Erasing Obama’s Past

One shadowy aspect of Barack Obama’s career is his service as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, where he worked closely with former terrorist Bill Ayers. The Challenge’s papers are housed at the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Stanley Kurtz wanted to dig deeper into Obama’s work with the Annenberg Challenge, so he contacted the Daley Library and asked for access to the extensive papers that are housed there. The library said to come and look at them.

Kurtz explains the significance of Obama’s leadership of the Annenberg Challenge:

The problem of Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers will not go away. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were terrorists for the notorious Weather Underground during the turbulent 1960s, turning fugitive when a bomb — designed to kill army officers in New Jersey — accidentally exploded in a New York townhouse. Prior to that, Ayers and his cohorts succeeded in bombing the Pentagon. Ayers and Dohrn remain unrepentant for their terrorist past. Ayers was pictured in a 2001 article for Chicago magazine, stomping on an American flag, and told the New York Times just before 9/11 that the notion of the United States as a just and fair and decent place “makes me want to puke.” Although Obama actually launched his political career at an event at Ayers’s and Dohrn’s home, Obama has dismissed Ayers as just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.” For his part, Ayers refuses to discuss his relationship with Obama.

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama’s account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama’s time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers’s own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago’s public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago’s education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers’s radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore “exchanging ideas on a regular basis”). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership.

Kurtz relates that, just as he was about to board an airplane for Chicago to review the Annenberg Challenge papers at the Daley Library, a representative of the library emailed him to say that the Annenberg Challenge collection “is closed” and that he would not be permitted to see the papers. A shifting series of explanations ensued, but the bottom line is that the library has cut off public access to the records of the Annenberg Challenge. Kurtz suspects that Ayers himself may have intervened to prevent the history of Obama’s involvement in the foundation from coming to light.

The library says that there is some chance the collection may once again be opened to the public in the future, but, as Kurtz delicately puts it, there is a need “to ensure the security of these documents in the meantime.” [Ed.: Maybe Obama can send Sandy Berger to make sure there’s nothing missing.] It remains to be seen whether the full story of Barack Obama’s involvement with Bill Ayers and the Annenberg Challenge will ever see the light of day.

UPDATE: This is a good time to remind our readers that you can keep up to date on the Friends of Barack Obama at BarackBook. BarackBook has been updated to add entries on Obama friends Jodie Evans (Code Pink), Ali Abunimah and Valerie Jarrett. Here, Abunimah reminisces about the good old days when Obama could say what he really thought about the Palestinians:

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