Monday, October 13, 2008

Guilt By Association Is Wrong

by Diana Nelson
Chicago Tribune
October 13, 2008

Perhaps because I served as an Illinois state representative in Springfield during a very different political climate, when Republican politicians like me had friends on the other side of the aisle, I have been appalled by the scurrilous attacks being made against Barack and Michelle Obama, which attempt to paint them as deeply flawed characters because they know William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

This much is true: Ayers and Dohrn, whether out of misguided anti-war sentiment or rebellion against a privileged upbringing, were actors in the Weather Underground, a radical, bomb-throwing student-protest movement during the 1960s. Bad, by all means. Stupid, yes. However, with age comes maturity. Ayers and Dohrn married, raised children and established careers in Chicago that brought them in contact with myriad individuals in the Chicago school-reform movement and those trying to improve our juvenile justice system.

I visited the home of Ayers and Dohrn recently for a book-signing event for Michael and Susan Klonsky, activists and leaders of the small-schools movement. Activists to this day, of course, Ayers and Dohrn hold coffees for many politicians, including Obama. As a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ayers has directed his energies into mentoring new teachers.

For bloggers to connect Obama's and Ayers' volunteer service on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge or the Woods Fund of Chicago board of directors as somehow part of a radical conspiracy is just plain silly. Also on the board of the Woods Fund is R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and an influential business leader.

What would bloggers say about that connection?

This smear campaign of guilt by association is wrong. It makes no sense and diverts the body politic from an examination of Obama's and John McCain's positions on the Iraq War, the economy and the No Child Left Behind Act. Please, let us witness a return to civility. I am absolutely sickened by the detour down the low road that political campaigns have taken today.

Copyright © 2008 Chicago Tribune


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