October 10, 2008

Swimming Easily in the Fetid Pond

Krauthammer on Obama's associations with execrable characters.

Why are these associations important? Do I think Obama is as corrupt as Rezko? Or shares Wright's angry racism or Ayers's unreconstructed 1960s radicalism?

No. But that does not make these associations irrelevant. They tell us two important things about Obama.

First, his cynicism and ruthlessness. He found these men useful, and use them he did. Would you attend a church whose pastor was spreading racial animosity from the pulpit? Would you even shake hands with -- let alone serve on two boards with -- an unrepentant terrorist, whether he bombed U.S. military installations or abortion clinics?

Most Americans would not, on the grounds of sheer indecency. Yet Obama did, if not out of conviction then out of expediency. He was a young man on the make, an unknown outsider working his way into Chicago politics. He played the game with everyone, without qualms and with obvious success.

Obama is not the first politician to rise through a corrupt political machine. But he is one of the rare few to then have the audacity to present himself as a transcendent healer, hovering above and bringing redemption to the "old politics" -- of the kind he had enthusiastically embraced in Chicago in the service of his own ambition.

Second, and even more disturbing than the cynicism, is the window these associations give on Obama's core beliefs. He doesn't share the Rev. Wright's poisonous views of race nor Ayers's views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. For many years he swam easily and without protest in that fetid pond.

Until now. Today, on the threshold of the presidency, Obama concedes the odiousness of these associations, which is why he has severed them. But for the years in which he sat in Wright's pews and shared common purpose on boards with Ayers, Obama considered them a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse.

Do you? Obama is a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect. There is a difference between temperament and character. Equanimity is a virtue. Tolerance of the obscene is not.

That was the second half of a column that's worth clicking for the rest. First of all though, I'm not so sure Obama has conceded "the odiousness of these associations", except perhaps his half-hearted claim that the Jew-hating, anti-American pastor he discovered after 20 years in his church was "not the Reverend Wright I knew". It's not like disavowing your grandmother or anything. OK, bad example.

As far as I know, he has not been pinned down on the subject of Ayers' more recent expressions of his hatred of America either, (since we've been told ad nauseum that Obama was only eight years old when Ayers was setting bombs as his way to bring about change.)

It would surely put a lot of American minds at ease if Barack Obama would just publicly renounce socialism as the manifestly discredited social and economic model that it is, and embrace the individualism that is the very basis of America's existence. Then the radicalism of Ayers and the race-based liberation theology of Wright, and the contempt for America they share, could be more easily seen as phases Obama has outgrown.

But I've seen zero indication that this is the case.

To me, the funny part is that Wright has been "retired" to the million dollar condo in the gated community, while his successors at Trinity in Chicago doubtless preach on about disavowing the pursuit of middle-classness as a sellout to Whitey. For Wright, as with Ayers, it was a gig. Working in the private sector wasn't a real possibility for these guys. Profit is evil, but they needed a paycheck just like the next guy.

And for community organizers like these guys the first requirement is to create the environment for manipulating and exploiting people's sense of victimhood. The object for their resentment can vary as required, the government, white people, rich people, all do nicely. Then, later, if they happen to end up rich, or working for the government, well, that's different. They were well-intended. Pass the plate.

I get no vibe from Obama that is beyond this same kind of self-serving opportunism, nor beyond the same kind of arrogant self-regard evident in Wright and Ayers. Nor do I get any sense that he has experienced any corrective to the effects of the swamp of radical leftism in which he has been immersed since his early childhood. I wish it were otherwise, believe me. I just haven't seen it.

Posted by dan at October 10, 2008 9:23 AM