Saturday, October 11, 2008

Media Reinvention of Ayers, Obama's Chicago Connections

The old media has done its best for some time now to "educate" us on the nature of Obama's Chicago connections. The list is growing. John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune (Obama on red-state push; Palin: 'Fair to talk about' senator's ties to Ayers, Oct 6, 2008. pg. 7) writes:

The most damaging controversies of Obama's presidential bid have been rooted in Chicago and have involved ministers Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Michael Pfleger, as well as Ayers and convicted fundraiser and developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

In the folksy slang he sometimes uses at campaign rallies, Obama pledged not to be distracted.

"We're not going to let him hoodwink ya, or bamboozle ya," he said. "We're not going to let him run the okey doke on ya."
So, the presses rolled for damage control. In this article by Bob Secter and John McCormick (Sweet -- and sour -- home Chicago; City's political image a risk for Obama, Chicago Tribune, June 23) we are instructed concerning what we saw of Jeremiah Wright.
Cultural gap

The most explosive problems facing Obama in recent months were, of course, statements made by Wright, his longtime pastor.

Timuel Black, a professor emeritus at the City Colleges of Chicago, said African-American churches in the city have traditionally been a center of social activism and that ministers often get quite earthy on the pulpit. "Much of the black political base in Chicago had its roots in the church," Black said.

That's a big reason mainstream Chicago politicians, Obama and Mayor Richard Daley included, actively court the support of influential pastors, including controversial ones.

The political dynamic is widely understood in Chicago, but less so elsewhere.

"It's something that's a novelty to most of white America," said Alton Miller, press secretary to Chicago's first black mayor, the late Harold Washington. Miller, who is white and was raised in Ohio, said his relatives back home have a hard time relating to the pulpit style of Obama's friends in the black clergy.

"That doesn't happen in their church," Miller said. "Part of it is a cultural differential that Obama and his team are going to have to deal with as a special case."
So Wright's rhetoric is not inflammatory racism. Here we are told it is merely "earthy" social activism. This is a "cultural differential". You are the one with the problem, the "special case". (They're right about one thing - the re-definition of shady connections is indeed "widely understood" in Chicago.) And of course, Obama didn't know. Sat in the church for twenty years, but never saw any such thing. Case closed.

But now, we have the re-definition of William Ayers. Mark Jacob of the Chicago Tribune describes him clearly in "Q&A: THE AYERS CONNECTION", Oct 7, 2008. pg. 6:
He [Ayers] was a founding member of the Weather Underground, a radical group opposed to the Vietnam War. In his 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days," he wrote that he helped bomb official sites, including the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon. In bombings claimed by the group, no one was killed or injured. But some investigators have suspected the group in an unclaimed 1970 explosion that killed a San Francisco police sergeant. No one was ever charged in that case. Years later, while Ayers was no longer in hiding, fellow members of the group were linked to a Brink's robbery in which two police officers and a guard were shot to death.
Well, how do you obfuscate that? You can start by blaming the opposition. "Clearing the Ayers" by Gail Collins (New York Times, Oct 9, 2008. pg. A.37):
The McCain folks have been obsessed with William Ayers, a neighbor of Obama's who is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Back in the 1960s, Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, were leaders of the Weather Underground, an antiwar group whose penchant for violence was exceeded only by its haplessness. Ayers has since become an education expert and was named Chicago's Citizen of the Year in 1997. He gave Obama a house party when Obama was running for the State Senate.
Hm. Violence "exceeded only by it's haplessness," so how bad can it be? And it was just a "house party" - the mighty Obama wouldn't have bothered with the identity of some little guy and his house party, would he? After all, he sat in Wright's church for twenty years - this was only one night. And then the money shot - Ayers was named Chicago's Citizen of the Year.

Ayers was named "Citizen of the Year" for pulling down about $50 million of the Annenberg Challenge grant money. From The Reform Of School Reform by William C. Symonds (Business Week, Jun 26, 2006. Iss. 3990; p g. 72):
No less than the White House was the venue for an announcement the late media magnate Walter Annenberg made to the country back in 1993. The news: He would give America's public schools a $500 million grant to help spark an era of reform. At the time, this stirred enormous hopes for the most ambitious educational effort ever by a business leader. Combined with matching grants, the Annenberg Challenge would pump $1.1 billion into troubled schools. "People thought this would transform education in the U.S.," recalls Gail C. Levin, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation.
You might think that the entire - was it $50 million? - that Chicago "won" went straight into troubled schools. But no, it went to "partner" groups, who were to work the expected miracles. But the miracles were not forthcoming. Again, Mr. Symonds:
But today, years after the last dime was spent, the Annenberg Challenge is widely viewed as a crushing disappointment. The five-year grants, sprinkled across a range of initiatives in New York, Chicago, and 16 other cities, were too diffuse to have much impact. "While students in some schools surely benefited, very little came of this," says Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which studied Annenberg's gift.
What has this got to do with Obama, the gifted community organizer? Stanley Kurtz (who was initially denied access to the material on the CAC housed at the Richard J. Daley Library, UIC) wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal (September 23, 2008, A29) :
Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC.
Why downplay his association with the Citizen of the Year? According to Tom Brokaw, Ayers is a "school reformer" now, right? Well, in a way that's true. Again, Mr. Kurtz's article in the WSJ on Sept. 23:
The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
And as Kurtz pointed out earlier:
Ayers and Dohrn remain unrepentant for their terrorist past. Ayers was pictured in a 2001 article for Chicago magazine, stomping on an American flag, and told the New York Times just before 9/11 that the notion of the United States as a just and fair and decent place “makes me want to puke.”
That's a familiar theme. It would be interesting to see the old media redefine it as "a cultural gap", but I have a feeling it won't get a mention, except to attribute it to a "smear machine", or "attack dogs" or some similar general catagory for dissenters. The dissenters at Investor's Business Daily are not buying the Brokaw version of Ayers, either:
"Yeah, right: Ayers is a school reformer in the same sense, as City Journal's Sol Stern put it, as Joe Stalin was an agricultural reformer.

An idea of what Ayers has in mind for America's schools was provided in his own words not 40 years ago when Obama was eight years old, but less than two years ago in November 2006 at the World Education Forum in Caracas hosted by dictator Hugo Chavez.

With Chavez at his side, Ayers voiced his support for 'the political educational reforms under way here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution. . . . I look forward to seeing how . . . all of you continue to overcome the failures of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane.'Ayers told the great humanitarian Chavez: 'Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions large and small. La educacion es revolucion.' It is that form of socialist revolution that Ayers, and Obama, have worked to bring to America."
That's "change", no doubt about it. Evidently, change that many in the media think they can live with. Will they ignore even this? I think so, until it's their ox that gets gored. Do I think that says it all? You betcha.

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