Paul Berman always commands attention and respect. He has published here many times. And his measured Daily Beast posting on Bill Ayers is definitive: just, textured, and in the end unrelenting. Ayers was a wannabe muderer and not just a criminal type. If you want to find a comparison to other idealogically motivated killers of the same generation you can just repair to the gangsters who slaughtered Emmet Till, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and the three little girls who died in the burning church that Condi Rice later attended. The Weatherman Underground faction of the S.D.S. was no different than the men of the Klan and other white supremacy organizations who terrorized the black south. In fact, the oh, so idealistically inclined southern populists inspired by Tom Watson broke the necks of blacks, young and hold, and hung them from a tree for all to see. Idealism can be a dangerous phenomenon. It can blind from the evil that people do on behalf of what they are sure is good.
Ayers has lived an especially privileged life, right off the system he disdains and wants to destroy. He should not be declared "innocent' of any of his crimes. By anyone.
And he certainly hasn't been vindicated by Obama who, like many in his generation, never knew of the left's depredations and its at once intellectual and human marauding. I had friends at Harvard during the sixties, first S.D.S., then Weathermen, then various splinters. I cannot deny that I had some sympathy with the early S.D.S. But, thank God -- and yes, the God of the Jews saved me -- my sympathy was spent by late 1967. All of these self-styled revolutionary cells and their predictable split-offs: they all had their days of rage. A good many of these young people have simply disappeared. One of them -- I suspect -- was murdered by his comrades, and so I was told by someone who might have known.
Berman has kept the moral account of the left, and he has done so scrupulously and without hauteur:
Dear 3,247 signatories, and, for that matter, dear Bill Ayers (who may or may not remember me, but I remember you): allow me to remind you of some of the consequences of the armed left-wing movements that were influenced by the Weather Underground. In California, the Symbionese Liberation Army, of which Patty Hearst was first a victim and then a member, succeeded in assassinating the first black schools chancellor of Oakland. In New York in 1981, an offshoot of the Weather Underground staged a hold-up in Nyack, N.Y., that managed to kill the first black person to win a job in the Nyack police department. The armed left-wing movements of those years claimed to be the champions of black advancement, and yet made a point of destroying the actual black people who were advancing.
Barack Obama's prospects appear right now to be good. But if he loses? Dear 3,247 signatories, and dear Bill: if Obama loses, one of the reasons will be your moronic and dishonest refusal to draw a distinction between the democratic ideals of the left, and terrorist notions of totalitarian communism.