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More on Obama as a Product of a Particular Liberal Culture:

On Saturday, I wrote that Obama's ties to Ayers and Wright, and his apparent lack of self-consciousness about these ties and how they might affect his political career, "suggest to me NOT that Obama agrees with their views, but that he is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh."

Some readers might be a bit mystified as to what I was getting at. Well, consider Obama's years at Harvard Law. I attended Yale Law School the same years that Obama attended Harvard, and I had friends at Harvard, so I have some idea about the general intellectual culture that the institution (which was not dissimilar to Yale's culture).

That culture considered extreme leftists (known as "progressives") to be within mainstream political discourse, but run-of-the-mill conservatives (known as "reactionaries") to be, at best, on the fringe. Consider that conservative lawyer and Obama Harvard Law classmate Brad Berenson praised Obama as president of the Harvard Law Review because "Whatever his politics, we felt he would give us a fair shake". Are there many places in America where mainstream conservatives like Berenson have had to worry about being treated fairly because of their politics, and where a "boss" will get praise simply for not treating them like pariahs? But Obama won support and praise simply for giving conservatives a "fair shake," with no question that people on the extreme left were entitled to such treatment.

Now consider Obama's answer when asked at a debate about Ayers:

"George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George. The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."

So, it seems that in Obama's mind, he's an open-minded guy because he's as willing to be friends with a law-abiding conservative Republican senator as with an extreme leftist unrepentant former domestic terrorist--just as he was considered open-minded at Harvard for treating a mainstream conservative Berenson as a non-pariah. It is this attitude that is a reflection of the political culture of elite liberal east coast schools, and liberal univeristy ghettos such as Hyde Park, and is also reflected in Obama's infamous "clinging to guns and religion" remark.

Being in the academy myself, I know many people who share Obama's outlook, or who are even more left-wing. Many of them are fine individuals, write thoughtful and interesting scholarship, are a pleasure to engage with in conversation, and respect my work and my ideas, even if they think some of my views are rather loony. Like them, Obama may very well be a fine, thoughtful, individual, willing to engage with people and ideas despite his natural instinct to recoil. But that doesn't mean I'd want to be governed by them, or him, and Obama's 100% liberal voting record in the Senate is likely a far better indication of his underlying ideology than his willingness to be polite to Berenson and Coburn.

UPDATE: For another take, see this piece by Jennifer Rubin. H/T--Instapundit.

FURTHER UPDATE: No, commenters, I haven't enjoyed being governed by Bush, the Republican Congress, or the Democratic Congress, and I'm not looking forward to a McCain Administration, either. But there's a good reason that liberals are especially excited by the prospect of Obama winning--he will be the first president to come out of the post-1970s elite liberal university culture that dominates modern liberalism, for better or for worse. Since this culture is antithetical in many (though not all) ways to my own views, I don't see any reason to share this enthusiasm.

richard cabeza:
That's an interesting perspective from places I've only read and heard about, thanks. It also puts in perspective emanations from these institutions. Coupled with the grading changes in such places, I wonder how longer they will continue to attract the faculty and staff who, I presume, make them useful.
10.6.2008 11:24pm
TyWebb:
Professor Bernstein:

Do you consider yourself a "run-of-the-mill" conservative? Just asking.
10.6.2008 11:28pm
LN (mail):
Obama wins 340 electoral votes, Dems have 57 seats in the Senate, extend their lead in their House, and David Bernstein has a LOT of deep thoughts.
10.6.2008 11:29pm
Patrick22 (mail):
Like them, Obama may very well be a fine, thoughtful, individual, willing to engage with people and ideas despite his natural instinct to recoil. But that doesn't mean I'd want to be governed by them, or him, and Obama's 100% liberal voting record in the Senate is likely a far better indication of his underlying ideology than his willingness to be polite to Berenson and Coburn.



You could have just posted these three sentences. You don't agree with Obama's policies and so won't vote for him. I'm not sure why you had to write hundreds of words over two days about Ayers, other than to just write about it and say the words, "liberal","left-wing" over and over.

How about you define liberal? Why is it bad? What is "left-wing"? Aren't Libertarians leftwing on social issues and civil rights? If Liberal and Leftwing is the opposite of Conservative and Rightwing, then the opposite of the last 8 years is what most Americans are looking for.

Please define liberal and then compare that to George Bush, and what McCain is running on. These labels just don't fit anymore, which is why writing posts with liberal, liberal, leftwing, liberal, leftwing is just silly.
10.6.2008 11:33pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
TyWebb, given that I think the drug war should be halted, and prostitution and pornography should be legal, that the U.S. should close most of its foreign bases, that abortion should be legal in most circumstances, that the Pledge of Allegiance shouldn't say "under God" in it, and so forth and so on, I don't think conservatives would want to claim me as one of their own, much less consider me a "run-of-the-mill" conservative. In fact, to the exten the other side discerned the difference, libertarians were treated better at places like Harvard and Yale than were conservatives, if they didn't pal around with conservative Fed. Society types, which marked them as "reactionaries."
10.6.2008 11:35pm
therut (mail):
This is the same bias in the MSM. They consider support for abortion on demand, gun control, strict separation of church and state and any serious Christian to be outside the main. They come to the news always thinking their views are normal and right. I sometimes think some of them do not even know they are biased. But those of us out in the wilderness easily see their slant. It seems just a little or alot odd to us. I mean good grief CA is voting on how to treat chickens for goodness sake.
10.6.2008 11:36pm
karl newman:
Thank you Patrick22. I agree completely. I've read VC for 4+ years and have generally enjoyed the level of discussion. I am physician and enjoyed the discussion on subjects that I've not been formally "educated". I rarely post. I've learned a lot about how people think, thank you all. However, I've read enough silliness, such as this Bernstein rant, on the VC over the past 2 weeks. His comment "Many of them are fine individuals, are quite reasonable in one-on-one conversations" is insane. I am canceling my subscription, if you will. The bookmark is deleted. Peace, Love and Senior Women.
10.6.2008 11:43pm
Lady on the Left:
I don't really think the "fair shake" comment says much about liberal culture. I think that comment could be made in many contexts regarding liberals, conservatives, moderates, etc. For instance, John McCain has been considered a maverick because he gives both Republican and Democratic colleagues (and ideas) a "fair shake." Tim Russert was a good news anchor because he gave all of his guests, regardless of ideology, a "fair shake." If I were a liberal law review member and my editor was known to be conservative, I might remark that he or she gave me a "fair shake" if they judged my work by its academic merit and not its ideology. Maybe it's just me but I don't see how a comment (which I think was meant to be complimentary) that Obama treated his colleagues fairly, even those with whom he disagreed politically, can be seen as a negative for Obama or for "liberal culture."

