Obama and Ayers

The McCain campaign’s recent line of attack has been to try to tar Obama by associating him with Bill Ayers, who they’ve labeled a ‘domestic terrorist’. Let me tell you about the Obama/Ayers connection, from what I’ve been able to find out.

First of all, a little on Bill Ayers. In the 1960s, he was a student activist who was one of the leaders of the Weathermen group, also known as the Weather Underground, an organization that campaigned against the government’s involvement in the Vietnam War, often by violent means, such as bombs. Since the early 1980s however, Ayers has been well-known for his work in education reform. Currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, his interests include “teaching for social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.” He’s worked with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to help shape the city’s school reform system, and was even named Chicago’s Citizen of the Year Award in 1997 for his work in school reform. So he’s hardly an anti-establishment figure right now.

Which leads us to the connection between Ayers and Obama. Ayers hosted a meet-and-greet for his inaugural run for the state senate in 1995, contributed $200 to Barack’s re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate in 2001, and the two served together from 2000-2002 on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an anti-poverty, philanthropic foundation. That’s about it. Obama’s denounced the violent actions of the Weather Underground, and since he was 8 years old and living in Indonesia at the time, it’s hard to see how the guilt by association ploy works at all.

What angers, frustrates, but most of all, worries, me is that I don’t think they understand the consequences of what they’re doing. McCain and Palin are equating Barack Obama with a terrorist. Unless you’re inclined to think that Barack is some kind of Manchurian candidate (and if you do, I really can’t help you), such a claim is absurd. Not only this, but it feeds into the fears and prejudices of people who are already uncertain about him, whether because of his race or his name. At McCain and Palin rallies recently, they’ve been asking the question, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” In response, people have been shouting, “Terrorist!” or “Traitor!”, and in one case, even calling for him to be killed.

I came across this video clip this morning. I’ll let the people speak for themselves.

Of course, I’m not saying that all people who are against Barack are only against him because they’re paranoid or ignorant. But you’ve got to wonder if the McCain campaign understands the kind of vitriol they’re inciting with their line of character attacks. And if they do know what they’re doing, what does this say about the kind of administration they’d lead?

I understand attacking an opponent’s policy proposals, for outlining why you disagree on the economy or on foreign policy or on energy, for pointing out where you think the holes are in the other person’s ideas. But trying to incite animosity, or to try to win votes by playing on people’s fears, is deplorable.

UPDATE: Here’s what Barack had to say about the issue today (Oct. 9).

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