Last week's post on Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn was in today's Best of the Blogs in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Part of my fascination with this issue - actually most of it - has little to do with Barack Obama. Ayers and Dohrn were hired into jobs that are not easy to get notwithstanding that they had less than stellar qualifications. Bernadine Dohrn was hired as a clinician at a prestigious law school notwithstanding a thin resume (she had, after all, been busy waging war against society and hiding from the police) consisting of some time as a paralegal (she can't practice law) and a few years at some liberal advocacy organizations. Although she certainly has been an active - if very political - scholar and advocate since then, I can't help but think that the folks at Northwestern enjoyed a bit of outlaw frisson in hiring a radical gangster.
As for Obama, it is one of an increasing number of data points that suggest he is what his Senate voting record suggests he is but that he steadfastly denies - a fairly traditional left liberal. It's not a huge thing, but neither is it irrelevant.
I don't think that those who believe that Ayers and Dohrn should be treated as respected and responsible members of the community endorse the type of terror that Weather Man and the Weather Underground engaged in. But it's hard not to conclude that they seem willing to forgive it because they believe that the US - whether by the war in Viet Nam, racism or its economic system - in some sense provoked it and is, therefore, at least partially complicit. This may not, in the minds of these folks, excuse these crimes, but it seems to be sufficiently extenuating to warrant that terrorists, like Dohrn and Ayers, be forgiven even if they have not paid - or even apologized - for their crimes.
If you don't believe me, imagine Northwestern or the University of Illinois hiring an unrepentant bomber of abortion clinics. Would Barack Obama sit on a board with someone who called for - and appears to have engaged in - lynchings and now refuses to apologize?
If you follow me, then accepting Ayers and Dohrn as something other than the pariahs that they ought to be suggests something about those who are willing to do so. It isn't that those who accept Ayers and Dohrn are themselves terrorists or radicals, but that they hold a view of the world (and, in particular, of the United States) in which certain types of terror, while not justified, are substantially less repugnant than others.
That world view, if it is held by Obama, is relevant to whether he ought to be President of the United States.