The Unknown Ayers and Obama Convergence
Like a master criminal irresistibly drawn to the scene of his crime, it appears that Bill Ayers -- Marxist, terrorist, educator -- was in attendance when Barack Obama cast his "historic" vote in the 2008 presidential election. Not only was he present, but he has reminisced about the experience with his unique brand of leftist lyricism, suggesting that the moment was deeply satisfying for him.
In April of 2010, Publisher's Weekly (PW) featured an article on Ayers in its "Comics World" section, related to the publication of a graphic novelization of Ayers' 1993 book, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. The article includes a short interview with Ayers, in which he discusses the process of developing the graphic novel with his partner, cartoonist Ryan Alexander-Tanner.
Towards the end of the article, the interviewer, John Seven, broaches the subject of Ayers' sudden "notoriety" during the 2008 campaign, which happened to coincide with the period during which Ayers and Alexander-Tanner were working on their book.
Ayers' initial overview of the period is imbued with the delusional grandiosity characteristic of him, as of his presidential protégé/vague acquaintance:
The experience was somewhat surreal, but I've never, ever in my life -- and the older I get, the more this is established -- read about myself. I don't read my clippings, so I was not as aware, for example, as my children were, about how big it had become until I was stopped in the street by somebody or until I saw myself on Saturday Night Live or I was a butt of a Colbert joke. I don't watch the media, I don't follow blogs about me, and if I did I think I would drive myself absolutely nuts. In some ways I think of all the people who might have been caught up in this madness, I was sort of well prepared for it because it's always been true of me since I was 20 years old. I know who I am and I don't take seriously the views of who I am -- neither the praise, nor the blame.
Much like the man in whose neighborhood he is "a guy," Ayers cannot simply recount an event in his life without seeming to be half-fabricating his "narrative" as he goes along. He is not so much remembering as portraying his experience, trying out a descriptive passage to see how it sounds.
For example, he emphatically declares that he has "never, ever" in his life read about himself. Nevertheless, he inserts redundantly that "this" gets more "established" the older he gets. How can one become more "established" in not doing something that one has "never, ever" done? Furthermore, this claim is patent nonsense. Does anyone believe that during the early days of the Weather Underground, when he was desperate to realize the effects of his scheming and rabble-rousing, Ayers never read a newspaper article about his activities? Can you believe that in 1980, after years in hiding, he and Bernardine Dohrn surrendered to the authorities without any idea of how they were being talked about in the press?
It is likely that Ayers could see the absurdity of the claim he was making, even as he began to say it. Thus, he tried to qualify it with the insertion -- "the older I get, the more this is established" -- thereby producing a logically confused statement.
The next part is even more peculiar. He says he was not "as aware" as his children were of just how big the Obama-Ayers story had become "until I was stopped in the street by somebody or until I saw myself on Saturday Night Live or I was a butt of a Colbert joke."
Those are three different alternative explanations of the same fact (his awareness of notoriety), offered in succession. He is speculating about himself from a third-person point of view, Obama-style, as though narrating another man's life story.
When did he realize how big the controversy had become? His statement, which purports to answer that question, is no answer at all. It is a list of various indications of his fame. As a lifelong adolescent "revolutionary," he can't resist the opportunity to boast of his accomplishment and reputation. So he raises the false issue of his supposed unawareness of what people were saying about him, as an excuse to remind us that references to him were rampant in the popular culture, and that people were stopping him in the street.
As for his follow-up remark -- "I don't watch the media, I don't follow blogs about me" -- this sounds more like the bravado of a pseudo-intellectual than a plausible self-description.
In a post-election interview on Good Morning America, Ayers was asked to respond to his written use of the phrase "friend of the family" in describing his relationship with Obama. Ayers replied that he didn't want to talk about this before the election because "[i]t was such a profoundly dishonest narrative. But I'm describing there how the blogosphere characterized the relationship."
How does he know how the blogosphere was characterizing him if he doesn't "follow" blogs about himself?
Furthermore, a New Yorker blog post by David Remnick from Election Day 2008 begins its description of Ayers with this:
He was, for the first time in a long while, in an expansive mood, making clear that, in all the months his name has been at the forefront of the campaign, he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn ... have been watching a lot of cable television, not least Fox.
Apparently, however, by 2010 Ayers had decided that it would be better for his image as a seasoned agitator to pretend he never paid attention to what people in the media were saying about him. As he goes on to remark in the PW interview, "[i]n some ways I think of all the people who might have been caught up in this madness, I was sort of well prepared for it because it's always been true of me since I was 20 years old."
Oh, yes, hasn't he always been "caught up in this madness"? "Caught up in" is his euphemism for "seeking." He planned bombings; he sought attention for his subversive group; he bragged of instigating riots; he co-wrote a manifesto, Prairie Fire, laying out the international communist intentions of his organization. (By the way, I recommend this latter document to anyone laboring under the misapprehension that Ayers is some kind of evil genius. He was, and is, a purveyor of trite "workers of the world" or "creative individuality" propaganda, devoid of theoretical justification, apart from the superficial snippets of Marx and Dewey that he absorbed secondhand from his father or other teachers.)
Obama's "Ayers problem" -- which, as I have previously described, he did such a self-incriminating job of explaining away -- is exacerbated by Ayers' unwillingness to stay out of the light. He enjoys the celebrity too much and is too desperate for credit. It is not enough for him to enjoy his product from the shadows. He needs to sign his work. He needs us to know that his hands were on this, even if such self-promotion might be counterproductive, as in this case.
