Papers May Explain Obama’s Links To ’60s Radical
Education Prof. Bill Ayers Was A Member Of Weather Underground
CHICAGO (CBS) ― The University of Illinois at Chicago has released hundreds of documents Tuesday that could shed light on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s links to onetime 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
Supporters of John McCain are eager to find anti-Obama material, and eager to eyeball the documents.
“There appear to be more than 50,000 documents, 128 boxes and 946 files,” said Mark Rosati, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs at UIC. “It comes out to 70 linear feet.”
The logs of meetings and internal memos have sat in special collections at UIC for six years.
“Since January of 2002 approximately and during that time there was virtually no interest,” Rosati said of the documents.
On the third floor of the UIC Library, 801 S. Morgan St., news organizations and other interested parties gathered Tuesday morning to start examining the files. The papers are records of Obama’s work with the Chicago Annenberg Challange, a non-profit group founded to help reform Chicago schools back in the 1990s, for which Obama was chairman of the board.
Among those who founded the group was William Ayers, now 63, who helped start the radical 1960s group the Weather Underground, also known as the Weathermen.
Ayers has been a professor of education at UIC for several years. He and Obama also served together on the board of another non-profit educational organization, the Woods Fund of Chicago.
But 40 years ago, Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn were members of the Weathermen, a radical leftist group which advocated revolution and was involved in the violent Days of Rage protest in Chicago in 1969.
The group was also linked to a number of bombings of a number of government buildings during the Vietnam War. The acts only claimed the life of one of the group’s own members when a bomb detonated in a townhouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. But authorities called the group domestic terrorists.
Ayers and Dohrn spent several years underground before surrendering to authorities in 1980. Charges against them were dropped due to improper surveillance. Dohrn is now a professor at Northwestern University Law School.
The controversy has played itself out in TV ads. In a McCain ad implicating Ayers, an unseen announcer asks, “Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it?” as a graphic claims that Obama and Ayers served on a “left-wing board” together.
Conservatives have launched attack ads at Obama criticizing the relationship, and for months it has been a consistent theme on talk radio.
“It matters because we are known by who we spend out time with aren’t we,” said Jerry Agar of WLS-AM.
In response to the controversy, Obama has denounced Ayers’ activities with the Weather Underground. But he has also pointed out that Ayers was a respected education professor at UIC by the time they became acquainted.
“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,” Obama said.
An Obama campaign ad reiterates the point: “McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes, committed when Obama was just 8 years old.”
“I don’t think that’s nearly sufficient because Obama was aware as an adult of what Ayers had done,” said Stanley Kurtz of the National Review.
Kurtz has been public in his quest to review the documents, which he says could reflect an Obama who is not as centrist as he claims to be.
“Rather than being post partisan pragmatist Obama, he is at home working with people who are far on the left end of the spectrum,” Kurtz said.
The conservative group that has raised the controversy, the American Issues Project, is headed by a former political consultant for John McCain.
Filed under: Presidentual Race 2008