The far right is obsessed with the question of Bill Ayers, much more obsessed than with the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Palin farce or the financial meltdown. Their obsession is unseemly but it is not, alas, without any basis in truth. I find Bill Ayers' refusal to disown his use of political violence in the 1960s to be repulsive. If I were forced to meet him, I would not shake his hand. Obama's fault, however, is not being a terrorist sympathizer, as Palin absurdly declares to mob cheers. Obama's fault is in being a go-along-to-get-along Hyde Park liberal. You can see why he made the decision not to wreck polite liberal society in Chicago by calling out these former thugs. But I do not admire him for it. It's a corner he cut. He deserves to be criticized for it - if not in the fascistic way Hannity does it.

But the question of association raises broader questions.

I don't think I could serve on a board with Ayers in good conscience. But neither could I serve on a board or participate in an organization that employs a war criminal. John Yoo is such a war criminal, a man who gave oral consent to war crimes and then provided phony legal cover for torturing suspects. He is responsible for policies that have led to the death-by-torture of well over a dozen individuals that we know of, and the brutal torture of countless more. Without Yoo's green light, and willingness to make a mockery of the rule of law by signing off on torture, these people would be alive or susceptible to real and reliable non-coercive interrogation. If Obama deserves some censure for consorting with Ayers, why is there no censure in Washington or Berkeley for consorting with a war criminal?

Why is Ayers anathema and Yoo not?

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