As for the Coburn remark, it certainly wasn't the best comparison that could have been made, but I think it makes the valid point that Obama can't be held responsible for every thought or action of every person he has ever been associated with in any way, especially when, as I'm glad he pointed out here, he was 8 years old when those actions occurred.
10.6.2008 11:44pm
hawkins:

libertarians were treated better at places like Harvard and Yale than were conservatives


Of course they were, they dont attempt to impose their personal views on others. Something that is unfortunately not so for either Conservatives or Liberals.
10.6.2008 11:45pm
Cobra (mail) (www):
David Bernstein writes:

On Saturday, I wrote that Obama's ties to Ayers and Wright, and his apparent lack of self-consciousness about these ties and how they might affect his political career, "suggest to me NOT that Obama agrees with their views, but that he is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh."




"I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."

Sen. Tom Coburn, OK (R)





Now, if you would define Tom Coburn as just a "law-abiding conservative Republican Senator" that's fine. He, as far as I know, has never been convicted of killing any abortionists.

Could you please inform the readers of Volokh Conspiracy what William Ayers has been convicted of?

--Cobra
10.6.2008 11:46pm
Calculated Risk:

But that doesn't mean I'd want to be governed by them, or him, and Obama's 100% liberal voting record in the Senate is likely a far better indication of his underlying ideology than his willingness to be polite to Berenson and Coburn.


And I don't think Obama would want to be governed by you, either.

The ideal form of government seems to me to be self-government. Where each of us governs ourselves. This is impossible, because we face too many threats, both natural and man-made to live in such a state.

Anyway, the issue is not who you want governing you. If you are self-respecting man, the answer is, no one.

The bottom-line is this. To the extent that you are not voting for Obama but are instead voting for McCain because you think McCain is the lesser of two evils or the positively better candidate, I respect that. (I hope and pray that you don't vote for any candidate, ever, because you want to be governed by them.) But, I think Ayers is largely irrelevant, except from a purely emotional standpoint. I think that you largely realize that, despite some rather emotional guilt by association posts in the past that have been much less clear thinking than the present post.
10.6.2008 11:48pm
Brett Bellmore:
I think the relevant question, though, isn't what age he was when the actions were committed. It's what age he was when he found out the guy he was associating with committed them.
10.6.2008 11:48pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
The issues are not about casual associations but about being truthful about them, and if reports are true that Obama managed the distribution of millions of dollars to "radicalize" students, then it is reasonable to ask about providing financial support to unsavory purposes, no matter where it comes from or by whom it was influenced.

During my life I have also spent some time with characters some might question, and have had a number of challenging conversations with them (as I do with the unsavory characters on this forum :), but I have not supported their improper activities, unless they gain some status from being seen with me, which no one should confer on them.

When the preacher was criticized for spending time in dens of iniquity, he appropriately answered, "That's where the sinners are." But being there was not condoning sin.

We need to know more about where that money went and what it was used to accomplish.
10.6.2008 11:53pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
David,

Back when we were at Yale, most of the conservatives I knew thought your ideas were a little loony. Why limit it to libs? And no, if there is any such thing as a mainstream conservative, David isn't it.

On the Ayers thing, I wonder why people have so successfully labeled him a terrorist. Back in the 60s, that wasn't what the Weathermen, the Panthers, the SDS or other violent groups were called. Its an anachronism to apply the word to them now, unless you also want to call the Boston Tea Party an act of terrorism as well. I tend to think that people like to call Ayers a terrorist because it associates him with the Islamic terrorists at some level, which creates another veiled slur against Obama.
10.6.2008 11:56pm
Malvolio:
Could you please inform the readers of Volokh Conspiracy what William Ayers has been convicted of?
The question is not what crimes has Ayers been convicted of, but what crimes he is guilty of?

Is there any doubt in Cobra's mind, or in Obama's, that he conspired to wage war against the United States? That Obama (like Cobra) cannot (apparently) distinguish between a peaceful, innocent Coburn and an unrepentant if unconvicted Ayers calls his judgment into question.
10.6.2008 11:59pm
Donny:
It's not that this argument doesn't have merit. It is an interesting thesis that isn't false on its face. But why is it more persuasive than his actual voting record? That voting record (which no one characterizes as "100% liberal") shows a man who is somewhat liberal, but by no means the most liberal man in the US Senate, which is itself a pretty moderate body.

