Jonah Goldberg
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"Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon."

This excerpt from William Ayers' memoir appeared in the New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001 - the day al-Qaida terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Ayers, once a leader in the Weather Underground - the group that declared "war" on the U.S. government in 1970 - told the Times, "I don't regret setting bombs," and, "I feel we didn't do enough."

Ayers recently reappeared in the news because Politico.com reported Friday that Barack Obama has loose ties to him. Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is apparently a left-wing institution in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, and Obama visited Ayers' home as a rite of passage when launching his political career in the mid-1990s. The two also served on the board of the charitable Woods Fund of Chicago, which gave money to Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center, where Ayers' wife (and former Weather Underground compatriot who glorified violence) Bernardine Dohrn is the director.

I don't think Obama supports domestic terrorism, and I'm sure he can offer eloquent explanations for why he shouldn't suffer any guilt by association. The Hillary Clinton campaign, however, did try to score a few political points, meekly linking to the Politico story on the campaign Web site's blog. The campaign probably couldn't be more aggressive without calling attention to how Bill Clinton pardoned Puerto Rican separatist terrorists - perceived to be a way to gain support for Hillary's Senate bid from left-wing Puerto Ricans in New York.

What fascinates me is how light the baggage is when one travels from violent radicalism to liberalism. Chicago activist Sam Ackerman told Politico's reporter that Ayers "is one of my heroes in life." Cass Sunstein, a first-rank liberal intellectual, said, "I feel very uncomfortable with their past, but neither of them is thought of as horrible types now - so far as most of us know, they are legitimate members of the community."

Why, exactly, can Ayers and Dohrn be seen as "legitimate members of the community"? How is it that they get prestigious university jobs when even the whisper of neocon tendencies is toxic in academia?

The question of why Ayers isn't in jail is moot; he was never prosecuted for the Weather Underground's bombing campaign. Still, Ayers is unrepentant about his years spent waging war against the United States. "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at," Ayers was widely quoted as saying at the time.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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