We’ve faithfully followed the pronouncements of the Obama administration’s National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach in our Quotations From Chairman Jim series. We have found the sayings of Chairman Jim to be lengthy, verbose, opaque, and pseudoliterate. Nevertheless, it is clear that civility of a certain kind — civility, Obama style, as Andrew Ferguson has called it — has been the theme of Leach’s speeches. Now, however, Thomas Lindsay observes that the proverbial cat has got Leach’s tongue:
“Blood was all over.” It “was heaviest where police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell suffered mortal wounds to his neck, eyes, face, and brain.”
So reported officer Jim Pera, first at the scene on that February day in 1970 when a bomb shredded San Francisco’s Park Police Station, killing McDonnell, a 45-five-year-old father of two, and wounding eight others.
The bomb was filled with barbed-wire-fencepost staples, an ingredient used when the intent is to kill or maim as many as possible. The perpetrators have yet to face justice.
But, in a 2009 statement, the San Francisco Police Association asserted, “There are irrefutable and compelling reasons to believe that Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn … are largely responsible for the bombing of Park Police Station.”
In 1974, testifying under oath before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, an FBI informant stated, “Bill started off telling us about the need … for stronger leadership inside the … Weatherman organization. … And he cited as one of the real problems was that someone like Bernardine Dohrn had to plan, develop and carry out the bombing of the police station in San Francisco, and he specifically named her as the person that committed that act.”
Dohrn would go on to spend time on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. In 1969, members of the Manson Family perpetrated the savage Tate-LaBianca murders. Dohrn, commenting on the slaying of the pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends, declared, “Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a [pregnant] victim’s stomach.”
Dig Dohrn’s and Ayers’ dinner plans for 2012. Over the course of the 42 years since the McDonnell children lost their father, Ayers and Dohrn have remained free as birds.
Evidence that might have been used against them was ruled inadmissible. Since then, they have established themselves among fellow leftist academics in Chicago. They have even become sought-after dinner companions. The Illinois Humanities Council recently auctioned off a meal with the two as the prize for a hefty donation.
In addition to what it takes in from such fundraising efforts, the IHC also receives support each year from the National Endowment for the Humanities. NEH Chairman Jim Leach was appointed by President Obama in 2009.
On taking office, Leach announced that he would travel to all 50 states to speak on the importance of civility in democratic discourse. In January of 2011, Leach took his case for civility one step further, by stressing the threat posed to “public safety” by what he labels “polarizing attitudes.”
Shortly after the Tucson shootings, an NEH press release said that “civility concerns had grown with the acidity of the Congressional debate on health care reform. But the topic took on a grim added significance” with the shooting of “Representative Gabrielle Giffords and a number of her constituents.”
One may not agree with Leach’s linking of hostility to the health care bill with a murder spree. No matter, Leach’s heightened sensitivity cannot but also require him to condemn the IHC’s feting of Ayers and Dohrn.
Yet, in a written response to press questions, the NEH refused to do so. It is possible that Leach’s understanding of civility is nuanced in such a manner as to cover opponents of the health care bill but not the Ayers-Dohrn-IHC collaboration.
If so, Leach may want to explain the nuances to the children of Brian McDonnell.
Mr. Lindsay was deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities during President George W. Bush’s second term.