Welcome back to tinatrent.com! After a years-long hiatus, I am finally ready to start blogging again. I’d like to thank people who took the time to write and ask me where I’ve been. The good news is I re-built a tear-down house in the North Georgia Mountains and tried to start a tomato farm — and will be trying again to start a tomato farm, hopefully without the weeks of 90+ temperatures, poison oak wrestling, verticillium wilt, horrible hornworms, and the dreaded chickweed.
Speaking of terrorists who keep coming back, my first offering isn’t a blog post but a very long piece about the truth about the relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama and Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
I’ll have more to say about this in the coming weeks, and also other crime topics, including a very telling news story that puts the lie to “Ban the Box” initiatives that promise to protect the public while leveling the playing field for former felons; the so-called “hate crime” legislation in Georgia that promises to finally destroy the last holdout state where equality before the law and free speech still sort of exist, and the rising tides of property and violent crime they promised wouldn’t happen if we just let everyone out of prison and eliminated bail, while legalizing burglary, theft, robbery, shoplifting, public defecation, and pretty much every other crime except snatching the Amazon package on your front porch.
Please contact me here or at email@example.com if you have any tips or comments about the Obamas and the Weathermen, or the Weathermen and their terrorist allies. I will never disclose your name or information without permission. I know from long research on the under-prosecuted co-conspirators of the Weather Underground and other terrorist groups that there are a lot of retired police, prosecutors, victims, family members, FBI agents, regretful former allies, and even journalists who have stories to tell.
Let’s correct the injustice that Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are walking the streets, guilty as sin and free as a bird, as Bill likes to remind us.
Here’s the report. I know there’s some simple way to create a link to it so it isn’t just splayed out here in one post, but I’m going to need to get some help to do that. All my degrees are in the liberal arts.
Michelle & Barack & Bernardine & Bill
The Real Story of the Obamas and the Terrorist Couple
On April 16, 2008, during a presidential primary debate with Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, Barack Obama lied about his relationship with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Responding to George Stephanopoulos, Obama said of Ayers: “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[sic] on a regular basis.”
Everything was at stake for Obama that night: thirteen years of campaigning and serving in political offices, mostly in backwater Springfield, Illinois; the allegedly “moderate” persona he pushed with his campaign book, The Audacity of Hope; and all the momentum and good press he had received from his “Unity” keynote at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
When Obama stepped on that stage in Philadelphia, his victory over Hillary Clinton in the primary was beginning to feel inevitable, and victory over John McCain in the general election seemed within reach. The media was in Obama’s corner with enthusiasm they had not expressed for any candidate since Bobby Kennedy, forty years earlier. Even some conservative pundits thrilled at the idea of the first black American president.
But rumors of a relationship with Bill Ayers threatened all of that.
Many people watching Obama that night were too young to remember the late 1960’s and 1970’s, when Ayers bombed the Pentagon and his future wife, Bernardine Dohrn, threatened murder and mayhem “from the underground” in grainy communiqués on the nightly news. But despite this, Obama knew that the six months between his April debate and the November election was time enough for revelations about his real involvement with the terrorist couple to destroy the carefully calibrated image of political moderation he hoped to ride to the White House.
Obama faced a potentially career-ending calculation. If he told the truth about his and Michelle Obama’s unusually deep relationship with Ayers and Dohrn, the six months to the election would become a referendum on the extremism of his inner circle. If he lied and said his contact with Ayers did not extend beyond serving on a nonprofit board together, he still risked exposure, but he could turn the tables on his opponents and accuse them of practicing “McCarthyite” guilt-by-association tactics.
Obama chose the lie. And remarkably, given the number of people who knew he was lying, and the fact that one of those people was Ayers himself, who is hardly known for his discretion, Obama’s “guy who lives in my neighborhood” lie survived not only the 2008 election but also Obama’s 2012 re-election, the publication of major biographies of the young president, and even Ayers’ own 2013 memoir, Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident, in which the former terrorist flirted with disclosure, probably out of resentment for being frozen out of Obama’s ascent.
The truth about the Obamas’ relationship with Ayers and Dohrn would not come to light until May 2017, weeks after they left the White House. It was then that Pulitzer-prize winning historian David Garrow published Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. In Rising Star, Garrow completely explodes the claim that the Obamas knew Ayers and Dohrn only casually. Relying on interviews with Ayers, Dohrn, and others in their inner circle, Garrow documents an immersive, eight-year relationship between the two couples and also a third: Rashid Khalidi, the controversial professor and former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesperson, and Khalidi’s wife Mona, also a propagandist for the PLO.
How might the American public have reacted in 2008 had they known that Michelle and Barack Obama’s most significant confidants in Chicago included not one, but two couples who were involved with terrorist groups and remain, even today, entirely unrepentant about either justifying terrorist acts against Israel (the Khalidis) or actually committing terrorist acts on American soil (Ayers and Dohrn)?
Thanks to the media, we’ll never know. With the exception of a handful of conservatives, not a single mainstream reporter, news anchor, or political commentator working on the 2008 election uncovered – or admitted to knowing – the full truth about the Obamas and their terrorist friends and mentors.
With Michelle Obama now touring the country to promote her deceptive memoir, Becoming, and being touted as a potential candidate or running mate for president in 2020, and Barack Obama assuming an increasingly public role as Democratic Party kingmaker and A-List media mogul, it is important for the public to know how readily the couple lied about their involvement with terrorists – and who helped them do it.
Why Obama’s Lie Matters
Barack Obama entered the White House largely on the power of the stories he told about his personal life and the desires projected on him by others. In his campaign book, The Audacity of Hope, he opined that his conciliatory temperament would end a toxic phase of distrust between blacks and whites, one that, although he didn’t put it this way, started with the riots of the Sixties and festered through decades of rising crime, the collapse of inner cities, and a generation of cynical black leaders who exploited these tragedies for personal gain. Obama promoted himself as a centrist, a role model for successful black America, and an avatar for amity between blacks and whites.
But from the beginning of his presidential run, Obama’s campaign was dogged by revelations that his inner circle was anything but politically or racially moderate. If Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns were notorious for “bimbo eruptions,” the Obama campaign had far worse: Obama had domestic terrorist eruptions (Ayers and Dohrn), propagandists advocating for terrorists abroad (Rashid and Mona Khalidi), radical ministers and priests shouting hatred of white Americans from pulpits (Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Phleger), high-ranking cop-haters (Eric Holder), Little Red Book toting Cultural Revolution believers (Anita Dunn), and idolizers of the communist dictators Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez (Mike Klonsky, Valerie Jarrett).
For virtually any other candidate, the radicalism of Obama’s inner circle would have proven fatal. But the mainstream media fought fiercely to protect him. Despite efforts by Sol Stern, Trevor Loudon, Cliff Kincaid, Stanley Kurtz, Andrew McCarthy, and others to explain Obama’s ideological kinship with Ayers, Dohrn, Klonsky, Khalidi, and Wright, the mainstream media accepted at face value Obama’s denials that he was personally close with them or that he shared their politics. A frustrated McCarthy wrote in late October 2008 that not only had the media provided Obama with cover, but John McCain’s campaign also failed to adequately explain the hard leftist underpinnings of Obama’s closest advisors.
In retrospect, it is hard to know what would have conveyed that message at the time. Voters in 2008 were still poorly equipped to understand or take seriously the sorts of militant politics espoused by the faculty radicals and “community organizers” closest to Obama. To most Americans, words like “nonprofits,” “foundations” and “school reform” still conjured images of staid community leaders building hospitals and trying to raise literacy scores. It was simply hard for most middle-class people to believe that highly educated, successful people sat alongside unrepentant terrorists and doctrinaire Maoists in the boardrooms of major foundations and the teaching schools of elite universities plotting to transform K–12 schools into training centers for drilling anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-law enforcement agitprop into children’s heads.
But this world of academic and movement radicalism was Obama’s true home. And while he might go on to disappoint progressives with his inattention to jobs and economic decline, Obama was nothing if not disciplined in his pursuit of Sixties-style social revolution in schools.
Decades earlier, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and many other Weather Underground, Black Panther, and Black Liberation Army terrorists had also shifted strategies from planting bombs to radicalizing the teaching profession. At the University of Illinois in Chicago and from his perch as national Vice President for Curriculum Studies at the influential American Educational Research Association (AERA), Ayers injected hard-left politics into elementary and secondary school curricula nationwide. And at Northwestern University School of Law, Dohrn spearheaded the national movement to eliminate school discipline and outlaw suspensions and expulsions of minority students, even those who physically assaulted their teachers and classmates.
