In each story, Rutenberg appears far more worked up about the legality of the ads than in the underlying facts of Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist turned professor of education in Chicago. The first 10 paragraphs of Rutenberg's online filing Wednesday are devoted to the back-and-forth machinations, again questioning the group's funding while suggesting dubious links to the McCain campaign. Rutenberg noted that Obama is striking back with a counter-ad and the threat of legal action to have the ads taken down.
For good measure, Rutenberg took another bite out of the best-selling book "The Obama Nation" (his first one was in a front-page story on August 13).
On Wednesday he wrote:
Its formation followed the recent release of a book by Jerome Corsi -- who co-authored a book containing the Swift Boat group's claims against Mr. Kerry -- that contained various factual errors and unsubstantiated claims against Mr. Obama.
After Rutenberg mildly explained how the Obama camp is trying to force the ads off the air by leaning on the Justice Department and election laws, he finally addressed Ayers' terrorism in three brief paragraphs:
Mr. Ayers, now a professor of education in Chicago, was a founder of the Weather Underground, which bombed government buildings in the early 1970s. He was indicted on conspiracy charges that were thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.
He served with Mr. Obama on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a charitable organization, and, along with his wife, the former Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn, hosted Mr. Obama at his home in 1995 when he was running for state office.
Mr. Obama has called Mr. Ayers "somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old."
That's not the full story on Ayers. Ayers's group didn't target a random "government building" like a sewage treatment plant, but the U.S. Capitol. In a story that appeared in the Times on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Ayers told a reporter while promoting his memoir "Fugitive Days": "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough."
Rutenberg's August 23 story, "A Billionaire Finances Ads Hitting Obama," tracked similar ground, finding Rutenberg again disturbed...not about the allegations, but about the ad. Again he focused mainly on what he seems to think are the sleazy machinations of the American Issues Project and its funding, devoting the first seven paragraphs to who belongs to AIP and whether or not they have dubious links to the McCain camp. In contrast, Rutenberg breezed by Ayers's bombing of government buildings in the '70s in four brisk sentences.
For good measure, Rutenberg claimed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have been "discredited."
The billionaire, Harold Simmons, donated nearly $2.9 million on Aug. 12 to the American Issues Project, the group running the advertisements, papers it has filed with the Federal Election Commission show.
In 2004, Mr. Simmons donated $2 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose advertisements against Mr. Kerry included one that, with allegations since discredited, impugned his military service as a Swift boat captain during the Vietnam War.
But the only part of the whole story that has truly been discredited is Kerry's long-standing claim that he spent the Christmas of 1968 in Cambodia. See this Times Watch report for a full account of the Times's animus toward the Swift Vets' allegations against John Kerry.
Rutenberg's August 22 story, "Group Plans Ad Criticizing Obama's Ties To Ex-Radical," also hardly addressed the Obama-Ayers association. Instead, the first seven paragraphs are devoted to the AIP's donors and questioning the ad's legality. Eventually Rutenberg devoted all of three paragraphs to the actual issue raised by the ad. Rutenberg also downplayed the Obama-Ayers relationship:
Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn, both of whom went on to become law professors, hosted Mr. Obama at their Chicago home in 1995 when Mr. Obama was running for office, although that was not considered a vital moment in his political career. Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a charitable organization focused on welfare reform and affordable housing. In April, Mr. Obama said Mr. Ayers was "not somebody who I exchanged ideas from on a regular basis" and called him "somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old."