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Posted by on Apr 30, 2008 in At TMV | 9 comments

In Which I Join Barack Obama & Stanley Fish In Line For the Bill Ayers Guillotine


Noted academic and Hillary Clinton supporter Stanley Fish is offering himself up for decapitation or whatever fate awaits he, Barack Obama and other folks who have had relationships with Bill Ayers, the former Weather Underground member. This even though Obama was a youngster and Fish was off teaching at some high falutin’ university when Ayers was running wild in the streets.

As the guilt-by-association variety of smear campaigns go, the vendetta against Obama over Ayers isn’t getting much traction although the Clinton campaign and right-wing floggers . . . er, bloggers like Allahpundit at Hot Air won’t give it a rest.

I have a couple of theories about this.

First, most voters (especially the millions of younger ones flooding into the political arena for the first time this year) don’t give a rat’s rectum if Obama had tea and then some with a man who did bad things nearly 40 years ago. And while not necessarily a paragon of repentance, Ayers has lived a rather exemplary and civic-minded life in the last couple, three decades.

Then there is the not so small matter of forgiveness. The holier among us somehow find it in our hearts to forgive family members, friends and others – sometimes even mass murderers — for dastardly deeds. Without getting all spiritual on you, I find that having done so in a small handful of personal instances has been enormously liberating psychically for both myself and the perpetrator.

Ahem, Hillary, Allahpundit and the other scolds need to reserve a space at their guillotine for moi because, as I noted when the Ayers controversy first hit prime time, I knew several members of the Weather Underground back in the day and am a longtime friend of one whom I invited into my home when he was a fugitive.

But let me add – again – while smoking my last sèche and being fitted for a blindfold that Hillary Clinton has some doggie do-do on her Pradas because of her own Weatherman connection.

While trying to eviscerate Obama over Ayers, she refuses to speak to her co-president’s decision on the eve of George Bush’s 2001 inauguration to pardon Susan Rosenberg, who was convicted of participating in a 1981 Brink’s armored car robbery in Rockland County, New York, that left a guard and two police officers dead, and Linda Sue Evans, who consorted with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, was implicated in several bombing plots and was toting around nearly 800 pounds of explosives when the law caught up with her.

Ayers, meanwhile, was linked to the 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse bomb factory blast that killed three fellow Weathermen. For what it’s worth, Ayers turned himself in to authorities in 1981 but was never arrested, while Rosenberg and Evans had to be hunted down and served some serious jail time.

I’m not suggesting that Obama or Fish or anyone else forgive Ayers for a phase of his life that they say never happened to come up in conversation, let alone had any bearing on their relationships. That would be inane. But I would appreciate being forgiven for my own past and present associations for a few more months because I’d sure hate to lose my dear crâne chauve to the falling blade before the election.

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  • tjproudamerican

    Great Post. “Guilt by Association” used to be a bad thing. Now, it is the warp and woof of our political Tapestry.

    What bothers me about this and the non-story about Pastor Wright is that nobody believes Barrack Obama has anything in common with the sins that they associate with Obama because he has relationships with these other people.

    Nothing in Obama’s past or present sounds like The Weather Underground or the parts of the sermons where Jeremiah Wright lives up to his name and delivers Jeremiads against Society. Nothing.

    And people who would be counted on to stand up against Guilty by Association loose connections, fall back on “Well, it calls into question Obama’s Judgment.”

    Nothing Obama does or says has “called into question his judgment” in his relationships with Pastor Wright or Ayers.

    What has been called into question is Obama’s refusal to be a truncated, pretend person: Obama has not mastered the game of pretending to not-know a wide variety of people. Obama is a real and living human being in a process that demands we be shocked and disappointed at everything except the blandest and most thoughtless platitudes.

    It is a wonder Obama got this far carrying so much baggage: he is a real man, a real thinker, and he has a wide range of people and places in his life.

    The hope is that Americans on some level are tired of all the corrupt positioning and are ready for a real human like Obama.

  • Marlowecan

    Two Points:

    (1) It is illegitmate for folks on the Left…who have played the “Guilt by Association” card for many years against the GOP and its wacky pastors (Shaun has ripped McCain over Hagee’s endorsement here at TMV)…to suddenly turn around and declare this a “non-story” when Obama has a 20-year association with the racist nutter Wright. Having played that card yourselves, you have no ground to stand on to self-righteously declare this tactic a moral outrage.

    (2) Stanley Fish is full of crap. His argument about a “Salon” yada yada is pure academic shite.

    A case in point: I would ask anyone curious to read Umberto Eco’s journalism from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Red Brigades were running wild in Italy. They were boomer radicals like the Weathermen. The Italian intelligentsia . . . the real version of Stanley Fish’s “Salons” . . . were tolerant and amused at these flaming youth standing up to the Man, blowing up power stations, kidnapping etc.

    Fish’s Salons (if you will excuse the metaphor) provide a liberal sea in which radicals swim. The liberal academics get all giggily in excited frisson from associating with people committed to Direct Action…and the radicals get cover and the support of well-placed liberals in academia.

    In Eco’s case…he was a classic example of Fish’s Salon intellectuals (only Eco is smarter, of course, and his work far superior) and wrote with bemused tolerance of the Red Brigades . . . until the murdered former Prime Minister Moro was found bloodied in the trunk of a car.

    Suddenly the Italian intelligentsia woke up to the evil that it had been nursing in its midst. It was only after Moro that the Salon sea the Red Brigades used for protection began to dry up.

    Alas, Stanley Fish lacks the imaginative power to consider the nature of the people with whom he is associating. (In contrast to Shaun Mullen — credit where credit is due — who is very aware of the Weathermen).

    Contra Eco . . . clearly, it does not matter to Fish whether the people he associates with are murderers or terrorists. (And sure, Stanley, politics is never mentioned in your Salon. Such a crock.).