I take your argument to be that he isn't a pragmatist, he's an ideologue. Then why doesn't he support universal health care, gay marriage, criminal sanctions for pollution, immediate withdrawal from Iraq, open borders and gun registration?

Do you think he believes in all those things, but has just been hiding them throughout his 12-year political career?
10.7.2008 12:00am
Stolidus:
Prof. Bernstein,

It really seems that you are conflating all the things you don't like about many different issues and people, calling that conflation "liberal", and then using it to paint anyone that exhibits signs of any of these ideas as supporting all of them.

Believe it or not, there are such a thing as conservative Democrats, who will be voting for Obama in this election, but who are not at all disinterested in economics and political freedom. If it makes you feel any better, I will immediately start voting Republican again when Obama starts forcing people into "public service" or imposing a Marxist state. You seem to suggest that Obama's open-mindedness is of the mindless "all ideas are equal" sort (which I would agree is rather repugnant). I just don't see it that way; however, we are now in the realm of impression, so I wouldn't try to debate you on it.

I am curious, you write a lot about Obama, what do you think about McCain (and Schmidt)? Seriously?

(I must say, I do sometimes wonder if you guys are now using these threads to boost traffic, while reserving serious discussion for the legal threads.)
10.7.2008 12:06am
RandomGuy (mail):
Prof. Bernstein: I'm not sure I understand your argument. Based on your statement about Obama's voting record, it seems to me that you are really only asserting that you do not wish to be governed by Obama because he is a liberal - this is not particularly surprising.

If this is the case, I don't understand how your discussion of the anti-conservative politics of liberal institutions plays into your argument. Indeed, Obama's relationships with people who exist on the other side of the ideological spectrum suggest that he does not fall into the category of "extreme leftists" that you have described. Perhaps Obama is a product of a liberal institution, but you concede that he seems willing to consider the values of other intellectual cultures. This should make him a more appealing candidate to you, as far as liberals go, since it distinguishes him from the "extreme leftists" that you disapprove of.

Please correct me if I have misunderstood your argument.
10.7.2008 12:09am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Duffy, hardcorelibertarian views--and mine were more extreme in law school than they are now--are in fact outside the mainstream, so it's not abnormal to treat them as such. Treating conservative views as both outside the mainstream, and indeed inherently evil ("reactionary") is abnormal, as a positive (not normative) matter, given that 40% or so of Americans are conservative. If one comes to intellectual maturity in such an environment, and one is not especially curious about the rest of America, it's easy enough to have one's perspective skewed. Back in my early college years, when I was more or less a mainstream conservative, a fellow student once said to me, "doesn't it bother you that everyone disagrees with you?" I replied, "you do know that Ronald Reagan got 60% of the vote last year, right?"
10.7.2008 12:09am
richard cabeza:
Patrick22
Please define liberal and then compare that to George Bush, and what McCain is running on. These labels just don't fit anymore, which is why writing posts with liberal, liberal, leftwing, liberal, leftwing is just silly.

So what you're saying is that because McCain can be described as "liberal," the label "liberal" has lost its meaning? Well... you're half right.

Duffy Pratt
I tend to think that people like to call Ayers a terrorist because it associates him with the Islamic terrorists at some level, which creates another veiled slur against Obama.

That or because they used incendiary devices, like nail bombs, to destroy property and whoever was inside. But yeah, those Tea Party guys were out to terrorize, um, leaves of tea! (What about all the people who stowed away inside the tea crates!!?)

Donny: Actually, when I search for evidence of that, I find this: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007, according to National Journal's 27th annual vote ratings. The insurgent presidential candidate shifted further to the left last year in the run-up to the primaries, after ranking as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate. Let's hear competing evidence.
10.7.2008 12:10am
jccamp (mail):
If we accept the thought that "terrorist" is misapplied to Mr Ayers, perhaps it would be instructive to simply describe what his group did. They set off a number of bombs in public places. Several members of the group were killed when an antipersonnel bomb, intended for mass murder at an Army dance, prematurely detonated. Although (I think) no one else was killed in bombings claimed by the group, law enforcement suspected that the group did kill people with bombings, perhaps by accident, and then failed to publicly claim the fatal explosions.

Mr Ayers remains a committed Communist, although he has moved away from the Stalinist model. He was never convicted in any bombings, mainly because the FBI obtained evidence from illegal wiretaps which tainted the entire case. He wrote a book, taking credit for many (non-fatal) bombings, but unsurprisingly, not mentioning those unattributed fatal bombings.

I don't think there is much factual debate about what he did. People seem to confuse his opposition to the Viet Nam war with his desire to completely remake the U. S. as a communist state. He was not just protesting what he saw as an unjust war by blowing up stuff - and the occasional human being - he was attempting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of this country.

He still describes the U S as a fascist state which should be remade in the image of, say, Venezuela, which is one of his national models.

I don't think Sen Obama's age at the time of the bombings is as relevant as Ayers' present-day philosophy, contemporaneous with his apparent friendship with Obama.

