Main article: Obama–Ayers controversy
Bill Ayers and Barack Obama at one time lived in the same neighborhood in the city of Chicago, and both had worked on education reform in the state of Illinois. The two met "at a luncheon meeting about school reform." Obama was named to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Project Board of Directors to oversee the distribution of grants in Chicago. Later in 1995, Ayers hosted "a coffee" for "Mr. Obama's first run for office." The two served on the board of a community anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 2000 and 2002, during which time the board met twelve times. In April 2001, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate. Since 2002, there has been little linking Obama and Ayers. The senator said in September 2008 that he hadn't "seen him in a year-and-a-half." In February 2008, Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement from the senator about the relationship between the two: "Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous." CNN's review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the non-profit projects in which the two men were involved. Internal reviews by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic "have said that their reporting doesn't support the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship".
WHO IS BILL AYERS??
Bill Ayers' booking photo taken in 1968 by the Chicago Police Dept.
Bill Ayers' booking photo taken in 1968 by the Chicago Police Dept.
Ayers grew up in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He attended public schools there until his second year in high school, when he transferred to Lake Forest Academy, a small prep school. Ayers earned an B.A. from the University of Michigan in American Studies in 1968. (His father, mother and older brother had preceded him there.) He is the son of Thomas G. Ayers, former Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison (1973 to 1980), Chicago philanthropist and the namesake of the Thomas G. Ayers College of Commerce and Industry.Ayers was affected when SDS President Paul Potter, at a 1965 Ann Arbor Teach-In against the Vietnam war, asked his audience, "How will you live your life so that it doesn't make a mockery of your values?" Ayers later wrote in his memoir, Fugitive Days, that his reaction was: "You could not be a moral person with the means to act, and stand still. [...] To stand still was to choose indifference. Indifference was the opposite of moral"In 1965, Ayers joined a picket line protesting an Ann Arbor, Michigan, pizzeria for refusing to seat African Americans. His first arrest came for a sit-in at a local draft board, resulting in 10 days in jail. His first teaching job came shortly afterward at the Children's Community School, a preschool with a very small enrollment operating in a church basement, founded by a group of students in emulation of the Summerhill method of education. The school was a part of the nationwide "free school movement". Schools in the movement had no grades or report cards, they aimed to encourage cooperation rather than competition, and the teachers had pupils address them by their first names. Within a few months, at age 21, Ayers became director of the school. There also he met Diana Oughton, who would become his girlfriend until her death in a bomb-making accident in 1970.
Further information: Weatherman (organization)
Ayers became involved in the New Left and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). He rose to national prominence as an SDS leader in 1968 and 1969. As head of an SDS regional group, the "Jesse James Gang", Ayers made decisive contributions to the Weatherman orientation toward militancy.The group Ayers headed in Detroit, Michigan became one of the earliest gatherings of what became the Weatherman. Between the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the June 1969 SDS convention, Ayers became a prominent leader of the group, which arose as a result of a schism in SDS."During that time his infatuation with street fighting grew and he developed a language of confrontational militancy that became more and more pronounced over the year ", disaffected former Weatherman member Cathy Wilkerson wrote in 2001. Ayers had previously become a roommate of Terry Robbins, a fellow militant, Wilkerson wrote. Robbins would later be killed while making a bomb.In June 1969, the Weatherman took control of the SDS at its national convention, where Ayers was elected Education Secretary. Later in 1969, Ayers participated in planting a bomb at a statue dedicated to riot police casualties in the 1886 Haymarket Riot confrontation between labor supporters and the police. The blast broke almost 100 windows and blew pieces of the statue onto the nearby Kennedy Expressway. (The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, and blown up again by other Weathermen on October 6, 1970. Rebuilding it yet again, the city posted a 24-hour police guard to prevent another blast.) Ayers participated in the Days of Rage riot in Chicago in October 1969, and in December was at the "War Council" meeting in Flint, Michigan. Larry Grathwohl, an FBI informant in the Weatherman group from the fall of 1969 to the spring of 1970, thought that "Ayers, along with Bernardine Dohrn, probably had the most authority within the Weatherman".
In 1970 he "went underground" with several associates after the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, in which Weatherman member Ted Gold, Ayers' close friend Terry Robbins, and Ayers' girlfriend, Diana Oughton, were killed when a nail bomb (an anti-personnel device) they were assembling exploded. Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson survived the blast. Ayers was not facing criminal charges at the time, but the federal government later filed charges against him.Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and The Pentagon in 1972, as he noted in his 2001 book, Fugitive Days. Because of a water leak caused by the Pentagon bombing, aerial bombardments during the Vietnam War had to be halted for several days. Ayers writes:
Although the bomb that rocked the Pentagon was itsy-bitsy - weighing close to two pounds - it caused 'tens of thousands of dollars' of damage. The operation cost under $500, and no one was killed or even hurt. 
While underground, he and fellow member Bernardine Dohrn married, and the two remained fugitives together, changing identities, jobs and locations. By 1976 or 1977, with federal charges against both fugitives dropped due to prosecutorial misconduct (see COINTELPRO), Ayers was ready to turn himself in to authorities, but Dohrn remained reluctant until after she gave birth to two sons, one born in 1977, the other in 1980. "He was sweet and patient, as he always is, to let me come to my senses on my own", she later said. The couple turned themselves in to authorities in 1980. Ayers and Dohrn later became legal guardians to the son of former Weathermen David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin after the boy's parents were convicted and sent to prison for their part in the Brinks Robbery of 1981.
