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By Stanley Kurtz
August 18, 2008
The problem of Barack Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers will not go away. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were terrorists for the notorious Weather Underground during the turbulent 1960s, turning fugitive when a bomb - designed to kill army officers in New Jersey - accidentally exploded in a New York townhouse. Prior to that, Ayers and his cohorts succeeded in bombing the Pentagon. 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." Although Obama actually launched his political career at an event at Ayers's and Dohrn's home, Obama has dismissed Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis." For his part, Ayers refuses to discuss his relationship with Obama.
Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama's account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama's time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers's own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago's public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago's education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers's radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore "exchanging ideas on a regular basis"). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama's dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.
This much we know from the public record, but a large cache of documents housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is likely to flesh out the story. That document cache contains the internal files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The records in question are extensive, consisting of 132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material. Not only would these files illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, they would also provide significant insight into a web of ties linking Obama to various radical organizations, including Obama-approved foundation gifts to political allies. Obama's leadership style and abilities are also sure to be illuminated by the documents in question.
Unfortunately, I don't yet have access to the documents. The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial. Ayers has long taught at UIC, where the Chicago Annenberg Challenge offices were housed, rent-free. Ayers likely arranged for the files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to be housed in the UIC library, and may well have been consulted during my unsuccessful struggle to gain access to the documents. Let me, then, explain in greater detail what the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) records are, and how I have been blocked from seeing them.
Initially, as I said, library officials said that I could examine the CAC records. I received this permission both over the phone and in writing. The subsequent denial of access came with a series of evolving explanations. Is this a politically motivated cover-up? Although at this stage it is impossible to know, it is hard to avoid the suspicion. I also have some concerns for the security of the documents, although I have no specific evidence that their security is endangered. In any case, given the relative dearth of information about Barack Obama's political past, there is a powerful public interest in the swift release of these documents.
When I learned that the CAC records were housed at UIC Library, I phoned and was assured by a reference librarian that, although I have no UIC affiliation, I would be permitted to examine the records. He suggested I phone the Special Collections section of the library and set up an appointment with a special collections librarian. This reference librarian also ran a search for me and discovered that, in addition to the CAC records, one file folder in the UIC Chancellor's Office of Community Relations archive contains information on CAC from 1995.
I then spoke with a special-collections librarian and was again assured that I would have access to the CAC records. I was told that, while I could not personally make copies of the material, I could identify documents of interest and have copies made by the library, for a fee. I set up an appointment to meet with the special-collections librarian, and she suggested that I e-mail her the information on the CAC-related chancellor's documents the reference librarian had discovered, and confirm my appointment time. After I did so, this special-collections librarian forwarded my message to a graduate assistant.
The graduate assistant then e-mailed to let me know that, while the CAC collection had been "processed," the "finding aid" had not yet been put online. (The "finding aid" is a detailed document of over 60 pages specifying the topics covered by each of the 947 folders in the collection, and showing which boxes hold which folders.) Because the finding aid was not yet online, the graduate assistant attached a copy to her e-mail, inviting me to browse it and identify documents of particular interest, so that the library could have some of the CAC material out and ready for me immediately upon my arrival. I wrote back indicating that I would like to see the single CAC-related folder from the chancellor's archive, and further identifying 14 boxes from the main body of CAC records containing folders of special interest. Having received clear and repeated representations from the UIC library staff that I would be granted access to the CAC records, I arranged a trip to Chicago.
What follows is more detail than some readers may want to know, but it seems important to get it on record. If a body of material potentially damaging to Barack Obama is being improperly embargoed by a library, the details matter.
Just before my plane took off, I received an e-mail from the special-collections librarian informing me that she had "checked our collection file" and determined that "access to the collection is closed." I would be permitted to view the single CAC-related file from the Office of the Chancellor records, but nothing from the CAC records proper. I quickly wrote back, expressing surprise and disappointment. I noted that I had arranged my trip based on the library's assurances of access, and followed up with questions about whether access was being denied because I was unaffiliated with UIC. I also asked who had authority over access to the collection, suggesting that I might be able to contact them and request permission to view it.