From the time he returned to Chicago after law school, Obama worked alongside Ayers, Dohrn, and Rashid Khalidi in such efforts to transform both school curriculum and school discipline, and when he moved to the White House, he brought their radical vision of education to the national stage. As Stanley Kurtz observed, in 1997, Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers began publishing an influential series of “social justice teaching guides” for educators. These manuals use subjects like math and science to “promote equity and social justice” and “transform individuals, schools, communities … and science itself.”
Sitting on the boards of three foundations, Obama funneled nearly $2 million to Klonsky and Ayers for their “social justice” Small Schools Workshop as well as money to Rashid and Mona Khalidi’s and Bernardine Dohrn’s nonprofits. The fruits of Obama’s pedagogical radicalism are visible today in the hard-left shift of primary and secondary schooling and the orchestrated delegitimizing of school discipline and law enforcement generally.
Had the public known what such “school reform” really meant, and how close Michelle and Barack Obama were to Ayers and Dohrn, who never abandoned their commitment to overthrowing the American government in favor of communist revolution, they might have better understood what Obama was saying when he talked about changing America. Luckily, the candidate and his campaign advisors had the media to help them conceal the real story.
The Media Cover-Up
Throughout the 2008 primary and general election, two separate, but intertwined media cover-ups helped propel Obama past his “Ayers problem.” The first cover-up has roots in the early 1980s, when Ayers, Dohrn, and other domestic terrorists emerged from hiding and were rehabilitated by elite journalists as mere “war protesters,” prodigal offspring of the ruling classes settling down to Big Chill-style child rearing and purported good works.
The other cover-up — that Ayers was “just a guy who lives in [Obama’s] neighborhood” and not an intimate friend — was enforced with remarkable discipline by a wide range of people including Michelle Obama, her mother, campaign strategists David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, writer Scott Turow, then-University of Illinois professor Stanley Fish, and a who’s who of other connected journalists, biographers, politicians, philanthropists and academicians in Chicago.
The morning after the April 2008 Philadelphia debate, where campaign moderator George Stephanopoulos raised the issue of Obama’s relationship with Ayers, Obama went on the offensive and pressured his partisans in the media to do the same. Forty journalists and journalism professors sent a petition to ABC News “deploring” Stephanopoulos’ “revolting descent into tabloid journalism” for the sin of merely asking about Ayers. Celebrity intellectual Stanley Fish used his next New York Times column to denounce the “lethal and despicable” “McCarthyite” tactic of implicating Obama for associating with Ayers. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley dismissed Ayers’ terrorist past, saying: “[t]hey’re friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century.” Later, Daley would even assert that Ayers “has contributed heavily to the quality of life…in the entire world.”
This extraordinary defense of an unrepentant terrorist was only the latest chapter in a forty-year whitewash orchestrated on behalf of the media’s favorite “radical chic” couple. The Obama campaign counted on this whitewash to continue, but they also hedged their bets by issuing a document titled “Fact Check on Clinton Attacks on Obama and Ayers.” The “fact-check” praised Ayers’ civic work and elided his bombings and other violence while also quoting journalists from the Washington Post and elsewhere claiming that Obama did not know Ayers well.
The document included quotes from author and longtime Weatherman apologist Studs Terkel calling Ayers “sensitive and gifted” and from the Chicago Sun-Times comparing Ayers to settlement worker Jane Addams. Under a section describing “When the Weathermen Were Active,” the Obama campaign misleadingly listed only the 1969 “Days of Rage” protests, leaving out the next decade of bombings, assassination attempts on police, judges, and soldiers, attempted mass murder at Fort Dix, jail breaks, and collaboration with enemy governments and foreign terrorists.
The 2008 race marked the first time newspapers and journalism foundations routinely used the “fact-checking” model to report on campaigns, touting it as a corrective to partisan political analysis. But pro-Obama journalists predictably turned “fact-checking” into yet another echo chamber for their candidate. They tailored the “facts” they “checked” to talking points being issued by the campaign itself and cited each other’s reporting as evidence instead of digging deeper into stories.
The Obama campaign mimicked “fact-checking’s” pseudo-legalism, creating a document based only on what Obama and Ayers said and what was already circulating in the mainstream news based on what Obama and Ayers said. For example, when Obama stated that he was only “eight years old” when the Weathermen committed “detestable acts,” fact checkers – and his own campaign — gave him thumbs up for accuracy on the grounds that he was eight in 1969, and in 1969, the Weathermen committed some of their “detestable” bombings.
Obama’s opponents were not really asking if Obama knew about the Weathermen when he was eight and living in Indonesia. They were asking how well he knew Ayers later in life. By “fact-checking” only Obama’s narrow talking point, reporters avoided asking real questions that should have been asked about the adult Obama’s judgment in choosing to associate with unrepentant terrorists, the nature of their relationships, and about the full record of the Weathermen’s “detestable acts,” not just the ones they committed in 1969.
Some conservative publications tried to set the record straight. In City Journal, John Murtagh confronted Obama’s talking point about being “only eight when the Weathermen engaged in despicable acts” by describing one of those acts: the firebombing of the Murtagh family home. “I was only nine, then, the year Ayers’ Weathermen tried to murder me,” Murtagh wrote, challenging Obama’s frivolous dismissal of Weatherman terror. Murtagh’s father was a federal judge overseeing the trial of Black Panther Party members charged with plotting to blow up New York City landmarks when the Weathermen set off three gasoline bombs at his family’s home, leaving behind graffiti neatly summarizing the Weather agenda: FREE THE PANTHER 21; VIETCONG HAVE WON; and KILL THE PIGS.
Although Ayers has long denied it, albeit vaguely to avoid contradicting his many lies, the Weathermen’s leaders including Ayers and Dohrn were still participating in violent attacks a dozen years later, when Obama was a college student in New York City and Ayers and Dohrn were splashed across that city’s newspapers because of Dohrn’s role as the un-convicted accomplice who obtained the fake I.D.s used to rent getaway vans for the infamous Brinks robbery/triple murder and other deadly armored car attacks. But nobody in the media ever asked Obama what he thought about Dohrn’s role in the notorious murders of two police officers and a security guard while he was a college student nearby.
In Rising Star, David Garrow even documents a strange coincidence involving the Brinks murders and Obama: as the Brinks case played out in the press, Ayers sleazily attempted to seduce a young woman who would, seven months later, become Obama’s longtime girlfriend. At the time, Dohrn was away from home – being held in the New York City Metropolitan Correction Center for refusing to testify to a grand jury about how she stole the I.D.s of customers at the baby boutique where she worked and passed them to Brinks killers and Weatherman compatriots David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin to rent the getaway cars for their armed robberies and murders.
When Gilbert and Boudin went to prison for their crimes, Ayers and Dohrn adopted their infant son Chesa, named after six-time cop-killer Joanie Chesimard (a.k.a Assata Shakur). They also named their biological son, Zayd, after cop-killer Zayd Shakur.
It would have been illuminating to ask Obama in 2008 why he would associate at all with Ayers and Dohrn, given their perverse admiration for cop-killers. But nobody in the mainstream media asked him that. Nor did they ask him about his views of the Brinks robbery murders, or the Weatherman bombings that killed one officer and maimed others in San Francisco, or the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion that short-circuited Weatherman plans to murder scores of soldiers and their families at Fort Dix, or the attempted bombing in Detroit directed by Ayers that likely would have killed dozens of police and civilians at a restaurant frequented by black customers.
The prestige press, especially in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., had spent so many years constructing ornate fables about the “non-violent” Weather Underground that Obama was enabled to feign outrage that there would be anything wrong with knowing Ayers and Dohrn — so long as he didn’t know them too well, and so long as nobody peered behind the media’s cover-up of their real terror record.
This was a fine line to walk, but Obama had help in high places.
Some of the most egregious whitewashing of Weatherman violence emerged from the prestigious Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of the same foundation that funded Ayers and Obama’s work together at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Annenberg Public Policy used their influential FactCheck.org website to deny that Ayers had ever harmed or even set out to harm anyone with his and his compatriots’ bombings. This was an abject lie, one of many that Annenberg produced leading up to the 2008 election. Their election “fact-checking” was a systematic disinformation campaign, made only more troubling by their parent foundation’s longstanding financial and political ties to Obama and Ayers.
