Murphy: End the double standard

What a contrast between last Tuesday and Election Night four years ago. Back then, the entire celebration consisted of two or three guys running around Old Campus shouting, “We won!!! We WON!!!!” The rest of us responded, as I recall, with silence.

The flip side of our recent rejoicing is the near-hysterical fear among some conservatives about the president-elect, specifically that he is a communist or a socialist. I’ve been having a hard time determining if they actually think this is possible. At first I took it to be a last minute attempt at negatively branding Obama, the way John Kerry ’66 was enduringly labeled a flip-flopper.

But even though my vote for him was never in doubt, I’ll admit to being shocked when Obama told Joe the Plumber, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” It’s not that this is such a radical idea; a progressive income tax necessarily entails wealth-spreading. But I couldn’t believe Obama would state a desire for redistribution so nakedly.

Given my own surprise, I suppose the conservative reaction was inevitable. I get righteously indignant when I think about all the innocent foreign people we’ve killed or caused to die in the last five years; conservatives feel the same way when they think about losing money. I don’t believe these things are morally equivalent, but I recognize that the conservative position at least has a tincture of sanity to it — one’s bank account undeniably dictates daily life, whereas the war in Iraq directly affects only those Americans in the military and their families.

The communism theme didn’t die with John McCain’s campaign. It showed up, among other places, in a guest column in last week’s News (“You made a big mistake, America,” Nov. 7). It’s absurd to suggest that Obama’s tax plan bears any relation to the murderous collectivization efforts of Russian and Chinese communists, but that didn’t stop this writer. Nor did it stop me and scores of others from rushing to condemn the column on the online comment section. We shouldn’t have bothered; the column spoke for itself. But indignation is irresistible these days. That’s why my parents and I can barely have a civil conversation during dinner.

My mother once told me how upset she was that “Obama launched his political career in the living room of the worst domestic terrorist in American history.” She said this despite the unlikelihood of such a figure’s having a living room, instead of being locked up (like Ted Kaczynski) or dead (like Timothy McVeigh). She meant Bill Ayers, who, despite setting several bombs in the 1960s and 1970s, never actually killed anybody. The rhetorical power of this talking point seems to have outweighed its obvious implausibility in her mind.

She and I spent a lot of time in the car during the Clinton years, and we listened often to Rush Limbaugh. Gradually my child-self developed a reflexive distaste for liberals. They were weak, smarmy, ingratiating. Some were truly contemptible. Clinton was the consummate example, a man with no honor or integrity. It didn’t matter what his policies were or what he achieved; he was such a base person that the fact of his presence in the White House was a scandal in itself. Now, in 2008, everyone seems to agree that Clinton looks pretty good, and I’ve been unable for years to hear Rush Limbaugh without getting furious. The difference has been President Bush.

What conservatives have gotten away with Democrats could only dream of. Imagine if a Democrat had been president on September 11. Forget the fact that his administration would have been only eight months old. If his Aug. 6 daily brief had been titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” he never would have made it to a second term. The Republicans would have eaten him alive. And if a Democrat had presided over the American military failures in Iraq, he would have been labeled unfit for command. Again, no chance of reelection. Maybe this goes to show what conservatives keep saying, even after Obama’s victory — that this is a center-right country.

Here’s what’s certain: Obama is inheriting a hot mess. Something is bound to go wrong. Republicans seem likely to regain their outrage at perceived presidential failures. But, luckily, Barack continues to look unflappable. Maybe among the changes he brings can be an end to this double standard in accountability.

Eamon Murphy is a senior in Saybrook College.


  • Robert

    What an asinine comment, for this columnist to equate his valuation human life with conservatives' valuation of money. What conservatives fear is the loss of American lives, and what most will proudly point to is President Bush's success at preventing further attacks on U.S. soil - the importance of which his predecessor could never seem to grasp, and a task at which he failed miserably.
    What conservatives most fear is a return to a liberal agenda that thinks we can somehow treat global Islamic terrorism as a law enforcement issue, and that we can keep those who want to kill us in check by sending in lawyers.
    As regards our president-elect, we rightly fear he does not take this issue seriously - based on his actions and the words that have come from his mouth.

  • to Robert

    terrorism not a law enforcement issue? tell me, which of these is more likely to have stopped sept. 11: a B52, or arresting the hijackers as they tried to enter our country/once they were here?

  • Recent Alum

    "The flip side of our recent rejoicing is the near-hysterical fear among some conservatives about the president-elect, specifically that he is a communist or a socialist. I’ve been having a hard time determining if they actually think this is possible."

    Although this has been largely ignored by the mainstream media (shocking), Obama used to be associated with the socialist New Party; he worked with New Party Members and attended New Party events. It is not unreasonable to assume that someone who was associated with a socialist party in this manner could be a socialist.

    I agree that saying he is a communist is over-the-top, but I have not heard any conservative saying that Obama is a communist.

  • Mom

    I suppose I should have said "worst domestic terrorist in American history able to host dinner parties", which is exactly the point. Even if Kaczynski or McVeigh were still capable of having a social life, can you imagine either of them ever rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers, or having any influence whatsoever? Who would want to be seen with them?

