Imagine that after his arrest, Timothy McVeigh had been released from custody because of misconduct by police and/or an overzealous prosecutor. Imagine that after his release, McVeigh had bragged about setting the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Now picture McVeigh spending the next decade amassing degrees from prestigious universities and procuring grants to dispense funds to extreme right-wing groups. Imagine that he had become a tenured professor at a major university and an expert on education issues - and that he wrote a book about his experiences as a terrorist.
On the cover of a magazine, he is photographed stomping on an American flag. In the interview within that magazine, he is quoted as saying, "Guilty as hell! Free as a bird! America is a great country!" He is also quoted as saying that he does not regret blowing up the Murrah Building; in fact, he says, he wishes he had done more. Perhaps an abortion clinic bombing. Perhaps another federal building. Perhaps the White House.
Now imagine clear evidence is found that McVeigh had been associated with John McCain on several levels. Perhaps they served on a board together. Maybe McCain had helped McVeigh dispense some of those funds to right wing groups. Everyone this side of the planet Neptune knows that this would be a topic of discussion in numerous front-page articles in The New York Times and on every media outlet in America - and rightly so.
But that aside, what do you think the chances would be that other universities around the country would invite Timothy McVeigh to come and lecture their students? Well, that is exactly what happened at the University of Nebraska, but the unrepentant terrorist turned college professor and education expert in question is not Timothy McVeigh. He is William Ayers, Marxist professor and friend of Barack Obama, and he was invited to Lincoln to speak at the university next month.
The university's department of education is having a celebration marking one hundred years of service to the community and the state. Ayers was scheduled to speak on November 15. The invitation was extended to him in February of this year. The excuse given for this inexcusable invitation is that Ayers is an "expert in education issues" and that those extending it did not know about Ayers' terrorist past. Right.
This man's past as the founder of the Weather Underground, a 1970s offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) - a past that included bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and a New York City police headquarters building - has been known to everyone paying the slightest bit of attention for at least the last year. His association with Obama has been public knowledge since before the Democratic Primaries last winter and spring.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning, University Regent Randy Furlic and even U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson were all highly critical of the decision to invite Ayers. Furlic, in an op-ed in the Omaha World-Herald, compared the Ayers invitation to inviting Osama bin Laden to discuss religion or Josef Mengele to speak on medical ethics.
NU Chancellor Harvey Pearlman seemed to have been caught off guard by the firestorm of criticism when the invitation was announced. Pearlman has a typical insular academic's view of the world. He just doesn't get it. In the end, he cancelled the invitation, citing security reasons. No one in Nebraska really buys that excuse, but at least Ayers will not be speaking here.
The entire firestorm over the invitation to Bill Ayers to speak at the University of Nebraska misses a very large point. From the time Bill Ayers plotted the bombing of the Pentagon, the Capitol and New York City police headquarters through his years as a student to his current status as an "education expert," he has never changed his view of the world. Ayers is, at heart, a radical, America-hating terrorist who wants to destroy the Republic as we know it. He tried to destroy it in the 1970s by setting bombs. He failed. Now he wants to destroy it by poisoning the minds of American students and convincing them to hate their country as much as he does.