Bill Ayers is back again, though not the same as in his youth, thank heavens. That would mean boom, boom, boom, bombs going off everyplace, and this time it was more nearly blip, blip, blip, noises made ineffectually by him in a Fox News TV debate that showed he was just as amiss as ever, both intellectually and morally.
Never the withdrawn type, Ayers was one of the student radicals who in 1969 founded the Weather Underground, a group that thought its dangerous bombings were justified mainly because they would somehow lead to fewer killings by the United States in the Vietnam War. They probably helped prolong the war, because, after all, the bombings were more nearly ego fulfillment by confused, spoiled children refusing to enter sane adulthood, and who would want to be associated with them in any cause?
Ayres says the Underground never killed anyone, but in fact several Weathermen, including a girlfriend of his, were accidentally killed while making bombs, and the death toll in other events associated with Underground members includes three policemen and one security guard. Weathermen did issue warnings before their bombs went off, but as someone who was a reporter in New York's state Capitol building at a time when it got frequent bomb threats, I can tell you evacuation alarms were sometimes ignored. That was less likely after Weathermen actually hit a state office building in Albany.
So, anyway, we lately had an older but still confused Ayers on Megyn Kelly's "The Kelly Factor." Someone who has never conceded he was wrong about much of anything, he was telling Dinesh D'Souza, an author and filmmaker who immigrated here from India, that he was wrong about practically everything. Not if you kept a debate scorecard.
One topic was Native Americans. Ayers has maintained they were victims of intentional genocide.D'Souza pointed out that Native Americans died in massive numbers only because of diseases unintentionally brought here by Europeans, much the same as massive numbers of Europeans had once died because of the Black Plague brought their way by Asians. By way of argument, Ayers restated his conclusion.
Ayers said ours is an imperialist country out to exploit others, referring to the war in Iraq as one such adventure. D'Souza observed that we lost a lot more money in that conflict than we gained and that we handed control of Iraqi oil to Iraqis. He also observed during the debate that that much of the rest of the world is now copying our free market example as a successful means of rescuing hundreds of millions from poverty. The anti-capitalist
Ayres observed rather dramatically that American oil companies were making good money from their Iraqi dealings, thereby proving only that he did not get the point.
To Ayers, the thought that there is anything exceptional about this America of ours is a hoot. D'Souza, while admitting obvious faults, said we have wielded our immense power with a benignity unimaginable if it had been in the hands of a China or a Russia. He said that, as someone who comes here from another culture, he has found things here "you wouldn't see anywhere else in the world."
Ayers, who sees glory in little but protest, has himself been visited with American opportunities galore. He was once indicted, got off the hook because of incorrect police procedures and -- the son of a rich Chicago CEO -- has done well as a professor owing to a university system that excuses any past transgression with a leftist smell about it. He was once friendly with a man who later became president, and has done that president a really terrific favor. He has accused Barack Obama of war crimes, thus enabling him to seem widely separated from Ayers now.
Despite my misgivings about Ayers, I do agree with him that we have had abominations in our past. The Weather Underground was one of them.
(Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune.)