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Saturday, October 4, 2008

The New York Times Takes on Obama and Ayers

Today, the New York Times finally addresses the connection between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama. An easy summary of this article would be that their connection is slightly more than two guys from the same neighborhood. The Times takes a relationship that spans more than a decade between a former domestic terrorist and a man about to be President and turns it into something rather inconsequential. Here is how they described their time at the Annenberg Project, a public school project funded by philanthropist William Annenberg.

In fact, according to several people involved, Mr. Ayers played no role in Mr. Obama’s appointment. 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.

...

Archives of the Chicago Annenberg project, which funneled the money to networks of schools from 1995 to 2000, show both men attended six board meetings early in the project — Mr. Obama as chairman, Mr. Ayers to brief members on school issues.


This is a likely accurate description of their time together there, and also in my opinion, it is totally out of context. The Times makes Ayers to be currently a good citizen who is trying to make a difference in public education. Of course, that is a total distortion of Ayers' intentions. Ayers' view of education is just as radical as his past. Here is how Sol Stern describes Ayers' CURRENT views of education.

While attending Columbia University Teachers College in 1984 he had an epiphany. He adopted the views of one of his professors, Maxine Greene-a leader in the "critical pedagogy" movement. What did he take away from the course? An ideology that he has promoted throughout his career -- and one that has very little to do with education but has a great deal to do with radicalism. Stern writes:

As Ayers wrote later, he took fire from Greene's lectures on how the "oppressive hegemony" of the capitalist social order "reproduces" itself through the traditional practice of public schooling-critical pedagogy's fancy way of saying that the evil corporations exercise thought control through the schools.

Greene told future teachers that they could help change this bleak landscape by developing a "transformative" vision of social justice and democracy in their classrooms. Her vision, though, was a far cry from the democratic optimism of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., which most parents would endorse. Instead, critical pedagogy theorists nurse a rancorous view of an America in which it is always two minutes to midnight and a knock on the door by the thought police is imminent. The education professors feel themselves anointed to use the nation's K-12 classrooms to resist this oppressive system. Thus Maxine Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social
order.

They should 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." In other words, they should turn the little ones into young socialists and critical theorists.

All music to Bill Ayers's ears. The ex-Weatherman glimpsed a new radical vocation. He dreamed of bringing the revolution from the streets to the schools. And that's exactly what he has managed to do.


Neither Ayers' radical educational views nor the mysterious accomplishments of the Annenberg Project are ever discussed in the piece. It's as though it is perfectly normal to have a former terrorist sitting on a major project like the Annenberg Project and Barack Obama should be excused for serving with him.

The Times continues.

In 1997, after Mr. Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Mr. Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which Mr. Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.” In 2001, Mr. Ayers donated $200 to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

In addition, from 2000 to 2002, the two men also overlapped on the seven-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity that had supported Mr. Obama’s first work as a community organizer in the 1980s. Officials there said the board met about a dozen times during those three years but declined to make public the minutes, saying they wanted members to be candid in assessing people and organizations applying for grants.

A board member at the time, R. Eden Martin, a corporate lawyer and president of the Commercial Club of Chicago, described both men as conscientious in examining proposed community projects but could recall nothing remarkable about their dealings with each other. “You had people who were liberal and some who were pretty conservative, but we usually reached a consensus,” Mr. Martin said of the panel.


So, there you have it. We have a relationship in which a former terrorist has served as Obama's fundraiser, colleague on more than one occasion, speech partner, not to mention that this relationship has lasted more than a decade. Yet, this relationship is turned into nothing more than a passing acquaintance. The Times is painstaking in pointing out that Ayers' radical views haven't materialized in Obama. Of course, that is hard to gather since they don't really ever lay out Ayers' views in the first place.

What the Times and most of the MSM fails to ever examine is this. How in the world is a former domestic terrorist allowed to find his way into any political class? Is there something to worry about with a place that allows this? The Times casually quotes Mayor Richard Daley about the matter.

“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”

I have no doubt that the Times uses this quote in order to lend credibility to Ayers current character, except that, in my opinion, the real story is how the current mayor could see the world in such a warped way.

The reality is that Chicago is as radical as Ayers himself and that's why he fit in so nicely in it. Obama made his political bones there and he grew out of its machine. He never questioned when a former domestic terrorist hosted his first campaign event. He never questioned when a former domestic terrorist became his colleague on not one but two boards together. Why would he question it? That's how things are done in Chicago.

There is so much to this Ayers story if anyone ever wants to really investigate it. The real story is not just how much time Obama and Ayers spent together, but rather the place, Chicago, that put them together. Here is a man claiming to be an agent of change and yet his entire political bones were minted in the biggest political machine in the country. The real question is not just how much time Obama and Ayers spent together. The real question is just what kind of place makes Ayers a part of its political class, and just how much of that stink has rubbed off on Obama himself.

1 comment:

ZOE said...

Enjoyed this post. Those ideas you cite in Ayers' education are his credentials for his position. They are conventional wisdom, givens of academic fields. It is not a question of "radical" ideas rubbing off on BHO; Ayers' "current views" are pretty much mainstream in higher education. Obama cannot unlearn these things, especially since they have served him so well to gain political power.