Noam has a post up over at the Stump about Ben Smith's Friday story in the Politico about Barack Obama's affiliation with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, one-time members of the radical, left-wing terrorist group, The Weathermen. I agree with Noam that -- at face value, at least -- Obama's encounters with this couple are not in any way indicative of his political beliefs, that he's some sort of closet, left-wing, pro-terrorist Manchurian Candidate. But I do think that Noam lets Ayers and Dorhn off way too easily, and that readers should understand just who these two people are and what they represent -- at least for the sanctity of the historical record. For an example of why this history is important, see the recent, fawning interview that an outfit called Campus Progress conducted with Mark Rudd, a former member of the Weather Undergroundd.
Noam writes that "Ayers and Dohrn have tried to rehabilitate themselves." I don't believe this to be true, at least not in Ayers's case. In a now-infamous interview with the New York Times on September 11, 2001, Ayers said that he was utterly unrepentant about his terrorist activity: ''I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough.''
To downplay the significance of Obama's attending a political function hosted by Ayers and Dohrn, Noam sets up an analogy in which Mike Huckabee, early in his political career, meets with a pastor who "at times attempted, but never succeeded in, bombing abortion clinics...If Huckabee had once addressed a group of local conservative activists at the pastor's home, would that tell us anything about his views on political violence? Reasonable people can disagree about this. But I don't think it would." I don't find this analogy accurate. For one, the Weathermen, unlike Noam's fictional pastor, were successful in many of their bombing attempts, including, but not limited to, a March 1971 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, an August, 1971 bombing at the Office of California Prisons, a September, 1971 bombing at the New York Department of Corrections and a May, 1972 bombing of the Pentagon, just to name a few (Ben notes this inconsistency in his response to Noam). There was also the 1981 Brinks truck robbery in which a security guard and 2 policemen were killed. Bernadine Dohrn served prison time for refusing to testify before a grand jury about this murder-spree. Indeed, the only reason why Ayers and Dohrn aren't serving long prison sentences is because of the five-year statute of limitations on federal crimes other than murder or in which the suspect has been indicted.. That