"I was only 9"

William Ayers managed to avoid prosecution, thanks to illegal activities by the FBI during the investigation of the Weathermen, but that doesn’t mean his crimes have been forgotten. John Murtaugh won’t forget them, and for good reason; the Weathermen targeted him and his family for death. However, Murtaugh has something in common with Obama on this topic, as Murtaugh was only nine years old at the time — the same age as Obama:

During the April 16 debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, moderator George Stephanopoulos brought up “a gentleman named William Ayers,” who “was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that.” Stephanopoulos then asked Obama to explain his relationship with Ayers. Obama’s answer: “The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense, George.” Obama was indeed only eight in early 1970. I was only nine then, the year Ayers’s Weathermen tried to murder me.

In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.

I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I remember my mother’s pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk: FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.

Obama argued that he has no reason to question Ayers about his history of radical terrorism since he was only 8 when Ayers decided to become a domestic terrorist. Murtaugh, not surprisingly, feels differently. He doesn’t hold Obama responsible for the bomb-throwing and the murders that the Weather Underground committed, but he does question Obama’s judgment in choosing his political associates:

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.

How many other presidential candidates have friends who threw bombs at nine-year-old boys, and who acted as an accessory to murder before the fact? Not even Bill Clinton could make that claim, even if he wanted to do so. Only Barack Obama has the distinction of surrounding himself with racial demagogues (Wright) and domestic terrorists like Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn.

As Murtaugh notes, the fact that they remain unrepentant about their terrorism makes it exponentially worse. Ayers refuses to acknowledge that bombing people like the Murtaughs to subvert the judicial system and to force political change he couldn’t achieve through the ballot is, in fact, terrorism. As late as last November, Dohrn continued to call for the “overthrow of capitalism”, while Ayers approvingly quoted Mao henchman Chou En-Lai while hysterically warning of an “unimaginable authoritarianism” in the US.

For a politician with no track record, Obama wants us to rely on his judgment. Working with domestic terrorists who targeted not just public buildings but children like John Murtaugh makes that judgment highly suspect. Obama claims it ancient history because it happened when he was eight. Murtaugh feels fortunate that his assassins failed in ending his life at nine. It’s not ancient history to him, nor should it be for the rest of us.