Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told a radio host yesterday that by the time he found out about William Ayers' background as a member of a violent radical 70s group "The Weather Underground," "I assumed that he had been rehabilitated," since Ayers at that point had become an apparently accepted member of the Chicago academic world.
Ayers was, when Obama met him, "a college professor, teaches education at the University of Illinois, and that's how I met him, was working on a school reform project that was funded by an ambassador and former close friend of Ronald Reagan's and I was sitting on this board along with a whole bunch of conservative businessmen and civic leaders, and he was one of the people who was on this board."
But since 1995 -- when Obama met Ayers -- the founding member of the Weather Underground has gone on to make it clear that he doesn't think he did anything wrong. And Obama has worked with him (as have plenty of others, including some Republicans) on education issues and such.
And Ayers has made it clear that he is unrepentant.
''I don't regret setting bombs,'' Ayers told the New York Times in 2001. ''I feel we didn't do enough.'' Asked if he would do it all again, Ayers said, ''I don't want to discount the possibility. I don't think you can understand a single thing we did without understanding the violence of the Vietnam War."
In a comic strip that Ayers recently posted on his blog, Ayers tried to explain the "we didn't do enough" quote from seven years ago, writing, "It's impossible to get to be my age and not have plenty of regrets. The one thing I don't regret is opposing the war in Vietnam with every ounce of my being. During the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground took credit for bombing several government installations as a dramatic form of armed propaganda. Action was taken against symbolic targets in order to declare a state of emergency. But warnings were always called in, and by design, no one was ever hurt.
"When I say, 'We didn't do enough,' a lot of people rush to think, 'That must mean, "We didn't bomb enough s---."' But that's not the point at all. It's not a tactical statement, it's an obvious political and ethical statement. In this context, 'we' means 'everyone.' The war in Vietnam was not only illegal, it was profoundly immoral, millions of people were needlessly killed. Even though I worked hard to end the war, I feel to this day that I didn't do enough because the war dragged on for years after the majority of the American people came to oppose it. I don't think violent resistance is necessarily the answer, but I do think opposition and refusal is imperative."
(He doesn't think violent resistance is NECESSARILY the answer?)
So, today, with today's facts, does Obama think Ayers has been "rehabilitated"?
No, he doesn't think so, a source at the campaign tells me.
Obama spox Bill Burton says of Obama's comment that he thought Ayers had been "rehabilitated": "Sen. Obama was referring to his education work but he, of course, does not believe that work absolves him of the despicable acts that he committed 40 years ago."