Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama Confronts ’60s Radicals as Troubling Campaign Issue

It had to happen sooner or later.

As those now buzzing around the blogosphere know, George Stephanopoulos questioned Barack Obama last night on his relationship to terrorist radicals of the 1960s.

I've discussed Obama's dangerous friends a nunber of times (see "
Obama's Circle of Friends: The America-Hating Left"), but the New York Times picks up on the story in today's paper:

On March 6, 1970, a bomb explosion destroyed a Greenwich Village town house, killing three members of the radical Weather Underground and driving other members of the group even deeper into hiding. On Wednesday night, those events emerged as the focus of a sharp exchange between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama at their debate in Philadelphia.

Mr. Obama was asked by a moderator, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, about his relationship with Bill Ayers, a former Weather Underground leader who is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the early 1970s, the Weathermen, who took their name from a line in a Bob Dylan song, claimed responsibility for bombing the Capitol, the Pentagon, the State Department Building and banks, courthouses and police stations.

Mr. Ayers is married to Bernardine Dohrn, another Weather Underground figure. Both were indicted in 1970 for inciting to riot and conspiracy to bomb government buildings, but charges were dropped in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegal surveillance.

Mr. Ayers is listed as a member of the nine-member board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an offshoot of the Woods Charitable Fund, founded in 1941 by a prominent lawyer and telephone company executive. According to the fund’s Web site, it has focused in recent years on “issues that affected the area’s least advantaged, including welfare reform, affordable housing” and “tax policy as a tool in reducing poverty.”

For a time, Mr. Obama was on the board with Mr. Ayers, though he no longer has a formal association with the group. At the debate, he described Mr. Ayers as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” but “not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.” Mr. Obama said he was being unjustly linked to “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old.”

Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mrs. Clinton also referred to statements by Mr. Ayers in an article in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, that Mrs. Clinton said were “deeply hurtful to people in New York.”

“I don’t regret setting bombs,” Mr. Ayers said then. “I feel we didn’t do enough.”
It turns out that ABC News - and Stephanopoulos in particular - is coming under fire for its handling of last night's debate.

A sampling of commentary shows, for example, that Wednesday night's was the "
worst" debate ever, that "Lee Atwater Lives!!!," and that history will record the event as "Obama's Waterloo."

See the full roundup at