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04/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Weather Underground False Debate

Read more reactions from Huffington Post bloggers to ABC's Pennsylvania Democratic debate

It's a symptom of the malaise of our times when ABC News during a Democratic presidential debate forces us to discuss a candidate's relations, when he was 8 years old, to a Chicago legal activist who belonged to a 1969 spin-off group of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which bombed unoccupied (hopefully) buildings in the early 1970s.

If Hillary Clinton thinks it's a big deal that Barack Obama has crossed paths with Bill Ayers, (Yes, the guy who is with Bernardine Dohrn), the political discourse is stuck in neutral. I met Ms. Dohrn and Mr. Ayers when I was a visiting professor at Colgate College in Hamilton, New York, when Nigel Young, then the Director of the Peace Studies Program at Colgate invited his former UC Berkeley classmates to speak about their work providing legal services to the poor in Chicago. It's no big deal.

Guilt By Association. For George Stephanopoulos to bring up Ayers and not talk about the social context of the early 1970s that also brought us the Black Panther Party and other groups is to misconstrue the point of the question.

What is the point of the question?

And for Hillary Clinton to run with the Ayers/Weather Underground connection betrays her "kitchen sink" philosophy. But, as Barack Obama astutely pointed out, President Bill Clinton pardoned two members of the Weather Underground in any case. And the fact is that the Clintons are of the Weatherman generation and Obama is not. It's the last gasp of Hillary Clinton's desperation.

It's also interesting that a more important and radical organization of the early 1970s, the Black Panther Party, featured Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush as its titular head at the time when the legendary Fred Hampton was the inspirational leader. The irony here is that a former leader of the Black Panther Party, Congressman Rush, badly defeated Obama in the 2000 Democratic congressional primary. "Taking on Bobby Rush among black voters is like running into a buzz saw," said Ron Lester, a pollster who worked for Obama during the campaign. "This guy was incredibly popular. Not only that, his support ran deep -- to the extent that a lot of people who liked Barack still wouldn't support him because they were committed to Bobby. He had built up this reserve of goodwill over 25 years in that community." Obama learned an enormous amount from losing big to Bobby Rush.

Why bring up Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground when Obama was 8 years old, living in Indonesia at the time, and in his first attempt at federal office lost to a former Black Panther? If times have progressed to the point where Bobby Rush is a respected member or Congress, why can't Bill Ayers and his good legal work he does for the Chicago community be left alone?

Read more reactions from Huffington Post bloggers to ABC's Pennsylvania Democratic debate

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