After arriving in Chicago, I found a message, not from the special-collections librarian, but from Ann C. Weller, professor and head, Special Collections Department. In answer to my question of who had authority over access to the collection, Weller said, that "the decision was made by me" in consultation with the library director. Weller stated that no one currently has access to the collection and added that: "The Collection is closed because it has come to our attention that there is restricted material in the collection. Once the collection has been processed it will be open to any patron interested in viewing it."
I responded to Weller by recounting the clear and repeated representations I had received from library staff that I would be granted access to the collection, adding that I had arranged my trip in large part because of these assurances. I then noted that I had studied the CAC finding aid with considerable care. It was clear from that finding aid, I said, that only five out of the 947 folders were in any way restricted. Four folders, containing auditor's reports, where clearly marked, in bold type, "THESE FOLDERS ARE RESTRICTED VIA ANNENBERG CHALLENGE until further notice." A fifth folder, containing records of eight CAC Board of Directors meetings in 1995, when CAC was first set up, had a notation nearby with the word, "Consent." It would be a simple matter, I said, to pull these five folders, allow me access to the remaining 942 folders, and contact the relevant authority for consent to view the records of the 1995 board meetings. After all, I added, Weller herself had said that, other than the restricted folders, the collection ought to be open to all patrons.
I also pointed out to Weller that she had not quite entirely answered my earlier question about who has authority over access to the collection. So I asked who, precisely, holds the authority to bar or permit access to the restricted folders. I added the following thought: "Libraries, of course, exist, not to restrict information, but to make it available to the public. I would hate to think that UIC library was doing anything less than all it could to permit public access to these important materials."
Weller replied to this message by dropping the restricted documents issue and saying instead that the donor of the CAC records "has alerted us to the fact that we do not have a signed deed of gift." According to Weller, this means that UIC's library has no legal right to make the material available. The donor, said Weller, is now working with UIC library to resolve the problem, and "we hope to be able to provide access within the next few weeks."
Replying to Weller, I briefly noted some elements of her account that I found puzzling. I added that Weller had still not answered my question about who the donor is, and/or who holds controlling authority over the collection. I closed by alerting the library to my intention to come in that day to examine the single CAC-related folder from the chancellor's records that I did have permission to see. Later that day, I examined that one folder, took notes, and asked for the entire folder's contents to be copied and mailed to me. I have received no further reply to my reiterated question about the identity of the donor.
There are a number of disturbing elements to this story. Recall that, according to the graduate assistant, the collection had, in fact, already been "processed." Yet Weller's initial message to me used the unprocessed state of the collection as a reason for restricting access. And when I pointed out how easy it would be to remove the restricted files, Weller quickly came up with yet another reason to block access. At the moment, I have no way of verifying Weller's claim that the library has no signed deed of gift, but how likely is it that a collection of such size and importance would have been housed in the library, and listed in publicly accessible international library catalogues, without this very basic detail having been attended to? It's also puzzling that UIC now raises the absence of any formal agreement with the donor - and thus the absence of any formal restrictions by the donor - as a reason to deny access to a collection placed in library custody precisely to facilitate public access.
The question of who the donor is and/or who holds formal authority over access to the collection, is also critical. It's notable that after trying to ascertain this information several times, I have still not received a proper reply. One obvious question is whether Bill Ayers and perhaps even Barack Obama himself may be connected to the donor. Obama began his CAC board chairmanship in early 1995, and stepped down from the chairmanship in late 1999, though he remained on the board until CAC phased itself out of existence in 2001. At that time, CAC handed over its remaining assets to a permanent new institution, the Chicago Public Education Fund. Obama served on this Fund's "Leadership Council," from 2001 through 2004, overlapping with council service by Bill Ayers's father, Thomas, and Ayers's brother, John. Bill Ayers, as noted, was a CAC founder, its guiding force, and co-chaired CAC's powerful "collaborative." CAC appears to have been housed at UIC because of Ayers's connection to the school.
So informally, and perhaps formally, it would appear that both Ayers and Obama may be closely connected to the donor of the CAC records. In fact, Ayers himself may be the donor. In raising her belated point about the absence of a signed deed of gift, Ann Weller indicated that she had been alerted to the fact by the donor, and would henceforth be working with the donor to provide access "within the next few weeks." One can at least speculate that Weller might have been in touch with her UIC colleague, Bill Ayers, either because he actually holds formal authority as donor, or because he is granted de facto authority over the papers by whatever entity has formal control. One can also speculate that, as former CAC board chair, board member, and as an official of CAC's successor organization, Barack Obama himself might have had, or may still have, some sort of formal or informal role in this process. Could this help explain why I have never received a clear answer to my question about the identity of the donor?
