August 28, 2008

"Shut Up", They Explained

The Obama campaign has demonstrated how they will respond to the emerging story of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a project jointly run by former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers and Barack Obama throughout the late 90's and into 2001. Research into the association, which has really just begun, demonstrates how the two friends worked closely together, as founder(Ayers) and Chairman (Obama) of the program, to direct tens of millions of dollars over a six year period to various programs and organizations, with the ostensible goal of improving the quality of education in Chicago public schools.

Much of the serious research on Obama's political career has been done by Stanley Kurtz, a distinguished social anthropologist, writer and lecturer. Here he tells the story of his efforts to view the publicly available records of the Annenberg Challenge and its parent foundation. Blogger Steve Diamond has also been on the Ayers story for weeks and there's a lot to see on the topic at his blog. An op-ed in the National Review, to which Kurtz is a frequent contributor, provides some background:

Kurtz has written extensively, and with characteristic attention to factual detail, about Obama’s early career as a “community organizer,” his cultivation of benefactors in the most radical cauldrons of Chicago politics, his long-time pastor’s immersion in Black Liberation Theology, his ties to anti-American zealots, and the years in the Illinois state legislature this self-styled agent of change spent practicing the by-the-numbers left-wing politics of redistribution and race-consciousness, remaining soft on crime and extreme on abortion.

This has led Kurtz, naturally, to scrutinize the relationship between Obama and one of his early political sponsors, William Ayers. Ayers, as we have previously detailed, is a confessed terrorist who, having escaped prosecution due to surveillance violations that came to light during his decade on the lam after a bombing spree, landed an influential professorship in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As he has made clear several times before and after helping to launch Obama’s political career, Ayers remains defiantly proud of bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other targets. He expresses regret only that he didn’t do more. Far from abandoning his radical politics, he has simply changed methods: the classroom, rather than the detonator, is now his instrument for campaigning against an America he portrays as racist and imperialist.

Obama supporters risibly complain that shining a light on the Obama/Ayers relationship is a “smear” and smacks of “guilt by association.” A presidential candidate’s choice to associate himself with an unrepentant terrorist would be highly relevant in any event — does anyone think the Obamedia would keep mum if John McCain had a long-standing relationship with David Duke or an abortion-clinic bomber?

Without even getting into the actual activities of the CAC, or its ideological orientation, or the often dubious connections to education of certain recipients of its funds, or the effectiveness of the projects it funded, one point can already be made with certainty, and it is obviously a legitimate subject for debate in a presidential campaign.

And that is that Barack Obama has, at best, intentionally misrepresented the nature and scope of his relationship with the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers. He has responded testily to criticism of the relationship, going so far as to air an ad asking "Why is John McCain talking about the Sixties?", referring of course to the time period during which Ayers' group was bombing the Capitol Building and other federal buildings with a goal of murdering soldiers, policemen and civilians.

This April column by Guy Benson reviews the apologetics, dismissals and excuses proffered by Obama after the subject of Ayers was raised by moderator George Stephanopolous in the springtime debate. After daring to broach this subject, Stephanopolous was barraged by the same unhinged rage from the political left now being directed at researchers like Kurtz for digging deeper into the relationship.

The research done to this point by Kurtz and others lays waste to Obama's claim that Ayers was simply "a guy who lives in my neighborhood". Obama has admitted that the two are friends, so if it his position that their relationship is unremarkable, even though Ayers has done some despicable things in his past (and says even today that he regrets nothing, and wishes they "could have done more") then Obama should make that case to the American people, and welcome the scrutiny of the good works they undertook together from 1995 until 2001 (not in the sixties)

The response of the Obama campaign and their supporters has been, you might say, somewhat less "liberal" than that.

When the American Issues Project launched an ad bringing the Obama-Ayers relationship to light, the Obama people reacted with a concerted campaign of threats and intimidation aimed at media outlets and their sponsors, warning them not to air the ad. They wrote to the Justice Department demanding criminal investigations of the AIP officers. It should remind us all how the last time a Democrat was in the White House, the administration used the organs of the state to illegally harass conservative organizations with IRS audits and the like.

Free speech is for people who agree with them. Obama has offered no response or rebuttal to any of the content of the AIP ad. They have simply insisted that it not be aired publicly, and threatened those who air it with prosecution and/or harassment. It's a strategy of which Castro or Chavez would be proud. It is the tendency toward censorship that is a trademark of radical leftism unapologetically on display.

Who will be the first significant voice from the political left to denounce this overt attempt at censorship? A campaign, by the way, that has worked so far with Fox and CNN, and has apparently succeeded in having the ad pulled from YouTube, at least for the moment.

Then there was the attempt by Obama supporters, orchestrated by the campaign, complete with talking points, to silence a radio interview of Kurtz by long-established and well-respected Chicago radio host Milt Rosenberg. (Podcast of Rosenberg radio show)

More on the attempted censorship of the Rosenberg show by The Politico, Andy McCarthy and Michelle Malkin

From a recent Steve Diamond post:

So why this ginned up outrage from the Obama camp?

