Monday, October 13, 2008

Not-So-Fresh Ayers

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple, a Reform Jewish temple located at 1589 Peachtree Street, NE in Atlanta. Angered by Rabbi Jacob Rothschild's outspoken support of the civil rights movement and his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the bombers detonated between forty and fifty sticks of dynamite which tore through the northern wall of the synagogue, one of Atlanta's oldest and wealthiest. Fortunately, in spite of the desecration and architectural damage, no one died or was injured in the bombing.

Shortly thereafter, United Press International received a call from a man who identified himself as "General Gordon of the Confederate Underground" who claimed responsibility for the attack. Over the next several days, GBI agents and local law enforcement combed the city in one of the most extensive dragnets in Georgia history. Their search netted five men. All were members of anti-Semitic organizations like the National States' Rights Party and the Knights of the White Camellia.

Of the five, only one stood trial: a thirty-four year old engineer and amateur inventor named George Bright, a New York native who had spent his adult years in Atlanta. Twelve years earlier, Bright had enlisted in The Columbians, a neo-Nazi organization founded by Bright's fellow New Yorker-turned-Georgian Horace Loomis, a Princeton dropout. Over the years, Bright ended up on the membership roster the one fringe group after another.

Investigators uncovered plenty of evidence of Bright's animosity toward Rothschild and his temple, such as a handwritten note in Bright's home threatening the Rabbi, a 1958 arrest for carrying anti-Semitic placards outside the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution offices, and his presence in May of that year at a speech given by the Rabbi from which Bright was forcibly ejected for heckling Rothschild..

Less than two months after the Temple bombing, Bright stood trial for the first time. Ten days later, it ended in a mistrial -- the result of a 9-3 split among the jurors. For the second trial, Bright retained the silk-suited Reuben Garland, a colorful, and, at times, contemptous attorney, who nonetheless secured his client an acquittal. The cases against his co-defendants, which all depended upon Bright's conviction, quickly fell apart and charges against them were dropped.

When Melissa Faye Greene, author of The Temple Bombing, spoke with Bright, he still maintained his innocence (for what it's worth, Greene believes him), but remained unrepentant in his extreme beliefs.

It makes me wonder how many Ayers apologists would give McCain a pass if it had been Bright and his wife who had hosted the gathering at which McCain announced his candidacy for the Arizona Senate. Would they be so willing to let by-gones be by-gones for a bombing that occurred in 1958 as opposed to one that happened in 1970 (Oh, and one that happened in 1971. Oh, wait, and then there's the one that happened in 1972)?

How's this for a defense of the Bright-McCain relationship:
If Bright is such a Awful Terrorist Threat, why did the jury acquit him?

End of story.

Would that be such an "easy shut-down" of anyone suggesting that voters think twice before casting a ballot for candidate that has a skeleton with a penchant for dynamite in his closet as Gareth-Michael Skarka suggests?

Easy shut-down to any ConservaTron who froths about so-called "terrorist" (read here: White trust-fund kid protesting against the Vietnam War) William Ayers and his "friendship" (read here -- serving on the same charitable board) with Obama:

If Ayers is such a Awful Terrorist Threat, why did the Feds drop all charges against him when he turned himself in to the authorities in 1980?

Given the reaction to a stupid statement made by Trent Lott on the occassion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday ("When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."), I would say, "No. It would not be an 'easy shut-down.'" By-gones are never by-gones in politics. Nevermind that Lott was only seven years old when Thurmond ran in 1948 (that's a year younger than Obama was when William Ayers bombed the NYPD HQ, two years younger than Obama was when Ayers bombed the Capitol, and three years younger than Obama was when Ayers preceded the Atta Gang in an attempt to make the Pentagon go boom).

Both parties have serious double standards. Sean Hannity and others of his ilk blasted the sexual scenes in Democrat Senator James Webb's literary work, yet they defended Scooter Libby in spite of the bestiality, pedophilia, prostitution, biastophilia, and necrophilia in his novel. But this time, it's not just some naughty parts in a novel we're talking about. It's association with a man who is an unrepentant terrorist that is being called into question.

While I don't think it is out-of-bounds to bring up Obama's middle name, I do think it is tacky and beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate. To paraphrase chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." The same goes for the whole madrasa question. I would much prefer a candidate raised in a moderate Muslim community than someone who has spent twenty years in under the religious tutelage of Trinity United Church of Christ's Jeremiah Wright. But I do think it is cricket to question Obama's association (however small it may be) with a guy who thinks as of 9/11/2001 said, "I don't regret setting bombs," and stated that he found "''a certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.'' I also think it's fair-game to question Obama's association with Mrs. Ayers (a.k.a. Bernadine Dohrn), the woman who J. Edgar Hoover called "the most dangerous woman in America," who commented on the Tate-LaBianca murders thus:
''Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a victim's stomach.''

Considering the much ado made of John Hagee's McCain endorsement, I think the Ayers-Obama question should be explored. What's good for the Goose is good for the Maverick. And vice versa.

  • pbaonline: the website of public broadcasting atlanta
  • The Temple
  • New Georgia Encyclopedia: Temple Bombing
  • "A Church, A School" -- Ralph McGill's 10/13/1958 Editorial in response to the bombing
  • The Designer Monologues: The Whole Ayers Thing
  • No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen - New York Times
  • The Black Kennedy: But does anyone know the real Barack Obama? - Peter Hitchens
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