Later reflections on his past
Fugitive Days: A Memoir
In 2001, Ayers published Fugitive Days: A Memoir, which he explained in part as an attempt to answer the questions of Kathy Boudin's son, and his speculation that Diana Oughton died trying to stop the Greenwich Village bomb makers. Some have questioned the truth, accuracy, and tone of the book. Brent Staples wrote for The New York Times Book Review that "Ayers reminds us often that he can't tell everything without endangering people involved in the story. Historian Jesse Lemisch (himself a former member of SDS) contrasted Ayers' recollections with those of other former members of Weatherman and has alleged serious factual errors. Ayers, in the foreword to his book, states that it was written as his personal memories and impressions over time, not a scholarly research project.
Statements made in 2001
Chicago Magazine reported that "just before the September 11th attacks," Richard Elrod, a city lawyer injured in the Weathermen's Chicago "Days of Rage," received an apology from Ayers and Dohrn for their part in the violence. "[T]hey were remorseful," Elrod says. "They said, 'We're sorry that things turned out this way.'" In the months before Ayers' memoir was published on September 10, 2001, the author gave numerous interviews with newspaper and magazine writers in which he defended his overall history of radical words and actions. Some of the resulting articles were written just before the September 11 terrorist attacks and appeared immediately after, including one often-noted article in The New York Times, and another in the Chicago Tribune. Numerous observations were made in the media comparing the statements Ayers was making about his own past just as a dramatic new terrorist incident shocked the public.
Much of the controversy about Ayers during the decade since 2000 stems from an interview he gave to The New York Times on the occasion of the memoir's publication. The reporter quoted him as saying "I don't regret setting bombs" and "I feel we didn't do enough", and, when asked if he would "do it all again" as saying "I don't want to discount the possibility." Ayers has not denied the quotes, but he protested the interviewer's characterizations in a Letter to the Editor published September 15, 2001: "This is not a question of being misunderstood or 'taken out of context', but of deliberate distortion."
In the ensuing years, Ayers has repeatedly avowed that when he said he had "no regrets" and that "we didn't do enough" he was speaking only in reference to his efforts to stop the United States from waging the Vietnam War, efforts which he has described as ". . . inadequate [as] the war dragged on for a decade." Ayers has maintained that the two statements were not intended to imply a wish they had set more bombs.
The interviewer also quoted some of Ayers' own criticism of Weatherman in the foreword to the memoir, whereby Ayers reacts to having watched Emile de Antonio's 1976 documentary film about Weatherman, Underground: "[Ayers] was 'embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way. The rigidity and the narcissism.' " "We weren't terrorists," Ayers told an interviewer for the Chicago Tribune in 2001. "The reason we weren't terrorists is because we did not commit random acts of terror against people. Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States."
In a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune, Ayers wrote, "I condemn all forms of terrorism — individual, group and official". He also condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks in that letter. "Today we are witnessing crimes against humanity on our own shores on an unthinkable scale, and I fear that we may soon see more innocent people in other parts of the world dying in response."
Views on his past expressed since 2001
Ayers was asked in a January 2004 interview, "How do you feel about what you did? Would you do it again under similar circumstances?" He replied: "I've thought about this a lot. Being almost 60, it's impossible to not have lots and lots of regrets about lots and lots of things, but the question of did we do something that was horrendous, awful? ... I don't think so. I think what we did was to respond to a situation that was unconscionable." On September 9, 2008, journalist Jake Tapper reported on the comic strip in Bill Ayers's blog explaining the soundbite: "The one thing I don't regret is opposing the war in Vietnam with every ounce of my being.... When I say, 'We didn't do enough,' a lot of people rush to think, 'That must mean, "We didn't bomb enough shit."' But that's not the point at all. It's not a tactical statement, it's an obvious political and ethical statement. In this context, 'we' means 'everyone.'"
Ayers' political views
In an interview published in 1995, Ayers characterized his political beliefs at that time and in the 1960s and 1970s: "I am a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist ... [Laughs] Maybe I'm the last communist who is willing to admit it. [Laughs] We have always been small 'c' communists in the sense that we were never in the [Communist] party and never Stalinists. The ethics of Communism still appeal to me. I don't like Lenin as much as the early Marx. I also like Henry David Thoreau, Mother Jones and Jane Addams [...]"In 1970 Ayers was called "a national leader" of the Weatherman organization and "one of the chief theoreticians of the Weathermen". The Weathermen were initially part of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) within the SDS, splitting from the RYM's Maoists by claiming there was no time to build a vanguard party and that revolutionary war against the United States government and the capitalist system should begin immediately. Their founding document called for the establishment of a "white fighting force" to be allied with the "Black Liberation Movement" and other "anti-colonial" movements to achieve "the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism." In June 1974, the Weather Underground released a 151-page volume titled Prairie Fire, which stated: "We are a guerrilla organization [...] We are communist women and men underground in the United States [...]" The Weatherman leadership, including Bill Ayers, pushed for a radical reformulation of sexual relations under the slogan "Smash Monogamy".[34
Thursday, October 9, 2008