NYT Story Mentioning Obama, Ayers, and Chicago Annenberg Challenge All Lost In A Sea of Lipstick Coverage
[Posted by WLS]
I’m stunned to awaken this morning and not find a post in most mainstream conservative websites mentioning that the NYT has touched the story of Obama, Ayers, and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — albeit with a ten foot pole.
The story focuses on Obama’s speech yesterday taking on McCain over education policy. Amazingly, the author claims that Obama intends to bring to bear on the nation’s educational system the “lessons” he learned in Chicago. It glosses over the fact that his time running the CAC in Chicago turning into an abject failure. Here is the first paragraph:
Senator Barack Obama learned how hard it can be to solve America’s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicago’s troubled schools and barely made a dent.
Everything after the first paragraph is made to sound like Obama’s time at the head of the CAC was a great success.
But more than most campaign blueprints, Mr. Obama’s education plan reflects his own work with Chicago’s public schools, campaign staff members and people who have worked with him said in interviews. His plan signals that he is looking to apply those lessons nationwide.
Actually, that’s pretty consistent with the overall approach of public school administration — no failures are too significant to preclude the perpetrators from being put in charge of something else important in the future.
But more significantly, the author of the piece shows absolutely no curiosity in some of the more curious aspects of Obama’s involvement with CAC.
Mr. Obama’s interest in education extends back to his work as a community organizer here in the mid-1980s. In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” he describes a school system plagued by textbook shortages and teacher strikes. He carried those experiences with him to Harvard Law School, where he took courses on school issues taught by Christopher Edley Jr.
“Barack became committed to the notion that progress in school reform can’t come through volunteerism and professional aspiration alone,” said Mr. Edley, now dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. “It has to be undergirded with a legal and regulatory structure that rewards success and goes after failure.”
Mr. Obama immersed himself in education issues after his return to Chicago, where he began lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School and joined the boards of two education foundations.
Chicago received $49 million from a $500 million endowment by Walter H. Annenberg, the billionaire publisher, for school reform efforts nationwide, and the city added $98 million in matching funds for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a philanthropic campaign that financed enrichment projects at a third of the city’s 600 schools.
Mr. Obama was nominated to the Challenge board and was elected chairman in 1995, said Ken Rolling, executive director of the group, which operated through 2001. Mr. Obama continued to teach law during his five-year unpaid tenure as board chairman, and he was twice elected to the Illinois Senate.
Several board members, including two university presidents, far outranked Mr. Obama in education experience.
“Let me say the room had no shortage of egos, including my own,” said Stanley O. Ikenberry, a board member who at the time was president of the University of Illinois. “It was unusual: here you had a person trained in the law chairing a board on school reform.” Still, he said, Mr. Obama won his colleagues’ respect.
Who nominated Obama to the Board? It’s more than little puzzling that a third year associate in a small Chicago law firm would be named to the board of a foundation with $50 million in grant money, AND an obligation to raise another $100 million in matching contributions under the terms of the grant.
And about those enrichment programs — “enrichment”?? Indoctrination more likely.
This is the most interesting point of this article — it’s not until the 22nd paragraph in the article, after the jump in the internet version of the story, that the name “William Ayers” makes it into the story. And even then he’s just another guy involved in some nondescript fashion.
Supporters of Mr. McCain have been trying to taint Mr. Obama by highlighting his ties to William Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s, by pointing out that they worked on the Challenge project together. Mr. Ayers was indicted on conspiracy charges that were later thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.
Mr. Obama has acknowledged that he is a friend of Mr. Ayers but has sought to minimize their interactions. Records show that Mr. Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, helped write the Challenge proposal. The records also show that he and Mr. Obama worked on the Challenge project together and that they attended some of the same meetings.
I said above that I hadn’t found any blogs or online news sites that had jumped on this story in the NYT. But I just found that Global Labor and Politics has a post up on it, and Steve Diamond there has done the most work on digging out the Obama-Ayers connection through the CAC. He’s got up some of the same questions as I have here.
More to come later.