Obama knew Ayers and worked with him in Chicago on educational issues. But he was not a close friend of his, and he's already denounced Ayers' terrorist past.
Now, some academics, with the perfect instinct for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, have set up a web site to defend Ayers - Suppport4 Bill Ayers - gathering signatures on a petition to support him for all the work he's done in the past twenty years in education. I could understand why colleagues and those who have used his research might want to support him, except for the fact that the petition engages in egregious whitewashing of Ayers' record during his Weathermen days.
The current characterizations of Professor Ayers - “unrepentant terrorist,” “lunatic leftist” - are unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans. His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution - including publishing 16 books - to the field of education. The current attacks appear as part of a pattern of “exposés” and assaults designed to intimidate free thinking and stifle critical dialogue. Like crusades against high school and elementary teachers, and faculty at UCLA, Columbia, DePaul, and the University of Colorado, the attacks on and the character assassination of Ayers threaten the university as a space of open inquiry and debate, and threaten schools as places of compassion, imagination, curiosity, and free thought. They serve as warnings that anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy and political power may become a target, and this, then, casts a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy.
Italics mine. Ayers did not just "participate passionately" in the civil rights and antiwar movements - he joined the lunatic fringe of the antiwar left, the Weathermen, which committed terrorist acts which could very well have killed innocent people. They did manage to accidentally kill three of their own members in the Greenwich Village townhouse where they were making bombs.
And Bill Ayers never repented of his actions, and in fact has said in his own memoir of those days (Fugitive Days) that ''Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon.''
I don't know if he is a "lunatic leftist," but he certainly never repented of, never renounced, never criticized his own violent actions or the violent actions of his fellow Weathermen. Academics and intellectuals who sign this petition in his defense gloss over his original actions, and his self-justifications and obfuscations. They are guilty of intellectual dishonesty by ignoring the blatant evasion of the truth in this petition. People whom I respect have signed this petition - and I simply don't understand how they could lend their names to this dubious and dishonest project.
I am not sure, but I would wager that the reference to "crusade" at the University of Colorado points to another dubious case that some on the left have taken up - the defense of Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill lost his job for plagiarism - which was finally proven - not for his offensive political opinions.
The attacks of Sarah Palin and John McCain against Barack Obama are vile - but they are not correctly refuted by calling for support of a man who, in truth, never repented of his earlier terrorist actions.