The actual nature of the Obama-Ayers connection seems to have been sufficiently described in some detail, so that the nature is not really a factual issue, only the significance.
10.7.2008 12:14am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Stolidus, you're basically right, but "considering the values of different intellectual cultures" is one thing, and considering far left extremists to be at least as respectable as mainstream conservatives is another. Not that this can't be defended intellectually, but rather, given that the U.S. is basically a center-right country, it is a rather awkward position for a presidential candidate to find himself in. Imagine if Bob Barr was the Republican candidate, and when asked about his admiration for the views of Ayn Rand and Ron Paul, he said, "hey, I had Joe Lieberman over for dinner the other night, that doesn't mean I agree with all his statist nonsense."
10.7.2008 12:20am
Psalm91 (mail):
Noun-verb-Bill Ayers Day 3.
10.7.2008 12:21am
PC:
But that doesn't mean I'd want to be governed by them

Prof. Bernstein, who would you like to be governed by?
10.7.2008 12:22am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Just how liberal is Obama? Can we answer that question objectively? Andrew Gelman, author of the book, Red State, Blue State, Rich State Poor State, thinks we can and proceeds to do just that.
Thanks to ... Poole ... Rosenthal, we've known how liberal or conservative members of Congress are ... since the late 1980s. Using all non-unanimous roll call votes ..., they've been able to construct a common metric for measuring the ideology of politicians.

While the National Journal has rated him the most liberal member of the Senate ..., the methodology ... is suspect ... I'd turn instead to the results of the far superior Poole-Rosenthal NOMINATE ideal point estimation algorithm...

So what's the truth? The answer: Obama as an Illinois state senator was very liberal, but there were others substantially more liberal still. Of all 295 incumbents who served from 1996-2004 in Illinois, State Senator Obama ranked in the 14th percentile on my liberalism scale.
Gelman's approach seems better to me than the usual ranting we hear about this.
10.7.2008 12:27am
hawkins:

considering far left extremists to be at least as respectable as mainstream conservatives is another.


How exactly did Obama's statement indicate that he finds Ayer's views as respectable as Coburn's?
10.7.2008 12:28am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and Duffy, the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" go back to the French Revolution, and were widely used in English way, way, before Bill Ayers (e.g., the British government referred to the Irgun as "terrorists", and, if I'm not mistaken, last 19th and early 20th century violent American anarchists, such as the ones who killed President McKinley, were called terrorists).

And, more specifically, the Weathermen were commonly referred to as "terrorists," see, e.g, NY times, 3/13/1970, "Garelik Says Terrorists are Growing Threat Here."
10.7.2008 12:29am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and Duffy, the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" go back to the French Revolution, and were widely used in English way, way, before Bill Ayers (e.g., the British government referred to the Irgun as "terrorists", and, if I'm not mistaken, last 19th and early 20th century violent American anarchists, such as the ones who killed President McKinley, were called terrorists).

And, more specifically, the Weathermen were commonly referred to as "terrorists," see, e.g, NY times, 3/13/1970, "Garelik Says Terrorists are Growing Threat Here."
10.7.2008 12:29am
Nunzio:
Duffy,

I agree. So we should call Ayers a "domestic terrorist." He's sort of a poor man's Timothy McVeigh, bombing government buildings to further his anti-government ideology.

I wonder if Ayers will still be anti-government when Obama is President. I wonder what a President Obama would say if people tried blowing up government buildings because they don't like his policies: "I strongly condemn these bombings, but in 40 years feel free to serve on some non-profit boards with me and host fundraisers for me."
10.7.2008 12:33am
Cover Me, Porkins (mail):
This is something I realized at the start of the year.

Barack Obama, thematically enough, is the offspring of establishmentarian leftism. He's grown up to believe that socialism, anti-Americanism, and revisionist history are not only normal but morally correct. To a point, Obama is innocent of his environment. He would be as reluctant to condemn Bill Ayers as we would Curtis LeMay. Now, you shouldn't draw a moral equivalent, but Obama's world is burgeoning -- so you sort of have to.
10.7.2008 12:43am
hawkins:

- "You're an acquaintance of Bank Robber, so you must support his crimes."

- "No I dont - Im also friends with Pot Head, even though everyone knows I how much I oppose marijuana."

- "I cant believe you find use of marijuana worse than armed robbery!!!"
10.7.2008 12:43am
PC:
I wonder if Ayers will still be anti-government when Obama is President

Ayers will be the Sec. of Education. The multi-generational conspiracy will be complete.
10.7.2008 12:46am
jccamp (mail):
Cover me, Porkins?

Yeah, I had to look it up. And BTW, well said.
10.7.2008 12:47am
richard cabeza:
hawkins: Except that Bank Robbing is not something that's been used in the last century or so by groups who seize states to murder millions of its citizens and crush the culture and economy of the rest, so being associated with a bank robber doesn't imply any ideological connection.

Of course, people who don't see a problem with such a connection keep making the quaint argument about "guilt by association," but they fail to realize that the associations are voluntary, long-term, and instrumental in building a career.
10.7.2008 12:53am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

So, it seems that in Obama's mind, he's an open-minded guy because he's as willing to be friends with a law-abiding conservative Republican senator as with an extreme leftist unrepentant former domestic terrorist--just as he was considered open-minded at Harvard for treating a mainstream conservative Berenson as a non-pariah. It is this attitude that is a reflection of the political culture of elite liberal east coast schools, and liberal univeristy ghettos such as Hyde Park, and is also reflected in Obama's infamous "clinging to guns and religion" remark.


Yes indeed, this is a sign of high elitism and arrogance, this strange and untoward willingness to work with those with whom you disagree to solve important problems of the day. It's a good thing this strange trait of his is being aired out, so the American people can get a look at what kind of man we're really being asked to vote upon.
10.7.2008 12:53am
Bored Lawyer:
Professor, I must strongly disagree that the relevance of Ayers is probing the range of views Obama considers "mainstream." You might well be right that for a leftist like Obama, an Ayers is more likely to be in the mainstream than a Rush Limbaugh. That is probably true of most people on all sides of the spectrum -- the view their own views as the center, they have some tolerance to the left and to the right which they view as mainstream, and the rest on either side are extremists. For those in the left, the spectrum is skewed more to the left, the reverse is the case for the those on the right.