On April 17, 2008, the Annenberg Public Policy Center issued one “fact-check” accusing Hillary Clinton of “exaggerating the violence committed by an Obama acquaintance.” Asserting that “Clinton strained the facts to make Ayers’ 1970s activities sound homicidal,” and “nobody died as a result of bombings in which Ayers said he participated [bold added],” they failed to mention that seven people were injured and could have been killed in one of the attacks cited specifically in their report: the 1970 bombing of the New York City Police Headquarters, for which Ayers did, in fact, claim credit (in 2001 and again in 2008, the New York Times also allowed Ayers to lie about this terrorist attack, contradicting their own 1970 reporting on the bomb itself.)
Even setting aside the absurd journalistic malpractice of differentiating between detonating a bomb that only happens to injure people (not homicidal) and detonating a bomb that kills them (homicidal), what sort of “fact-check” takes a terrorist’s word for the crimes he said he committed and leaves out those he slyly refuses to discuss on the record, especially if that terrorist is Bill Ayers?
Yet, in the April 17 “fact-check” and others, taking Ayers’ word is precisely what Annenberg did. In doing so, they “disappeared” all the bombings and attempted bombings Ayers either now denies involvement in or refuses to discuss, most importantly the 1970 attempted Detroit police station/restaurant bombing planned by Ayers to be maximally lethal, which would have killed police officers and civilians had the plot not been foiled by embedded FBI informant Larry Grathwohl. Grathwohl risked his life to deceive Ayers and other terrorists about methods for building bombs and then guided authorities to the 44 sticks of dynamite planted in the police station and next to the restaurant in time to defuse them. As historian Harvey Klehr said of Ayers and the other Weathermen terrorists: “The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don’t know what sort of defense that is.”
Apparently, it is defense enough for The University of Pennsylvania and its Annenberg Public Policy Center.
But Annenberg wasn’t done yet officially lying. On October 20, after anti-Obama robo-calls describing three Weatherman bombings went out in key states, factcheck.org issued another inaccurate “fact sheet” defending Ayers. “First, nobody was killed in the three incidents mentioned in the calls,” Annenberg stated. “[T]he group warned of the bombings in advance so areas could be evacuated,” they claimed. This was a particularly outrageous deception. One of the three “incidents,” as Annenberg called them, was the previously mentioned triple firebombing of Judge Murtagh’s house as his family slept upstairs. There was no warning. The family survived only because a neighbor bravely extinguished the Molotov cocktail burning under the family car.
John Murtagh recalled his bed being thrown in the air by the explosions, and his terrified family could not even leave the burning house for fear of being gunned down by terrorists in their own front yard. His life was changed forever:
For the next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car. My mother, a schoolteacher, had plainclothes detectives waiting in the faculty lounge all day…We all made the best of the odd new life that had been thrust upon us, but for years, the sound of a fire truck’s siren made my stomach knot and my heart race.
The spectacle of a journalism institute at one of the country’s most prestigious Ivy League schools airbrushing from history the attempted murder of a federal judge, his wife, and his two minor sons in the interest of electing a president is chilling. And Annenberg stands by its lies. While writing this report, I contacted the institute and asked them to correct the inaccuracies in their 2008 “fact-checks,” which are still on factcheck.org. They ignored me.
In 2008, Obama and his campaign strategists also ignored John Murtagh’s civil plea for accuracy regarding the attempt on his family’s lives. Murtagh wrote:
Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his ability to engage our imaginations. … Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois responsible for his friends’ and supporters’ violent terrorist acts. But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of judgment in his choice of mentors, associates, and friends, and for showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred they have demonstrated for this country. It is fair, too, to ask what those choices say about Obama’s own beliefs, his philosophy, and the direction he would take our nation.
Indeed. As Michelle and Barack Obama sat at Ayers and Dohrn’s table night after night for eight years with their own young daughters beside them or sleeping upstairs (more on that later), were they not even curious about the child victims of their hosts’ bombs? As Murtagh put it, “In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.”
Imagine if the public had known that, as Murtagh was contemplating his own family’s narrow escape, the Obamas were literally tucking their own daughters into the beds of the terrorists who tried to kill him.
As to Ayers’ involvement in the plot to dynamite soldiers and their loved ones at a dance at Fort Dix, which was averted only when the terrorists constructing the bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse blew themselves up, the Annenberg “fact check” stated only that “Ayers was not present [in the townhouse]” when it exploded, as if that exculpated him. But despite his subsequent denials, Ayers was involved: he was one of a handful of Weatherman leaders and the then-boyfriend of Diana Oughton, one of the three terrorists who died while constructing the bomb. According to journalist Brian Burrough, Ayers was present at least once at the townhouse while they were obtaining the dynamite and possibly even constructing the bombs. The core Weatherman leadership: Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Howie Machtinger, and Jeff Jones (yet another Weather terrorist with important ties to Obama), knew about the planned mass murder and were directing the terrorist cells. That is collusion. And because three people died in the blast, it is also felony murder. There is no statute of limitations on their involvement in this terrorist plot and the death of their criminal compatriots.
As the Annenberg Public Policy Center ran cover for Obama and Bill Ayers in 2008, they also never mentioned the February 16, 1970 nail-bomb attack on the Park Police Station in San Francisco that left one officer dead and eight others maimed and injured, for which Bernardine Dohrn has long been the prime suspect, nor an earlier nail-bomb that exploded as police were changing shifts (to inflict maximum damage), maiming one officer. According to Grathwohl, the sole FBI informant able to penetrate Ayers’ personal “fighting focle” or terrorist cell, Ayers complained to his followers that Dohrn had to do all the work in the fatal police station bombing by herself because the other terrorists weren’t carrying their weight. Two other informants, one a member of Dohrn’s West Coast cell and another a leftist journalist who knew Weather terrorists, confirmed Dohrn’s involvement. Annenberg also failed to mention that Ayers was indicted by the federal government for the attempted bombing of the police station and restaurant in Detroit, an indictment later dropped due only to wiretapping irregularities and, according to the Justice Department, to avoid disclosure of “foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States.”
The Annenberg Public Policy Center may have excelled at disappearing the truth, but during the 2008 election, they were hardly alone in the conspiracy to protect Obama by deny the Weathermen’s crimes. That April, the Chicago Tribune reprinted a cheery, long, 2001 profile of Ayers that jokingly misrepresented the Weathermen’s body count as “one Pentagon bathroom, a statue of a policeman in Chicago (twice) and three of their own members in New York City.” And the New York Times had run puff pieces on the terrorist couple for decades.
Dohrn in particular, with her good looks, leather miniskirts, sexual vulgarity, and graphic incantations of violence, always has been catnip to Timesreporters. Beginning with one breathless and revolting Marxism-meets the co-ed story titled “Do You Remember La Pasionaria? Meet the Women of the Revolution, 1969,” the Times featured her in hundreds of articles and news reports, often seemingly acting as her public relations agent.
A quarter century later, when it suited Dohrn to reform her outlaw image, she naturally turned to the Times again. In 1993, the editors ran a letter from Lawrence J. Fox, a Yale Law Professor who once chaired the national American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Fox argued (as an individual, not representing the ABA) that it was outrageous to mention Dohrn’s terrorist past when she was a respected “chairwoman of the American Bar Association section of the litigation task force on children.” He additionally whined in print about Dohrn being called a mere paralegal because she was denied her license to practice due to the Bar’s professional standards rules.
A few weeks after Fox’s fawning letter, the Times continued Dohrn’s rehabilitation in their Home and Garden section. It would seem difficult to tout Dohrn’s virtues as a wife, mother, and feminist given her collusion in sexual abuse of subservient members of the Weathermen and her war cries to “smash monogamy” and “kill the pigs,” not to mention her gleeful celebration of the garroting-torture-murder of 9-months pregnant Sharon Tate and her unborn child. Yet Times reporter Susan Chira rose to the challenge, finding room to admire Dohrn’s jam-making skills but failing to mention the maiming and murder of policemen in San Francisco or Dohrn’s refusal to apologize for statements that include: “They even shoved a fork into the pig Tate’s stomach! Wild!”
Dohrn always was the brains – and cold evil — of the Weathermen.
In the profile, Chira did admit that Dohrn was arrested for refusing to testify in the Brinks murders, but she concealed the fact that Dohrn was involved and the circumstances of that involvement. Instead of reporting that Dohrn used her job at a baby boutique to steal customer’s identities to rent the murderers’ getaway cars, Chira actually brought up Dohrn’s baby boutique job only as proof that Dohrn had a lifelong commitment to child rearing and child welfare.
