With friends like these….

The Obama campaign has stirred the hopes of millions in America with the possibility of a new direction for the country. In the wake of the devastation of globalization on the labor movement, many workers across the country have been motivated for the first time to get involved in political campaigns and several major unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers and SEIU, have endorsed Obama, the first African American to have a serious chance to become President of the United States. Personally, I think the labor movement needs to act independently of the two major political parties, but I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for those who see in the Obama campaign an opportunity: their hope for change is real.

How, then, are we to explain the recent behavior of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, two alleged friends of Obama, who are in fact doing serious damage to the Obama campaign?  Their extremist views, the former a supporter of the authoritarian regime of Hugo Chavez, the latter an advocate of Ward Churchill-like racialist views of American politics, suggest to many that Obama himself may be incapable of leading a nation of diverse views and backgrounds.
Yet, despite the risk that the views of Ayers and Wright could sink Obama, these two have gone on a kind of PR offensive in recent days.  Ayers, like some reborn version of the philandering Senator Gary Hart, openly challenged the media to follow him around the country as he and his wife, ex-Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn, prattle on about living in the “belly of the beast” (by which they mean the United States, of course) and the “r-r-r-revolutionary” nature of education.  And now Wright has given an interview to Bill Moyers arguing that Obama’s distancing of his views from those of Wright was really just political opportunism.
If Obama has not figured it out yet, this media offensive by the pseudo-radical authoritarian Ayers and the pseudo-militant racialist pastor Wright has nothing to do with aiding his campaign.  In fact, a victory by Obama might suggest that in fact there is more openness and potential in this country than the dated and deluded views of Ayers, Wright & co. can allow.  That suggests a more sinister motive to their visibility: they would rather see Obama go down in defeat than win because that would be consistent with their world view that the United States is irreparably racist and “oppressive.”