Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Their vilest hour: The GOP's Ayers attack

There’s a great column in the Wall Street Journal today by Thomas Frank defending William Ayers.
Not his actions when he was a radical in the 1960s, but his life since then in which he has been a model citizen and respected university professor in Chicago.

I am a friend of Mr. Ayers. In fact, I met him in the same way Mr. Obama says he did: 10 years ago, Mr. Ayers was a guy in my neighborhood in Chicago who knew something about fundraising. I knew nothing about it, I needed to learn, and a friend referred me to Bill.

Bill's got lots of friends, and that's because he is today a dedicated servant of those less fortunate than himself; because he is unfailingly generous to people who ask for his help; and because he is kind and affable and even humble. Moral qualities which, by the way, were celebrated boisterously on day one of the GOP convention in September.

Mr. Ayers is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where his work is esteemed by colleagues of different political viewpoints. Herbert Walberg, an advocate of school vouchers who is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, told me he remembers Mr. Ayers as "a responsible colleague, in the professional sense of the word." Bill Schubert, who served as the chairman of UIC's Department of Curriculum and Instruction for many years, thinks so highly of Mr. Ayers that, in response to the current allegations, he compiled a lengthy résumé of the man's books, journal articles, guest lectures and keynote speeches. Mr. Ayers has been involved with countless foundation efforts and has received various awards. He volunteers for everything. He may once have been wanted by the FBI, but in the intervening years the man has become such a good citizen he ought to be an honorary Eagle Scout.

Rightwingers insist that Ayers is “unrepentent” which is disingenuous. Mr. Ayers has in fact repudiated the violent actions of the Weathermen (which, by the way, did not harm anyone except for some of their own members who were killed when a bomb accidently went off).
What he has not repudiated is his opposition to the Vietnam war. When rightwingers say Ayers is unrepentent, this is what they really mean. The only way he could truly reform himself in their eyes would be to come out and say that he was wrong to oppose the Vietnam War. And then vote Republican.
Short of that, the rightwingers are extremely unforgiving and will hold a grudge to the bitter end.

Frank goes on to express his disgust over the Republican campaign to try and vilify Ayers today in an attempt to drag Obama down. its haste to convict a man merely for associating with Mr. Ayers, the GOP is effectively proposing to make the upcoming election into the largest mass trial in history, with all those professors and all those do-gooders on the hook for someone else's deeds four decades ago.
The McCain campaign has made much of its leader's honor and bravery, but now it has chosen to mount its greatest attack against a man who poses no conceivable threat to the country, who has nothing to do with this year's issues, and who cannot or will not defend himself. Apparently this makes him an irresistible target.
There are a lot of things to call this tactic, but "country first" isn't one of them. The nation wants its hope and confidence restored, and Republican leaders have chosen instead to wave the bloody shirt. This is their vilest hour.

I’m not sure what rightwingers expected Obama to do back when he was first introduced to Ayers, who at the time was an established and highly respected academic and social activist.
Refuse to shake his hand? Spit in his eye?
Is that what John McCain would have done?

But the point is that Repubicans don’t want anyone to think that deeply about this issue. All they want is some excuse, no matter how contrived, to associate Obama with a “terrorist” and make people question his patriotism or what have you.

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