Such “interest” would certainly be news to the nine children, black and white, left fatherless by what she was really doing in that baby boutique.
Chira also permitted Dohrn to repeat her lifelong complaint that public reaction to her crimes was merely sexism. “I was shocked at the anger toward me” Dohrn said, “I think part of it’s reserved for women. [We] stepped out of the role of the good girl.” She and other female Weatherman, Black Panthers, and Black Liberation Army members have maintained for years that authorities treated them unjustly because they were female terrorists in a man’s terrorist world.
After playing second fiddle in the media to Dohrn for decades, Ayers finally began to gain national attention on his own with his memoir Fugitive Days. On the morning of September 11, 2001, in the notorious profile and book review, “No Regrets for a Love of Explosives,” Times editors permitted Ayers to deny involvement in several bombings. In 2008, they granted him more space on the editorial page to publish a self-aggrandizing piece titled, tongue-in-cheek, “The Bill Ayers I Know,” in which he also lied by denying that he ever injured, let alone attempted to kill people.
Like the Annenberg Public Policy Institute, the Times has refused to respond to requests to correct these misrepresentations, even though they conflict with the paper’s own contemporaneous reporting.
Fugitive Days, which Ayers wrote as he lived in constant contact with the Obamas, bears no resemblance to ordinary anti-war memoirs or the sobered reminiscences of some Sixties radicals who came to later regret their own culpability for violence and interpersonal harm. Even decades later, Ayers still adolescently boasts about the enforced orgies and abusive “criticism/self-criticism” sessions he and other leaders imposed on subservient members of the Weathermen’s “revolutionary cells.” He finds only amusement in the group’s brutal ambushes of police and other public servants. He recounts meetings in Newfoundland and Cuba with Viet Cong operatives and mocks the victims of communist purges.
In one particularly grotesque passage in the book, Ayers and Dohrn delight in the suffering of an elderly woman who had been feeding them while they were underground, unaware of their real identity and politics. According to Ayers, the woman’s family had “escaped from the Bolsheviks and gone to China, only to flee the Maoists en route to Cuba, and then…run from Fidel” to America, where, Ayers cheerfully wrote, “we hoped, if the pattern held, she was merely awaiting another revolution.” Such casual cruelty fills the book, interspersed with Ayers’ fantasies about turning Vietnamese or black, and pride in his sexual appetites.
It is genuinely hard to know whether embarrassment or horror is the appropriate response to Ayers’ exhibitionism. But between Ayers’ racial fetishizing, sexual perversions, and delight in the suffering of others, it is even harder to understand how Barack and Michelle Obama could sit at a dinner table with him night after night.
By 2002, with the Obamas still at their side, Ayers and Dohrn became even bigger media celebrities. They starred in an Academy Award-nominated documentary romanticizing the Weather Underground, produced with taxpayer money by North California Public Broadcasting. The documentary was turned into a syllabus and distributed by PBS (also using tax dollars) to high school students nationwide. In the lesson plans, Ayers and Dohrn nostalgically revisited places where they hid from authorities, bragged about evading capture, and denied that they intended to harm anyone with their bombs.
In the accompanying “timeline” of Weather activities, PBS excluded all their bombings that targeted police and civilians. Triple murderer David Gilbert, father of Chesa Budin, is described as serving time only for a “robbery gone awry.” PBS has removed the lesson plan for schoolchildren or moved it off their online education resources, but they too have refused to respond to requests to correct their misrepresentation of Weather terrorism.
And in 2003, Dohrn was featured as a character in Neil Gordon’s bestselling novel, The Company You Keep. Robert Redford, an old supporter of the terrorist couple, optioned the book for Hollywood. Redford may be one of the accomplices who helped conceal Ayers and Dohrn from authorities in California. With Weather apologists in such high places, it is little wonder that in 2008 Obama felt secure in believing that the prestige media would continue to propagandistically disappear Weatherman crimes on his behalf.
But danger of exposure persisted. Many older leftists who otherwise supported Obama had deeply reviled Ayers and Dohrn’s terrorism and media antics and blamed them for hijacking the anti-war movement. Even in radical circles, Ayers and Dohrn are uniquely polarizing figures, and so the problem of Michelle and Barack Obama’s close personal relationship with Ayers and Dohrn remained. There was the additional danger that someone in Chicago might accidentally say the wrong thing and expose the couple’s lies about not knowing Ayers and Dohrn well. Luckily, Obama had chosen Chicago to begin his political career, and no other city in America has such a richly earned reputation for the professional dishonesty of their political class.
The Other Media Cover-Up
When the stories about Ayers and Obama broke in April 2008, loyalists in the media and in Chicago stood ready to control anyone who stepped out of line and spilled the truth about Michelle, Barack, Bernardine, and Bill. When Dr. Quentin Young, a respected, elderly civil rights leader and confidant to both Ayers and Obama, affirmed to the media that the men were good friends, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic immediately disputed him, observing that Young was “in his 70’s” and that he thought the older man’s statement “feels a little glib”:
It’s not clear what Young meant when he said he “knows” Obama and Ayers. Nor is it clear to me what Young meant by “friends,” which can be a pretty vague and elastic term. I’m not saying Young is necessarily wrong. But I’d be much more comfortable if he’d spoken concretely — e.g., Obama and Ayers used to meet twice a year for dinner, or whatever.
Had Scheiber really wanted to report how many times a year the men shared dinner, he might have asked Stanley Fish. In his April New York Times column, Fish described his familiarity with the “salon” where Chicago intellectuals gathered frequently at the former terrorists’ home, though he was careful to avoid disclosing how often Obama was among them, asserting only that “Obama…by his own account didn’t know them that well.” Surely Fish knew more. How many times did he encounter the Obamas on the occasions when he dined at Ayers and Dohrn’s home? On this, the loquacious, media-seeking professor went silent.
Months later, with John McCain likely to make Ayers a topic in October debates, the Obama campaign took the gloves off and threatened legal action against any television station that aired a political advertisement tying Obama to Ayers. Obama’s campaign lawyers actually petitioned the Justice Department to investigate the organization funding the ad and sent station managers threatening letters implying that they were violating campaign laws if they dared to air such “malicious falsity.”
Now that the ads in question have been vindicated as anything but false, it is worth revisiting the question of whether Obama broke any laws by himself making false statements while attempting to enlist the Department of Justice in an investigation against his political opponent during a presidential election.
By autumn, Obama and his proxies were using increasingly harsh language — malicious, deplorable, despicable, revolting— in response to any reporting linking Obama and Ayers, while media loyalists sought new ways to defend Obama whenever new details about the men emerged. Most impressively impressionable was David Schaper of NPR, who went so far as to claim that Ayers might not be a terrorist at all because he said his bombs weren’t violent. Most creative was Michael Dobbs, who wrote in a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column that Obama didn’t lie but “told the truth slowly,” about the extent of his involvement with Ayers.
As November approached, similar demurrals littered news stories. Howard Kurtz continued to write in the Washington Post of Obama’s “limited interactions with a onetime terrorist,” though he did pause to mock David Axelrod’s eleventh-hour attempt to peddle a story that Obama hadn’t even known about Ayers’ terrorist past. “I guess the Google didn’t exist then, huh?” joked Kurtz. David Brooks, as usual, regressed to the Edwardian Age, theorizing that Obama could not have know Ayers well even if he spent time with him because Obama’s “family is bourgeois.”
Despite such valiant efforts, on the eve of the Obama/McCain debates, there must have been palpable anxiety in the Obama camp. Conservative journalists had reacquainted the public with much of the real record of the Weathermen’s terrorism, with Ayers and Dohrn’s interactions with repressive regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and with the radicalism underpinning their “school reforms” in Chicago.
Most damningly, a story resurfaced about acts of treason committed by Ayers and Dohrn during the Vietnam War. In the late 60’s and 70’s, Ayers, Dohrn, and other members of American terrorist cells traveled abroad to receive aid and training from foreign terrorist groups and enemy governments, including the KGB, IRA, Cuban communists, Vietcong, and North Koreans. In Fugitive Days, Ayers waxed poetic about meeting one Vietcong representative who gifted him a “ring with the number 500 engraved on its face – cut from the five-hundredth American plane shot down in Vietnam.” According to Ayers, the gesture left him weeping, “enchanted,” and “mesmerized.” Dohrn received an identical ring crafted from a downed American pilot’s plane when she met and trained with the North Vietnamese in Cuba in 1969.