The relevance of Ayers, IMO, is the tolerance of violence -- especially unrepentant violence -- to promote political views. This is something which, IMO, the left is far more tolerant of its own than the political right in this country. The ubiquitous pictures of Che Guevara on T-shirts, the coddling of Fidel Castro, all indicate a willingness to overlook violence and brutal repression in those who share one's ideology.

Same thing for Ayers. What bothers me is not that Obama considers his views mainstream, it is that an unrepentant terrorist is given a free ride from any moral indignation.

Imagine a former member of the KKK who later went on to teaching and other endeavors. He then gives an interview to a newspaper in which he said the only thing he regrets about church bombings was that he and his friends did not commit enough of them. That person would be treated us utter anathema by the vast majority of Americans -- and rightly so.

If a Republican candidate had half the connections to such a person as Obama does to Ayers, we would never hear the end of it.
10.7.2008 12:54am
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
Nunzio, I hate to tell you this but Timothy McVeigh was a poor man's Timothy McVeigh, bombing government buildings to further his anti-government ideology.
10.7.2008 12:56am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Of course, people who don't see a problem with such a connection keep making the quaint argument about "guilt by association," but they fail to realize that the associations are voluntary, long-term, and instrumental in building a career.


Because, as this entire thread demonstrates, Obama's association with Ayers exists only to further his political career.
10.7.2008 12:58am
hawkins:

so being associated with a bank robber doesn't imply any ideological connection.


I dont think being associated with anyone necessarily implies an ideological connection.


Of course, people who don't see a problem with such a connection keep making the quaint argument about "guilt by association"


I dont know the extent of their relationship, but I think it could potentially be a big problem. Im just saying that Obama's analogy involving Coburn does not necessarily demonstrate that he finds Ayers's views less offensive than Coburn's.
10.7.2008 12:58am
Nunzio:
Bored Lawyer:

Ayres is different than KKK domestic terrorists because the war in Viet Nam was wrong and so were the policies of the U.S. government during that time and any time a Republican is President.

Domestic terrorism will be unspeakable when Obama is President because the U.S. policies will be right.

Don't you understand?
10.7.2008 1:01am
jbn (mail):
I have yet to see Mr. Bernstein denounce the traitor Jonathan Pollard.

Why does Bernstein hate America?
10.7.2008 1:03am
jccamp (mail):
Actually, I can't think that Ayers is trying to solve important questions, or at least questions important to most Americans. Most of what he has done or attempted to do is radicalize the education establishment.

At the time of the bombing campaign, his intent was the classic "create terror, leading to over-reaction by the security apparatus, causing an uprising of the proletariat." Unfortunately, the proles were apparently too stupid to get it, and they failed to burn it all down. Ayers has never expressed regret for the terror campaign, only for its ineffectiveness due to the ignorance of the oppressed.

Thus, mayhaps PC has it right, and Mr Ayers is part of the struggle to re-educate the American underclasses.
10.7.2008 1:03am
TruthInAdvertising:
If one is going to tar Obama over his associations with Ayers, why limit them to Obama? How about the University of Illinois at Chicago where he's employed? Or Chicago Mayor Richard Daley? Both have associations with Ayers. But Obama alone is claimed to be "palling around" with Ayers despite no evidence they ever had any kind of friendship.
10.7.2008 1:04am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Same thing for Ayers. What bothers me is not that Obama considers his views mainstream, it is that an unrepentant terrorist is given a free ride from any moral indignation.


Indeed, that is the crux of the problem...that people like us, who have never spent more than one moment thinking about Ayers (that is, if we knew who he was before this year) were not around to lecture Chicagoans of all stripes, conservative and liberal, on who they may or may not associate with to solve specific problems in their area.
10.7.2008 1:04am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Most of what he has done or attempted to do is radicalize the education establishment.


Explain.
10.7.2008 1:04am
nicestrategy (mail):

So, it seems that in Obama's mind, he's an open-minded guy because he's as willing to be friends with a law-abiding conservative Republican senator as with an extreme leftist unrepentant former domestic terrorist


David Bernstein, everyone's best guide to Obama's mind. Because liberals, they all have the same mindset, a mindset you can best understand by interpreting their words in the worst light possible.

First, Obama isn't friends with either Ayers or Coburn. He's polite and willing to work alongside them on select issues.

Prof. Bernstein draws an inference, based on his experiences in law school, that Obama must think that radical lefties and law abiding but extreme but not quite radical conservatives are equally unobjectionable. This is silly season redux. Even if this were true, it is utterly unremarkable.

The point of mentioning Coburn isn't to show that Obama is open-minded but to show that Obama (like any halfway intelligent person) can work with someone without that saying much or anything about them or their values. Since it seems that no one on the right is willing to concede that Obama isn't a super far left socialist pacifist, perhaps they could concede that Obama has little to admire in Coburn's politics? Bernstein has twisted a reference to two people that Obama can be civil with and work with in a limited capacity into a comparison of his own construction.
10.7.2008 1:05am
jccamp (mail):
Why does Bernstein hate America?

Say what????

Be nice.
10.7.2008 1:08am
buford puser (mail):
Bored Lawyer:
Does the name G. Gordon Liddy ring any bells?
10.7.2008 1:09am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Multiple sources say that Obama was friendly, if not best friends with, Ayers. So, you're argument comes down to the idea that Ayers was lying about his relationship with Ayers, that he only worked with him. That wouldn't help Obama much, but in any event he specifically said "I'm ALSO FRIENDLY with Coburn," which means that he considers himself friendly with Ayers.
10.7.2008 1:11am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I have yet to see Mr. Bernstein denounce the traitor Jonathan Pollard.