Obama and Annenberg
I expect to follow up this piece with an examination of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and what it suggests about Obama's personal, financial, and ideological ties with Bill Ayers. I will also discuss what Obama's CAC connection might suggest about Obama's links to various radical groups, about the political character of his service at various foundations, and about his leadership record. I treated some of these issues in "Inside Obama's Acorn," and have just explored them, using new material, in an article in the current issue of National Review, entitled "Senator Stealth." Further information on the Obama-Ayers connection can be found in "Barack Obama's Lost Years." Of course there is no substitute for access to the CAC records, but at over 60 pages, the extremely detailed "finding aid" to the CAC records by itself provides important new information that helps extend our understanding of Obama's political past. I will shortly have more to say about what the finding aid reveals. And while there were no major revelations in it, the contents of the folder from the chancellor's archive are also of some interest.
We already know a good deal about Obama's service at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. That information paints a disturbing picture, and one sharply at odds with Obama's claim that Bill Ayers was just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood." A number of bloggers, including, for example, Tom Maguire, at Just One Minute, have done excellent work on the CAC issue. (See here and here.) But the key reporting on the Obama-Ayers connection via the Chicago Annenberg Challenge has been done by Steve Diamond, at Global Labor and Politics. (See especially this important post of June 18, 2008.) Sad to say, the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored the issues so powerfully raised by Diamond, and discussed at length by various bloggers, even though Obama's service at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge raises serious questions about the veracity of his account of his relationship with Ayers. Access to the CAC records promises to provide a treasure trove of documentary evidence fronting on this and many other critically important issues, from Obama's policy views, to his political-ideological alliances, to his leadership abilities.
Access and Security
There will be time for substantive discussion later. The immediate concern is to swiftly gain public access to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, and to ensure the security of these documents in the meantime. Despite UIC library's claim that it hopes to be able to provide access within the next few weeks, the apparently shifting and contradictory character of their reasons for denying access have left me with a low level of confidence in these assurances.
I intend to continue my efforts to examine the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, to take notes, and to order extensive photocopies, to be mailed to me and/or received personally by me, in a timely fashion. I call on the UIC library to take extraordinary steps to secure the documents until such time as this issue is resolved. The public needs clear assurances that none of the CAC records have been, or will be, damaged or removed. I call on UIC library to reveal the name of the donor of the CAC records and/or to specify the person, persons, or body that currently hold authority over these records. I also call on Barack Obama to voice support for the swift release of these records.
Libraries are designed, not to unduly restrict information, but to make it available to an interested public. This country is now mere months away from a momentous presidential election in which a central issue is the political background and character of a relatively young and unknown senator. The Chicago Annenberg Challenge records almost surely contain important information on Senator Obama's political associations, policy views, ideological leanings, and leadership ability. His role as board chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge is the most important executive experience Obama has held to date. Given this, the public has an urgent right to know what is in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records.
If you agree, then please write to the president of the University of Illinois system, B. Joseph White. Ask him to take immediate public steps to insure the safety of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, to release the identity of the Collection's donor, and above all to swiftly make the Collection available to me, and to the public at large. You can find an email link for White here. Telephone, fax, and mailing addresses for White's offices can be found here.
- Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
By Thomas Lifson
August 21, 2008
The cloak of media invisibility is slowly beginning to lift from Barack Obama's most important administrative leadership experience, helming an expensive educational reform effort in Chicago that failed to produce any measurable academic gains, according to the project's own final report.
Add in the fact that former Weatherman and admitted terrorist William Ayers (whom Obama described in the Philadelphia debate as merely a "neighbor") was head of the operating arm of the CAC, working with Obama on distributing scores of millions of dollars to grantees in the wards of the city, and you have a topic that the Obama campaign wishes to avoid at all costs.
A compliant media has averted its eyes so far. A timeline of Obama's career from George Washington University omits it. Why the McCain campaign has not raised more questions on the subject is a question beyond my pay grade. But there are signs it is on the case.
