The Ayers Dead End

David Frum is thinking along the same lines as yours truly:

My pals over at the Corner are very excited by the last-minute attempt to transform Bill Ayers into the Willie Horton of 2008. Well, good luck

In 1988, crime was a huge and rising problem - and Democrats still by and large resisted the effective crime control policies being developed at places like the Manhattan Institute and that would achieve such great results in the 1990s. So Willie Horton, the furloughed rapist and murderer, symbolized in very graphic terms something important and significant about Michael Dukakis the candidate.

But Bill Ayers? Does anybody really seriously believe that Barack Obama is a secret left-wing radical? And if not, then what is this fuss and fury supposed to show? It's like Ronald Reagan's opponents trying to beat him by pointing out that Birchers once supported him.

I think the answer is yes: Some of the conservatives studying and/or obsessing over Obama's connection to Ayers do think that he's a secret left-wing radical ... not a violent radical, but someone who shares Ayers' left-of-lefty politics, and the ex-Weatherman's vision of an America in dire need of revolutionizing. Obviously, I don't think this theory fits the facts about Obama very well at all, but to those who do I would also point out to the extent there's any evidence for the theory, it mainly involves curricular and power struggles in Chicago's public school system. Oddly, I actually suggested that McCain make an issue out of the curricular culture wars this summer, by piggybacking on some conservative think tankers' post-9/11 notion of a renewed focus on civics and "patriotic assimilation." But that was four long months ago and a political world away from where we stand right now, and I'm pretty sure that there's no surer way for the McCain campaign to look out-of-touch than by expending energy tying Barack Obama to left-wing activism in the Chicago public school system. That's as far as the Ayers issue can take you on substance, and it isn't very far at all.