Obama/Ayers Update: New York Times’ Shane defends himself on Politico.com

Apparently the New York Times does not have enough news print to get the story right the first time so they have been emailing me and posting on the blogosphere in order to shore up their faulty story about the Ayers/Obama link. 

I responded earlier to an email from Scott Shane, author of the story, by updating my first post on this here.
This afternoon, Shane told Politico.com the following in response to my post on his story:
As for Steve, he was great in outlining his theory — that Obama and Ayers had a relationship going back many years, to the 1980s, and that Ayers therefore must have proposed Obama for the board. He looked at the same letters I’d seen showing Ayers (and one of the two co-organizers, Anne Hallett) had discussions early on with Annenberg folks about the need for a board. Unfortunately, his theory is wrong.

What Steve didn’t do was talk to the people involved. As I report, Deborah Leff and Pat Graham give a credible account of how they chose Obama, and I have no reason to think they’re lying. Moreover, if Obama only met Ayers when Obama joined the Annenberg project, it seems hardly likely that he would have pushed for Obama’s appointment. On the other hand, since Obama already served on Leff’s board, it makes perfect sense that she would propose him.


Let me explain the facts to Mr. Shane, once again, as I did in his lengthy interview with me:
1) Ayers and Obama were both active in the successful campaign in 1988 to establish a teacher/principal watchdog group, Local School Councils, in the Chicago public schools. The LSC’s have been called a form of teacher-bashing by union activists.
2) Ayers conceived of and led the process that resulted in a $49.2 million grant from the National Annenberg Challenge.
3) As the formal agent of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative (CSRC), the working group that applied for the grant, Ayers received an inquiry in November, 1994, from Vartan Gregorian, President of Brown University about the board selection process.
4) Ayers responded by describing his personal role and noted that Patricia Graham, another foundation head, had agreed already to serve.
5) Another exchange of letters between Gregorian and MacArthur Foundation President Adele Simmons also confirms Ayers personal role in the board selection process.
6) If Ayers was not involved it would have been a violation of his fiduciary obligation to the CSRC.
7) Shane says he spoke to Deborah Leff, then head of the Joyce Foundation, about the Ayers role but she did not tell him that Ayers had no involvement.
8) The board selection process for the CAC began in November of 1994, at least, and the board first formally met in March. Obama joined Leff’s Joyce Foundation in November. Even if Leff had a formal responsibility for the selection of CAC board members, which she did not, it strains credulity to suggest that in a few weeks she would have formed the basis of an opinion on Obama such that she could convince Graham that he should not just join the CAC board, but lead it, despite his youth, lack of experience in education, and lack of contacts to raise the $110 million in matching funds the CAC would have to raise. 

In addition, Leff would have had to convince Graham to join her in secretly appointing Obama to the board without discussing the idea with the individual with formal legal responsibility for the selection of the Board, Bill Ayers.
9) Of all the people Shane spoke to, only Graham, whom Ayers helped select for the CAC board, stated to Shane that Ayers had no involvement in the Obama selection. But that quote was not put in the Times story, despite its obvious importance. We do not know how Graham explains the contradiction between her recollection, 14 years later, and the written contemporaneous record of letters between Gregorian and Ayers and Gregorian and Simmons that make Ayers’ role in the board selection process clear.
In closing, let me note that I don’t want to weigh down this post with a recitation of the actual agenda carried out by the CAC.  Readers can find plenty on this blog about that, including Obama’s role in backing Ayers effort to shore up the teacher bashing Local School Councils and the hundreds of thousand of dollars doled out to Ayers and his ex-SDS comrade Mike Klonsky’s anti-teacher effort, the Small Schools Workshop. 
But suffice to say that the record of the actual work of the CAC demonstrates a consistency between the views of Ayers and those of Obama on their efforts during the “Chicago School Wars” against Mayor Daley. I have explained in my work here that I view this as a fundamentally authoritarian agenda aimed at undercutting the democratic power of elected union officials and government representatives. 
Thus, the suggestion by the Times that Ayers was an “ex-radical” is mistaken.

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