HH: I’m pleased to welcome from Nationalreview.com, the American Enterprise Institute, it is Stanley Kurtz, the man who knows more about the Ayers-Obama connection than anyone. Stanley, welcome back to the program.
SK: Hugh, thanks for having me.
HH: Stanley Kurtz, let’s start with the basics. All of a sudden, Ayers is an issue. What is the relationship between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama? Can you give us some details?
SK: Well, Hugh, I think they had a genuine political partnership. As far as we know for certain, it began in about early 1995 when Barack Obama became the chairman of the board of a small education foundation, not too small, because it had ultimately more than $100 million dollars to dispense. But Barack Obama became chairman of the board of something called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation that was essentially founded by Bill Ayers. Now this foundation had two operating bodies, the board, which Obama chaired, and something called the collaborative, which Bill Ayers chaired. And so the two were effectively working together at this foundation, and what’s more, the foundation was giving a lot of money to Bill Ayers’ personal education projects, and the projects of his allies. And as, since the board was in charge of giving out that money, Obama effectively was funding Bill Ayers’ very radical education projects for years on end.
HH: Now I want to play for you a little clip of David Axelrod from CNN this morning, and one by Robert Gibbs on CNN, talking about this relationship. Let’s play David Axelrod first, cut number five.
CNN: Now a college professor in Chicago, Ayers and Obama served together several years on a non-profit board. And in 1995, Ayers hosted a coffee for Obama when the young community organizer was making his first run for the state senate. At this point looking back, should he not have done that, do you think?
DA: Well, I mean, when he went, he certainly didn’t know the history.
CNN: The Democratic nominee’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, maintains Obama at that time had no idea about Ayers’ violent past.
HH: And here is the second clip, Robert Gibbs on CNN this morning.
CNN: I just want to try to get to the heart of this so that people at home can understand. Our Jim Acosta talked with your senior strategist, David Axelrod, about this. In 1995, William Ayers held a kind of get-to-know-you event at his place, where he was introducing Barack Obama to the political culture there in Chicago when he was running for the state senate for the first time. David Axelrod said that at that meeting, Senator Obama was not aware of Ayers’ radical background. Is that true?
RG: Look, if that’s what David said, that is true. Look, again, this is a relationship, excuse me, that Barack Obama has condemned the actions of Bill Ayers. This is somebody the New York Times said Barack Obama’s not close to. And again, John, this is a way of distracting the American people from what’s important. Just in this morning’s paper, John McCain’s campaign said if we talk about the economy, we lose. That’s why we’re seeing the type of dishonorable, dishonest, despicable smear campaigns that you see right now with only four weeks to go in this election.
HH: Stanley Kurtz, what do you make of Axelrod and the follow on comments of Obama’s spokesperson?
SK: Well, a couple of things, Hugh. First of all, I can’t give you definitive proof of what was in Barack Obama’s mind as far as knowledge of Ayers’ past in 1995. But I have to say, it’s awful hard to believe that Obama didn’t know, and for a few reasons. Obama was a big fan of the 60s, as he tells us in his writings. He kind of felt nostalgic and sad that he couldn’t have been around back then. And when he was at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he was surrounded by people who knew Bill Ayers, and who frankly idolized Bill Ayers because of Ayers’ radicalism, because Ayers was the leader of a school of thought in education theory that proudly believed in politicizing the classroom. It’s hard to believe that Obama could have hung out with all these people in Hyde Park and at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and who knew that he worked where Ayers worked, and not have somehow heard what was going on. I can’t prove it, but it’s mighty hard to believe. And secondly, I have to say, Hugh, that I think Obama’s ties to radicals have everything to do with this economic crisis. I wrote a piece the other day called O’s Dangerous Pals with the New York Post, all about how ACORN, which Obama was very close to, this radical group of community organizers, used to go around to banks, trying to get them to make high-risk loans to customers with bad credit histories. This is absolutely at the core of why we’re looking at the current financial meltdown. And at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Obama was doling out money to ACORN among other groups. So I don’t think these are separate issues.
HH: Have you seen any pronounced curiosity as to the Ayers-Obama connections among your colleagues in the mainstream media, Stanley Kurtz? Is anyone digging into this issue?
SK: (laughing) I don’t think I’m at liberty to say the detail on this, but there is one organization that might surprise people where I know some reporters are looking into this, but no other. And I, you know, I’ve been asked to go on Fox News a fair number of times, and I’m going to be going on again tomorrow, but I haven’t been asked to go anywhere else except CNN did invite me a few weeks ago to speak, and they taped an interview and they asked me a lot of questions, all very suspicious about whether the Ayers connection was important. I answered them all in great detail, and they ended up not showing any of that on the air.
HH: And in terms of the other news organization that might surprise, do you have any expectation that they will publish this before the election when it might matter?
SK: I think that the reporters I’ve interacted with there want to do it. Whether they’ll be allowed to do it, I really want to wait and see what’s going on. But the mainstream media, it just seems like every four years, it gets worse and worse. I remember back with the rats business, I think it was, in 2000, and then of course the Dan Rather thing in 2004, and now, no one even bothers to argue about this bias thing. It’s just assumed by everyone, I think.
