The Ghosts

Stanley Fish says it’s confession time:

“I too have eaten dinner at Bill Ayers’s house (more than once), and have served with him on a committee, and he was one of those who recruited my wife and me at a reception when we were considering positions at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Moreover, I have had Bill and his wife Bernardine Dohrn to my apartment, was a guest lecturer in a course he taught and joined in a (successful) effort to persuade him to stay at UIC and say no to an offer from Harvard. Of course, I’m not running for anything, but I do write for The New York Times and, who knows, this association with former fugitive members of the Weathermen might be enough in the eyes of some to get me canned.

This well-captures the absurdity of the idea that Barack Obama is some kind of terrorist for having had a passing association with Bill Ayers. It seems that everyone who’s anyone in Illinois political and intellectual circles has had some passing association with Ayers. This, however, doesn’t do much to explain why Ayers has managed to acquire this kind of banal-yet-prominent position on the scene. One can easily imagine an alternate universe in which this not-really-repentant ex-terrorist is basically shunned — bombmaking being a kind of shun-worthy activity.

But then again lots of folks with much more blood on their hands from that same period — Henry Kissinger and his subordinates — are even more respectable figures, key members of the national establishment. Donald Rumsfeld has an appointment at Stanford! Lord knows how many aspiring lawyers will learn their trade from John Yoo at Berkeley. If I had my druthers, we’d shun ’em all, but I think that’s not in the cards.