Guilty as Hell, Free as a Bird

It is fitting that Barack Obama, who launched his political career in the living room of unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, would conclude it by commuting another one, Oscar Lopez Rivera. After hearing the news, Ayers, on a plane coming back from Havana (where he celebrated his wife’s birthday), said that he was “dancing in the aisles.”

In the 1970s, Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was also a “community organizer” from Chicago, ran the terror operation for FALN, a Marxist organization that routinely bombed American cities in the name of Puerto Rican independence. To read about him today, one would think he was imprisoned for scribbling out revolutionary tracts. In fact, he was imprisoned for setting up “bomb factories across the country,” according to prosecutors.

The New York Times editorial praising Obama’s decision omits any mention of that fact. It casts Lopez Rivera as a harmless political prisoner:

Mr. Obama also commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a 74-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist serving 70 years for convictions including seditious conspiracy, a crime that punishes attempts to overthrow the American government. That charge vastly overstated Mr. Lopez Rivera’s role in a Marxist group that carried out attacks in American cities in the 1970s and 1980s.

The paper also omits any mention of his convictions for a planned prison break, which, if carried out, would have cost the lives of guards and other prisoners. It then, for good measure, omits his refusal to apologize for his terrorism, saying that he denied Bill Clinton’s previous offer of clemency, because “he did not want to be released unless all of his fellow defendants were freed.”

With Ayers, Lopez Rivera can now say, “guilty as hell, free as a bird.” And like Ayers, his only regret is that he didn’t set off more bombs. That a long line of liberal luminaries — from Pope Francis to Desmond Tutu to Jimmy Carter — lobbied for the release of a terrorist who remains proud of his terrorism tells the public all they need to know about the left’s moral bankruptcy.

In commuting his sentence, Obama was tossing a parting gift to his fellow Chicago radicals, for whom the release of Lopez Rivera has long been a burning cause. Anyone wondering how Chicago became such a liberal dystopia need look no further than this priority of the Chicago political class. As the city’s murder toll mounted, its pols were spending their days marching to spring a terrorist from prison.

In commuting his sentence, Obama was also fulfilling the anticolonial dreams of his father. According to that vision, minorities are entitled to use violence against the perceived inheritors of colonial powers or whomever the left deems the “majority.” That is the key to understanding almost every response and policy of the Obama administration, from its refusal to label jihadist terrorists to its flirtations with cop-killing militancy to its commutation of an “anticolonial” terrorist it now presents as an oppressed activist.

Only a president operating under that perverse moral calculus and loyal to that power politics could yawn at the bombings orchestrated by Lopez Rivera while professing shock at the “violence” of Trump rallies. Naturally, Obama is receiving praise for releasing a terrorist from the same leftists who claim “fear” at the Trump administration. They can excuse an actual bomb-maker but not the figurative ones they feverishly envision in the days ahead. One of Lopez Rivera’s chief backers was Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose colleague lectured Mike Pence at a Hamilton showing:

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”

For a movement that keeps such casual company with terrorists, it is easily frightened. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, can’t wrap his mind around Trump’s tweets, but he can understand Judith Clark’s terrorism. At the end of 2016, he commuted her sentence, saying that the former Weather Underground domestic terrorist had exhibited “exceptional strides in self-development.”

One can imagine Obama blurbing (as he did one of Ayers’s books) Clark’s post-prison memoirs on those exceptional strides. In the radical milieu that he inhabited and to which he now returns, no one is irredeemable except conservatives.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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