In his new book, “Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident,” terrorist emeritus Bill Ayers tells the tale of his remarkably charmed life after surfacing from the Weather Underground in 1980.
What makes the book marketable is Ayers’ relationship with Barack Obama. What would have made the book valuable is if Ayers had come clean about that relationship. He doesn’t.
“We lived a few blocks apart, and he and I had sat on a couple of nonprofit boards together,” Ayers sums up their relationship. “So?”
Ayers talks at some length about their service together on the board of the Woods Fund, a small Chicago do-gooder foundation hardly worth fretting about.
Ayers makes no mention at all, however, of their mutual involvement with a considerably more significant operation, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), which Ayers co-founded with comrade Mike Klonsky and which Obama chaired.
The Annenberg Foundation had breathed the CAC to life with a $50 million grant to be matched by $100 million from other sources. The money was to fund educational reform projects.
In 2008, when asked about Ayers’ role in securing the chairmanship for the then-obscure Obama, an Obama spokesman claimed, “Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s recruitment to the board.”
This was nonsense. National Review’s Stanly Kurtz would prove, through the board’s own documentation, that the CAC “was largely Ayers’ show.” As even the Obama-friendly biographer David Remnick concedes, “Ayers helped bring Obama onto the Annenberg board.”
What caught my attention about this budding relationship was the timing. Ayers maneuvered Obama onto the board in February 1995. He admittedly hosted a campaign kick-off for Obama in September 1995, and Obama’s memoir “Dreams from My Father” was published in June of 1995.
As to his own role in the crafting of “Dreams,” a subject I first breached in WND in September 2008, Ayers continues to play games, neither taking nor denying credit.
After citing at length several points of comparison I introduced between his books and Obama’s, Ayers asks ambiguously, “Empirical proof or crackpot confirmation, you decide.”
Having buried their mutual involvement in the CAC, Ayers, not surprisingly, fails to mention my assertion that in “Dreams” Obama perfectly mimics Ayers’ sentiments on education.
In 1994, while “Dreams” was being polished off, Ayers co-authored with Klonsky an essay rich in those damnable maritime metaphors, “Navigating a restless sea: The continuing struggle to achieve a decent education for African American youngsters in Chicago.”
In “Navigating,” Ayers offers a detailed analysis of the Chicago school system and a discussion of potential reforms. Obama does the same in “Dreams” despite having spent only a couple of admittedly cursory months on educational issues.
“Dreams” tells us that Chicago’s schools “remained in a state of perpetual crisis.” “Navigating” describes the situation as a “perpetual state of conflict, paralysis, and stagnation.”
“Dreams” describes a “bloated bureaucracy” as one source of the problem and “a teachers’ union that went out on strike at least once every two years” as another.
“Navigating” affirms that the “bureaucracy has grown steadily in the past decade” and confirms Obama’s math, citing a “ninth walkout in 18 years.”
“Self-interest” is at the heart of the bureaucratic problem as described in “Dreams.” “Navigating” clarifies that “survivalist bureaucracies” struggle for power “to protect their narrow, self-interested positions against any common, public purpose.”
In “Dreams,” educators “defend the status quo” and blame problems on “impossible” children and their “bad parents.”
In “Navigating,” an educator serves as “apologist for the status quo” and “place[s] the blame for school failure on children and families.”
Another challenge cited in “Dreams” is “an indifferent state legislature.” Ayers cites an “unwillingness on [the legislature's] part to adequately fund Chicago schools.”
In “Dreams,” “school reform” is the only solution Obama envisions. In “Navigating,” “reforming Chicago’s schools” is Ayers’ passion.
In “Dreams,” Obama channels his thoughts on educational reform through the soulful voices of two older African-Americans.
One goes by the phonied-up name “Asante Moran.” Moran tells Obama that the public school system is not about educating black children. “Inner-city schools are about social control. Period.”
“Social control” is an Ayers’ obsession. He writes in his 2001 memoir, “Fugitive Days,” that the message to young black men “was social control through random intimidation and unpredictable violence.”
The second of Obama’s educational mentors is “Frank,” the real life poet, pornographer and Stalinist, Frank Marshall Davis. In “Dreams,” he informs young Obama, “Understand something, boy. You’re not going to college to get educated. You’re going there to get trained.”
Frank has no use for training. “They’ll train you so good,” he tells Obama, “you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh**.”
In his 1993 book, “To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher,” Ayers makes the exact same distinction between education and training.
“Education is for self-activating explorers of life, for those who would challenge fate, for doers and activists, for citizens,” Ayers writes. “Training,” on the other hand, “is for slaves, for loyal subjects, for tractable employees, for willing consumers, for obedient soldiers.”
Ayers, a consummate gamesman, quotes me as writing, “The question is often asked why Obama associated with Ayers. The more appropriate question is why the powerful Ayers would associate with the then-obscure Obama.”
Ayers then supplies my answer to that question, “My suspicion is that Ayers saw the potential in Obama, and he chose to mold it.” Again, Ayers does not reject my analysis. He just plays games with it, “Ah, the ‘powerful Ayers’ – it sounded remarkably like the ‘powerful Oz.’”
But was I right? A lifelong educational reformer, Ayers faced one major obstacle in being able to fulfill his progressive vision: Chicago’s sluggish and self-interested educational bureaucracy.
Compounding the problems was that this bureaucracy had morphed, as Ayers notes in “Navigating,” from being a bastion of “white political patronage and racism” to being “a source of black professional jobs, contracts, and, yes, patronage.”
For reasons both ideological and practical, Ayers wilts in the face of this bureaucracy. In none of his writing, in fact, can he bring himself to criticize any feature of black culture.
In “Dreams,” however, Obama openly chides the black “teachers, principals, and district superintendents,” who “knew too much” to send their own children to public school.
“The biggest source of resistance was rarely talked about,” he continues, namely that these educators “would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before.”
As to the claims of these educators, seconded in “Navigating,” that “cutbacks in the bureaucracy were part of a white effort to wrest back control,” the author of “Dreams” says teasingly, “not so true.”
“Not so true”? In these three words, the Obama Ayers helped promote in the CAC and create in “Dreams” showed his potential value for a white educational reformer like himself. The African-American Obama could say and do things that Ayers could not – especially if he became the mayor.
In “Public Enemies,” Ayers admits that “for years” he had been saying, “I think [Obama] wants to be mayor of Chicago someday.” As mayor, Obama could have returned Ayers’ investment in time and street cred.
As president, “prepared to sit on the throne of a now-declining empire and command its violent legions,” Obama has been for Ayers – as the book reminds us in narcissistic detail – a royal pain in the a–.