What Bill Ayers Saw in Barack Obama

By Jack Cashill
American Thinker
October 28, 2009

In 1994, while Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father was being polished off, Bill Ayers co-authored an essay whose title befits a former merchant seaman: “Navigating a restless sea: The continuing struggle to achieve a decent education for African American youngsters in Chicago.”

In “Navigating,” Ayers and his nominal co-author, former New Communist Movement leader Michael Klonsky, offer a detailed analysis of the Chicago school system and a discussion of potential reforms. Curiously, so too does Obama in Dreams.

What makes Obama’s educational digression notable is that he had spent only two months working on education issues as a community organizer — and that seven years earlier, while his mind was admittedly “elsewhere.”

Unlike Obama, Bill Ayers has a genuine, career-long interest in education. In the mid-1990s he was sufficiently serious about reform to invest considerable time and energy in his protégé. As shall be seen, the likely reason Ayers did so was because Obama had the ability to address problems that he and Klonsky could not.

It will surprise no one who has followed my research that the analysis offered in Dreams echoes that of “Navigating.” It stands to reason. Each was co-authored in the same year by the same person: Bill Ayers, a talented writer and editor, and surely the dominant partner in both efforts.

The clue to understanding the particular value Obama brought to the relationship, however, can be found not in the many points on which Ayers and the Obama of Dreams agree but rather on the one in which they differ…

…as an African-American, Obama could address sensitive racial issues in ways Ayers could not.

Ayers surely recognized this. To advance Obama’s career, Ayers finished up Dreams, got Obama appointed chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant, and held a fundraiser for his state senate run in his Chicago home, all in 1995.

In a Salon interview a year ago, Ayers gave a glimpse into his motivations for helping Obama, and they were not as “Manchurian” as they might seem in retrospect.

“Everyone who knew him thought that he was politically ambitious,” said Ayers of Obama. “For the first two years, I thought, his ambition is so huge that he wants to be mayor of Chicago.”

The political calculus behind that ambition helped shape Dreams. This was a careful book written to launch the career of a deeply indebted and highly malleable Chicago politician, one who saw the world through white eyes, as Ayers did, but one who could articulate the city’s real problems in words that Ayers could not use…

Read the complete article at American Thinker.

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