That’s A for Ayers, Bill (“I don’t think violent resistance is necessarily the answer”) Ayers, and A for Annenberg, as in the $160 million (not 150 as the Times mistakenly reports) seven year long Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC).
And the Times finally had the courage to put both names in the same article.
Of course, they still missed the heart of the story, but perhaps this will finally convince folks that unlike Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, in Chicago there is something there when it comes to Obama, Ayers and Annenberg.
Followers of the story of Bill Ayers and Barack Obama will quickly see the missing key points of the New York Times version:
1. What was the role of Bill Ayers in the appointment of Obama to the chairmanship of the CAC?
To their credit the Times notes that Obama was “far outranked” by others appointed to the board by the Bill Ayers-led working group that secured the Annenberg grant (unfortunately they leave out the role of that working group in selecting the board), such as the former President of the University of Illinois Stanley Ikenberry and the former President of Northwestern University Arnold Weber.
So how did 33 year old newly minted lawyer Obama get the nomination to the board and how did he become chair? Even Ikenberry thought it odd that a lawyer was running a board focused on education reform: “It was unusual.” Obama had to earn the “respect” of the other more prominent Chicagoans.
The Times avoids discussing just exactly what might have brought Ayers and Obama together in the Challenge, which I believe was, in part, their shared history together in school reform going back to 1987-1988 when Ayers was an activist in school reform efforts that were led by the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, which Ayers later chaired. Obama’s Developing Communities Project was a member of that Alliance.
That leads to the second key missing point.
2. Why no discussion of one of the central goals of the CAC: the shoring up of the crumbling “Local School Councils,” (LSC’s) the central institution in the “radical” Chicago school reform movement of that 1987-88 period?
This is, of course, critical to understanding the answer to the first question. The LSC’s were a new power center, set up to watchdog teachers and principals neighborhood by neighborhood, school by school, in the wake of an unpopular teachers’ strike in 1987.
Ayers loved the idea as it was consistent with his bureaucratic and authoritarian “solution” to the problems of Chicago schools. These harked back to the New Left period when black power groups provoked a teachers’ strike in 1968 in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and white activists much like Ayers scabbed on the striking teachers.
Initially business groups, like those NU President Weber represented on the CAC, liked them, too, because they reined in the teachers’ union. (This is why the right makes a mistake when it tags the CAC as a “far left” reform – Ayers is not a leftist but an authoritarian.) But he and soon the new Mayor Daley began to sour on them and criticized Ayers’ proposal to spend millions of CAC money on recruiting and training LSC activists fearing that it would be viewed as a “political threat” according to CAC board minutes.
Obama sided with Ayers and the money was spent.
Now we are beginning to understand why Ayers wanted Obama on that board: he would be a reliable political ally in what was becoming a new battleground in the ongoing Chicago “school wars” as they were called at the time.
In fact, as soon as the ink was dry on the $49.2 million check from Walter Annenberg, Obama and Ayers and Rolling were comrades in arms against Mayor Daley, whom CAC Executive Director Rolling explained later tried repeatedly to wrest away the Annenberg grant from the hands of those running the CAC.
(By the way, how about that Ken Rolling – he was at the Woods Fund that helped finance Obama’s position at the DCP in the mid-80s and later funneled the DCP money in the 87-88 school wars, then was recruited by Ayers and Obama to join them running the CAC and most recently has been in the lead trying to prevent public access to CAC records held at the University of Illinois. None of this is yet on the record, though, at the Times.
(UPDATE : Now that Brown University’s Annenberg Institute has announced that its CAC archives are being made available, I wrote to them again and asked them to respond to information requests that they ignored this past summer for 1) copies of the 1995 board minutes of the CAC – the period when the Challenge got off the ground – and 2) for confirmation whether or not Mayor Daley himself had applied for a Challenge grant in competition with Ayers and co.
(Those two requests were made this past June AFTER I began blogging on the CAC with information from records that Brown had previously readily and politely provided. But this follow-up was met with stony silence. Now Brown is telling me the archives have always been open, despite the fact that their press release indicates the contrary. And no word yet on why they ignored my follow up requests. They do state, however, that no one has been in contact from the now-dissolved CAC about blocking open access. I will keep readers posted.)
And while Daley would hand Bill Ayers the key to the city, naming him Chicago Citizen of the Year in 1997 and even shaking hands with the ex-terrorist, behind his back he was pushing legislation in Springfield to gut the power of the LSC’s, taking dead aim at the explicit purpose of the Ayers-conceived CAC. No wonder Weber was gun shy about spending the CAC money on the structure.
(Weber would step down from the board in the wake of that pro-LSC effort although I could not conclude from the records I have reviewed that his resignation was linked to the Obama/Ayers/Rolling effort.)
So at least the CAC is on the record in our paper of record. Given that it occupied seven years on a critical policy matter in the young life of the Democratic nominee, one wonders why it took so long.
It’s obvious, of course, why Obama never mentions it:
- the CAC was an abject failure – their own research, which Rolling recently tried to prevent the public from seeing – concluded the effort had “no effect” on student outcomes;
- and, of course, while sharing a fox hole with the unapologetic former terrorist Bill Ayers in the Chicago School Wars is harmless if one is planning, as Obama was at the time, on stepping into the shoes of the late black Mayor, Harold Washington, it is altogether a different matter when one is running for President of the United States.
But the voters of the United States nonetheless deserve to know and understand precisely what this long-standing relationship between Ayers and Obama was all about. And yet we know more about the relationship between John McCain and the corrupt savings and loan shark Charles Keating than we do about Ayers and Obama.
More importantly the voters deserve to know what the substance of that relationship is today.
For example, is Obama giving serious consideration to the reparations-based proposal made by his education advisor Linda Darling-Hammond and strongly endorsed by Ayers to repay the “education debt” they contend is owed by whites to people of color?
Obama first told the electorate that he has nothing to do with Ayers at all, attempting to dismiss him as an aging radical who is just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.”
Last night, though, he told Bill O’Reilly only that he has not “seen” Ayers in a year and a half. That means, of course, they have “seen” each other since Obama announced his run for the Presidency and one is left wondering, do we now have to go back and ask about telephone and email contacts?
Why not clear the air with the full story? Isn’t it about time?