As something of a an amateur historian of the 1960's American Left, the corporate conservatives obsession with Bill Ayers and his alleged connection to Barack Obama has been quite amusing. Almost daily I am treated to a barrage of "conservative" talking heads and those that absorb their bizarre conspiracy theories regarding Obama's relationship with the former Weatherman. They are virtually always totally wrong headed and in the case of some of the propagandists, it is hard to imagine that they don't know the truth.
For instance just yesterday on CNN, I saw a McCain loyalist refer to Obama's "close friend" Bill Ayers as a "terrorist killer." One does not have to take Ayers at his word to come to the conclusion that this often repeated charge is nonsense. To my knowledge there is not a credible historian around who has ever argued that Ayers or The Weatherman successfully killed anyone other than themselves. Furthermore Ayers was not present at the infamous townhouse explosion that claimed the lives of several "Weather People." In fact the most successful "bombing" Ayers may have had some involvement with, consisted of "blowing up" a bathroom in the Pentagon, an act of avant garde budget cutting that would theoretically be appealing to opponents of big government and wasteful spending.
Even more interesting than the erroneous charges levied against Ayers is the suggestion that he was some sort of ultra-violent wing nut, exceptional in this regard even by the standards of the "anti-American" 60's Left. While it is not a stretch to place Ayers on the fringes of the movement, it ought to be clear to any serious observer that Ayers was not as wild eyed or as dangerous as the Symbionese Liberation Army, The Black Liberation Army or a litany of other groups that came out of the period (this is to say nothing of the far more violent European Left of the period). If anything Ayers is exceptional in comparison to someone like David Gilbert for example, because he ended up walking away from the revolutionary rhetoric, before it covered his hands in blood and landed him in prison.
One of the problems with neoconservative and nationalists accounts of the 60's left has always been the inconsistent logic that makes someone like Ayers a uniquely horrific figure, at the same time that they try to paint the broader left agents of a monolithic third world death cult hell bent on taking over the world. The reality is that there was much more nuance to the anti-war movement of the period, then David Horowitz and company would lead you to believe, though they have their reasons for keeping that quiet.
The really uncomfortable truth for Republican loyalists is that while Ayers arguably fits the definition of a terrorist and may have some sort of association with Senator Obama, the Republican Party has actually nominated a man who unquestionably qualifies as a terrorist if one is to judge by the standards of say the U.S. Army.
I am not interested in maligning the service of Senator McCain or any other American who has worn the uniform, but the facts are what they are. Sen. McCain flew 23 missions over North Vietnam, bombing areas that he no doubt knew housed civilians. Like with todays terrorists, the actions carried out by McCain were not a part of any declared war. When McCain's plane crashed, he was taken into custody and held captive at the equivalent of Gitmo, the "Hanoi Hilton." McCain was then subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques," tactics the civilized world regards as "torture."
The point here is not that John McCain is a terrorist unworthy of a vote. The point is that the term "terrorism" is a loaded one that has much to do with the eye of the beholder, or more accurately, the perspective of the victims. The spree of property destruction carried out by the Weather Underground may have been immoral and dangerous to public safety, but compared to the actions of Al Qaeda, or the bombing missions of John McCain, they can scarcely qualify as "violent." In other words if association with Ayers disqualifies one from Presidential consideration, McCain's bombing raids of a peasant society ought to as well.
Forty years removed, this is the second straight election where the Republicans have chosen to run on a Vietnam War Patriotism v. anti-war Radicalism theme. Combine this with the excommunication of the small government Paulites from the Party and the exclusion of other limited government advocates from the GOP leadership, and there can no longer be any debate: The Republican Party is the War Party.
That the Democrats are unwilling and unable to capitalize on this fact at a point in time when the majority of the nation is anti-war is troubling albeit not surprising.
Tell us future President Obama, friend of "anti-war" radical Bill Ayers; what will your excuse be when you and your Democratic Congress still have us engaged in a needless foreign war (or two) when you are up for re-election?