The four plus years (1995-1999) Barack Obama spent as founding chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) represent his track record as reformer, as someone who reached out in a public-private collaboration and had the audacity to believe his effort would make things better. At the time he became leader of this ambitious project to remake the public schools of Chicago, he was 33 years old and a third year associate at a small Chicago law firm, Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland.
This was a big test for him, his chance to cut his teeth on bringing hope and change to the mostly minority inner city school children trapped in Chicago schools. And he flopped big time, squandering lots of money and the time of many public employees in the process.
Given Senator Obama's lack of any other posts as leader of an organization, someone unschooled in the ways of the American media might expect that for months reporters have been poring over the records of the project to get an idea of how it managed to fail so badly. Examining the track record of the guy who wants to lead the federal government would seem to be part of the campaign beat for media organizations.
But as a matter of fact, until recently, only a few bloggers were looking into the most important organized effort ever led by Barack Obama, prior to his successful campaigns for public office.
Now, it appears a cover-up is underway, in order prevent journalists and researchers from getting access to the records of this charitable project housed in a taxpayer supported library. And there is a mystery:
The UIC Library says it is acting on behalf of the donor, whom it refuses to name.
It took Stanly Kurtz, of National Review Online to ask permission to see the files held by the publicly-funded University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). After initially agreeing, The Richard J. Daley Library withdrew permission. Kurtz writes:
"The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial. Ayers has long taught at UIC, where the Chicago Annenberg Challenge offices were housed, rent-free. Ayers likely arranged for the files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to be housed in the UIC library, and may well have been consulted during my unsuccessful struggle to gain access to the documents. Let me, then, explain in greater detail what the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) records are, and how I have been blocked from seeing them."
It is highly unusual and legally questionable for a publicly-funded archive to deny access to records in its collection, particularly when they have a bearing on matters of intense public interest: the qualifications of a man seeking to be Commander in Chief.
But even if the university manages to stall release of the records until after the election, it is only drawing attention to the project. Already, the nation's mainstream media have taken notice (however imperfectly) of the University's unusual actions, albeit without exploring the subject in any depth yet.
In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, it is going to be hard to keep this interest in Obama's Annenberg years contained, now that it has surfaced.
A blogger, Steve Diamond, has put together enough data from public sources to seriously embarrass Obama over the closeness of his association with Ayers in the project, and to describe the wrong-headed and politicized approach taken by the project. Anyone can go to this page and look at the latter half of the very lengthy post to see the data uncovered by this intrepid researcher. At a minimum, it proves that Obama has seriously misled the public about his association with Ayers. And it documents and analyzes some of the complex left wing politics underlying the effort.
As the public begins to notice this outlines of the history of the CAC presented by Diamond, more questions are bound to be asked.
The First Cover-up
Diamond examined public documents, receiving cooperation from the Brown University Library, where the Annenberg Challenge Program national headuarters had been housed. Until, that is, Diamond's requests for further information fell on deaf ears following publication of a post highlighting a grant to one of Ayers' former revolutionary cohorts in the Weathermen. He writes:
"...while the representative from the university I originally corresponded with had been quite friendly and accommodating prior to my June 23 post, afterwards my additional requests for further information went unanswered. I did not pursue it at the time because I felt I had told a significant part of the story already. Thanks to the diligent work of Dr. Kurtz, however, we now know there is much more to know."
So the appearance of a cover-up actually began in June.
If Ayers were the sole point of interest in seeking the Annenberg Challenge files promised to Kurtz, all "132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material", then the Obama camp might claim it was merely guilt-by association and persuade at least some of its own partisans. But the fact that Obama was in charge of a massive expensive project makes it indisputably a matter of proper vetting to examine his track record at delivering on promises of hope and change.
The Obama camp has already noted that it does not control the archives at UIC. All well and good, though it would be nice for the candidate to plead with the university and the mystery donor to let the sun shine on his track record. After all, he is a new kind of politician.
But even if he doesn't, the Annenberg Challenge is slowly entering the national consciousness, and that's very bad news for Barack Obama.
Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.
By John Kass
August 21, 2008
Conservative writer Stanley Kurtz-researching an article for the National Review about connections between Barack Obama and former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers-made a big mistake.
The poor man took a wrong turn on the Chicago Way. Now he's lost.
