Ayers and the Old Glory Boogie

Well, let’s add to the avalanche of hits going to the Marathon Pundit this morning, who discovers a circa 2001 photo of William Ayers doing what looks to be the Twist on an American flag. The picture comes from a Chicago Magazine profile of Ayers, who had begun promoting his memoir of domestic terrorist called Fugitive Days. Here are two versions of the picture from that photo shoot:

Even in the CM profile, which tends towards the hagiographic, Ayers has no regrets about his domestic terrorism:

At 55, Bill Ayers, the notorious sixties radical, still carries a whiff of that rock ‘n’ roll decade: the oversize wire-rim glasses that, in a certain light, reveal themselves as bifocals; a backpack over his shoulder—not some streamlined, chic job, but a funky backpack-of-the-people, complete with a photo button of abolitionist John Brown pinned to one strap.

Yet he is also a man of the moment. For example: There is his cell phone, laid casually on the tabletop of this neighborhood Taylor Street coffee shop, and his passion for double skim lattes. In conversation, he has an immediate, engaging presence; he may not have known you long but, his manner suggests, he’s already fascinated. Then there is his quick laugh and his tendency to punctuate his comments by a tap on your arm. …

One of the Weatherman leaders was Bernardine Dohrn, a smart, magnetic figure who, in part because of her penchant for miniskirts and knee-high boots, was dubbed “La Pasionaria of the Lunatic Left” by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. After a bomb exploded accidentally and killed three of their colleagues, Ayers and Dohrn “hooked up,” in the parlance of the day, and, since 1982, they have been married. This—violence, death, and white-hot rhetoric—is his past and Ayers insists he has no regrets. “I acted appropriately in the context of those times,” he says. But it’s hard to reconcile this quick-witted man with that revolutionary. Today Bill Ayers seems too happy to have ever been so angry.

Marcia Froelke Coburn doesn’t bother to ask Ayers any tough questions in this interview. She notes the Weather Underground robberies and murders of 1981 but never mentions Dohrn’s part in those crimes, nor her refusal to testify against the murderers they counted as their close friends. She does manage to catch Ayers in a moment of hypocrisy, however:

Certainly there are moments when Ayers has the sound of the sixties down pat, like when he tells me, “Imperialism or globalization—I don’t have to care what it’s called to hate it.” And then there are moments when he sounds light-years away from his radical sensibilities, more like an old grump lamenting today’s uninformed youth: He tells me a story about going into Starbucks and having the young woman behind the counter mistake his photo pin of John Brown for Walt Whitman. “And when I told her, no, it’s John Brown, she said, ‘Who is John Brown?'”

But I am struck by another part of that story. What are you doing in a Starbucks? I ask the man who professes to hate globalization.

“Oh,” he says. “I have an addiction to caffeine.”

Allow me to offer Ayers a solution: fair-trade coffee and a Thermos.

The optics of these picture will not help Barack Obama make his case that Ayers’ radicalism existed when Obama was only eight years old. At the time of this magazine profile, Obama and Ayers served together on the Woods Foundation board of directors. Obama worked for Ayers at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge as the board’s chair in 1996, well documented by Tom Maguire even while it isn’t documented at all by Obama.

The Old Glory Boogie in 2001 will again raise questions about Obama’s judgment in working with America-hating radicals and lunatics. At some point, one has to wonder whether this shows bad judgment or reveals something about Obama’s real views on America and politics — and which would be worse in the White House.