Why does Bernstein hate America?
Thanks for the gratuitous Jew-baiting, JBN.
10.7.2008 1:12am
Vermando (mail) (www):
DB trashing Senator Obama again?!?

For F's sake why doesn't somebody stop the madness! The horse is dead, my ears are bleeding - why isn't that enough for you?!?

AHHHHHHH!!!!!!
10.7.2008 1:14am
jbn (mail):

Thanks for the gratuitous Jew-baiting, JBN.

Don't be a turd, David.

If it is fair to wonder whether Obama's failure to denounce Ayers says something about him, why isn't it fair to ask why you have not yet denounced a convicted traitor?

Why do you hate America?
10.7.2008 1:16am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Maybe because I have no connections whatsoever to Jonathan Pollard except that we are both Jews?
10.7.2008 1:18am
jccamp (mail):
Xanthippas -

It's hardly a new take on Mr Ayers' philosophy about education. Start here if you like LINK

or, from the same author LINK

Or, just Google Ayers for his own books and writings. A sample:

Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground 1970-1974, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Jeff Jones, Seven Stories Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1583227268

Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom, William Ayers, Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 978-080703269-5

Handbook of Social Justice in Education, William C. Ayers, Routledge, June 2008, ISBN 978-0805859270
10.7.2008 1:19am
Elliot123 (mail):
"If one is going to tar Obama over his associations with Ayers, why limit them to Obama? How about the University of Illinois at Chicago where he's employed? Or Chicago Mayor Richard Daley?"

Daley isn't running for president.
10.7.2008 1:27am
nicestrategy (mail):

I'm ALSO FRIENDLY with Coburn


Exactly. Being friendly is a far cry from being a friend. A friend is someone you look forward to spending discretionary social time with. A friend is someone you spot $ for. A friend is someone you call just to say hey, not because you want or need something.

A good pol will be friendly with anyone. I'm friendly with all sorts of people I want nothing to do with off the job. Obama didn't hate Ayers and in fact accepted his help in a minor way, so I won't claim that he was only being superficially friendly because they worked together, but I don't really know, and neither do the people parroting this attack line.

Prof Bernstein has no basis to say that the two were friends, yet asserting that they were friends, and not merely friendly, serves his political purpose. Hmmm. I expect law professors to be more careful with their language, especially when they are giving a close reading analysis to someone else's words.
10.7.2008 1:28am
Matthewccr (mail):
Well, there's certainly no need to get excited (or worry, or anything else) about a McCain administration.
10.7.2008 1:35am
Christopher Cooke (mail):

I attended Yale Law School the same years that Obama attended Harvard,


So, you graduated from Yale in 1991? I thought your CV says 1995.
10.7.2008 1:40am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Okay, I am wrong. David is right. 1991. Sorry.
10.7.2008 1:42am
Nunzio:
Eliot123,

I hold Obama's associations with Mayor Daley against Obama, as well as his association with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and State Senate President Emil Jones.

Chicago's a corrupt town with the highest murder rate in the country, a huge budget deficit, and an idiotic crook as mayor. (People think W. is a poor speaker but Daley makes W. look like Churchill. He is incomprehensible). Daley wants to bring the Olympics to Chicago even though he's laying off cops because he gave all the city's money to his crooked friends.

Illinois government is also corrupt, with another idiot at the helm. The Illinois pension plan is underfunded by almost $40 billion, the largest in the nation. That underfunding was well-known while Barack Obama was a state senator and he did nothing about it, as was typical of him. State senate is a part time job, but he took it to a whole new level of part time.

Bill Ayers is a professor at UIC, so his state pension is at risk, too. This could be dangerous as he might bomb the state capitol because they're going to have to stiff him.
10.7.2008 1:43am
markH (mail):
I guess Reagan never had go after Carter for his relationship with one of the terrorists who attacked the King David Hotel.

Everyone who has been reading your Ayers posts ( and the posts at Instapundit, NRO, etc ) knew where this was going and the McCain campaign didn't disappoint.

Watch some of the clips of Palin's and McCain's latest speeches and listen for the crowd yelling "terrorist" and "kill him". You must be positively giddy that it's getting such a great response.
10.7.2008 1:49am
jbn (mail):

Maybe because I have no connections whatsoever to Jonathan Pollard except that we are both Jews?

I don't see how your religion is relevant her.

You support AIPAC and AIPAC has lobbyed to have the traitor Pollard released. Just connect the dots.

You've had two opportunities to denounce Pollard and you have declined to do so. Why do you continue to remain silent about a felonious treaitor?
10.7.2008 1:52am
Gilbert (mail):
This is exactly the same ridiculous misrepresentation you made before, and as you have now twice demonstrated that you refuse to understand his point, I will explain:

Obama is NOT comparing the politics of Ayers and Coburn; he is clearly comparing the quality of his relationship with these people.