Kurtz's research was to be done in a special library run by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The library has 132 boxes full of documents pertaining to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation vested heavily in school reform.
Kurtz believes the documents may show Obama and Ayers were close-far closer than Obama has acknowledged-over oodles of foundation gifts on education projects the two worked on together.
First the librarians told Kurtz yes, come look. But by the time Kurtz landed in Chicago, the librarians changed their minds. The donor of the documents hadn't cleared his research. Perhaps they'll let him look at the documents on Nov. 5.
The relationship between the ambitious Obama and the unrepentant Ayers is a subject that excites Republicans, who haven't really thwacked that pinata as hard as they might. It really irritates Obama and his political champion, Chicago's sovereign lord, Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"This is a public entity," Kurtz told us Wednesday. "I don't understand how confidentiality of the donor would be an issue."
You don't understand, Mr. Kurtz? Allow me to explain. The secret is hidden in the name of the library:
The Richard J. Daley Library.
The Richard J. Daley Library doesn't want nobody nobody sent. And Richard J.'s son, Shortshanks, is now the mayor.
Obama, wearing the reformer's mantle, has generously offered to extend that reform to Washington, even to Kenya, but not Chicago, because he knows Shortshanks would be miffed.
Ayers, a former left-wing radical accused of inciting riots during the anti-war protests in the 1960s, is now also under Shortshanks' protection. After Ayers finally resurfaced in 1980, he got a job the Chicago Way, as a professor at UIC.
The Tribune's City Hall reporter, Dan Mihalopoulos, asked Daley on Wednesday if the Richard J. Daley Library should release the documents. Shortshanks didn't like that one. He kept insisting he would be "very frank," a phrase that makes the needles on a polygraph start jumping.
"Bill Ayers-I've said this-his father was a great friend of my father," the mayor said. "I'll be very frank. Vietnam divided families, divided people. It was a terrible time of our country. People didn't know one another. Since then, I'll be very frank, [Ayers] has been in the forefront of a lot of education issues and helping us in public schools and things like that."
The mayor expressed his frustrations with outside agitators like Kurtz.
"People keep trying to align himself with Barack Obama," Daley said. "It's really unfortunate. They're friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he's been making a strong contribution to our community."
Mr. Kurtz finally got his answer. It should grace the cover of the National Review, with a cartoon of Shortshanks, dressed like a jolly Tudor monarch, holding a tiny Obama in his right paw, a tiny Ayers in his left:
They're friends. So what?
Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Kurtz.
The Republican National Committee lost no time in demanding that Obama personally defy Shortshanks and call for the documents to be released from their dungeon.
"The American people have a right to know more about Barack Obama's relationship with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers," said RNC spokesman Danny Diaz in a statement. "Will Barack Obama step forward and call on the university to immediately release all the records?"
No chance, Danny.
"It leads me to have tremendous fear for the documents," Kurtz said. "What if they are going through them right now and deciding which names to take out? I'm completely alarmed. I think public scrutiny is the only way to save the documents."
He should be worried. Though national pundits get thrills running up their legs when Obama speaks, it's when Daley says "I'll be very frank" that you've got to worry.
Kurtz fears "they'll manage to take this all the way past the election."
Even before Shortshanks, when Chicago had a true reform mayor, his freedom of information officer was Clarence McClain, a former pimp with a bad wig who ended up in federal prison for taking bribes. Now that the Daleys run things, forget about it.
It's obvious that Mr. Kurtz and the National Review didn't have the special Chicago Democratic machine library card:
The mayor's smiling face on one side. And your voting record on the other.
By Thomas Lifson
August 22, 2008
William Ayers, unrepentant terrorist and education professor, is once again being tied to Barack Obama in the public mind. Controversy builds over the withholding of the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an expensive failed school reform effort headed by Obama and effectively run by Ayers, held by the library of the University of Illinois Chicago. Researchers who have gained access to a few documents recording the history of the project have found strong evidence of a very important working relationship between the two men on the project, Obama's sole claim to executive experience.
Oddly enough, even though the project produced no measurable improvement in student performance according to its own final report, educators and administrators -- participants and grantees of the CAC -- were reported by outside monitors to be often "ebullient" about the activities. For insiders, it was an excellent adventure. For the pupils stuck in the failing public schools of Chicago, an ongoing, unrelieved disaster.
