The son of a victim of the Weather Underground talks about Barack Obama’s association with Bill Ayers:
During the April 16 debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, moderator George Stephanopoulos brought up “a gentleman named William Ayers,” who “was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that.” Stephanopoulos then asked Obama to explain his relationship with Ayers. Obama’s answer: “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.” Obama was indeed only 8 in early 1970. I was only 9 then, the year Ayers’ Weathermen tried to murder me.
In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of Feb. 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car.
I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I remember my mother pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk: Free the Panther 21; The Viet Cong have won; Kill the pigs.
As the association between Obama and Ayers came to light, it would have helped the senator a little if his friend had at least shown some remorse.
But listen to Ayers interviewed in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, of all days: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his ability to engage our imaginations, and especially for his ability to inspire theyoung once again to embrace the political system. Yet his myopia in the last few months has cast a new light on his “politics of change.”
Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois responsible for his friends’ and supporters’ violent terrorist acts. But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of judgment in his choice of mentors, associates and friends, and for showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred they have demonstrated for this country.
It is fair, too, to ask what those choices say about Obama’s own beliefs, his philosophy and the direction he would take our nation.
Something tells me that, sooner or later, someone will be asking those questions.