As Obama prepared to debate John McCain, there is no way he did not know that Ayers and Dohrn not only collaborated with the Vietcong while the Vietcong were holding and torturing McCain, but also that each of them owned – and according to Ayers, cherished– mementos made from dead and captive American soldiers’ planes, perhaps even McCain’s own downed aircraft.
Had John McCain used his experience as a prisoner of war to tell the story of Ayers’ gleeful memories of collusion with the Vietcong, the media’s romance with Ayers might finally have blown up in Obama’s face. But debate moderators did not bring up Ayers’ involvement with McCain’s captors, and inexplicably, neither did McCain.
It wasn’t that McCain didn’t mention Ayers at all. But by mid-October, Obama’s proxies were insisting that any reference to the two smacked of racism, and McCain likely shrunk from the charge. In the final days of the campaign, leftist New YorkTimes columnist Timothy Egan referred to Ayers admiringly as “Willie Horton with an earring and a Ph.D.” and accused “braying kooks on the far right” of victimizing the former terrorist. Georgia Congressman John Lewis disgracefully used his status as a civil rights icon to equate questioning Obama about Ayers with the “hate” that killed “four little girls…in Birmingham, Alabama.” Lewis’ claim: that asking questions about a terrorist bomber who targeted black civilians in Detroit with a bomb that didn’t detonate was like killing black children in Birmingham with a bomb that did detonate, was so egregious that the congressman issued a partial apology. But others kept up the racial accusations until Election Day.
Victory in 2008 didn’t entirely solve Obama’s Ayers problem. Ayers had spent forty years seeking attention from and basking in the praise of an elite circle of journalists who always bailed him out, no matter how egregiously he behaved. He fancied himself a skilled “trickster” repeatedly teasing the public with promises to disclose details of his crimes only to retreat and claim he was innocent or couldn’t remember what he had done. In interviews and books, he confessed to bombings then claimed the confessions were fictional. This was the Ayers of “guilty as hell — free as a bird,” “Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,” and “Even though I didn’t bomb the Pentagon, we bombed it.”
The challenge going forward would be to keep Ayers quiet indefinitely, or at least until after Obama was re-elected in 2012.
But in the final months of the 2008 election, as the Obama campaign struggled to put distance between their candidate and Ayers, Ayers had signaled that he was preparing to burst forth from months of media silence. His silence probably wasn’t so much self-imposed as forced on him by people who were trying to get Obama elected and knew exactly how much trouble Ayers could create if not properly controlled. Ayers also had motive for outing Obama: the candidate had distanced himself from the former terrorist.
A month before the election, director John Hancock announced in Politico that he and Ayers were shopping a screenplay based on Ayers’ 2001 book, Fugitive Days, and that the screenplay would include new information about Obama. Ayers announced he would be issuing a new edition of Fugitive Days with an afterward about the election controversy. None of this could be good news for the Obama camp.
In his second memoir, Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident, published in 2013, after Obama was safely re-elected, Ayers recalled the weeks following the 2008 Clinton-Obama debate as a time when he was deluged with “liberal hate” from neighbors and colleagues and even one “Communist Party organizer who had been to our house on a number of occasions.” Many of the people who dined at his table, Ayers said, “suddenly regarded [him] as…a ‘dreadful person’ who had ‘committed detestable acts forty years ago.’” Of course, Ayers was referring to Obama in the latter quote, although with characteristic teasing, he didn’t name him. He poked at the president in this way throughout Public Enemy, talking about how he planned to answer questions about their relationship, but only by saying they had never been so close as to “share a milkshake with two straws.” In the end, the book contains virtually no disclosure of his true relationship with the president but no denial of it either.
Likewise, the afterward to the 2009 edition of Fugitive Days that promised to be about Obama featured only vague meanderings about Obama’s political philosophy. Until the publication of David Garrow’s book in 2017, the most comprehensive statement Ayers made about the his relationship with Obama was published in the op-ed the New York Times allowed Ayers to publish five days after Obama was elected. Ayers used the platform to address his favorite subject, himself, and to repeat the lie that he never harmed anyone with his bombs. Of Obama, Ayers said only: “President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore.”
Nine years later, in David Garrow’s Rising Star, Ayers himself would reveal these words to be even more lies.
David Garrow interviewed Bill Ayers for Rising Star on September 10, 2009 and Bernardine Dohrn and Mona Khalidi in 2013. Out of these interviews emerged a story that utterly disproves all the media’s efforts to deny Michelle and Barack Obama’s real relationship with Ayers and Dohrn. Using the participant’s own words, Garrow disclosed that Ayers and Dohrn, the Obamas, and the Khalidis organized their evenings in a semi-communal fashion, sharing dinner and childcare several times a week for eight years.
Thus all the media coverage and statements by Obama, Michelle, and his campaign staff about Ayers and Dohrn leading up to November 2008 were falsehoods. This should have attracted notice, but, true to form, neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post even mentioned the controversy in multiple reviews of Rising Star.
Garrow’s exhaustively footnoted biography, which also detailed previously unknown stories about Obama’s relationships with women and his attitude toward interracial dating and electability, was not received well by newspapers that had praised his similarly meticulous scholarship on Martin Luther King and the history of Roe v. Wade. Michiko Kakutani, then-book editor of the Times, sniped that “Garrow has turned up little that’s substantially new.” Brent Staples of the Times and Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post even discussed Garrow’s depiction of the Obamas’ marital problems without revealing the explosive fact that one of the main sources for that intimate information was Bernardine Dohrn herself. Nor did any paper correct their prior, monumental misreporting.
The three couples’ regular dinners began in 1996 after Obama won the primary election for Alice Palmer’s Illinois state senate seat. “Barack and Michelle began to see a great deal more of not only Bill and Bernardine but also their three closest friends, Rashid and Mona Khalidi and Carole Travis,” Garrow wrote. The dinners continued until at least 2003, when Obama was launching his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
By the time the Obamas joined them in 1996, the Khalidis, Ayers and Dohrn, and their children had been dining together six nights a week for several years. To many people, such an arrangement among well off professionals might seem odd. But Ayers and Dohrn have long adhered to a radical politics that endorses communal living as a means to fully commit to politics in every aspect of life. Their nightly dinners were also gatherings of politically connected Chicagoans, including openly Maoist “school reformer” and Obama friend Mark Klonsky, whose plans for radicalizing K-12 education were funded by Obama during his tenure as the head of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge foundation.
According to his own words and those of his wife and close friend Mona Khalidi, Ayers was anything but just a “guy from [Obama’s] neighborhood.” The Obamas shared their evenings several times a week with Ayers and Dohrn from the time of Obama’s start in politics to his ascent to the U.S. Senate. Significantly, the timeline laid out by Garrow demonstrates that the Obamas were in constant contact with Ayers and Dohrn before, during, and after 9/11. Thus the couples were intimates during the publication of Fugitive Days, the book notoriously profiled in the New York Times on the morning of September 11, 2001, with Ayers crowing from the pages of the Times that he didn’t regret bombing the Pentagon and wished he had detonated more bombs, while thousands perished in the Twin Towers and hundreds more burned to death at the Pentagon.
Apparently, not even the national notoriety Ayers earned from that horrific coincidence compelled Barack and Michelle to distance them from the terrorist couple, even as the blowback from Ayers’ interview engulfed their Chicago cohorts. It’s very telling that Chicago’s political and legal elite stood by Ayers when he bragged about bombing ordinary Americans but abandoned him as soon as his actions threatened Obama’s political ambition.
Ayers, Dohrn, and the Khalidis even played a role in keeping the Obama marriage together during Obama’s failed 2000 congressional campaign. “[Michelle’s frustration] manifested itself whenever [she], with or without Barack, joined Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Mona and Rashid Khalidi at one of those couples’ dinners,” Garrow wrote, “Being a politician’s wife was not something Michelle welcomed.”
“I remember lots of conversations [when she was] really resisting it, fighting it, fighting it,” Dohrn told Garrow, adding, “it’s not the life she imagined, not the life she’d prefer.” The Khalidis and Ayers and Dohrn frequently hosted Michelle and their children when Barack was on the road campaigning. “We would call her when she was alone,” Mona Khalidi said.
The stories Garrow elicited reveal the intimacy of the life they shared. Khalidi told Garrow that she found Michelle “more natural, less reserved” than her husband but that “all our kids were very taken by” Obama. Dohrn spoke of the many times her sons cared for the Obama’s daughters. “Our children were great with younger children and so it worked out for them to come for dinner because the children would be carried around and would be busy and would be happy,” Dohrn said.
