Barack Obama's personal connections are causing him grief again. Now it's Bill Ayers - a 1960s radical connected to a bomb-setting anti-war group called the Weather Underground - who's creating problems. This time, though, the connection is far shakier than Obama's connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Ayers was never convicted of terrorism (unlike the two Weathermen whose sentences Bill Clinton pardoned or commuted), and claims that his infamous New York Times quote, "I don't regret setting bombs. … I feel we didn't do enough" was a "deliberate distortion." He's called his choices "complex, sometimes extreme and despairing" and explains his current views on his blog. Newsbusters.org notes that Ayers' politics are still leftist, but according to the Washington Post, Chicago liberals at least consider Ayers "mainstream."
The Obama-Ayers link has been bouncing across the blogosphere for several months now. Then Sean Hannity urged George Stephanopoulos to press Obama for details, and Stephanopoulos obliged (a fact that irks liberals) during Wednesday's debate.
Obama replied, "The notion that … 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." Then (in a statement that offends pro-lifers), he noted that he doesn't apologize for Sen. Tom Coburn, who believes in the death penalty for abortionists.
Just how close is the Ayers-Obama connection? The Fact Checker calls it tenuous. Ayers hasn't endorsed Obama but gave a small contribution to Obama's Senate campaign, met with him and others approximately twelve times when they served on a charity board together, hosted a party for him in 1995, and is Obama's neighbor.
No one suggests that Obama applauds Ayers' views. "I'm sure he's very patriotic," John McCain said of Obama yesterday. "But his relationship with Mr. Ayers is open to question." In the Wall Street Journal, John Fund admits, "No one suggests that Mr. Obama has ever endorsed any of the actions of the Weathermen, which occurred when he was still a child."
The question seems to be the same demanded of McCain after he sought the endorsement of anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee: Just how vehemently and vocally does he disagree? Obama already called the acts "detestable," but McCain asks, "Does he condemn them? Would he condemn someone who says that they're unrepentant and wished that they had bombed more?"
On National Review's Media Blog, Kevin D. Williamson says Obama's connection to Wright and other radicals still makes a difference. Daily Kos responds to the whole story with a bitingly satirical post.