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Flash: '60s activism predated Obama

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/17927454.html Doug Rossnow: Flash: 60s activism predated Obama There were many versions of this decade, but none
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 21, 2008

      Doug Rossnow: Flash: '60s activism predated Obama

      There were many versions of this decade, but none of
      them can fairly be connected to the candidate.


      Last update: April 20, 2008 - 4:38 PM

      Is it 2008 or 1992? When Bill Clinton ran for
      president, Republicans suggested he had betrayed his
      country when, as a student traveling in Europe in
      1969, he protested against the Vietnam War in England
      and visited Moscow and Prague. Conservatives called
      Hillary Clinton a dangerous radical feminist forged in
      the furnace of the late 1960s.

      Now, Barack Obama's association with one-time far-left
      militant Bill Ayers, his Chicago neighbor, is the
      target of attacks. But this time the attacks, while
      they have been nurtured in the right-wing media, have
      been voiced not by a Republican opponent, but by
      Obama's fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Irony of

      I wrote a book about the "new left" radical movement
      of the 1960s, a story in whose closing scenes Ayers'
      group the Weather Underground played a violent and
      destructive role. I've always tried to say as little
      as possible about the "Weatherpeople," since there
      were only a few hundred of them -- amid a radical
      movement that numbered in the six figures -- and since
      they've always gotten more attention than they

      The Weatherpeople were clowns who played with fire.
      They hoped that if they looked tough enough, a
      revolutionary legion from the Third World might
      overwhelm America and greet them as comrades. Their
      specialties were property damage and profanity. The
      emptiness of their insurrectionary slogans eventually
      became a line of defense: They gave warnings of when
      their bombs would explode; the only people they killed
      in that era were three of their own number.

      Ayers and other Weatherveterans may have become
      wholesome, productive citizens since returning to
      polite society. If they want to support a decent,
      supremely realistic man like Barack Obama, then good
      for them. Just as Obama says, he was a kid when Ayers
      was doing stupid things.

      Hillary Clinton -- at long last, having no shame --
      suggests that Ayers' comment that "we didn't do
      enough," in an interview published on 9/11, was an
      endorsement of Al-Qaida's attack on America. She
      certainly knows that Ayers' interview was done before
      9/11. Whatever he meant, the timing of the interview's
      publication was simply unfortunate.

      It's actually not so ironic that Clinton is attacking
      Obama for associating with Ayers. The charge that the
      Clintons were late-'60s radicals has always been
      false. The truth is that there were many different
      '60s. Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton were young
      careerists who wanted to do good as they did well and
      rose in the political system. It was easier for
      conservatives to link Bill Clinton's loose personal
      morals to the sexual liberation that many associate
      with the 1960s than to find evidence of left-wing
      radicalism in his past.

      Obama shouldn't be drawn into another round of culture
      wars over the memory of the 1960s. Quite possibly, he
      can't be. He's a post-'60s political figure. The
      ghosts of the 1960s continue to hover, but they aren't
      his ghosts.

      Doug Rossinow, associate professor of history at
      Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, is the
      author of "The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism,
      Christianity, and the New Left in America."
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