Those of you who have not been following the US Presidential election in great detail might be mystified by John McCain’s obsession with a man named Bill Ayers. Back when Obama was a kid, Ayers used to belong to the Weather Underground, the radical dissident group involved in occasionally violent protest against the Vietnam War; for the last twenty-odd years he has been a respected professor of education at the University of Illinois. Obama knows Ayers – they have sat on a couple of not-for-profit education boards together – which is why McCain and Sarah Palin have accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists”. It is, of course, a pathetic non-issue: if the Republicans are really so concerned about Ayers’ past and his political affiliations, they’d be better off voicing their worries to the University of Illinois, who seem happy to employ him to mould young minds – young minds which are then being sent out into the world to mould even younger minds.
In the comments under an article entitled ’10 Things To Know About Bill Ayers’ on Lynn Sweet’s Chicago Sun-Times blog, one Obama-baiting correspondent unwittingly blows McCain’s whole ‘argument’:
If Osama bin Laden suddenly became a professor of education would we now feel it is ok to associate with him? No! no one in their right mind would even speak to the man! How is this any different?
Can anyone answer that? Can anyone else see the difference between Osama Bin Laden and Bill Ayers, a man who faced no charges even when he gave himself up to the police twenty-eight years ago?
I love the idea that Bin Laden might “suddenly” become a professor of education at an American university. Wouldn’t the department smell a rat at some point – if not on receipt of his job application, then maybe during the interview? (“You seem awfully familiar, Mr Bin Laden. Have we seen you on TV?”) And surely his CV would have a few holes in it? Is it really so easy to enter American academia when you’ve been living in a cave for seven years? Best of all, though, is the huffy indignation in the penultimate sentence: “No-one in their right mind would even speak to the man!” That’s what would happen to Osama if he started lecturing in Illinois: he’d be sent to Coventry. That would teach him a lesson.
Meanwhile. McCain happily refers to his countrymen as “my fellow prisoners”…
…and nobody seems too concerned. If I were an American voter, I’d worry more about a seventy-two-year-old man who seems to have a real difficulty in accessing the right words under pressure than I would about Obama’s relationship with a university professor and author.