By spring of 2000, Garrow wrote:
Michelle’s unhappiness had grown over the course of the [congressional] campaign and was only heightened further by Barack’s landslide loss. They had continued their evening meals with Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and the Khalidis, and in the aftermath of Barack’s defeat, Michelle’s desire that he abandon electoral politics was often verbalized.
“Michelle had lost her appetite for it by that point and was ready to give it up. She hated it,” Ayers told Garrow.
Stories of the Obamas’ marriage problems have been told many times, most recently as an organizing theme of Michelle Obama’s record-breaking memoir, Becoming. Becoming was published in November 2018, a few months before the release of Garrow’s Rising Star. It is now a mini-industry, selling more than 10 million copies, translated into 24 languages, and spawning an official “book club” and book tour featuring Oprah Winfrey and a long list of celebrity journalists, including some who are currently reporting on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and moderating Democratic debates. During her book tour and self-help appearances, with tickets costing up to $3,000, Michelle hawks merchandise and her new “journaling” workbook titled Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice.
But there is not one word about Ayers, Dohrn, or the Khalidis in Becoming. Michelle writes at length about the strains on her marriage created by Barack’s political campaigns and even about the circle of friends who helped her with childcare and companionship when Obama was absent, but she carefully does not refer to them by name. She slyly makes no mention of the many nights she and Obama and their children joined Ayers, Dohrn, and the Khalidis for dinner and networking. She mentions her nanny by name but not Ayers and Dohrn’s sons who, according to Bernardine Dohrn, provided childcare to her regularly.
Even by the standards of political memoir, Becoming paints a highly selective portrait, but the complete excising of Michelle’s long professional and personal relationship with Bernardine Dohrn — and Barack’s with Bill Ayers — amounts to personal and political deception. This deception extends to Oprah Winfrey, Robin Roberts, Gayle King, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brian, and Jimmy Kimmel, who all joined Michelle on her book tour, and also to the other talk show hosts, network stars, and political reporters who interviewed her.
Throughout Becoming, Michelle paints herself as a victim and victor over racism and sexism in the elite schools she attended, the elite jobs she takes and leaves, and even in the high-paying make-work jobs created for her in government and nonprofits after Obama began his rise through the political ranks. To admit that she was actually moving among Chicago’s intellectual cognoscenti, nationally known professors, and high-ranking politicians — at the table of unrepentant, communist terrorists — would, among other optics problems, undermine her promotional efforts to depict herself as a struggling young mother sacrificing herself night after lonely night to support her husband’s political ambitions, helped only by a small circle of feminist working mothers.
And Bernardine Dohrn is certainly not the feminist working mom Michelle’s handlers would wish to highlight on her star-studded book tours.
Michelle’s most striking omissions involve Dohrn, for if what Dohrn told Garrow is true, she was arguably one of the most important mentors in Michelle’s professional and private life. The two met in 1988 at the Sidley Austin law firm, where Dohrn technically worked as a paralegal because her criminal history prevented her from practicing law. Michelle discusses Sidley Austin at length but does not mention Dohrn, not even when Michelle took over the nonprofit jobs program Public Allies and Dohrn created positions at her own nonprofit and academic legal clinic for the young adults Michelle was tasked with placing in “social justice” workplaces.
Furthermore, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s closest advisor, who hired Michelle in 1991 to work in City Hall and is described in Becoming as a mentor to both Barack and Michelle, was deeply involved for decades with Dohrn, Ayers, and Ayers’ father in Chicago. The two older women doubtlessly worked together to assist Michelle professionally and personally.
Obviously, if Michelle Obama were to tell the truth about her involvement with Ayers and Dohrn, she would expose the fact that she and her husband lied their way into the White House. But she would also be exposing fault lines in the carefully constructed public image she is currently hawking through her speeches and books.
An anecdote told in David Remnick’s 2010 biography of Obama, The Bridge, perfectly illustrates the vast difference between Michelle Obama’s respectable middle-class upbringing and the (albeit camouflaged by wealth and status) radical communist and terrorist circles she willingly moved in with her husband. Remnick describes an “anonymous guest at a dinner at Ayer’s house…sitting next to Michelle,” who told him:
[Our] discussion was about race, class, and family, and Michelle talked about her grandmother’s final days. Her grandmother was immensely proud of the fact that Michelle and [her brother] Craig had graduated from Princeton, and, in Michelle’s case, Harvard Law School. They were thriving. They had broken through. On her deathbed, the old woman told Michelle, “Don’t you start the revolution with my great-grandchildren. I want them to go to Princeton too!”
The person telling this story is novelist Scott Turow, another Ayers and Dohrn confidant who attended their nightly dinners. Turow is also among those who kept silent about what he knew about Ayers and Obama before the 2008 election. What is telling, and poignant, about the story Michelle tells Turow is the glimpse it offers into the aspirations of the middle and working class black communities that were harmed, more than any others, by the violence, riots, demonization of police, and social disorder fomented in the 60’s and 70’s by elite “revolutionary” radicals like Ayers and Dohrn.
Far from helping anyone “thrive” or “break through,” they deliberately set out to divide the races, “crush monogamy,” and burn America down.
Michelle Obama’s grandmother’s admonishment to let her great-grandchildren succeed in life, not succumb to nihilistic radical politics, was literally an admonishment to avoid people like Ayers and Dohrn. That Michelle Obama joked about it at Ayers and Dohrn’s table is not the only grim irony arising from her relationship with the two. At the end of Beginning, Michelle Obama, stumping for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race, goes on a rampage against Donald Trump. She claims to be shocked by his “menace,” “hatred,” and “divisiveness,” and she says that his sexual commodification of women “leav[es] scars that never heal.” Trump “is not normal” and “This is not politics as usual,” she rails. “This is disgraceful. It is intolerable.” She repeats her and Barack’s motto: “When they go low, we go high.”
But how did Michelle and Barack “go high” while associating daily with people who murdered and maimed police with bombs, attempted mass murder of soldiers, abetted in the murders of black and white police, judges and their families, bombed government workers, tried to kill black civilians in Detroit, and then spent decades lying about and profiting from their involvement in these crimes? Although the media has covered up such facts for years, even the purportedly “controlled” bombings the Weathermen staged were designed to spread maximum terror. In one such 1975 bombing, 6,000 federal workers fled government buildings throughout Washington D.C. after a Weatherman bomb exploded at the State Department. The psychic toll Ayers and Dohrn visited on other Americans was deliberate and sadistic.
And what of those black civilians nearly bombed in Detroit, the black police officer killed in the Brinks robbery, and the other black officers murdered by Ayers and Dohrn’s compatriots in assassinations targeting multiracial police partners in New York City? What do the Obamas have to say about that?
Michelle and Barack handed off their children to be babysat by Dohrn’s adopted son, Chesa Budin, now the virulently anti-law enforcement District Attorney of San Francisco, who is named after serial cop killer Joanie Chesimard (Assata Shakur) and who believes to this day that his birth parents David Gilbert and Kathy Budin are political prisoners unjustly imprisoned by the state. With Budin in the news nearly daily now, it is curious that nobody has asked him or the Obamas about their prior relationship in Chicago. In a grotesque irony, Budin is now in charge of the ongoing investigation into his adoptive mother’s murder and maiming of San Francisco police officers in 1970.
Another irony: although Michelle claims in Becoming to be repulsed and even personally harmed by one private locker-room conversation Donald Trump had in 2005, she chose to dine almost nightly for years with a woman who publicly, repeatedly gloried in the torture-murder of actress Sharon Tate, gleefully imitating the stabbing gesture Tate’s killers used to murder the nearly-born baby in her womb with a fork before they finished Tate off – after stringing her up repeatedly with a rope in a mock lynching.
Bernardine Dohrn notoriously invented the rallying cry and fork-finger gesture copied by other Weathermen to celebrate Tate’s violation and murder — because killing a privileged, pregnant white woman was deemed by the Weathermen a revolutionary blow to white supremacy. And after being arrested during the 1969 Chicago “Days of Rage” riots for leading a cadre of women armed with metal pipes and chains, Dohrn invented a song to mock city attorney Richard Elrod, who was permanently paralyzed by Weathermen during the riots. “Lay Elrod lay,” Dohrn led the Weathermen in singing, “Lay in the street a while/Stay, Elrod stay, in your iron lung.”
In 2008, Barack Obama held his election-night victory party in Chicago’s Grant Park, the same park where Dohrn and other Weather terrorists beat passers-by and police with pipes and chains forty years earlier.
