Ayers on Good Morning America - a response

This morning Bill Ayers appeared on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America.” Newsman Chris Cuomo did a respectable job in questioning him. But, although he was tough by TV news standards, he did not know enough about the specifics of the events of the 60’s or the actual role played by the Weather Underground to challenge Ayers effectively on key issues.

Even if he had, the very nature of TV news gave Ayers a major victory. Speaking in a soft and calm voice, viewers could not help but wonder how this seemingly rational, calm and soft-spoken man could have been accused of terrorism. Indeed, Ayers painted himself as a valiant and militant anti-war activist who joined thousands of other Americans in protesting an unjust war. When asked about his own group’s terrorism, he tried to turn the tables by reiterating that the United States had been engaged in a war of terror against the citizens of Vietnam, killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process of waging the fight. Thus, without answering the question of whether he had indeed engaged in terrorism, Ayers laid the moral culpability for terror on the United States, which he obviously believes has still not answered for its own war crimes.

Aside from claiming that during the Vietnam War “any “despicable,” acts were those “being done by our government,”  he added, “I never hurt anyone.” Cuomo did not raise the issue of the violent attacks on people that took place after the group’s October 1969 “Days of Rage,” in which a Chicago city official, Richard Elrod, was beaten up and paralyzed. Their own attacks were not terrorist, Ayers argued, since he never killed or injured anyone. I guess he has a rather selective memory. As for ABC, they might have had their researchers dig a bit deeper before Cuomo did his interview.

The truth is that since the organization, and not its individual members took credit for violent acts that did in fact hurt people, we do not know whether Ayers in particular set off some of the bombs that caused severe injuries to many. We do know that he was one of the Weather Underground’s leaders, and his orders and leadership led to these serious acts of terror.

Cuomo lost an opportunity to challenge Ayers on terrorism when he failed to bring up the accidental bombing of a Greenwich Village townhouse that killed some of his own comrades, including his former girl friend Diana Oughton.  That bomb was meant to be exploded at a dance to be held for new GI’s and their dates at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Cuomo should have asked  Ayers: “What if your comrades had not crossed some wires, and the bomb went off as scheduled in Fort Dix? The force of the explosion shows that hundreds if not more would have been killed. How do you justify such a plan, which you and others in the group sanctioned?

Cuomo also brought up Ayers relationship with Barack Obama. Here, Ayers challenged what he called a “dishonest” narrative “meant to demonize me.” When Cuomo read from Ayers own new afterword to the new paperback edition of Fugitive Days, in which Ayers writes that Obama was a  “neighbor and family friend,” Ayers downplayed that Obama was a “family friend,” and tried to say that he knew him only from serving on the Woods Foundation board with Obama. Cuomo lost another opportunity by not following up on Obama’s agreement to fund Ayers’ own radical education projects; nor did he note that the office Obama had while at the Foundation was literally next door to Ayers office for the project that Woods was funding. Clearly, Ayers was lying when he told Cuomo that he only knew Obama in “a professional way on the same level of…thousands of other people.” The evidence indicates the opposite.

Ayers also disingenuously made an oblique reference to McCarthyism, without using the word. When asked about whether or not Obama might have been influenced in any way by Ayers, he answered by saying that “I don’t buy the idea that guilt by association should have any part of our politics.” The classic definition of McCarthyism- and Ayers uttered an aside about how it so often has damaged America in the past- was that innocent people were victimized because of associations they  may have had with others. The real question that was raised during the campaign, however, was again regarding Obama’s funding of Ayers own projects, which were extremist radical projects meant to indoctrinate American young people in left wing ideas.  If Obama did not agree with this project, why did he pass on funding them? Or, did he misunderstand Ayers’ intent? Obama has not answered these questions to date.

On that front, Ayers tried to argue that all his work and books in the past years have been on childhood education. But as has been shown by his appearance alongside Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and by his statements that Ayers’ intent was to duplicate in the US what Chavez has attempted in his country---to produce a group of young people who work to overthrow capitalism and introduce a revolutionary socialist system at home.

At one point, Cuomo asked Ayers how a serious academic could have no real regrets about his violent past. Aside from misjudging Ayers as just a serious academic, the question brings to mind the well known  quote from George Orwell, that some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them. Bill Ayers is just the kind of person Orwell was talking about.

Note: I originally wrote this one hour after Ayers' interview was broadcast on Friday. The blog was not posted until Saturday night or early Sunday because of technical problems. Keep that in mind when reading it. Thanks. Ron