As the American presidential contest enters the homestretch, some bloggers on the right and elements of the McCain/Palin campaign remain convinced that the key to their last-minute comeback lies in pushing the tenuous relationship between Barack Obama and former Weather Underground founder William Ayers.
One truism of being a documentary filmmaker is that your subjects often continue to make news long after your film has wrapped and is widely seen. Kicking off a new feature here at the blog, Sam Green, the co-director of the Oscar-nominated THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, writes about Ayers' return to prominence and the mixed feelings it provokes for the director:
I, like most Obama supporters, have watched with a mixture of apprehension and revulsion as McCain and his VP-pick have ratcheted up their efforts to smear Obama with his tenuous link to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the Weather Underground. Me and my pal Bill Siegel made a documentary about the Weather Underground a couple of years ago, and we filmed a number of interviews with Bill Ayers. Since that time, he's become a good friend of ours. We took him and Bernardine Dohrn, his wife, with us to the Academy Awards in 2004 when our film was nominated for an Oscar.
So it's hard to see this brouhaha and not feel terrible for the person at the center of it. After his long-ago association with the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers has gone to become a widely known and respected education expert. He's a Distinguished Professor (really, that's his title!) at the University of Illinois and has written more than 10 books. To have all of his work, and what he's about, so publicly misrepresented must be extremely painful. Not to mention the fact that he's received such a torrent of death threats that the University has had to provide him with a bodyguard.
All of this is compounded by the fact that Bill Ayers has had to remain silent. He's made the intelligent decision that there's no way to engage with the media in a case like this and win. Anything he might say publicly will only add fuel to the fire, and give the "issue" more of a life. There really is nothing, or at least nothing significant, at the heart of the Ayers-Obama connection, so it's gotta run out of steam at some point. There's nothing more to be said about it.
Bill Siegel and I have taken the same approach. Starting when this "issue" first surfaced in the MSM during one of the Democratic debates, we have been bombarded by media requests (no pun intended), but have felt that for strategic and political reasons, it's been best to stay silent. (It's not been an easy decision -- any filmmaker wants their work out there, and this in some ways would be a great opportunity to promote the movie).
As depressing as this whole Bill Ayers thing has been, I am hopeful about one thing, and that is that I don't think that it will work. It was pathetic enough when Hillary trotted this shit out, but today, with the financial meltdown and all the other REAL issues that we're facing, I just can't see how this desperate, bankrupt ploy by McCain and his VP-pick will turn things around.
THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND is available for download at iTunes and DVDs can be ordered directly from Green's website. If you order a DVD from the website before the election, Green will include a free 8x10 Bill Ayers mugshot.