    The sad condition of America’s public intellectual class and its Salons.

  • PWT

    “What bothers me about this and the non-story about Pastor Wright is that nobody believes Barrack Obama has anything in common with the sins that they associate with Obama because he has relationships with these other people.”

    Actually, I believe that Bigger has a lot in common with both Wright and Ayers. Thats why he ‘aint gonna get the keys to the car this time around.

  • I think that everyone here has a great point (Shaun, tjproudamerican and Marlowecan).

    The bottom-line (IMO) is this; while some may consider Rev. Wright (or Hagee, or Parsley, et al) as legitimate political issues – they are issues that PALE in importance when compared to some of the larger, more macro-issues like the war(s), the economy, education, terrorism, etc.

    My largest complaint with the Rev. Wright ‘issue’ is that, while it may deserve SOME airtime on the news networks (and headlines in the blogosphere!), it has largely distracted the electorate from the debate over the larger issues.

    Take the ‘gas tax holiday’ for example. Both Clinton (and McCain) and Obama (and GW Bush) have valid – and differing – viewpoints on the idea of the temporary suspension of a gas tax. Where is the media coverage of this debate? Where is the parsing of the differences in opinion on this (very) important issue?

    Marlowecan says that, “It is illegitmate for folks on the Left…to suddenly turn around and declare this a ‘non-story’ when Obama has a 20-year association with the racist nutter Wright.” Good point. But I also feel that tjproudamerican is spot-on by saying, “‘Guilt by Association’…is the warp and woof of our political Tapestry.”

    However, the greater issue here (IMO) is that Obama addressed this whole kerfluffle WEEKS ago when he spoke in Philadelphia. After that speech, there was no question in my mind that Wright did and does not speak for Obama, his view, or his campaign. It was time to move on to more pressing issues (see: above).

    The mere fact that we are still talking about this obvious narcissist (Wright) is simply going to continue to fuel his fire. My guess is that we’ll see him rebut Obama’s comments yesterday (yikes).

    I’m off-track. My simple point is this: we (on the Left and the Right – and in the Center too) can argue back and forth about candidates’ associations over the years – and we are bound to find more of them about which the media can prattle on – but these arguments are distractions from more pressing debates that should – nay – NEED to be had.

  • bacalove

    Are Rush Limbaugh listeners and supporters the same as Rush Limbaugh because they have been his devoed listener all these years?

  • pathickey

    The McCarthyism straw man cast on the floor by the unreadable Stanley Fish is a hoot – the tweedy goof who says ‘ideas have no consequences’ and bollixes Milton would naturally be pals with insulated punks like Ayers and His Old Lady.

    BTW – goofs like Fish never go to the guilotine – they send inthe names of their neighbors.

  • daveinboca

    Shaun’s cutsie-pie little shuffle step simply doesn’t make the grade. There’s some speculation thatBernardine Dohrn was Michelle [Robinson] Obama’s mentor at the law firm in Chicago when Michelle interned there during law school & later when she joined the firm. Which would push back their pas-de-deux into the late ’80s. Obama came to the same firm a year later for a whiIe. I’ll bet there are a lot of back pages that Barry still hasn’t let be discovered by a pliant & unjournalistic press. Rezko & Wright & Ayers. I also know Rashid Khalidi, who is the only decent person in the lineup of suspicious associates Barry has been associated with.

    Of course, the Dems play guilt by association all the time & as a very immoderate Dem, Shaun should know he’s putting up a straw man.

    I taught at the mediocre facility where Stanley Fish now hangs his hat in Miami, and he hardly makes the grade either. One of those Schlesinger Jr. socialite-socialists.

    Finally, I knew Ayers & his then girlfriend Diana Oughton in Ann Arbor when I hosted Mark Rudd at my home, another has-been with an attitude. Too bad Oughton was killed in that townhouse while her nasty boyfriend wasn’t. She was young, but had class & was a decent human being, unlike her boyfriend.

    Ayers was charged with a crime, but let off on a procedural mishap—leftie judges and leftie profs at UIC let a criminal off the hook & then give him a job. Academentia at its worst.

    By the way, Rudd gave me some advice that still seems to be the Dem’s code of honor: “Dare to cheat, dare to win.”

  • pacatrue

    I wanted to add that some people do appear to think not just that because Obama was associated with Wright that he does in fact hold all these views secretly. I stopped by some other political blog a little bit ago, back when Wright came up the first time, and the blogger was relaying a conversation she had with one of her children where the child asked if Obama hated white people and she responded that, with this Wright evidence, she just didn’t know. Maybe, just maybe so.

    To keep it short, I disagree with her. But for many of all political spectrums, the actual words and deeds of one’s opponents are worth little. They are waiting for the tell that they are sure will come.

  • runasim

    It’s horrifying to watch how once these tempests in a teacup start, there seems to be no way to stop them from becoming tsunamis. What’s even worse is that the storm will pass without people understnding or caring what it was alll about

    Because we are still segregated in many ways, I’m convvnced that Wright’s impact was largely due to the fact that most whites have never been inside a black church , so any accusation seems plausible. Most seem to think that Black Liberation Theology is a synonym for Farrakhan.

    One reason we don’t know any better is because it’s never the topic of any discussion, show, or documentary. We’re kept busy keeping abreast of the latest starlet escapades, instead.

    I still remember the stunned, stony faces of Mr. + Mrs. GWB at Coretta King’s funeral When some of the preachers really got into the spirit of sermonizing and the congregation responded in kind, it seeemed they were actually scared!

    It’s amazing how a race of people can be so present and still so absent form what we are familiar with;
    That’s why I think three Weathermen associations can never be as damaigng
    as one Rev. Wright in your life.

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