Monday, September 1, 2008

Tribune's Annenberg malpractice

How is it that the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and other major media outlets breathlessly covering Barack Obama's every move the last two years failed to mention the only item on his resume that qualifies as executive experience?

For nearly five years starting in 1995, Obama was chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation that handed out $115 million in education "reform" grants that resulted in exactly zero student improvement according to its own post-analysis.

A search of Tribune and Sun-Times stories, including numerous major profiles, have whitewashed Annenberg from Obama's past. Obama himself dropped Annenberg from his resume but it's not hard to find it back in the mid-1990s when he was starting his political career and touting the post.

The founder of the grant was unrepentent terrorist Bill Ayers, who, along with his wife, another unrepetent terrorist, Bernadine Dohrn, hosted a fundraiser to kick off Obama's political career. That relationship was criticized in a devastating TV ad by the independent group American Issues Project.

Only after respected conservative academic/researcher Stanley Kurtz and a few others started looking at the CAC did the sleepy MSM start to pay attention. The media covered the flap over whether the CAC records would remain sealed at Ayers' school, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and quickly waved off the public by saying there were no "smoking guns" in the documents.

Chicago Tribune's liberal columnist/blogger Eric Zorn took the Obama campaign to task for sliming Kurtz and asking supporters to jam phone lines for Kurtz's appearance on WGN-720 long-running and academic-oriented talk show hosted by University of Chicago professor Milt Rosenberg. But Zorn added that Rosenberg was wrong for scheduling Kurtz at all. If I were Rosenberg, I'd ask Zorn why his newspaper failed to once mention this significant item on Obama's resume in the millions of words they've produced on the world's most famous liberal. Would the newspaper have ignored a conservative candidate's service on a foundation board that handed out mostly conservative grants and whose founder was a right wing terrorist who would be in prison for life except for prosecutorial misconduct? Just asking.

It's unclear whether the Trib was incompetent or just biased in failing to note the Annenberg connection.

Two 2008 stories on the Ayers failed to note the link. On April 24, the paper published, "Questions and Answers About Bill Ayers." (No link available).

Q: How close is Obama to Ayers ?

A: Obama visited the Ayers -Dohrn home for a meeting at the start of his first state Senate bid in 1995. Obama 's campaign has said their relationship is "friendly." Also, Obama and Ayers once served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which helps the poor.

Q: Has Ayers donated money to the Obama campaign?

A: He gave $200 for Obama 's state Senate race in 2001.

Another Tribune story on Ayers this year failed to mention Annenberg.

He was reportedly introduced to Obama in the mid-1990s. The two men served together for three years on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a grantmaking organization founded in 1941 to help the city's poor. Obama left the board in 2002; Ayers remains a member.

The liberal media establishment in Chicago is feebly attempting to quash the Ayers uproar partly because it doesn't understand the concern about Ayers and because it looks foolish for failing to note the Obama/Annenberg/Ayers chapter in its creation of the Obama fairy tale. Keep in mind that school reform has been a big issue in the Chicago media over the years, so Obama's stewardship of that grant program definitely is relevant to understanding his past.

Former Sun-Times reporter and left-wing education reformer Linda Lenz wrote a pathetic rebuttal in the Sun-Times where she noted that Chicago reporters were embarassed they were being asked to look into the matter because of legitimate questions raised by conservative journalists.

Some of the reporters assigned to dig into the Annenberg archives felt a little silly about it all, I'm told. Their editors should too.

She proceeds to cheap shot Kurtz, a Ph. D. in social anthropology from Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, by referring to him simply as a "blogger."

There are two points here. (Blogger) Obama was head of a significant enterprise that incompetently handed out money, perhaps to cronies. It isn't a good advertisement on his administrative leadership skills, which is important because he has no other such experience. (Please, don't suggest running a successful campaign is a harbinger of competent governance; Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich ran two successful governor campaigns and is the most inept governor in the country).

The second point is the Ayers connection. Liberals in the Chicago establishment might never understand it, but decent people across America don't associate with unrepetent terrorists and wouldn't if the opportunity presented itself. Even among journalists, there is recognition that the issue has force.

Tribune researcher Brenda Kilianski, earlier this year, wrote an op-ed that expressed disgust at the media's whitewashing of Ayers' past.

Of course, one can't blame Obama for being so surprised or offended by a question he probably wasn't expecting. For too long, the media have been complicit in polishing the images of Bill Ayers , Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin and the rest of their radical, violent ilk.

My own paper has been equally guilty. The Tribune ran a cover story on Bill Ayers in the Sunday magazine section (coincidentally, the Sunday after 9/11), an article that served as free publicity for his book "Fugitive Days." Later, we profiled Ayers ' adopted son Chesa Boudin, Rhodes scholar, social activist and terror apologist. That soft, glowing piece glossed over the reasons Boudin's biological parents, radical activists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were incarcerated.

The Tribune needs to ask itself why it continues to downplay and even ignore Barack Obama's association with a man who, but for prosecutorial mistakes, probably would still be in prison today and has no regrets about his terrorist acts.

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