When John Murtagh was 9 years old, Bill Ayers‘ friends tried to kill him.
“I remember my mother’s pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside,” wrote Mr. Murtagh in the April 2008 issue of the City Journal.
It wasn’t personal. John’s dad was a judge presiding over a trial of the Black Panthers. The next morning, after the bombs exploded, John still remembers the red graffiti on the sidewalk: “FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.”
To the best of John’s recollection, Bernardine Dohrn, who is now Bill Ayers’ wife, first claimed credit for bombing John’s home - along with other targets - in November 1970.
Today John Murtagh is a lawyer and Yonkers’ city councilman who is running for the New York state Senate on the Republican ticket this November. I reached him this week through his state Senate campaign. It wasn’t hard. Has Barack Obama ever tried?
Barack Obama was only 8 years old when Mr. Murtagh’s house was bombed. Mr. Obama has nothing to do with the terror and the trauma John Murtagh and his family went through.
“It’s a sensitive issue for us. My mom is still alive - she’s 83. She literally had to snatch her children out of the house in the middle of the night because her house was on fire,” John told me.
But Barack Obama was not a child - he was a grown man - when he decided his personal path to power and influence lay through Bill Ayers’ connections.
In the Chicago establishment, which unfortunately embraced former domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers and his wife, Barack Obama was encouraged to look beyond the obvious - John Murtagh, his family, their terror, the lawlessness, the attacks on policemen, judges, Army outposts - to embrace larger goals.
What were these goals? How does Barack Obama come to continue to associate with a man who cannot bring himself to say to John Murtagh or to John’s mother or any other kin of the attacked: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. It was a terrible thing to do.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign is busy fudging. That’s a polite word for “lying.” Barack Obama’s top political adviser claims he simply didn’t know Mr. Ayers’ history when they first met. Bomber? What bomber?
“If that’s true, Obama has to be the dumbest man who ever graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School,” snorts Mr. Murtagh. “I don’t buy that at all.”
Mr. Murtagh believes the relationships between Barack, his wife, Michelle, Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine, go back 20 years, to Michelle’s time at Sidley Austin, the famous Washington, D.C., law firm that also employed Bernardine Dohrn.
Mr. Murtagh doesn’t blame Mr. Obama for what Bill Ayers and his friends did and supported. He blames Mr. Obama for picking a man like Mr. Ayers as a friend and mentor - and then covering up the friendship.
In politics things get complicated. Truth becomes hard to find. But when you are about to elect someone commander in chief, it would be good to know he can lay his hands on some of the stuff, in case he ever needs it.
“The night they attacked our home, they also firebombed an army recruiting station out in Brooklyn and police patrol cars outside of Greenwich Village,” notes Mr. Murtagh. “Three weeks later they accidentally blew themselves up. They intended to attack the officer’s club at Fort Dix.”
Lay your cards on the table, Mr. Murtagh wants to tell the man who would be president. “Obama’s free to associate with Dohrn and Ayers; that’s his right,” he tells me. “But don’t hide the relationship, and be forthcoming and let people decide the significance of it for themselves.”
• Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist.