Barack Obama’s association with the Woods Charitable Fund of Chicago could turn out to be the “swift boat” of his presidential campaign, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.
One of the Woods Fund’s directors is William Ayers, and Obama’s tenure as a director there overlapped with Ayers’ for three years ending in 2001.
In the 1970s, Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a group that called for acts of anarchy as a way to end the Vietnam War.
He was accused of taking part in a bomb-making effort that went awry and blew up a Manhattan townhouse, killing three group members.
Ayers and his wife, Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn, went underground, and Ayers lived in Chicago under an assumed name for about a decade before turning himself in to authorities in 1981.
Hillary Clinton made Ayers a topic of discussion at Wednesday’s Democratic debate, saying: “Sen. Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time,” and Ayers “set bombs. And in some instances, people died. So it is … an issue that people will be talking about.
Clinton “is almost certainly right,” the Journal observed, noting that there are already numerous references to Obama and Ayers on the Internet, and Fox Channel host Sean Hannity has devoted several shows recently to the subject.
The Woods Fund was set up in the 1950s and had an endowment valued at $72 million in 2006. Most of its outlays are for neighborhood development or education initiatives in the Chicago area, according to the Journal.
After turning himself in, Ayers was let off on a legal technicality, returned to college to earn a doctorate, and is now a professor at the University of Illinois.
But he said in a New York Times interview in 2001: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Obama tried to deflect the looming “swift boat” attacks by calling Ayers’ actions “detestable” and pointing out that they occurred 40 years ago “when I was 8 years old.”
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a group of Vietnam War veterans formed during the 2004 presidential campaign to oppose John Kerry’s presidential candidacy, claiming he had distorted facts about his conduct as a swift boat officer during the war.
“Swiftboating" has become a common expression for a campaign attacking opponents by questioning their credibility and patriotism.
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