Dohrn was also a leader of the Weathermen’s internal campaign to pressure couples who were dating to engage in orgies in order to “smash monogamy” and to force white female members to stop having babies or give up their children because white babies were viewed as future oppressors of blacks. Robin Morgan recalled being told by one Weatherman to stop breastfeeding her infant child and “put it in the garbage” instead. When embedded in Bill Ayers’ Weather cell for the FBI, Larry Grathwohl struggled to keep from being exposed as he helplessly watched one brainwashed young woman surrender her four-year old daughter to the group because the child was “dragging them down.” She was finally persuaded to let the members send the child away. Grathwohl did not find out what happened to the child.
In 1981, journalist Lucinda Franks embedded herself with the Weathermen and reported on their inhumane living conditions and interpersonal totalitarianism:
One Weatherman would later tell me that in order to rid the members of their bourgeois habits, the collectives forced couples to separate, required homosexuality, drugtaking (sic) and round-the-clock sessions of self-criticism. One time, they skinned and ate an alley cat. My contact, thin, trembling and glassyeyed(sic), said that the houses were full of dirty dishes, rancid food and stinking toilets. Often rising at dawn, they would practice karate, train at rifle clubs, and enact scenarios to work out how they would grapple with police and where they would kick them. Part of the day was devoted to the study of radical literature, from the anarchist Kropotkin to Mao to Che to Malcolm X.
Grathwohl confirmed these conditions and the sexual coercion and cult-like obedience leaders like Ayers and Dohrn imposed on other members. If Michelle Obama really feels that a single locker room conversation by Trump decades ago is politically and morally disqualifying, how does she justify her own choice to remain silent regarding the many accounts of women and men who reported sexual and emotional degradation at the hands of Ayers and Dohrn, including a college classmate who accused Ayers of forcing her to sexually service his black roommate and his own brother Rick while Ayers watched?
Obviously, the cold calculation is that Michelle cannot publicly renounce Ayers and Dohrn without risking them exposing her lies about their close relationship. But that’s not good enough, especially if Michelle chooses to continue to lash out at Trump in her books and public speeches – or possible (if extremely unlikely) presidential or vice-presidential campaign against Trump. And there is no way Michelle does not know of this particularly heinous “me too” story. In 2006, the victim, Donna Ron published the following account:
I remember going back to [Ayers’] attic apartment — he describes it in his book Fugitive Days. He had a roommate — a black man who was 23 and married with children. …
What I do recall is that when I was getting ready to leave Ayers told me I couldn’t go until I slept with his roommate and his brother. At this point Bill and I had slept together just once. I was sexually inexperienced, having had only one serious boyfriend with whom I had recently broken up.
At first I thought Ayers was joking. I got up; and went to the door. He moved quickly to block me at the doorway. He locked the door and put the chain on it. I went to the couch and sat down and told him that I had no intention of having sex with his roommate and his brother or him. He said that I had no choice but to do as he said if I wanted to get out of there. He claimed that I wouldn’t sleep with his married roommate because he was black…
I felt trapped. I had to get out of the situation I was in and because [Ayers] was so effective a guilt-tripper, I also felt I had to prove to him that I wasn’t a bigot. I got up from the couch and walked over to the black roommate’s bed and put myself on it and he ****ed me. I went totally out of my body. I floated beside myself on the outside and above the bed looking at this black stranger **** me angrily while I hated myself.
After that I had to go lie down on Bill Ayer’s bed for his brother to screw me. Rick Ayers was a decent person, unlike his brother, and couldn’t go through with it. He started and stopped and let me go. I also thought I had to let Bill screw me but at that point he unbolted the door and I left.
By 2006, when this account was published, the Obamas had stopped regularly dining regularly with Ayers and Dohrn. But with Barack serving in the Senate in Washington D.C. and Michelle still living in Chicago, did she continue to see the terrorist couple, even bring her children to their home and dine with them as she had done when Obama was previously away from home? And whether she did or did not see them, what did she do, if anything, about this horrific story of hatred, race, and rape?
If Michelle feels entitled to declare Donald Trump, and by extension his supporters, verifiably evil on the basis of a single crude locker room exchange, then what is her responsibility to Donna Ron, John Murtagh, all the dead and mutilated police officers, and Brinks guards, and other victims of the Weatherman? What is the sum total of Barack and Michelle Obama’s moral arrears for spending years sitting at the table with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and then lying to the American public about it, especially because their efforts to cover-up the relationship has played an important role in suppressing truths that need to come out about Ayers and Dohrn.
Now that we know the depth of their relationships, it will be interesting to see how Obama addresses them and the cover-up in his forthcoming memoir, expected this year. It is hard to imagine he will be able to lie by omission as flagrantly as Michelle does throughout Becoming. Perhaps this time, the Obamas will be asked how they felt about their daughters being cared for by people who proudly bear the names of killers of police, including black officers (Zayd Dohrn and Chesa Boudin), or whether they regret putting Michelle’s mother and their daughters in the position of having to conceal the truth about the choice they made to associate with terrorists in their private lives.
Garrow’s scholarship also raises new questions about other biographies of the Obamas. In David Remnick’s The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama (2010), Remnick interviewed hundreds of Obama’s friends and colleagues, including Ayers, Studs Terkel, Scott Turow, and Michael Klonsky (though apparently neither Dohrn nor the Khalidis). His use of cryptic, vague quotes from Ayers (How into him was I? Not very. I liked him as a person) in passages of the book that simultaneously deny that Ayers and Obama knew each other well indicates either collusion between the men or extreme naivety on Remnick’s part.
Naivety seems unlikely considering Remnick’s 2008 election-day interview with Ayers for The New Yorker, in which he permitted him to ramble on about never targeting people with bombs and knowing Obama no more than anyone else wanted to know him, which Remnick claims meant “only slightly.” Ayers actually told Remnick: “I think my relationship with Obama was probably like that of thousands of others in Chicago and, like millions and millions of others, I wished I knew him better,” and Remnick printed this non-answer as an amusing bon mot. Remnick’s New Yorker essay perfectly encapsulates the sneering of the cognoscenti for whom the idea that there could be anything wrong with either “palling around with terrorists” or literally being a terrorist was merely amusing. Five years later, Ayers even “playfully” recounted the quote he offered Remnick, calling it a joke.
If there is any good to come of Barack and Michelle Obama’s lies about Ayers and Dohrn, it is the reinvigorated scrutiny of the terrorist actions committed by the couple, their Weather colleagues, and killers in other groups with whom they colluded, such as Kathy Boudin, Susan Rosenberg, and Linda Sue Evans (pardoned or sentence commuted by Bill Clinton), Marilyn Buck and FALN bomber Oscar Lopez Rivera (pardoned by Obama), Judith Clark (paroled by Andrew Cuomo), Joanie Chesimard/Assata Shakur (fugitive in Cuba: Obama refused to demand repatriation as part of normalizing relations), law school professor and New York State judge Eleanor Raskin, Howie Machtinger, Mark Rudd, Angela Davis, and Jeff Jones, who played a central role in directing Obama’s TARP largesse to unions as the head of the Apollo Alliance and the BlueGreen Alliance.
New attention is now being paid to Dohrn’s involvement in murdering and maiming police in San Francisco, her role in the Brinks triple murder and other Black Liberation Army/Weather shootings and killings, and Ayers’ attempted massacre of police and civilians in Detroit. Their real record of terrorism and extremist politics is now in the public consciousness. Despite Ayers’ bravado, both have suffered professionally and personally since they became an issue in the 2008 election. And there is no statute of limitations on murder.
Hopefully, we will someday see both Ayers and Dohrn behind bars. Meanwhile, I also agree with Sol Stern, who wrote in 2008: “The more pressing issue is not the damage done by the Weather Underground 40 years ago, but the far greater harm inflicted on the nation’s schoolchildren by the political and educational movement in which Ayers plays a leading role today.” He could add “Obama too.” Obama’s forthcoming autobiography should provide an excellent opportunity to re-open the book on the toxic effects of Ayers, Dohrn, and Obama’s crusade to force leftist agitprop on schoolchildren and eliminate all discipline in troubled schools.