HH: Now Stanley Kurtz, my website’s down right now, I don’t know, someone might have thrown a link to it, that has often happened in the past when Townhall gets overwhelmed or something like that. But earlier today, I linked to a University of Chicago press release that had Michelle Obama praising a panel that featured Barack Obama and Bill Ayers on juvenile justice, another one of this pattern of contacts. It defies belief to try and pass this off as a casual acquaintance. They’re simply collaborators on many things. And I don’t know, but can you give a number, a minimum number of meetings they had to have been at together, Stanley Kurtz?
SK: Meetings where they absolutely had to have been at together? I can only give you a ballpark right here. I would say that beyond the six board meetings that the Obama campaign is talking about, there had to be at least another half dozen more. But frankly, I think it’s highly likely that it goes way beyond that. I mean, these two were on a small committee of four people charged with hammering out the bylaws that created this foundation. Now can you do that in one meeting, or do you need more meetings? Do you have to have some phone calls and some e-mail going back and forth? How long does it take to create a foundation? I would say that involves a fair amount of contact. So there had to be contact there as you say, and I wrote about this extensively in an article called Barack Obama’s Lost Years. Obama and Ayers were on this panel arranged by Michelle Obama. Really, it was for the purpose of undermining the Illinois juvenile justice bill, which Bernardine Dohrn was also fighting at exactly this period. They were definitely doing…and this was at the same time, by the way, that Barack Obama endorsed, publicly endorsed in the Chicago Tribune, Bill Ayers’ book on juvenile justice. Now if you lived just a few blocks away from someone, and you’ve been on a foundation together, and at least in the first year, you were on the board together, and then you’re on a panel together, when you run into each other, what are you going to be talking about? Here’s something I also haven’t mentioned. Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers were practically best friends. People don’t know this, and I’m actually saying this for the first time. I haven’t written about this. They were best friends, and we know that Obama had interactions with Khalidi, that Khalidi had held the coffee that kicked off his Congressional campaign, I believe. And Ayers and Khalidi were extremely close if you look at the acknowledgements in their books.
HH: Tell us about Khalidi. Tell us who he is and his role in Obama’s life.
SK: Rashid Khalidi is really, in a sense, the American successor of Edward Said, a very strong advocate for the Palestinians, extremely radical in his views and his opposition to American foreign policy. He was a friend and colleague of Obama. Apparently they used to get together and discuss world affairs. And he’s practically the best friend of Bill Ayers. Bill Ayers features Khalidi in some of his books about how to politicize the teaching for students. So actually, the more you look into it, the more you see that this is not just people running into each other. And again, I object to the idea of just simply counting the times people were together in a room. When you fund Bill Ayers education projects, with hundreds of thousands of dollars, when you as Bill Ayers publish Rashid Khalidi’s essay in your book of collected essays, they might have gone on. That’s a lot without meeting once.
HH: Quick question, Stanley. Do you have any proof that Bill Ayers was a client of Barack Obama’s?
SK: No, I don’t have any proof that he was a legal client of Barack Obama’s.
HH: That’s what I meant, a legal client of Barack Obama’s.
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HH: Stanley, when we went to break, thank you for staying over, I wanted to get a couple more details on the record.
SK: One thing, though, Hugh, I’m at the Ethics And Public Policy Center.
HH: Oh, I’m over 50. That happens to me occasionally. I’m sorry, Stanley, of course it is the Ethics And Public Policy Center, and my friends over there will be very unhappy with me if I say AEI (laughing).
SK: No problem.
HH: So Stanley Kurtz, Rashid Khalidi, very close to Barack Obama, read during the break that Khalidi had a farewell dinner in 2003 that Obama was one of the presenters at, and in those remarks, alluded to the numerous dinners he’d had at the home of the Khalidi’s.
HH: It simply defies imagination to think that Khalidi was not a bridge between Ayers, that this is not an operating subgroup of Hyde Park, doesn’t it?
SK: Right. I mean, that’s what it seems like when you look, when you read these acknowledgements back and forth between Khalidi and Ayers of how close they are as friends, and you see that Khalidi had dinners at Obama, it really, to think…and then that Khalidi hosted something to kick off Obama’s Congressional campaign, you’ve got to think that Ayers and Khalidi are both talking about Obama, because they’re so close. And you’ve go to think that…it begins to look like a pretty tight network. You know, you can only show what’s actually in the papers, and what are in the documents as far as the number of meetings and everything else. But it sure looks a lot tighter than what we can absolutely see. It looks like a lot more. But it’s hard to show for sure, just like people, I think rightly assume that Barack Obama had to have known a lot more about what Jeremiah Wright was saying all those years than he’s letting on.
HH: Now I’m going to ask you about that. Does Jeremiah Wright connect up with Khalidi or Ayers at all that you’ve been able to discover?