    Bill Ayers has been accepted by the education establishment and has received millions from philanthropic organizations (thanks to his work with Obama) despite anti-American views so extreme he said only a few years ago he wishes he "had done more" bombing.

    Imagine an abortion clinic bomber being so rewarded.

  • Anonymous

    Whatever point you had in this column is obscured by two asinine statements. One is the previously mentioned analogy of conservatives worry more about money versus liberals worrying more about human life.
    The other is the one concerning Ayers, who, in your words, "despite setting several bombs…never actually killed anybody." What if the situation was reversed, and let's say McCain was buddy buddy with person affiliated with Nichols and McVeigh, who never actually killed anybody, but helped mastermind the organization? McCain would have never gotten the nomination. One of my friends, an ardent Obama supporter, even admitted this, basically saying that the only reason why the issue of Ayers wasn't a big deal was that the Weathermen events happened 40 years ago, and not during the lifetimes of the youth who mobilized for Obama.

    Are you saying that is okay to set several bombs in random locations, as long as they don't kill anybody, even though they were intended to (this was the case with the Weathermen)?
    How about if someone came onto Yale's campus as a part of a fringe militant group, started randomly shooting bullets everywhere, did this several times on other college campuses, but never actually killed anybody in the process, though some of their cohorts did. Would this person be suitable for the future leader of the world to associate and collaborate with?

    The Ayers issue is relevant because one of the main arguments in favor of Obama was that he would surround himself with good people. Yet, if you look at his track record (Ayers), he hasn't exactly shown the best judgment.

  • Anonymous

    I think your friend caved too easily, Anonymous. In your hypothetical example, McCain would have been "buddy buddy" with someone who "helped mastermind" an organization that killed 168 people. Totally different than someone who founded the Weathermen. I don’t want to spend my intellectual energy defending Bill Ayers, but when his infamy gets so exaggerated it’s hard to keep one’s mouth shut. Instead of thinking up implausible campus shooting scenarios, look at what actually happened. Ayers certainly could have killed somebody—when he blew up that statue, say, or that Pentagon bathroom—and that’s awful enough. But decades later, after someone has reentered civil society, we judge them by the actual consequences of their actions, not the potential ones. Should Illinois students interested in education go to his office and tell him off instead of taking his classes? That might be bold and kind of appealing, but it wouldn’t do those students any good. The same goes for 1990s Obama.

  • Mom (for the last time)

    Why are you unable to resist defending this man? He was a cofounder of the Weather Underground, which bombed several government buildings, including the Capitol and the Pentagon; banks and police stations, including one in San Francisco where one officer was killed and another severely injured, and the home and car of NY State Supreme Court Justice Murtagh. They were planning to bomb an officers' club dance at Fort Dix and the Butler Library at Columbia University when they blew up their Greenwich Village townhouse, killing three of their members. The federal government dismissed charges against him following accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. His response? "Guilty as hell, free as a bird. America is a great country."

    He has renounced none of this; instead, he's found a far more effective way to damage us; under the guise of "education", he continues to promote his beliefs that America is a racist, oppressive, war-mongering nation.

    Your hypothetical question of how a student of his should treat him has nothing to do with how Barack Obama DID treat him. They had a far more extensive working relationship than Obama has acknowledged. See Stanly Kurtz's investigative pieces for more info.

  • Donna

    I am a democrat who voted for McCain. I didn't vote for McCain because he chose Palin. I didn't vote for him because I wanted the war to continue forever. I didn't vote for him because I wanted corporate greed to continue to escalate while those without jobs continue to suffer. I'm pro-choice, not anti-abortion. This year, for the first time, I was forced by my own party to set aside party platform and loyalty and vote for someone who was actually the better qualified for the office. I voted based on judgement, experience, character and values. I can tell you that, as a democrat, I still had a great level of concern for the number of unsavory associates that kept popping up in Obamas past. You know, you can judge a man by the company he keeps, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, birds of a feather flock together. There was and is an air of secrecy about Obama that just flat makes me uneasy. I felt the same about Bush 43 (his ability to govern) but my concerns about Obama are even greater. I do believe that Bill Ayers, in growing up, just figured out that blowing up buildings would not achieve the success he desired in a government takeover. That could come, however, by quietly moving into and around political and educational arenas - planting the seeds of his views in the minds of others in such a way as people would think they were good ideas. Ayers and Dorhn's motives were part and parcel with Black Liberation Theology, and that was the message taught by Rev. Wright. Obama, I believe, has been primed and prepped and funded and sold to the American people and they bought him, lock, stock and barrel. Now let me put forth this: When Bill Clinton ran, we all knew he liked to run around with women, and low and behold along came Monica Lewinsky; when Bush 43 ran, we all knew that he had failed miserably at almost every job he'd ever held, and low and behold he oversaw the worst administration in history. So why in the world did people believe that these unsavory characters in Obama's past would NOT be pertinent in his administration? It's what his background tells us will happen.