Obama’s autobiography will also demonstrate whether he and Michelle will finally start telling the truth or continue lying about their relationships with terrorists in Chicago. If Michelle Obama continues to be floated as a potential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2020, she and her Marie Antoinette-ish traveling memoir brigade will hopefully be forced to address their misreporting and lies. Ayers and Dohrn top the list of people whose statements require more extensive checking against Garrow’s documented timeline, but there are many others. Rashid Khalidi has maintained disciplined silence ever since his relationship with Obama became an issue in 2008; Dohrn and Mona Khalidi kept out of the public eye until, for whatever reason, they chose to speak with Garrow in 2013. Valerie Jarrett, Stanley Fish, Scott Turow, David Remnick, Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the Annenberg Foundation, and, of course, Obama and Michelle themselves, should all be called upon to finally tell the truth.
Transcript, “Democratic Debate in Philadelphia,” New York Times, April 16, 2008.
Andrew McCarthy, “The Corner: Thank the Clintons for Obama … Again,” National Review Online, October 22, 2008.
For a summary, see Hugh Hewitt, “Stanley Kurtz’ Latest Research Into Barack Obama’s Ties to Terrorist Bill Ayers and Palestinian Advocate Rashid Khalidi” (Transcript: Hugh Hewitt Show), HughHewitt.com, October 6, 2008.
Susan Chira, “AT HOME WITH: Bernardine Dohrn; Same Passion, New Tactics,” New York Times, November 18, 1993; Ben Joravsky, “The Long, Strange Trip of Bill Ayers,” Chicago Reader, November 8, 1990; David Tanenhaus, “Barack, Bill, and Me: The Bill Ayers That Barack Obama and I Worked With Was No ‘Domestic Terrorist,’” Slate, October 10, 2008.
Katherine Q. Seelye, “The Caucus: Michelle Obama Dismisses Criticisms,” New York Times, October 9, 2008; Ben Smith, “Ax on Ayers,” Politico, February 26, 2008;
Jonathan Stein, “In Open Letter, Journalists Slam ABC Debate,” Mother Jones, April 18, 2008; Dan Whitcomb, “ABC Criticized for Handling of Democratic Debate,” Reuters, April 17, 2008; Stanley Fish, “Opinionator Blog: Much Ado,” New York Times,April 27, 2008; Dan Mihalopoulos, “Clout Street: Daley won’t say whether UIC should release Obama-Ayers records,” Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2008; Trevor Jensen, Robert Mitchum, Mary Owen, “Turbulent Past Contrasts With Quiet Academic Life,” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2008.
“Fact Check on Clinton Attacks on Obama and Ayers,” http://web.archive.org/web/20080501051607/http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/04/17/fact_check_on_clinton_attacks.php
Ron Jacobs, The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground(New York: Verso, 1997), 98; John Murtagh, “Fire in the Night: The Weathermen Tried to Kill My Family,” City Journal, April 30, 2008.
David Garrow, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama(New York, New York: HarperCollins, 2017), 168-9. John Castellucci, The Big Dance: The Untold Story of Weatherman Kathy Boudin and the Terrorist Family That Committed the Brinks Robberies(New York, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1986) 151, 167, 172-73.
Brooks Jackson, “Taking Liberties in Philadelphia,” FactCheck.Org, April 17, 2008; Dinitia Smith, “No Regrets for a Love of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With The Weathermen,” The New York Times, September 11, 2001; William Ayers, “The Bill Ayers I Knew,” New York Times, November 9, 2008;Frank J. Prial, “Bomb at Police Headquarters Injures 7 and Damages Offices,” New York Times, June 10, 1970.
Daniel J. Wakin, “Quieter Lives for 60’s Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs hasn’t Faded,” The New York Times, August 24, 2003; Larry Grathwohl and Frank Reagan, Bringing Down America: An F.B.I. Informer With the Weathermen(Larry Grathwohl, Second Edition, 2013), 141-162, esp. 148, 151, 160-62; 171-2.
Viveca Novak, “Robo-Attacks,” FactCheck.Org, October 20, 2008
Murtagh, “Fire in the Night.”
Novak, “Robo-Attacks”; Brian Burrough, “Meet the Weather Underground’s Bomb Guru,” Vanity Fair, March 29, 2015.
Grathwohl and Reagan, 181-2; Peter Jamison, “Time Bomb: A ‘70s Cop-Killing Investigation Leads to a Chicago Law Professor Who Helped Launch Barack Obama’s Political Career,” Phoenix New Times, September 17, 2009.
Grathwohl and Reagan, 150-1, 168-172, 198; Jamison, “Time Bomb.”
Frank James, Don Terry, “Obama’s Neighbor Ayers,” Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2008.
Peter Babcock, “Do You Remember La Pasionaria? Meet the Women of the Revolution, 1969,” The New York Times, February 9, 1969. Lawrence J. Fox, “Letter to the Editor: Some Paralegal!” The New York Times, Sept. 21, 1993; personal correspondence with Fox, February 24, 2020.
Susan Chira, “AT HOME WITH: Bernardine Dohrn, Same Passion, New Tactics,” The New York Times, November 18, 1993.
Ayers, Fugitive Days, esp. 76-78, 92-94, 144-154, 165-168, 256.
Smith, “No Regrets”; Ayers, “The Bill Ayers I Know”; Sam Green, director, Independent Lens: The Weather Underground (2003) and online teaching tools, PBS, https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/weatherunderground/film.html.
Noam Scheiber, “Much More Than You Want to Hear About Ayers,” The New Republic, February 24, 2008.
Associated Press, “Obama Seeks to Silence Ad Tying Him to 60s Radical,” The Denver Post, August 25, 2008.
David Schaper, “Bill Ayers, Explained,” National Public Radio Incorporated, October 16, 2008; Michael Dobbs, “The Fact Checker: Did Obama ‘Lie’ About Ayers?” Washington Post, October 10, 2008.
David Brooks, “Thinking About Obama,” New York Times, October 16, 2008.
Bill Ayers, Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Antiwar Activist, 2nd. Ed. (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2009), 77; Scott Swett and Roger Canfield, “Obama’s Foul Weather Friends,” American Thinker, September 16, 2008.
Timothy Egan, “The Deal, Sealed?” New York Times, October 16, 2008; Sam Dealey, “Barack Obama, John Lewis, John McCain, and Despicable Relationships,” U.S. News & World Report, October 14, 2008.
Jeffrey Ressner, “Ayers Script Hopes to Gain From Obama,”Politico, October 6, 2008.
Bill Ayers, Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident(Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2013) 10.
Ayers, “The Bill Ayers I Know.”
Michiko Kakutani, “A Long, Long Look at Obama’s Life, Mostly Before the White House,” New York Times, May 1, 2017; Brent Staples, “A Take-No-Prisoners Biography of Barack Obama Examines His Early Love Life,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; Carlos Lazada, “Before Michelle, Barack Obama Asked Another Woman to Marry Him. Then Politics Got in the Way,” Washington Post, May 2, 2017.
Garrow, Rising Star, 568-70, 708-9, 834.
Garrow, Rising Star, 569.
Smith, “No Regrets.”
Garrow, Rising Star, 834-5.
Garrow, Rising Star, 708-9.
Emily Heil, “Tickets to Michelle’s Book Tour are Going Fast — and Raising Eyebrows,” The Washington Post, September 20, 2018.
Judy Kurtz, “Final Guests Announced for Michelle Obama’s BecomingTour,” The Hill, March 6, 2019.
Michelle Obama, Becoming(New York, New York: Crown Publishing, 2018), 148-158, 175-9, 185-187, 200-207.
David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama(New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 280.
M. Obama, Becoming, 407-9.
David Binder, “Six Thousand in District of Columbia Flee in Bomb Threats,” The New York Times, January 29, 1975; see also: State Department Bombing By Weather Underground, Hearing Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee of the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 94thCongress, First Session, January 31, 1975
Daniel J. Flynn, “The Ghosts in Grant Park: Obama Plans a Party Where his Radical Friends Once Ran Wild,” City Journal, November 3, 2008.
Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Revised Trade Edition(New York: Bantam Books, 1993) p. 400; Grathwohl and Reagan, p. 143, 158-60, personal conversation with Larry Grathwohl, 2013.
Lucinda Franks, “The Seeds of Terror,” The New York Times, November 22, 1981.
Donna Ron, “Remembering a Sixties Terrorist,” FrontPageMagazine.com, January 4, 2006.
David Remnick, “Mr. Ayers’ Neighborhood,” The New Yorker, November 4, 2008; Ayers, Public Enemy, 196.
Phil Kerpen, Capital Research Center Staff, “The Apollo Alliance: Unifying Activists on the Left,” Capital Research Center Foundation Watch, October 5, 2009.
Sol Stern, “Obama’s Real Bill Ayers Problem,” City Journal, April 23, 2008.