positions in Chicago's lefty academic scene,the fact that Obama has had some casual association with them due to overlapping political/social circles is pretty much to be expected. But it's still something that I, a progressive voter, find completely distasteful.OK, so let's put aside for a moment whether things like a party launching career, the distribution of tens of millions of dollars together for pet causes, and appearances on panels are more than a minor association.
So, what about "Chicago's well-heeled progressive social-political elite" having "completely absolved the pair of their crimes and elevated them to radical chic status"?
Isn't it fair to ask Obama whether he embraces that?
He's running for president of the United States, not Mayor of Berkeley.
posted by Eric on 10.15.08 at 02:03 PM
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