It's hard to put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it, so many are amazed the Obama campaign is employing this technique.
The fire that Sen. Barack Obama wants to douse was small until his aides arrived with gas cans. For months, conservatives have been trying to direct attention to the relationship between Mr. Obama and William Ayers.
Mr. Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground, which planted bombs in the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. He went on the lam after a nail bomb his group was building to kill soldiers and their wives at a dance at Fort Dix went off prematurely, killing three of the conspirators.
Mr. Ayers was never prosecuted because of FBI misconduct. He became a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
"I don't regret setting bombs," Mr. Ayers told the New York Times in an interview published on 9/11. "I feel we didn't do enough."
When asked about Mr. Ayers during a Democratic debate in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama responded: "This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English (sic) in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."
This was disingenuous. When Barack Obama ran for the Illinois Senate, the first fund-raiser for him was held in Mr. Ayers' living room. They served together on the board of the Woods Charitable Trust and on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Mr. Ayers was a founder of the challenge, co-chaired its principal operational arm and may have helped pick Mr. Obama as the organization's board chairman in 1995.
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge spent $110 million between 1995 and 2001 to promote "radical" school reform. A report issued by University of Chicago researchers in 2003 indicated that it had no impact on improving the education of school children. It was more successful in providing lucrative employment to otherwise unemployable radicals.
As board chairman, Mr. Obama's principal job was to monitor how CAC funds were spent. Since this was the only significant managerial responsibility Mr. Obama has ever had, one would think journalists would be more curious about how he performed it. But journalists have been remarkably incurious about anything that may reflect poorly on The One.
Since Mr. Obama and his aides are aware of this incuriosity, their nuclear response to the efforts of an independent group to call attention to the Obama-Ayers relationship is puzzling.
An ad on the relationship produced by the American Issues Project likely would have been ignored by the news media if the Obama campaign hadn't rushed out an ad in response and asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the project had violated campaign finance laws. (The Justice Department refused.)
The Obama ad falsely linked the American Issues Project ad to the McCain campaign.
"With all our problems, why is John McCain talking about the 1960s, trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers?" the Obama ad says. "McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers' crimes, committed when Obama was just eight years old."
Would you excuse a friendship with a Nazi war criminal on the grounds his crimes were committed before you were born? Many Americans feel the same about maintaining a friendship with an unrepentant domestic terrorist.
Because of the Obama campaign's aggressive response, it's now difficult for the news media to ignore the relationship. Why would the Obama campaign do something that seems so stupid?
Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center discovered that 132 boxes of CAC records had been donated to the library at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He was going to review them until a library official told him he couldn't. After the library was forcefully reminded it's against the law to deny access to the files, they were made available.
The Obama campaign described Mr. Kurtz, a mild-mannered academic, as "a slimy character assassin," but was unable to point to anything Mr. Kurtz has said that is untrue.
When Mr. Kurtz appeared on a Chicago radio station, the Obama campaign declined an opportunity to have a spokesman appear with him. Instead, the campaign urged Obama supporters to barrage the program with complaints. The Los Angeles Times described this as "a surprising attempt to stifle broadcast criticism of its candidate."
I don't know what's in those files, but the Obama campaign doesn't want us to find out.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio ( firstname.lastname@example.org , 412-263-1476).