The Weather Underground

A Documentary Film by Sam Green and Bill Siegel
The Free History Project: New Video (2003)
92 minutes

Recent political discussion about the background,and friendships, of Barack Obama has brought up the issue of the Weather Underground. The reason for this chatter is Obama’s association, especially in Chicago, with two leaders from the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Ayers and Dohrn are now husband and wife and are both professors, one at Northwestern and the other at the University of Illinois. Obama has known them both and had close association with them for many years. This has raised questions about his ties to more militant groups on the far left, at least historically, and thus questions about his judgment in having such associations, which are now being more carefully scrutinized.

The Weather Underground was a group formed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that included the activities of a small cadre of less than thirty radically leftist young people. I knew something of the group then but remembered much better the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), since it was active on the college campus when I was a student. The Weather Underground was only a tiny activist break-off group from the better-known SDS. But it was pursued by the FBI very actively for a decade. (One reason most of the people were able to come out of hiding in the late 1970s and not go to prison was that the FBI had so botched their efforts to capture them that no case could stand up in a court of law.)

So I began last week to look for information on the Weather Underground to get insight into Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, since the issue of Obama turning away from them has made it into this campaign. Walk
One of the unique things about Ayers and Dohrn is that they have shown no real remorse for their illegal activities, which included bombing government properties in several cities in the U.S. At the end of this award-winning film they even express their hopes that the revolution will eventually succeed through different means. They appear to be unrepentant radicals, to say the least.

I often despise how the right tries to use "fear" to get votes against more liberal politicians, some of whom are good and decent Americans. Some are clearly strong defenders of our way of life. But after watching this film Ayers and Dohrn give me no comfort at all. Quite the opposite. I really believe that this association is far more important to Obama’s ability to lead the nation than anything Jeremiah Wright or Father Phleger said at Trinity United Church of Christ over the past few months. I admit that I will now listen very carefully to how this plays out in the coming months. It does seem that Obama has some pretty radical friends. His response to the Tony Rezko conviction did not engender a lot of confidence either. In effect he said that the Tony Rezko who was convicted was not the man he knew. I know that we do not know everything about our friends but this is an odd answer given that they were very good friends and Rezko was a major donor/fund raiser for Obama as well. This is the kind of character material that may seriously hurt the Illinois Senator before this campaign is over.

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