In an interview with the sympathetic conservative talk radio host this afternoon, Obama offered the clearest explanation yet of how an extremely careful politician allowed himself anywhere near a former '60s radical who would become a Republican target in this year's presidential campaign.
Obama "had assumed" from Bill Ayers' stature in Chicago, he told the Philadelphia-based Michael Smerconish, that Ayers had been "rehabilitated" since his 1960s crimes.
"The gentleman in question, Bill Ayers, is a college professor, teaches education at the University of Illinois," he said. "That's how i met him -- working on a school reform project that was funded by an ambassador and very close friend of Ronald Reagan's" along with "a bunch of conservative businessmen and civic leaders."
"Ultimately, I ended up learning about the fact that he had engaged in this reprehensible act 40 years ago, but I was eight years old at the time and I assumed that he had been rehabilitated," Obama said.
That may not have been an unreasonable assumption for Obama in the 1990s. Though Ayers never repented his part in the Weather Underground bombings, he had not yet become notorious for advertising them. That notoriety returned in 2001, when he published his memoir, "Fugitive Days," and reminisced about the bombings in a New York Times interview that happened to appear September 11 of that year.
Obama also lashed McCain for focusing on Ayers on a day of dramatic economic turmoil, calling the issue a "red herring."
"The fact that Senator McCain wants to make this the centerpiece of his campaign is pretty remarkable," he said. "We are going through an enormous challenge right now. "
"Senator McCain surely doesn't believe that I've endorsed any of the actions that [Ayers] has taken," he said. "They're trying to distract from the economy."
"We've got the biggest economic crisis on our hands since the Great Depression and Senator McCain's team has said in the newspapers, they've said it publicly, 'If we talk about the economy, then we lose the election,'" Obama said.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
In other news: Barack Obama continues to be sane, calm and rational
From Politico [you can read the whole post and hear the audio of Obama's interview at the link]: