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Bill Ayers Calls Obama A 'Family Friend' In Updated Book

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In a new afterword to his 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, Bill Ayers refers to himself as a "family friend" of President-elect Barack Obama, according to a copy of the manuscript obtained by the Chicago Tribune:

Ayers -- who did not respond to requests for comment -- summarized his relationship with Obama: "[W]e had served together on the board of a foundation, knew one another as neighbors and family friends, held an initial fund-raiser at my house, where I'd made a small donation to his earliest political campaign."

Ayers' description of himself as an Obama "family friend" appears to run counter to how he explained their relationship on Election Day to Washington Post reporter Peter Slevin:

"Pal around together? What does that mean? Share a milkshake with two straws?" Ayers said in his first interview since the controversy began. "I think my relationship with Obama was probably like thousands of others in Chicago. And, like millions and millions of others, I wish I knew him better."

Though his description of his relationship with Obama is different in the updated book, Ayers' analysis of the guilt by association attacks used against Obama in the campaign remain consistent:

"The more serious point is that Obama was asked once more to defend something that ought to be at the very heart of democracy: the importance of talking to many people in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others. ... In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders, indeed, all of us, would seek out ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, even radical ideas."

This echoes a piece Ayers' wrote last week for In These Times:

Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at democracy's heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others.

The McCain-Palin attacks not only involved guilt by association, they also assumed that one must apply a political litmus test to begin a conversation.