Because Dr. Kurtz has found out as we have been discussing here for some time, that, indeed, Bill Ayers co-founded the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and then co-chaired its Collaborative arm while Barack Obama was selected to chair the board of directors of the Challenge.

Together Ayers and Obama worked to hand out more than $160 million in and around the Chicago school system to groups that allegedly were going to work to improve student achievement. The effort failed, miserably, at least on the level of achievement.

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So it is a hard fact that Ayers and Obama knew each other well before the time the Obama campaign has stated in the past. And clearly Obama well knew that Ayers was not just a guy from the neighborhood as he stated on national TV.

That must be a difficult problem for the Obama camp to swallow - they pushed their candidate to deny, deny, distance, distance, when, in fact, they long knew of the close political relationship between Ayers and Obama. For all we know, the relationship continues. Ayers backs a key policy proposal of Obama education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond: to wit, the repayment of the alleged "education debt" to people of color.

I warned of this very dilemma for the campaign many months ago. I pointed out that the hope for change that the Obama campaign had raised among many in the anti-war and labor movement, for example, would be crushed if Obama could not explain why he was involved with someone like Bill Ayers

Ayers was one of the most destructive forces on the left for many years - in fact, he should not be called a leftist. He is an authoritarian who is more comfortable with figures like Hugo Chavez than he is with genuine democratic activists like those in the labor movement.

For whatever reason, Obama chose Ayers as an ally at a critical point in his career. The post at the CAC was big step up for the young lawyer. Obama, though, could have made other choices. He could have said no to Ayers. But they worked together on school reform for years, then on juvenile justice issues and then on the board of the Woods Fund.

As some on the left - often inappropriately - like to say: those chickens are coming home to roost.

More from the NR Editors on the Obama campaign response to the Rosenberg interview and the AIP ad....

Other than denigrating Kurtz for being conservative, Obama’s operatives have provided no response to the substance of his claims. In their only pretense of engaging him, they accuse him of telling “a flat out lie” that Ayers recruited Obama for the CAC. Though it is a reasonable inference that Ayers recruited Obama, the careful Kurtz has stopped short of making it — observing only that Obama offers no explanation of how he was recruited if not through Ayers, his friend and the CAC’s driving force.

The station, WGN, has made a stream of the broadcast available online, here, and it has to be heard to be believed. Obama’s robotic legions dutifully jammed the station’s phone lines and inundated the program with emails, attacking Kurtz personally. Pressed by Rosenberg to specify what inaccuracies Kurtz was guilty of, caller after caller demurred, mulishly railing that “we just want it to stop,” and that criticism of Obama was “just not what we want to hear as Americans.” Remarkably, as Obama sympathizers raced through their script, they echoed the campaign’s insistence that it was Rosenberg who was “lowering the standards of political discourse” by having Kurtz on, rather than the campaign by shouting him down.

Kurtz has obviously hit a nerve. It is the same nerve hit by the American Issues Project, whose television ad calling for examination of the Obama/Ayers relationship has prompted the Obama campaign to demand that the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation. Obama fancies himself as “post-partisan.” He is that only in the sense that he apparently brooks no criticism. This episode could be an alarming preview of what life will be like for the media should the party of the Fairness Doctrine gain unified control of the federal government next year.

An earlier editorial at NR provides more background on the nature of the Obama-Ayers relationship

Hugh Hewitt had Stanley Kurtz on the show tonight (listen to podcast), and even though his review of the files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge is ongoing, Kurtz has some revealing findings already about the destinations of the tens of millions of dollars that were distributed by Obama and Ayers while they ran the project. It's well worth a listen, as is the Rosenberg interview linked above.

It's worth noting that the Annenberg Challenge ended in 2001 having failed in its mission to improve the Chicago schools, this by the findings of its own internal evaluators, as well as external ones. The examination of the recipients of the project's funding, and the nature of the projects they implemented in the Chicago schools will take time, and should be of great interest to American voters. But in the Hugh Hewitt interview tonight, Dr. Kurtz suggests that there are already indications that money may have gone to organizations with dubious connections to anything related to education. And that many of the individuals and organizations receiving funding appear to share the far-left stances of the two men responsible for determining fund recipients. It appears their aims may well have been oriented (surprise!) more around ideological indoctrination in schools than they were about educating students. Small wonder the whole $100 million boondoggle has been judged an objective failure.

Small wonder too, that Obama, whose resume is extremely thin in terms of a track record of "managing" much of anything, wouldn't want the failure of this lone example of his responsibility for allocating large sums of money to address social problems to get a thorough public airing. But that doesn't mean that American voters don't deserve one.

If it hasn't already been done, I hope some editorial cartoonist steals my concept, or comes up with it himself. I see a large room...perhaps in emerald green...with a huge image of a man's face projected on a massive wall in the room, accompanied by thunderclaps, smoke, fire and a loudly amplified human voice. The giant man's face is identifiable as that of Barack Obama. Over in the corner, a regular-sized man is pulling aside a drapery of some sort to reveal another person behind it. The curtain-puller is marked "Stanley Kurtz" and the man revealed is marked "William Ayers". You know the rest. The huge Obama idol bellows: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"

Posted by dan at August 28, 2008 10:29 PM