CHICAGO, Ill. — At an extravagant penthouse apartment in downtown Chicago, The Daily Caller dined with former terrorists Sunday night.
That’s not a sentence one often has the opportunity to write, but on Super Bowl Sunday former Weather Underground leaders and Obama friends Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn feted TheDC to an elaborate gourmet meal at the home of a very rich friend to fulfill the obligations of a charity auction won by Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson.
When the Daily Caller posse arrived — a group that included Carlson and his brother Buckley, Daily Caller columnist and Weekly Standard senior writer Matt Labash, online media mogul Andrew Breitbart, a Daily Caller contest winner and this reporter — it soon became clear that there were many more in attendance than expected. Ayers and Dohrn had enlisted friends such as University of Chicago history professor Adam Green and apartment owner Lisa Yun Lee, among others, to serve dinner, while the two principal hosts sporadically joined the table for conversation.
Upon entering the dining room, we were invited to sit around a table that included a surreal touch: cardboard cutouts of famous Americans including former Vice President Dick Cheney, writer Gertrude Stein, Sen. John McCain, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau and civil rights hero Rosa Parks. Placed under the cutouts were stickers with quotes from the famous figures. For instance, the Dick Cheney stickers included such classics as “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter” and “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
Cleverly, the hosts had also placed a copy of Tucker Carlson’s book, “Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News,” on the coffee table in the living room.
Though guarded and seeking to avoid controversial topics, the two former terrorists revealed interesting tidbits about their lives, political philosophy and relationship with President Obama.
“I’m so unhappy with electoral politics that I switched to sports radio,” Dohrn said early in the dinner, adding that she has dropped NPR in favor of ESPN radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”
Speaking of her disenchantment with politics, Dohrn later said that in her adult life, she has felt hopeful about electoral politics only once: “in Grant Park when Obama was elected.” But that, she said, was “short-lived.”
As for Ayers, he said that he likes some policies of Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
“I find some unity with Ron Paul,” he said. Ayers noted earlier, however, that he has only voted for a Democrat or Republican in a national election once in his life, presumably for Obama in 2008.
Speaking of the situation in Syria, whose government is massacring pro-democracy demonstrators, Dohrn said that while Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is unsavory, she believes “humanitarian intervention is a ridiculous idea.”
Later, Dohrn told Tucker Carlson that the United States is becoming “like Sparta”: strong militarily, but weak in everything else. “It has happened to a lot of countries, including in recent history.” Asked by Tucker Carlson to name one, Dohrn cited Nazi Germany.
Throughout the evening TheDC raised questions about Dohrn’s and Ayers’s radical past as terrorist leaders of the Weather Underground. In nearly every instance, the two dismissed the questions as ancient and irrelevant. “Read something contemporary,” Ayers said at one point.
When Dohrn mentioned that she has always believed in respecting the opinions of others, TheDC again brought up her terrorist past as evidence to the contrary. Again, Dohrn noted TheDC was drudging up ancient history.
Asked about their “smash monogamy” campaign and avant-garde sexual habits during their Weather Underground days, Ayers replied, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Over the years, Ayers and Dohrn have discussed their radical past in books and documentaries, usually noting that they are unrepentant for their actions, which included bombing the Pentagon, the Capitol and a New York City police station.
In a September 2011 interview, Ayers called President Obama a “decent, compassionate, lovely person.” These comments came after President Obama had drastically increased drone attacks in Pakistan, ordered a dramatic increase of troops to Afghanistan, launched a war to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi and authorized the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen abroad.
Given Ayers’ political history, TheDC asked how he could speak so approvingly of the current president when he, Ayers, had personally launched a terrorist bombing campaign to protest Richard Nixon’s foreign interventions.
“Nixon probably was a nice guy,” Ayers replied, pointing out that the Nixon administration instituted many policies that in retrospect seem far more liberal than conservative.
Before leaving, TheDC asked Ayers about reports that he helped write Obama’s memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” Initially, as he has done several times in recent years when asked this question, Ayers answered that of course he wrote it — with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
But when TheDC cited a book by non-partisan author Christopher Andersen, which straightforwardly reports from interviews with mutual friends of Ayers and Obama in Chicago that Ayers contributed significantly to Obama’s book, Ayers said he hadn’t heard of Andersen’s claim — but that it was “bullshit.” An agitated Ayers didn’t offer any insight into how he imagined Andersen could have gotten it so wrong despite his seemingly extensive reporting.
For her part, Dohrn denied a rumor that circulated during the 2008 presidential campaign that she and Ayers had babysat for President and Mrs. Obama, though she did concede to Tucker Carlson in a separate conversation that she and Ayers had met Obama’s children. She did not specify under what circumstances.
Before leaving for Chicago, TheDC invited President Obama to join the dinner with Ayers and Dohrn. In an email response, the White House scheduling office declined the request, but did note that the president would miss the event with “sincere regret.”