Obama, Ayers, and the Annenberg Challenge Cover-Up
Barack Obama and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers have worked closely together on education reform since 1995, and possibly since 1987. Obama has obfuscated and minimized this association in his public statements and on his website. Why the cover-up? We don't know, since we aren't sure what is being concealed.
It's becoming known as the Annenberg Challenge cover-up and it's become big news since the McCain campaign highlighted it in a press release late Wednesday.
In the past few days, Stanley Kurtz of the National Review has been trying to get access to the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an education reform group co-founded by Bill Ayers in 1995 and chaired by Barack Obama from 1995 to 1999. After originally giving Mr. Kurtz permission, the library then told him that he could not proceed because they did not have proper authorization from the donor of the archives. They would not identify the donor, but the library assured Mr. Kurtz that they hoped to conclude an agreement and make the documents available soon. And why that cover-up?
This is what we know. Bill Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground, a violent radical student group of the 1960s. His father, Thomas Ayers, was a prominent Chicago business and philanthropic leader who served as an adviser to Mayor Richard J. Daley, father of the current Chicago mayor. Although he is not apologetic about his terrorist past (and had the bad luck to be quoted as saying, in an interview that ran on Sept 11 2001, that "I don't regret setting bombs. ... I feel we didn't do enough."), Bill Ayers has been accepted back into the Chicago political community and has been an informal adviser to the current Mayor Daley on education reform.
But regardless of his cachet in the liberal circles of Chicago politics, presidential candidate Barack Obama has not been eager to explain his own relationship with Bill Ayers. Published reports from February 2008 gave a glimmer of their ties. In 1995 Ayers hosted a fund-raiser for Obama prior to Obama's run for Alice Palmer's seat in the state Senate; they both served on the board of the charitable Woods Fund of Chicago from 1999 to 2002; and Ayers donated $200 to Obama's state Senate campaign. Other researchers and reporters (for example, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times) noted a few joint panel appearances and a favorable review by Obama of a book by Bill Ayers.
But even this was more than Obama was willing to admit. Asked point blank by George Stephanopoulos in the Philadelphia debate preceding the Pennsylvania primary to "explain that relationship for the voters," Obama prevaricated by pretending he scarcely knew Ayers:
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.
It was left to Hillary Clinton to remind Obama of his service with Ayers on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. The next day the Obama campaign posted at their website a "Fact Check" purporting to explain the relationship. Other reporters had been told that "Bill Ayers lives in his neighborhood. Their kids attend the same school." They were left with the impression that Ayers and Obama had first met at the 1995 fundraiser.
And what was missing?
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