We’ve been waiting for the mainstream media to apply one-tenth of the investigative power that they’ve put into Wasilla probing Sarah Palin into Chicago to check on Barack Obama.  The New York Times offers about that — a tenth of an effort — into exploring Obama’s connections to William Ayers.  Despite the fact that Obama worked for Ayers at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge for several years and with Ayers on the Woods Fund for a few more, the Paper of Record insists that the two men have no real ties at all.

The first clue as to their spin?  The headline — “Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths”.  Crossed paths?  Are they just two ships that passed in the night?

At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.

Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.

How can Scott Shane write with a straight face that “[t]heir paths have crossed sporadically since then”?  Obama worked as CEO of the project that Ayers helped found, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, for several years.  Ayers served on the board at the same time.  In an overlapping period, both men served for a few years on the Woods Fund, which notably granted $75,000 to Yasser Arafat’s associate, Rashid Khalidi, during that time.

Their paths didn’t cross “sporadically”.  They worked on two projects together, political projects, for almost a decade in Chicago.  That’s hardly “sporadic”; that’s a well-established working relationship, and certainly much more substantial than Obama’s description of Ayers as just another familiar face in the neighborhood.

Shane mentions the understated nature of Obama’s description:

More recently, conservative critics who accuse Mr. Obama of a stealth radical agenda have asserted that he has misleadingly minimized his relationship with Mr. Ayers, whom the candidate has dismissed as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood” and “somebody who worked on education issues in Chicago that I know.”

A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close.

How close does Obama have to be to make this connection a valid point?  The two men worked together on political projects in Chicago.  The issue has nothing to do with the quality of their friendship, if one exists (and there seems to be some evidence of one), but with the kind of work the two men did together.  Ayers still agitates for the overthrow of the capitalist system, and his educational project was designed to create little charter schools for churning out radicals.

Why didn’t Shane bother to do some of the work Stanley Kurtz had to fight Richard Daley and the Chicago Machine to do?  I guess Shane was more interested in putting out stories about “sporadic” contact that discourages further looks into Barack Obama’s political work, his associates in that work, and the direction it took.

Would John McCain get the same kind of pass?  Shane at least at the intellectual honesty to include this:

Steve Chapman, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, defended Mr. Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his longtime pastor, whose black liberation theology and “God damn America” sermon became notorious last spring. But he denounced Mr. Obama for associating with Mr. Ayers, whom he said the University of Illinois should never have hired.

“I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations on terrorist bombings,” Mr. Chapman said in an interview, speaking not of the law but of political and moral implications.

“If you’re in public life, you ought to say, ‘I don’t want to be associated with this guy,’ ” Mr. Chapman said. “If John McCain had a long association with a guy who’d bombed abortion clinics, I don’t think people would say, ‘That’s ancient history.’ ”

If John McCain had spent ten years on charitable boards with someone less egregious than abortion bombers — say, with Randall Terry of Operation Rescue — the New York Times would have Page One, in-depth reporting, complete with teams of reporters combing through the minutes of the board meetings.  Hell, the New York Times infamously smeared McCain with allegations of a sexual affair based on nothing but gossip from two disgruntled ex-staffers last February, and spent days rolling that out, using four reporters on the story.  For the Obama/Ayers connection, they have Scott Shane telling us that there’s nothing to see here.

Great reporting.  Thanks for nothing.

Update: Color Tom Maguire unimpressed with the Times’ effort.  Ditto for Steve Diamond.