Friday, April 18, 2008

Barack Obama's Crime

A saloon in the Old West hires a Shakespearean actor to declaim a few lines from Othello. He arrives on the noon stage; a pair of town drunks waylay him immediately. They fire their guns at his feet and order him to dance while the whole town looks on. Through no fault of his own, the actor becomes the lead player in a demeaning spectacle. This pretty describes the gravitas level at Wednesday night's Pennsylvania primary debate.

Especially ridiculous was George Stephanopoulos' question about Barack Obama's connection to the Weather Underground:

"A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

"An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"

An incredulous Obama protested that "the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George."

Needless to say, Hillary Clinton disagreed, adding that "I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position."

Who is William Ayers? Today, he is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He's also an advisor to Chicago Mayor William Daly on education issues. He was once a member of the Weather Underground, and actually went underground after an accidental explosion at his apartment killed his girl friend and two others. Ayers and his new wife -- fellow radical Bernadine Dohrn -- surrendered themselves to authorities in 1980. All charges against them were dropped owing to prosecutorial misconduct. Unlike David Horowitz, another Sixties radical, Ayers retained the courage of his convictions while channeling his considerable intellect and energies in more constructive directions. For example, Mayor Daley selected him to lead Chicago's highly regarded school reform effort.

Let's take a close look at the exchange between Stephanopoulos, Obama, and Clinton. The September 11, 2oo1 edition of the New York Times did contain Ayers' provocative statement. However, for inclusion in that day's paper, Ayers must have made the statement prior to 9/11, when neither he nor anyone else outside of the Oval Office had advance warning of the attack on the World Trade Center. Moreover, the Times would have put the edition to bed prior to the bombings. As someone who has spent his career in or working with the news media, George Stephanopoulos knew this. Thus, he deliberately framed his question to inflame and mislead. This kind of juvenalia one expects from Fox News; it's a broach of the public trust that it came from one of the most recognizable members of ABC News. Why is it a broach of public trust? ABC may be a business, but we own the airwaves.

We now know that right-wing talk show host Sean Hannity virtually spoon-fed the question to Stephanopoulos on his radio program: Stephanopolous dutifully informed Hannity that he was "taking notes." (You can listen to the actual exchange here.) ABC claims that they were researching the matter anyway, but neither they nor Stephanopoulos must have been taking very good notes. For if they had, they'd know that Ayers clarified his remarks as referring to the Vietnam war and that he should have worked even harder to oppose it. They would also have known that -- far from being unrepentant (as Hannity would have it) --Ayers told the the Times in the same interview that he was "embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way. The rigidity and the narcissism..." As Stephanopoulos failed to include this context, he was either ignorant of it or again deliberately chose an intellectually dishonest way to raise the matter.

I lean toward the latter explanation, as he took his cue from a leading light in a club of dissemblers with such members as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter. Utterly without scruples, Sean Hannity and his ilk treat journalism like professional wrestling. Hannity would become a liberal tomorrow if he thought it would increase ratings and book sales. That Stephanopoulos would lend credibility to this person by appearing on his program makes one wonder about the man's own scruples. Or at least his self-respect.

As for the actual fundraiser at the Ayers home, it seems that Obama's predecessor in the Illinois State Senate knew William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and asked them to host a fundraiser for Obama. That's it. That's the extent of this particular sinister nexus.

But what about the sinister Woods Fund? By eagerly associating it with Ayers, Clinton connected the Fund -- and by extension former board member Obama -- with the violent activities of the Weather Underground. For starters, the Fund's Board of Directors is comprised mainly of such dangerous characters as educators and business executives. (That Hillary Clinton, for six years a paid member of WalMart's Board of Directors, tut-tuts Obama because Ayers may have held a paid board position with the Woods Fund is downright comical.)

As for its mission, it turns out that the Woods Fund "is a grantmaking foundation whose goal is to increase opportunities for less advantaged people and communities in the metropolitan area, including the opportunity to shape decisions affecting them." And perhaps this is Barack Obama's crime in the eyes of the media elite: Telling the disenfranchised that their voice counts as much as anyone else's and that they must make it heard.

3 rounds of:
10 sit ups
10 push ups

4 rounds of:
21 kettlebell swings (36 lbs)
15 dumbbell thrusters (2x20-lb)

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