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Star Tribune columnist James Lileks weighs in on the Ayers-Dohrn audio.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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HH: I’m joined now by James Lileks of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and blogger at www.lileks.com. James, first, your thought on what this means, if anything?

JL: Can I finish my waffle?

HH: Go ahead.

JL: Can I finish my waffle?

HH: Go ahead.

JL: What does what mean? Hillary’s stunning performance?

HH: Yes.

JL: It means that we’re going to have fun in Denver, but I’m not exactly sure how she’s going to translate this into the nomination.

HH: She waits, doesn’t she, for drip, drip, drip, drip to destroy him?

JL: Well, it depends as to whether or not people think that the drips are significant, whether or not they think that’s arsenic in the IV, or whether or not it’s just the pure, undistilled poison of American politics that can be brushed off by the penumbra of the emanations of the holiness of Obama. It depends. I don’t know. I can’t see them right now going back on the fellow. And a lot of the responses that we’ve been hearing to the Ayers-Bernardine Dohrn flap give you a clue as to how little this seems to matter to some people, and how eager they are to just simply shrug their shoulders and move along. I’m stunned by this stuff. I am fascinated by the audio that was brought out. It goes to the things that we’ve been talking about for a while about the new left, and the unrepentant nature of some. And the way that this old counterculture has been completely been co-opted into this wonderful narrative of the glowing 60’s, even the Chicago Tribune, I believe it was, had an editorial on Ayers, and was saying well, you know, you really can’t move in Chicago academic circles without running into Mr. Ayers. And I’m sure that truck drivers and pizza deliverymen all over the city of Chicago nodded their head and said, “True dat.” And they said that you know, times were, as Mayor Daley said, those were difficult times, and so we should all now wrap it up and move it along. Well, and I wrote about this at the Bleat. So to paraphrase myself from what I wrote today is that you know, they were difficult times, yes, but they were difficult for different people in different ways. While some were hunched in these roach-infested squalor pads where they were hanging out, trying to escape from John Law plotting the next way to bring down the man. You know, some people were having a difficult time at the Hanoi Hilton getting their teeth bashed out by North Vietnamese torturers, okay? So to wrap it all up into one glorious narrative that those were hard times and let’s move along is a bit difficult. But even if you do concede that, it’s different when forty years later, somebody’s standing up there and quoting Chou En Lai about how we have to wait and see how the French Revolution turns out. Well you know what? We know how the French Revolution turned out, and we knew pretty quickly how it turned out, that it’s a really bad idea to completely upend a civilization by violent means, kill everybody in the old order, establish an anti-clerical terror, and devolve into the modern terror state, which has been replicated with varying degrees of success, decades and centuries hence. It was a bad idea. And when China tried to do the same thing and uproot their traditions, it was a bad idea. And one of the glories of the United States is that we’ve been able to change and grow and adopt and evolve without having these catastrophic, cataclysmic upheavals as Europe and the rest of the world have been want to do. So for Ayers to be trotted out now as some wise, grey solon who’s preaching on the virtues of what they tried to do, just shows that he hasn’t changed a single bit. And if that’s the case, and if his wife is still out there talking about ridiculous notions like where do we get our good teeth, well, you know, in my case, it’s a dentist who happens to listen to the Hugh Hewitt Show. In her case, it’s the dental plan from the college where she works. If she’s still coming out about these wonderful, old ideas, then we have to hang around her neck the things that she said then, when she glorified the Manson killers, when she and her husband talked about the necessity of killing your parents, which is really amusing, given that Mr. Ayers’ father was the president of ConEd, a large electrical utility. So in other words, if they haven’t changed at all, then everything they’ve said is relevant, and you have to ask why is somebody swimming in the same waters with these particular toothless, old, miserable sharks? That, I’d like to know. But to have these two come up again in the context that they are, with the success that they’ve had, is like going to sleep in 1960, and waking up in 1980, and finding that the Rosenbergs have been granted tenure.

HH: Very well put. Now you know, James, what’s interesting is they built the defense that was that was then, this is now, Americans are a forgiving people, and we were all young, and it was crazy. Now that’s off. That’s gone. Now I just don’t know whether or not MSM is so heavily invested in Obama that they will examine these tapes, and then ask the question which is obvious. Barack Obama was at their house, he served on boards with them. He’s had conversations with these people. There must be tape, there must be tape of Barack Obama going along to get along. And we all know what it’s like to be on the stage when someone says something that you cringe at. He cannot not know what they believe.

JL: No, the tapes would be interesting, but I would think that the tape that you just played is enough to get people asking questions, because it blows apart the whole that was then, this is now defense. So there you go. Whether or not they’re going to do it, I don’t know. I don’t believe that people sitting around in the newsrooms and the editorial boards of the country are themselves unreconstructed, old, Red diaper babies who yearn for the days of Dylan and recruitment centers blown up in America, blood in the streets. That’s not who they are. That’s not who they were then, and that’s not who they are now. But there is still, I think, among a lot of people, an instinctual desire not to side with the man, you know? Not to be too harsh on who these people were, as if somehow you would be betraying the noble idealistic spirit that you believed you were then, and in some ways, still are today. So are they going to be inclined to go after it hammer and tong? No. And if they do, we’ll see the stuck pig shrieking of the blogosphere if they ask a few more tough questions.

HH: You know, you picked up on a very interesting phrase, where do we get our good teeth from.

JL: Yeah.

HH: Because packed into that, it’s like code. Her SDS reunion audience will understand that we get it from the exploitation of the masses, that it’s a…

JL: Right, because right at this very moment, because I’m having some work done tomorrow, I know that Haitians, poor Haitians who are eating oil and dirt were toiling in the resin mines to bring up the composite plastic that they’re going to be using, and that third world children were forced to write the software that expertly crafted the particular nuances of the crown. I mean, please.

HH: But we hear that, and we immediately know what she meant, and they know what she meant. But does your average political journalist even hear that?

JL: Oh, yeah, but…

HH: Okay, I hope you’re right.

JL: Your average political journalist hear so much, and has just developed a shrugging of the shoulders as an instinctive reaction to a great deal of it. What really ought to stick out more is things like belly of the beast.

HH: Right.

JL: Because this is…I mean, if she is describing the comfortable, almost absolutely no ramifications of her actions existence in which she lives as living inside the belly of a beast, a beast that is doing all these preposterous things that her husband alleged, that the…what was he talking about, young girls and women, the violence against young girls and women? What’s he talking about?

HH: Yeah, I don’t know what that meant.

JL: What is he talking about when he says that persecution of gay people in order to distract our minds from something else? Was there a great, I mean, was I heading off to the anti-war rally, and was I distracted by the lynching of somebody from the Home And Garden TV cable channel? I mean, I do not…I mean, yes, I know what he’s talking about.

HH: White supremacy is still here.

JL: Yeah, white supremacy is still here. The very fact that anybody would have any arguments with the defense of marriage, or the redefinition of the such, is regarded as a persecution campaign to blind our eyes, and avert our eyes. And that, you know, there’s resonances of old bittergate in there, isn’t it?

HH: Oh, my goodness. There’s so much in this, and yet I just don’t know if it will be reflected upon. We will be watching with great interest. www.lileks.com, thanks.

End of interview.

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