04/17/2008 09:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bill, Bernardine, and Barack

Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz, two of the Washington Post's best political reporters
made a big mistake in their coverage of that part of the debate; a mistake that will undoubtedly be repeated by other news outlets that take their cue from the Post.

When George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his friendship with 1960s radical and 1970s fugitive Bill Ayers, he set up a controversy that Hillary and Bill Clinton surely hope grows to rival that over the rants of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama was "then asked," they wrote, "about his association with William Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group from the 1960s and '70s. Ayers was quoted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as saying he did not regret setting bombs and that `we didn't do enough.'"

In fact, Ayers made that statement some time before September 11, in an interview with the New York Times's Dinitia Smith. She interviewed him days before, who knows, maybe even weeks before, sitting, as she wrote, "in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago." That kitchen table interview took place in a sunnier and more innocent time.

In one of the most stunning instances of bad timing--it must rank in the top three in book publishing history-- the friendly interview ran in the September 11 edition of the Times--not September 12 or 13, but September 11-- when no one could have imagined the horror of the planes crashing into the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers.

As a lifelong Chicagoan, I have followed Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, a fellow member of the Weather Underground who was on the F.B.I's 10 Most Wanted List and who, Dinitia Smith reported, had been called by J. Edgar Hoover, "the most dangerous woman in America." I had seen them regularly at parties, knew people who socialized with them in Hyde Park, who worked with them at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Northwestern Law School. They were part of the professional/intellectual establishment in Hyde Park--with jobs in two major universities; pillars really of the community surrounding the University of Chicago, an island in the city of Chicago; and, like most college towns, liberal and parochial.

I never got to my newspapers the morning of September 11 and I remember reading the Times in bed that night and feeling sickened by Ayers' remarks in that story, headlined--again before September 11--" No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen." The first sentence reads, "I don't regret setting bombs,' Bill Ayers said. `I feel we didn't do enough.'"

The Clintons are surely betting that those Pennsylvanians who the former first couple says--and says again-- were offended by Obama's remarks in San Francisco about bitterness and the tendency to "cling" to religion and guns and prejudices will be outraged all over again; they're hoping that this Obama friendship with a man who was wrongly reported to have said after the tragedy of 9/11 that he regrets that he and his comrades didn't set even more bombs, will continue --right up until the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.