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Is Ayers Really Analogous to bin Laden?

By Alyson Klein — October 15, 2008 1 min read
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On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, state Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, equated Bill Ayers to Osama Bin Laden, telling McCain supporters that both Sen. Barack Obama and bin Laden “have friends who bombed the Pentagon.” The paper’s editorial board took Frederick to task for the statement.

But over at Flypaper, the Fordham Institute’s Checker Finn makes a somewhat similar point in criticizing an online petition in support of Ayers, the 1960s-radical-turned-education professor who worked with Obama on Chicago’s portion of the Annenberg Challenge, a national school reform effort. Finn asks whether the petitioners would also sign onto a “support Osama bin Laden” statement.

Others had a more muted—but still critical—reaction to the petition. Over at Edweek’s own Bridging Differences blog, Diane Ravitch asks her co-blogger, Deborah Meier to explain why she signed onto the statement, which equates Ayers’ activities in the ‘60s with the protests of the civil rights movement. Meier answers here.

No matter what, it looks like the Ayers issue has steeped seeped into the consciousness of the electorate. A New York Times/CBS News poll published yesterday asks participants how much they had heard about Bill Ayers. Thirty-three percent said they had heard “a lot” while another 31 percent said they’d heard “some.” The story published with the poll suggests McCain’s strategy of attacking Obama on Ayers and other matters may have backfired.

And 9 percent of respondents said they were bothered by Obama’s past association with Ayers. Compare that to 11 percent who said they were bothered by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and 12 percent for McCain’s “first marriage.” It doesn’t look as if the public is equating Ayers and bin Laden.

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