I am, personally, much more likely to doubt your sincerity than your ability to understand this very simple point.
10.7.2008 1:59am
YabbaDabba:
The fundamental problem in starting with a premise that

That culture considered extreme leftists (known as "progressives") to be within mainstream political discourse, but run-of-the-mill conservatives (known as "reactionaries") to be, at best, on the fringe. Consider that conservative lawyer and Obama Harvard Law classmate Brad Berenson praised Obama as president of the Harvard Law Review because "Whatever his politics, we felt he would give us a fair shake". Are there many places in America where mainstream conservatives like Berenson have had to worry about being treated fairly because of their politics, and where a "boss" will get praise simply for not treating them like pariahs? But Obama won support and praise simply for giving conservatives a "fair shake," with no question that people on the extreme left were entitled to such treatment.

is that numerous policies and ideas of "run-of-the-mill conservatives" were (and continue to be), by any stretch of the imagination to a rational, open-minded graduate student, wrong-headed and dangerous. Take gay rights. Run-of-the-mill conservatives have wasted thousands of hours of "liberal" lawyers' and thinkers' and writers' time defending and making the affirmative case for, say, anything and everything under the sun that would recognize gays and same-sex couples on equal legal footing with with straight people. Take civil rights. How many hours were wasted in the 1960s even arguing with someone like William F. Buckley? To us "liberals", conservatives were (and continue to be) so morally repugnant on some issues that it is impossible to do anything else than to see them as outcasts on those issues, which then colors our view of them on everything else. And fortunately for us "liberals", history overwhelmingly vindicates and will continue to vindicate our beliefs and actions.
10.7.2008 1:59am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
This reminds me of the story - there are names and dates attached, but I don't remember them - about the woman living in NYC who exclaimed in dismay after the 2000 election, "but nobody I know voted for Bush!" Small, narrow, provincial worlds.
10.7.2008 2:00am
richard cabeza:
jbn, for the analogy to work, you'd have to ignore the professional connection between Msrs. Obama and Ayers, and also ignore that Obama has complimentary ("mainstream") statements about Ayers. Does it still hold?
10.7.2008 2:02am
richard cabeza:
Sorry, that should have been "... has officially endorsed complimentary ..."
10.7.2008 2:03am
Dave N (mail):
Brooks Lyman,

The allegorical quote was Pauline Kael, the film critic for the New Yorker, who supposedly said in 1972, "I don't know how Richard Nixon could have won. I don't know anybody who voted for him."

However, there is a doubt that she ever actually did say it, though one of her biographers indicated the real story was something like, "Apparently a reporter, or somebody, asked her to comment on Nixon's election, and she replied that she couldn't because she didn't even know anyone who had voted for Nixon. And the story got garbled."

On the other hand, she hated Michael Moore--and vice versa, so she couldn't have been completely clueless.
10.7.2008 2:22am
Visitor Again:
Bernstein, here's a crusade you can go on. Who is Bill Ayers associating with now? Why don't you make it your personal cause to see to it that no one of any consequence, no one of any repute, no one of any ability, no one who cares at all about their own standing or well-being dares to deal with Ayers in any way? Make Bill Ayers forever the pariah you think he should be.

You can go on a real vendetta, making sure that Ayers pays as high a price as now possible for his evil deeds and evil thoughts. And you could really turn the screws on those who persist in associating with Ayers and/or fail to denounce him harshly enough--really punish them.

Once you're finished with Ayers, you can move on to Rev. Jeremiah Wright and then to all the others who in your view hate America. Perhaps you could stir up enough interest to have legislative committees, on both state and federal levels, look into all these suspect hate America associations. An are you now or have you ever been friendly with _______________ (fill in the blank) sort of thing. The Volokh Conspiracy would be a good base for operations to begin with. Your fans could gather names for you. Some of them hate the America-haters almost as much as you do.

Go on, Bernstein, I know you can do it. In fact, I think this sort of job would suit you, and you're tailor-made for it. You've repeatedly shown you have the temperament and mindset for it in your writings here.
10.7.2008 2:27am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The problem is that Obama is a cipher. Many of his supporters see exactly what they want in him, even if it is just the opposite of what his next supporter sees.

But for the rest of us, the question is, who is the real Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.? Who are we likely to be getting as our next president? Is is the guy who sat in the pews at Rev. Wright's church for 20 years, or the guy who worked closely with Ayers at the CAC? What is his character?

This close to the election, I really don't know, and suspect that most who think they do, are wrong.

What I suspect is that he is comfortable around people whom most Americans outside the bi-coastal, Chicago, and academic elites would find radical leftists. But that really doesn't say much beyond just that. Does that mean that he is an unreconstructed leftest terrorist and communist like Ayers, or a black supremest like Wright? Probably not. On the other hand, he seems unlikely to reject proposals along those lines out of hand, like most Americans likely would.

Mostly, I see an extremely ambitious politician who is willing to say or do most anything to be elected to ever higher office (and that is true for most of the politicians in Wash., D.C.) He seems somewhat sympathetic to leftist economic solutions, but that could be because that is what he has grown up mostly hearing. And I see him as a compromiser instead of a fighter in international relations. But I could be wrong on all of this.

I just don't know, and that is what scares me. We know what we would get with John McCain, Sarah Palin, and probably even Joe Biden. Ditto for Hillary Clinton. But we are less than a month away from likely electing Obama president, and I still don't know what his core values are, and I suspect that most Americans are in the same position (even if they don't think so).
10.7.2008 2:27am
YabbaDabba:
Bravo, Visitor Again. Well played.
10.7.2008 2:32am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
David:

I agree with your point that the culture at Yale, and other places, skews people's idea of what is normal.

And yes, the word "terrorism" is not new. But its meaning, or at least its connotations, has changed. I didn't say that no-one ever called any of these groups terrorists. But it wasn't common parlance, at least not in my memory, and yes I'm old enough to actually remember what was happening with those groups. There are lots of ways to describe Ayers. I think certain people have chosen to call him a terrorist because it makes him like Bin Laden, and they think this hurts Obama more.
10.7.2008 2:34am
Nunzio:
Duffy,

Ayers, like Bin Laden, is a spoiled rich kid who had (and has) a lot of time on his hands. In someone with above-average intelligence, this lifestlye provides the type of enviroment in which cult thinking can form and lead to a violent ideology. It can also lead to following around the Grateful Dead. Unfortunately, neither Bin Laden or Ayres became dead heads.
10.7.2008 2:43am
DavidBernstein (mail):
You support AIPAC and AIPAC has lobbyed to have the traitor Pollard released. Just connect the dots.

