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Opinion: Mayor Richard Daley (the younger) comes to Barack Obama’s defense

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Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose father and namesake was famously not so sympathetic to antiwar protesters, is coming to the defense of Barack Obama for his link to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers.

Daley accused Hillary Clinton and other critics of Obama’s association with Ayers of ‘re-fighting 40-year-old battles.’ And the mayor noted that he also knows Ayers and has ‘worked with’ him on city education reforms.

The mayor released the following statement:

‘There are a lot of reasons that Americans are angry about Washington politics. And one more example is the way Senator Obama’s opponents are playing guilt-by-association, tarring him because he happens to know Bill Ayers. I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program. He is a nationally-recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois/Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community. I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles.’

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But the Clinton campaign was not about to drop Ayers’ connection to Obama. Ayers hosted a neighborhood coffee for Obama’s initial 1996 Illinois state Senate run and gave Obama a $200 donation for his state Senate reelection campaign in 2001.

In a conference call with reporters today, Clinton spokesmen Howard Wolfson and Phil Singer argued that Obama’s political relationship with Ayers was more important than the decision by Clinton’s husband, ex-President Bill Clinton, to commute the sentences of two of Ayers’ former Weather Underground members, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans, on terrorist-related weapons charges.

Asked if Hillary Clinton had expressed any disagreement with her husband’s action, Wolfson said only that he would ask the candidate.

-- Mike Dorning and Rick Pearson

Dorning and Pearson write for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau.


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