You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Bill Ayers, Still A Jerk

The president-elect has not forgiven Bill Ayers his sins. This is not  for mortals to do. It is for the great rabbi in the skies. Or perhaps Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, acting jointly as a court of justice from on high.

But David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, which judges just how far nice liberals can stray from common sense and a decent respect for the truth, has forgiven him.

Ayers seemed curiously calm and cheerful about the way he had been made an issue in the campaign. He seemed unbothered to have been part of what he called “the Swiftboating” process of the 2008 campaign.

“It’s all guilt by association,” Ayers said. “They made me into a cartoon character—they threw me up onstage just to pummel me. I felt from the beginning that the Obama campaign had to run the Obama campaign and I have to run my life.” Ayers said that once his name became part of the campaign maelstrom he never had any contact with the Obama circle. “That’s not my world,” he said.

So henceforth, in many homes on Central Park West and in the homes of those across the country who yearn to live there, Bill Ayers will have been returned to a certain respectability. But already in Chicago he has had that. Will he go further? No. He will probably go nowhere. Ron Radosh, who has forgotten more about the destructiveness of the 60's Left than David Remnick will ever know, tells us what the New Yorker editor didn't bother to mention:

Remnick lets Ayers get away with almost every point about his time in The Weather Underground. Attacks on him were all “guilt by association; ” he was made a “cartoon character.” Ayers expresses sympathy with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who also was, Ayers told Remnick, “treated grotesquely and unfairly.” Evidently listening to, watching and reading Wright’s actual sermons is not enough for one to be allowed to render judgment.

Most egregious is that Remnick also lets Ayers get away with his excuse that he never meant to imply in the 2001 Times article about him that he wished they had engaged in more violence and bombings. When he told them “I wish I had done more,” Ayers claims, “it doesn’t mean I wish we’d bombed more shit.” He never had been responsible for violence against other people, he said. He was only acting politically to end the war in Vietnam. His only sin was to use juvenile rhetoric, and he says that he only engaged in “extreme radicalism against property.”

Ayers and Remnick must think people cannot read for themselves. Ayers actually said: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Asked whether he would advocate bombing again, he answered: “I don’t want to discount the possibility.” Or as he writes in his memoir: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility.”

By repeating Ayers’ false excuses, and without challenging or correcting him, Remnick allows his publication’s readers to conclude that Ayers is, not as his enemies have claimed, an unrepentant advocate of terrorism, but a wise 1960’s activist, who has learned bitter lessons and who is now much wiser.  I assume Remnick has not read Ayers two year old interview in Revolution and his speech in Venezuela standing next to Hugo Chavez, two examples which alone would quickly disabuse anyone of Ayers’ having learned anything in the past decades.

What is at really stake here is how America judges its past. There are reasons for harsh judgement. There are reasons also for love. But how do we judge those who purported to be America's judges and did evil while they judged?