You've had two opportunities to denounce Pollard and you have declined to do so. Why do you continue to remain silent about a felonious treaitor?
Yeah, except that I've never claimed to agree with AIPAC, and, moreover, AIPAC does not lobby for Pollard's release.But if being a Jew-baiting dumbass amuses you, I can't stop you.
10.7.2008 2:48am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Duffy, I'm not old enought to remember, but a search in the Times' database for Weathermen and terrorist or terrorism comes up with plenty of contemporary hits.
10.7.2008 2:50am
first history:
If you want to play the guilt by association game, McCain's co-chair (and Republican National Committeeman) in Pennsylvania, is a convicted felon. Robert Asher, who previously supported Rudy Guiliani, was convicted


in 1986 on charges stemming from a bribery scheme intended to win a $300,000 state government contract. The case gained national attention when his co-defendant in the case, Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, committed suicide at a televised news conference. Asher was sentenced to serve one year in prison.


Unlike the tenuous association between Obama and Ayers, Asher was convicted and did hard time much more recently than Ayer's violent past, and this association is on-going. Or is the top of the Republican ticket more forgiving when it comes to public corruption?

So much for Mr. Maverick and Mr. Reformer.
10.7.2008 3:44am
Ainola (mail):
If a Republican candidate had half the connections to such a person as Obama does to Ayers, we would never hear the end of it.


Okay, I'll play this game.

What if the Republican candidate in question had ties to a man who spent more than four years in prison for activities that attempted to subvert the Constitution? What if this ex-con proposed kidnapping Americans to stop them from exercising their right of free speech? What if he planned (although didn't follow through) to murder a newspaper columnist he didn't like? What if he openly advocated killing federal law enforcement officers? What if this ex-con said he had no regrets?

What if the Republican candidate said in public to the ex-con, "I'm proud of you"?

And what if the ex-con had contributed some $5,000 to this Republican candidate over the years?

Steve Chapman (hardly a Venezuelan communist) thinks that McCain's association with G. Gordon Liddy is just as bad as Obama's Ayers problem. I think it's fair to say that we haven't even heard the beginning of this story in the mainstream media, save for Chapman, let alone hear about it endlessly.
10.7.2008 5:01am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Liddy's targets were specific people who he deemed enemies of the US-- war protesters, Daniel Ellsberg etc. The only acts he actually carried out were two attempted burglaries. On the other hand, Ayers participated bombings at New York police headquarters, the Capitol, Pentagon and a statue in Boston. Ayers actions exposed random and innocent members of the public at risk of being killed. In short Ayers is a terrorist, which is a far cry from an ex-burglar.

In no way was Liddy ever a danger to me personally. I can't say the same for Ayers.
10.7.2008 7:58am
Mark Rockwell (mail):
If only this post could have crammed in a few more hollow, but pejoratively encumbered catch-phrases!

There is always tomorrow...
10.7.2008 10:40am
jccamp (mail):
Well, at least it's a change from Political Discourse Held Hostage by Palin, Day 27...
10.7.2008 10:51am
Floridan:
Is it just a coincidence that just as the Palin-McCain campaign decides to attack Obama on this very issue (after pretty much leaving it alone up to now), that Bernstein jumps up with a post on the very same subject?
10.7.2008 12:23pm
therut (mail):
The real obscene thing about all of this is Ayers and his terrorist wife are "professors" at a university. Sad state of affairs. Really now. How in hell does this crap happen except in a corrput lefty instutution that really really dislikes the USA. They deserve to be shunned and instead are treated like Communist heroes by stupid idiotic young rich losers. That to me is what Obama does. He associates with people I would spit on.
10.7.2008 12:57pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Floridian, ummh, because I'm more likely to blog about things that are in the news?
10.7.2008 1:05pm
YabbaDabba:
Bernstein has been a hack and a shill for any and all anti-Obama innuendo and propaganda for the past six months. Just check the history of his posts on the Conspiracy.
10.7.2008 2:43pm
richard cabeza:
Just wait for people with the same logic and FORCE OF WILL of YabbaDabba to be part of Obama's executive administration.
10.7.2008 4:09pm
TruthInAdvertising:
"Just wait for people with the same logic and FORCE OF WILL of YabbaDabba to be part of Obama's executive administration."

As opposed to what we've had for the last 8 years?
10.7.2008 5:33pm
richard cabeza:
TIA, if you think there's a cult of personality around George W, then you must be unusually susceptible to suggestion from movie stars and aggressive pets.

I suggest dark sunglasses and earplugs or a live-in nurse.
10.7.2008 5:38pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
cabeza:

if you think there's a cult of personality around George W


Pay no attention to the "Our Leader" billboard.

Also, pay no attention to kids being encouraged to worship (literally) him.

Also, pay no attention to a book called "The Messiah: The Chosen One; Republican; Hon. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America."

And thank goodness Bush never encouraged that sort of thing. After all, he never said anything like this:

I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.


Nope, no signs of "a cult of personality around George W."
10.7.2008 6:56pm
richard cabeza:
You amaze me with your attention to detail, cogent arguments, and ability to compare opposing conclusions.
10.7.2008 11:44pm