Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tanenhaus on "Barack, Bill, and Me"

Legal historians tend to think of the University of Nevada Las Vegas legal historian David Tanenhaus as the mild-mannered and respected editor of the Law and History Review. But last week Fox TV commentator Bill O'Reilly accused him of supporting a terrorist. Tanenhaus published an essay in Slate, describing the way he met Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn in Chicago in the 1990s because of a mutual interest in juvenile justice. Ayers' ideas about juvenile justice reform, Tannenhaus suggests, had an impact, and the approach Ayers promoted was ultimately widely accepted, and supported by Governor George W. Bush in Texas.
"Leading Chicagoans, including Mayor Daley, now commend Ayers for his service to the city," writes Tanenhaus. He didn't know about the Weather Underground when he first met Ayers and Dohrn, but now includes it

in the history surveys I teach to undergraduates. I do my best to place them in the context of the radicalism of the late 1960s. I sometimes find it hard to believe that the Bill and Bernardine that Barack and I met in Hyde Park in the 1990s are the same people that my students are learning about in class. I know them better as the couple that invited me into their home in 2000 to meet their extended family, make gingerbread-cookie houses, and share Christmas dinner. Our conversation that night, as it almost always did, focused on the future, not the past.
Here is Tanenhaus on the O'Reilly Factor: