A Toothless Old Radical

So Caribou Barbie seems to have become emboldened as a result of her shuckin’ and jivin’ her way through her one debate. Not emboldened enough to go up against Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, of course, but bold enough to hit the campaign trail spouting the kind of garbage that was hurled against John McCain by the Bush-Rove cabal in 2000. (And continued shame on McCain, who has decided that decency — not to mention country — be damned, as long as he can maybe become President).

The lastest barrage takes off from a “swift boat style” commercial, financed by Harold Simmons, the same piece of garbage that helped finance the original in 2004 against John Kerry. Quoting the NY Times (I guess we now know one of the newspapers Palin reads), Palin said that Barack Obama “pals around with terrorists.” Never mind that The Times article pointed out that there is no real “palling around” going on, and even quoted a former Harvard classmate (who is actually a McCain supporter) that, if anything, Obama was considered far too moderate by his classmates. If the guy is a bomb-thowing radical, he’s sure been doing a great job of hiding it.

Now, Bill Ayres and his wife Bernadine Dohrn were members of the Weather Underground in the late 60s. The Weather Underground did set several bombs, were implicated in a number of bank robberies, and were responsible for several deaths. (The townhouse that blew up on 11th Street in Greenwich Village — killing a few of its occupants — was a Weather Underground “bomb factory.”)

It’s not clear which acts Ayres did or did not take part in, and he has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t regret his actions of the time. But he has denounced any violence that harms people in his memoir of the era and in numerous interviews, saying that destruction of human life is never justified for any cause. The Weather Underground’s aim was to destroy property, and they at least tried to be sure that no one was in the buildings they attacked (though this was not always successful). This is not, by the way, meant as an excuse, merely a statement of explanation. And you do have to remember that this was in the context of an illegal and “secret” war in Cambodia, the bombing of civilian targets in North Viet Nam (something John McCain is more familiar with than most, both from above and below), illegal domestic spying, suppression of rights, etc. For all the upheavals of the current period in our history, it’s hard to remember that things were actually worse at that time. Not everyone reacted rationally.

 After years underground, Ayres and Dohrn turned themselves in. Charges against Ayres were dismissed due to government misconduct (illegal searches and wiretapping, etc. — sound familiar?). Both he and Dohrn are now college professors (he at University of Illinois At Chicago; she at Northwestern). Ayres has also authored numerous books on education, and is considered by many — though certainly not all — in and around Chicago an educational reformer and a respected member of society.

Now, as Barack Obama pointed out, he was 8 years old during the days of the Weather Underground. Some might say that, since Ayres never “served his debt to society,” he’s unfit for “pal” status even now. But remember that Ayres turned himself in, and was prepared to face the consequences. It was the screwups of the government that prevented the case from going forward. This attitude also suggests that people don’t change over time. It’s been 40 years since the days of the Weather Underground, and Ayres seems a far different person than he was then. One would think that someone so steeped in religion, Sarah Palin would be willing to forgive someone for his past sins. Perhaps that only applies to witches in her church.

All of this would be more relevant if there actually were something more than a short-term tenuous relationship between Obama and Ayres. Perhaps Palind doesn’t read The Times at all, but merely skims the front page. Or maybe it’s just more of Karl Rove, pulling the same old crap. The question is:  will it work again? If it does, then we, as a country, deserve the screwing we’ll get.

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