An approving nod to the Sun-Times for finding it no big deal that Barack Obama is on friendly terms with Bill Ayers, even though, back in the day, Ayers was a Weatherman who “bombed the U.S. Capitol, a bathroom in the Pentagon, and even cased out the White House.” The Sun-Times regrets that Ayers “remains sadly unreflective about his Weatherman days, as revealed in his memoir Fugitive Days. . . . But Ayers, it is also true to say, has since followed in the footsteps of the great Chicago social worker Jane Addams, crusading for education and juvenile justice reform. His 1997 book, A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, has been praised for exposing how Cook County’s juvenile justice system all but eliminates a child’s chance for redemption.”
Having gone so far as to compare Ayers to Jane Addams, the Sun-Times beat a swift retreat to a shrug. “Ayers,” the editorial summed up, ‘is nothing more than an aging lefty with a foolish past who is doing good.”
I admired Fugitive Days for answering the $64 question, “What were they thinking?” To me, his refusal to disassociate himself from his old self made the book credible, though others wanted something more ashamed and repentant. At any rate, a few days after the book was published 9-11 happened. That same morning, the New York Times carried an interview with Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn that began with Ayers saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” The book was damned and disappeared.
Writing about William F. Buckley a few days ago, I quoted conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg scowling at the Obama-Ayers relationship. How come, Goldberg wondered, “being a radical means never having to say you’re sorry”?
Is Ayers, for all his good works, unapologetic and unreflective?
I interviewed him when his book came out. “I gave up something precious—my own individual mind and heart,” he told me then. “The distinction I’m making is that I don’t think we should apologize for our extremism. I should apologize for a lot of other things.”