And so it is, that in explaining how this election-year notoriety was "a roller coaster" for his young cartoonist partner, Ayers says this:
But also, Ryan was here when we watched the future president vote 20 feet from us at the school across the street from our house, and what a historic moment to be here in Grant Park, and the election, to be caught up in that swirling, good feeling, and in a society we all wish we lived in but only happens once in a while. ... That convergence the night of the election was electrifying, and Ryan was part of that and I was part of that.
Barack Obama voted at Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School. You can watch the "historic moment" in this video. Naturally, security would have been very tight at this event, and judging from the video, there were relatively few people in attendance, apart from election workers, other voters, and cameramen.
And yet Bill Ayers claims that he and Ryan Alexander-Tanner were among them. They are not visible in any of the video footage I have seen, presumably because they were situated behind the cameras that filmed the event. In other words, no one in the media that day thought the presence of Bill Ayers in the same room where the Obamas were voting was notable enough to warrant turning a camera around. (In case you're wondering, Illinois has no law prohibiting the reasonable use of cameras in polling stations.) Someone did film Ayers and Dohrn leaving the polling place later on.
Think of the nerve shown by both men, under the circumstances, to have stood close enough ("20 feet") that eye contact -- particularly with a familiar face -- would be unavoidable, and to have trusted that no one in the media would bother to draw attention to it.
Ayers, on his own account, was there at the polling station, and then at Grant Park, where Obama delivered his victory speech.
His description of his emotional response to that day is very interesting. Also interesting is that in the excitement of reminiscing about it, even a year and a half later, Ayers was unable to contain his enthusiasm enough to remain comprehensible. You will notice that in the passage, as I have quoted it above, there is an ellipsis prior to the final sentence. The reason is because I omitted two sentences which are apparently the proofreading comment of the author or some other transcriber.
After Ayers is quoted describing what it was like "to be caught up in that swirling, good feeling, and in a society we all wish we lived in but only happens once in a while," the following note appears, inserted into the text without proper demarcation:
ß This previous sentence I can't quite parse. I made an edit but I'm not sure if it was true to the spirit of the thing.
In other words, the editor is claiming defeat in his attempt to make sense of Ayers' corybantic rant about the school, the park, and "swirling" in a "society we all wish we lived in."
It is possible that Ayers had second thoughts about mentioning that he was present when Obama voted, which he then tried to fudge into merely having been at Grant Park with thousands of other Chicagoans, thereby garbling his sentence, and that this is what caused the transcriber's confusion.
More likely, he just became incoherent in romanticizing the day of Obama's election. His lyrical prose got the better of him, and he left his interviewer, and rational communication, in the dust.
Think about this for a moment, and specifically about who the speaker is.
Bill Ayers, from his earliest adulthood, has been an avowed enemy of the American government. For many years, he openly sought to destroy it through violence, activism, and collaboration with anti-American organizations in other countries. Since becoming "respectable," he has continued to espouse the view that the U.S. Constitution, and America's institutions in general, are the instruments of oppression, racism, and all the rest of the Marxist assault on constitutional republicanism.
Does he seem like a man prone to waxing poetic over the election of a mere Democrat? Or was there something special about this particular Democrat that made the 2008 election unique in Ayers' imagination? Just as Obama's wife claimed that her husband's candidacy for president was the first time she ever felt "proud" of her country, rather than "feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment," so his mentor/guy-in-the-neighborhood, after a life committed to bringing down "the system," is suddenly rhapsodizing about that system's most elemental event, the election of a new president.
Some days ago, Joel B. Pollack at Breitbart.com revealed that Obama was present at a July 4th barbecue at Ayers' and Dohrn's place in 2005. It seems that Ayers returned the favor a few years later, attending Obama's own little Americana party at Shoesmith Elementary School.
Both events, unfortunately, give off a scent of anti-American mockery on the part of their respective hosts.
Of all the depictions of him that Ayers supposedly never, ever reads or watches, the most remarkable -- both for horror and for humor -- is an excerpt from an interview with Larry Grathwohl, the undercover FBI agent who spent years in the Weather Underground.
No one had given any thought to economics -- how are you going to clothe and feed these people? The only thing that I could get was that they expected that the Cubans and the North Vietnamese and the Chinese and the Russians would all want to occupy different portions of the United States. ... I asked, "Well, what is going to happen to those people that we can't re-educate, that are die hard capitalists?" And the reply was that they would have to be eliminated. ... And when I say "eliminate" I mean "kill" -- twenty-five million people. ... And they were dead serious. [See complete video here.]
The horror is obvious, and should be remembered when you hear Ayers pretending to criticize Obama by decrying the use of drones to kill "American citizens" in the Middle East, even while repeatedly using Obama's famous word "transformation" to rally Occupy protesters. How much outrage can such a man really feel about political killing?
The humor comes from the fact, noted by the FBI informant, that these thugs, for all their "revolutionary" talk, had no idea what they would really do if they succeeded. None of them had ever "given any thought to economics." And a generation later, the same can still be said of them -- and of their spiritual progeny among the "fundamental transformers."
Leftists, whether of the "blue jeans" or the "well-tailored suit" sort, seem to have a fatal flaw -- namely, a practical intelligence that is inversely proportional to their desire for power.
Bill Ayers wanted to be present when Barack Obama cast his vote. He enthused like a schoolgirl, even eighteen months later, about how Obama's election felt like "swirling" in the society he had always wished to live in. (Read about that "society" in Prairie Fire.) He experienced "convergence" that night. He felt, in other words, that Obama's election was his dream come true. What does that tell you about how he perceived Obama's candidacy, and Obama's intentions?
How will Ayers react if his dream unravels this November? How will he handle coming face to face with those "twenty-five million" Americans who have resisted his "re-education" program? Let's hope we get to find out.