“The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense, George.”

Barack Obama to George Stephanopoulos in April.
Most of us would think that stomping on the American flag is also detestable. Ayers proudly did that in 2001, when Obama was more than eight years old. Here’s what Barack Obama said in May, shortly after a photograph showing Bill Ayers stomping on the American flag received too much public attention.

“Senator Obama is appalled by this disrespect of a flag we love and that so many have fought and died for. There is no excuse for anyone to treat that which we hold so dear with so little regard. But the politics of association required to link Obama to this picture in any way is ridiculous and a silly distraction from the important challenges facing the American people,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.
The picture is from a Chicago magazine article in 2001. That is the same time Obama and Ayers served together on the board of a philanthropic organization called the Woods Fund. It is also around the same time that Ayers donated to Obama’s state Senate campaign.

The Ayers affair died down for the past few months until the University of Illinois library refused to allow Stanley Kurtz to see its library records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which Ayers helped found and which Obama chaired. Obama had not mentioned his work with the CAC, but his campaign has now gone absolutely ballistic over speculation about how closely Obama worked with Ayers. (For more details, see M. Simon’s post from last night, as well as the links in this post from Glenn Reynolds.)
The Obama campaign has yet to condemn Ayers or his even more notorious wife, to say nothing of condemning the dreadful radical Marxist philosophy they share. But Stanley Kurtz — the guy asking the key questions about Obama’s connection with Ayers — is being excoriated in the strongest possible terms:

“WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears,” Obama’s campaign wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “He’s currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.”

And

“Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse,” the note said.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves,” the note continued. “At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz’s lies.”

No rebuttal was offered by the Obama campaign, which refused to send a spokesperson to the show, but whose callers inundated the show with angry accusations:

Caller after caller to WGN read off talking points provided them by the Obama campaign alleging that Dr. Kurtz, and by implication and sometimes directly, Milt Rosenberg, was “smearing” Barack Obama and finding Obama “guilty by association.” They also accused Kurtz of lying.
Yet, when pressed for specifics, these callers had none.
Now keep in mind for those of you not familiar with the Rosenberg show: it has run for decades and has always been thought of as a quiet sober discussion space; generally conservative but usually open to a range of views.
My father, a lifelong Chicago liberal and former Democratic party precinct captain, has called in and jousted with Rosenberg several times over the years (Milt called him a “professor of sophistry” in one exchange). Yet, listeners are blogging tonight that they have never heard anything like what happened this evening.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by the tactics of the Obama campaign – attempting to squash a legitimate discussion on the respected Rosenberg show of these sensitive issues.
But it suggests to me a whiff of panic inside the campaign. Sure, John Kerry should have gone after the swift boaters in the last election. But this is not swift boating. We are talking about a decade or more of close political activity involving Ayers and Obama.

(Via Tom Maguire, who has more here.)
Interestingly, the email from the Obama campaign has a heading which reads “The Facts on Barack and William Ayers,” and after barely touching on the subject, goes on to list an odd compilation of opinions from Stanley Kurtz on unrelated subjects such as gay marriage in Scandinavia, feminism, and Larry Summers. (Obviously, the goal was to whip the lefties into a state of agitation in the hope they’d call. Which they did.)
The bottom line is that Obama has gone for Kurtz’s jugular, while he has yet to denounce his colleague Ayers:

1. Barack Obama and his campaign have denounced Ayers’s actions and at least one of Ayers’s statements, but I think that neither Obama nor his campaign has ever denounced Ayers himself. As with the first Reverend Wright speech, this is no accident. Obama usually takes the “Christian” position: hate the sin, love the sinner.
2. Kurtz, unlike Ayers, is denounced in the most vicious and uncivil terms (there is a lot more than I quoted). If Obama or his campaign had ever denounced Ayers with the fervor that his campaign has now used in denouncing Kurtz, Obama wouldn’t be having trouble on his connection to Ayers.

In an editorial titled “Barack Obama, Aspiring Commissar” the National Review notes that the relationship with Ayers is a lot more than an “association,” that Kurtz has touched a nerve, and that Obama is not behaving as a friend of free speech:

Other than denigrating Kurtz for being conservative, Obama’s operatives have provided no response to the substance of his claims. In their only pretense of engaging him, they accuse him of telling “a flat out lie” that Ayers recruited Obama for the CAC. Though it is a reasonable inference that Ayers recruited Obama, the careful Kurtz has stopped short of making it — observing only that Obama offers no explanation of how he was recruited if not through Ayers, his friend and the CAC’s driving force.
The station, WGN, has made a stream of the broadcast available online, here, and it has to be heard to be believed. Obama’s robotic legions dutifully jammed the station’s phone lines and inundated the program with emails, attacking Kurtz personally. Pressed by Rosenberg to specify what inaccuracies Kurtz was guilty of, caller after caller demurred, mulishly railing that “we just want it to stop,” and that criticism of Obama was “just not what we want to hear as Americans.” Remarkably, as Obama sympathizers raced through their script, they echoed the campaign’s insistence that it was Rosenberg who was “lowering the standards of political discourse” by having Kurtz on, rather than the campaign by shouting him down.
Kurtz has obviously hit a nerve. It is the same nerve hit by the American Issues Project, whose television ad calling for examination of the Obama/Ayers relationship has prompted the Obama campaign to demand that the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation. Obama fancies himself as “post-partisan.” He is that only in the sense that he apparently brooks no criticism. This episode could be an alarming preview of what life will be like for the media should the party of the Fairness Doctrine gain unified control of the federal government next year.

Seeking a criminal investigation was enough for me. At this point, it almost doesn’t matter whether Ayers recruited Obama to be on the board, how closely they worked together, or for how long.
Calling for a criminal investigation of free speech crosses a line going beyond any association with Ayers.
I think Glenn Reynolds got it right last night:

The Ayers connection itself is less interesting to me than the campaign’s over-the-top response. It seems to me that they could have put this behind them already, but instead their reaction seems to be fanning the flames.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d call email campaigns like this a form of fear mongering — along with threats of criminal prosecution against people who raise legitimate questions.
But according to the Obama campaign, “fear mongering” is defined as asking questions which make Obama uncomfortable, and it’s strictly a right-wing phenomenon.
Only a slimy character assassin would accuse the left of such a thing!