I'm old enough to remember when Barack Obama's association with Bill Ayers, the former Weather Underground member, gave some people the idea that Obama was a dangerous radical who couldn't be trusted in office.
Add to the list of people who agree that Obama is a dangerous radical one Bill Ayers.
Ayers is basically incapable of giving a non-entertaining interview -- remember his dinner with Tucker Carlson? -- and a talk with Tom Bevan and Charlie Stone of Real Clear Politics is no exception. The retired education professor tells them he'd assign Obama a "failing grade" as a president, though he cautions that's true of every other president in his lifetime, and that he likes Obama personally. Then his exchange, lightly edited to remove crosstalk:
Q: Isn't Barack Obama, as the sole authority for drone use, engaged in terrorist activity?
Q: So what's the repsopnse?
A: What's the response? The response is to oppose it.
Q: Do you think Barack Obama should be put on trial for war crimes?
A: Every president in this century shold be put on trial.... for war crimes.
Q: In the Hague?
A: Absolutely. Every one of them goes into an office dropping with blood and adds to it. And yes, I think these are war crimes. I think they're acts of terror.
That's a bold statement coming from a man who led an organization that planned acts of terrorism. The capsule version: After an accidental 1970 explosion in a West Village townhouse killed three Weathermen, Ayers became a fugitive. He was later charged with "conspiracy to bomb police stations and government buildings," but the charges were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct. He then went on to a career as an education professor in Chicago, where he befriended a young Obama.
Of course, none of this necessarily means Ayers is wrong; his ability to critique Obama is entirely separate from his past. But this comment Ayers made PBS in 2008 seems telling: "It's impossible to not have lots and lots of regrets about lots and lots of things, but the question of did we do something that was horrendous, awful? .... I don't think so. I think what we did was to respond to a situation that was unconscionable."
Even those who deplore Ayers' actions can surely read that statement and feel a tug of familiarity -- who hasn't reacted viscerally, perhaps too viscerally, in a matter we believe in, or done what we thought was the right and only choice at the time? It isn't hard to imagine Obama making much the same argument about his prosecution of the drone war a few decades on, and it's surprising that Ayers doesn't see the parallels with himself and look on the president with a bit more empathy.