Obama and his campaign long have gone out of their way to downplay, in fact distort, the long and evidently deep relationship between Ayers and Obama. In the Philadelphia Democratic debate last April, George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his relationship with Ayers, and the candidate responded:
"This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.
"And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George. [....]
"So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideas could be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't."
Almost two months earlier, the "neighbor" talking point campaign manager David Axelrod introduced the notion that Obama and Ayers were mostly just neighbors, telling The Politico's Ben Smith,
"Bill Ayers lives in his neighborhood. Their kids attend the same school," he said. "They're certainly friendly, they know each other, as anyone whose kids go to school together."
Ayers and his wife are in their sixties, while the Obamas are in their mid-forties. Ayers' children are all adults, while Obama's children are currently 10 and 7. Axelrod's prevarication is telling, bespeaking confidence that nobody in the media will bother to dispute an obvious falsehood.
"Flimsy" turns out to be a completely misleading word when it comes to characterizing the Obama-Ayers relationship.
Notwithstanding the campaign's efforts to direct attention away from Ayers, a 527 group, American Issues Project, has just released the following ad tying Obama to Ayers, and says it is spending 2.8 million on television airtime in key states.
Despite the legally questionable embargo of the CAC archives, most of its tax returns and official evaluations of the CAC have already been made public. In the hands of intrepid bloggers such as Steve Diamond, Tom Maguire and Dan Riehl, there is already proof of Obama's extensive involvement with Ayers over the course of his chairmanship, and an emerging picture of Obama's indecisiveness and absence when serious problems needed leadership.
Barack Obama joined the CAC shortly after William Ayers and Anne C. Hallett received news that their letter of November 8, 1994 submitting a grant proposal to The Annenberg Challenge had been approved. They were to get as much as $49 million from Annenberg, plus tens of millions more dollars from other foundations. Obama's involvement predates by months the actual incorporation of the CAC and his appointment as founding chairman of the board. He came on board almost as soon as the proposal was approved.
How on earth did a relatively unknown associate at a politically-connected but small Chicago law firm come to be entrusted with the heady task of handing out tens of millions of dollars of other people's money?
Keep in mind that Obama was at this point in his career very undistinguished considering his pedigree. It would be a kind understatement to say he had underperformed his academic resume. Three years out of Harvard Law and the Law Review Presidency, here is a short list of some of the things Obama had not done:
As of 1995 Obama may have had the most professionally empty resume of any President of the Harvard Law Review three years gone from "The Law School."
- Clerked for a US Supreme Court Justice (or any Federal Judge);
- worked in an important legal position at any level of serious responsibility;
- written a law review article or note or published anything of legal substance.
And yet Ayers gave him a gig that would enable him to hand out large amounts of money to many people in Chicago, who could be expected to be grateful, once Obama ran for office -- as he was to do later that very year, in an event held at the home of Ayers and Dohrn.
Quite clearly, Obama was already well-enough known and trusted by Ayers to be offered the sensitive, prestigious and highly visible post of chairman of this important new undertaking. So we must ask, when did Obama and Ayers actually first get to know one another? And how did they come to trust one another?
One possible connection between Ayers and Obama was Sidley Austin, the prestigious Chicago law firm where Obama had a summer job after his first year at Harvard Law School, and where he met his future wife Michelle, assigned to him as a mentor. Also working at Sidley Austin was Bernadine Dohrn, wife of William Ayers, and a fellow Weather Underground terrorist. Given the shared "progressive" politics of the three, they probably knew one another and associated together at a firm known as a white shoe corporate practice.
Or Obama might have met Ayers even earlier, during his stint as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, in fact. Ayers was a well-known and very active figure in left wing Chicago politics, and might have encountered the young, articulate, Ivy League educated rookie black radical Obama, working in a Saul Alinksy spinoff.
We soon will know much more about the period of collaboration between Obama and Ayers following the start of the CAC. Even if the archives continue to be withheld from public scrutiny, the cat is out of the bag with the documents available to all. The formidable analytical engine of bloggers trading insights and new data is warming up.
But the period prior to 1995, the time when Bill and Barack, the terrorist and the presidential aspirant, got to know one another and build the relationship of trust, is one excellent adventure likely to remain obscure.