SK: Well, there is, actually, Hugh, and it’s something else I haven’t talked about. I really shouldn’t go into this, but not exactly Jeremiah Wright, but I’m going to be writing a little bit more in the future, you wait and see. I’ll be writing a little bit more about how some of what the Annenberg money was going for was essentially funding things that were pretty much teaching students Jeremiah Wright’s point of view. And there’s some real, there’s a definite network of connection there that brings Jeremiah Wright into all of this. And by the way, Hugh, I wrote an article that, you know, if there’s one thing I’ve done that I wish had gotten more attention, it’s a piece I wrote called Senator Stealth for National Review Magazine, where I talk about the Gamaliel Foundation, which is the group of network of community organizers that Obama’s original community organizing at the developing communities project as part of it. This is a tangled alphabet soup of names, but the bottom line is that Barack Obama’s community organizing group has an ideology just like Jeremiah Wright’s. It’s a kind of liberation theology that’s deeply anti-American. And the book that they give to first year organizers in the Gamaliel Foundation is, it sounds like Jeremiah Wright. And I’ve written out detailed quotes from this book. People haven’t noticed, because I guess you’ve got to go through a subscription on the National Review Magazine. But I’m telling you, this is yet another, how many of these cases can you have before you see a big pattern here?
HH: Let me ask you again about the question I closed the last segment with. Was Bill Ayers a legal client of Barack Obama’s?
SK: Not that I know of. That’s an interesting question, legal client. No, Obama, again, Obama was basically channeling money as a member of the board and a chairman of the board. He was channeling money to Bill Ayers’ projects to small schools network, and something called the Teacher Leadership Academy. They were getting a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars from this foundation, and there’s some problems with ethics and self dealing. That’s the real reason that the Obama campaign keeps saying they were only together at six board meetings. The reason that Ayers stopped going to board meetings is because the board was giving him money, and it was beginning to look like a conflict of interest. But the really interesting thing is that even after Ayers separated from the board, Obama kept sending the money to the same groups that it was going to when Ayers was there basically directing things. So even when they weren’t in the same room, in a sense, the connection was even stronger.
HH: In your researches into Barack Obama, have you been able to get a detailed client list of who he represented when he was in private practice in Chicago?
SK: I haven’t gone in that direction, Hugh, and it’s a great direction to go in. It’s…I get so many suggestions. You know, I can only do but so much between now and the election. You wouldn’t believe how many channels I want to track down that I’m going to try to track down, and hardly have time for. This is another great one that I haven’t done. But one thing I’ll say is that Barack Obama, we do have evidence that Barack Obama was not just working for this radical organization ACORN because they happened to come to his law firm. They seemed to have been seeking him out directly, ACORN. And his ties to ACORN, which is a very radical group, self-consciously militant and strongly leftist, are much stronger than he wants to admit.
HH: Have those ties been anywhere investigated in print?
SK: Well, I’ve talked about it in an article called Inside Obama’s ACORN. And by the way, this is really interesting, Hugh, the Obama stop the smears website has started putting out denials that he had anything to do with ACORN, which is just flatly false as far as I can tell, unless they’re going in for a kind of Clintonian what the meaning of is is when they say he never organized for them. And yeah, he was working for something called the Developing Communities Project, but we have a number of sources that say he did leadership training for ACORN. I don’t see how they can deny this. And also, he says that he didn’t work with ACORN when he worked on Project Vote, but we have sources that say he did. It’s really interesting. I haven’t had time to write about this, but I want to. He’s denying connections that we have some significant evidence for, and I think this makes it incumbent on the press to start asking him for a detailed discussion of this. But if you go to my article Inside Obama’s ACORN, go to the link with the Los Angeles Times article where it says that an ACORN leader asked him to train her personal staff, or this article you’ll have to subscribe to by a woman named Toni Fulks (sp), who is an ex-ACORN organizer that talks about his work on the leadership training for that group, or Hank De Zutter’s article for the Chicago Reader on his work for the leadership training, or his own statement to ACORN that ACORN was with him when he was doing his Project Vote. It all seems to contradict what Obama’s saying now on the Stop The Smears website. It’s quite striking.
HH: All right, one last time for one last question, Stanley Kurtz, Rashid Khalidi again. Would most Americans be, I don’t know much about his work other than that he’s at Columbia, would most Americans who support Israel be upset that Obama is close to Rashid Khalidi, so close that they share many, many…
SK: Rashid Khalidi. They would be horrified, Hugh. They would be horrified. It would be like saying that the strongest advocate for the Palestinians and the greatest critic of Israel in the United States was close to Obama. And you know something? He is, and he was and he is. And so friends of Israel are rightly horrified by this.
HH: Do you think they are aware of it?
SK: Oh, the ones who are are disturbed, and not near enough of them know about it.
HH: Stanley Kurtz, always a productive conversation, thank you. Good luck in your continuing research. God speed, you’ve got to giddy up there, Stanley. We’re all standing by waiting to read everything that you write, so just don’t get any sleep.
End of interview.