  • ac

    Last I checked, Obama worked with Ayres on a project that was funded by a Republican. There is nothing illegal or even wrong with using education as a way to change America. That's exactly what education is supposed to do. Just because you don't agree with what Ayres is trying to change America into, doesn't make him just as dangerous as he was in the 1970s. He's not killing people now or destroying anything. He should have been in jail in the 70s, but he wasn't. If he has learned to promote his cause another way, good -- at least this one isn't violent and is totally legal. If his education reform happens to bring about some sort of revolution (highly unlikely), then perhaps he had a point in the first place. If the country can't withstand criticism from Bill Ayres, then he's probably right in his criticism. The idea that your country is beyond criticism leads us to an Orwellian nightmare where we start chanting "Big Brother" repeatedly.

    Also, McCain's associations and judgement haven't been the greatest either. He left his disabled wife, he almost got kicked out of the Senate for his Keating 5 involvement, and he has openly stated in his memoirs that he didn't run for President in 2000 to make some great reform, that he just wanted to run for President because of ambition.

  • Lisa

    Ayers, along with Anne Hallet and Warren Chapman, coauthored a grant proposal for funding for the Annenberg Challenge. They were not handpicked based on who they were and his past, present or future had nothing to do with their receiving the funding. If you write a good enough grant proposal for funds for an educational program, you could well be selected, just like anyone else. So the fact that the funds came from a Republican (who had absolutely nothing to do with selecting the grant recipients) has absolutely nothing to do with anything. You need to learn a little bit about how grant funding works before you make such allegations as to insinuate that Walter Annenberg in some way endorsed William Ayers with that funding. However, William Ayers DID handpick Obama. The Annenberg Challenge was a miserable failure, as well.

    As far as McCain goes, lots of people get divorces for lots of different reasons, and he was the least involved of any other (democratic) senators in the Keating 5 scandal and did NOT "almost get kicked out of the Senate". As for his ambition? Well, without ambition, how far will anyone go?

    As for what Ayers did in the 70's? Well, if McCain had sat on a board with, and had started his political career in the living room of, a former KKK member who had set bombs and blown up buildings and spread hate for America and Americans, but had never been convicted because of a technicality, and had decided to start teaching instead of bombing, I know you would be the first to stand up and start screaming - and hopefully the rest of America would too. Personally, I can't believe that a university would hire such a person as Ayers to teach anyone anything.

  • ac

    Lisa, the grant funding process is exactly the point. If the grant selection is based wholly on merit, then Ayres' proposal was worth funding. If it is worth funding, then it is also worth involvement. If Ayres can get money based on merit and not on who he was, then why should Obama not involve himself in the project based on its merits OF THE PROJECT and not on who Ayres was? This wasn't the "Fund Bill Ayres' New Bombing Project", this was the Annenberg challenge. Barack Obama was on the board with Ayres for this project, he was not on a board to support Bill Ayres' old terrorist plots. The only insinuation was his project clearly had merit. The success of failure of the Annenberg challenge is wholly irrelevant.

    As far as ambition goes, when you (i.e. McCain) use Ayres as an example of your opponent's blind ambition, then you better make sure you don't openly write about your own.

  • Lisa

    ac, point taken, but I disagree with the analogy. Working on a project together is not completely the point. It is one in a series of connect the dots. What I was saying was that the funding came to the program, and that wasn't an endorsement by Annenberg. However, Bernadine Dorhn and Michelle Obama worked together at the same law firm, through Michelle, Ayers and Obama both spoke at a function of hers, they both came from Columbia to Chicago to begin with. They worked on the Annenberg Challenge together and sat on the board of the Woods Fund together. Obama wrote a nice clippette for one of Ayers books, and Ayers hosted Obama's political coming out party. It is obvious that there is more to this relationship than sitting on a board. Lot's of people sat on a board with either of them. They just seem float around together alot. If not them, then Dorhn and Michelle. There is a pattern here, a significant pattern. I think they are both lying through their teeth about it. My opinion. Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn's goals were a "government takeover". This is not exactly the same thing as making the government we have work better. They actually discussed that 25 million people who refused to let capitalism go would have to be "disposed of". Executed. They talked about "re-training camps". This is not the talk of wayward activists! This is the talk of people who hate America and are dead set on destroying the government. Now, that being said, my concern and suspicion is that Obama was handpicked at Columbia, brought to Chicago to learn the inner workings of Black Liberation Theology, sent to Harvard on someone else's dime who had a stake in him, brought back and trained in dirty Chicago politics and how to be exactly who they wanted him to be. OK, I'll just flat say it. A political coup. That's what I believe, and I believe that Ayers, Dorhn, Wright, Khalidi and Al Monsour are all behind it. I think they found in Obama just the man they could use. I've been a democrat for 30 years and I have never seen anything like what happened in my party this year, where insiders, like myself, who disagreed or questioned what was going on were told to sit down, shut up and get in line. It happened to me and thousands like me. The dissenters. I still dissent, and I won't get on board. I cannot trust this man.