pageok
pageok
pageok
Obama and Liberal Culture -- A Response to David B:
In his post below, my co-blogger David Bernstein argues that Obama "is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh." I won't be voting for Obama in November, but I don't see the evidence that Obama is part of that "intellectual culture."

  David offers two pieces of evidence in support of his claim. The first is that Obama went to Harvard Law School at a time when David went to Yale Law School, and in his experience Yale Law had such an intellectual culture. There are a bunch of problems with this argument, I think. The most obvious is that conservatives who worked with Obama at Harvard saw him as distinct from the "intellectual culture" that David describes. Unlike others, Obama gave conservatives a fair shake.

  David uses the "fair shake" comment to effectively connect Obama to the fringe. He reasons that the comment shows that Obama was at a place where it was unusual to treat conservatives fairly. Thus, by implication, Obama is part of an intellectual culture that does not treat conservatives fairly. I think the more relevant point is that Obama himself stood out from that culture, though, not that he was a part of it.

  Second, David notes that in distancing himself from Ayers, Obama pointed out that he was good friends with Tom Coburn. David construes that as effectively equating Ayers and Coburn. But I read Obama's comment very differently. In the first part of the answer, Obama distanced himself from Ayers. He then added one sentence about Coburn, which is this: "The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."

  Obama's sentence is inarticulate, because he does not say why this "fact" is relevant. If you read the entire quote in context, though, I think the most natural way to construe that comment is much more innocuous. Obama was just saying that a lot of people have taken crazy or disturbing views, and it makes no sense to assume from Obama's conections to that person that the person's crazy or disturbing views reflect Obama's values. He not only knows Tom Coburn, but he is actually a friend, and yet Coburn's comment in favor of killing abortion doctors doesn't somehow "rub off" on Obama. Similarly, the fact that he knows Ayers doesn't mean that Ayers' views "rub off," either. If you read the full answer to the question, I think you'll see that this is probably what he had in mind.

  Like David, I think Obama is very liberal. My sense is that Obama is the most liberal major party candidate for President since George McGovern in 1972. Like David, I won't be voting for him. Still, I don't see the point of connecting Obama to radical views without evidence that Obama himself personally held them.
Grobstein (mail) (www):
Well, David's argument isn't primarily about Ayers's "views"; it's about what Ayers did in the Weather Underground. Your reading of Obama's Coburn comment is that it equates his tolerance of Ayers's views with his tolerance of Coburn's. David, however, reads Obama's comment as equating his tolerance of Coburn's views with his tolerance of the person of Ayers.

David is implying that it's out of the mainstream to be willing to associate with someone who once bombed Americans, regardless of views. He's probably right.

Personally, I don't begrudge Obama this relationship, and I will be voting for him in November. But I don't think you're understanding David's position right.
10.7.2008 1:28am
richard cabeza:
Similarly, the fact that he knows Ayers doesn't mean that Ayers' views "rub off," either.

Yes, but ignoring any other contact they had, Obama's campaign condones the "mainstream" label. Based on Ayers' own statements, I strongly disagree with that label. Thus "mainstream" must mean something else to them.

(Note that the quote is actually from an AP story in 2001, which I can't find the full text of. But the campaign displays it prominently as a badge of honor, so I'll take it as such.)
10.7.2008 1:32am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
David's argument about going to Yale at the same time Obama attended Harvard also suffers from the additional problem of being factually erroneous but hey, don't let the facts get in the way of an argument. Obama graduated 4 years before David, with a different president in the White House.
10.7.2008 1:34am
OrinKerr:
Grobstein, David B said it this way: "he's as willing to be friends with a law-abiding conservative Republican senator as with an extreme leftist unrepentant former domestic terrorist." I think my characterization of David's position is consistent with that.
10.7.2008 1:34am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Sorry, I was wrong in my prior post. DB did attend Yale at the exact time as Obama.
10.7.2008 1:45am
Grobstein (mail) (www):
I take the "former domestic terrorist" language to be invoking more than the man's views.
10.7.2008 1:51am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Orin, my "evidence" is presented in my previous post, that Obama seemed completely clueless that Ayers and Wright could be so harmful to his political career, and that when he thinks "radical extremist," he thinks Coburn at least as much as Ayers. I'd say in any year but this year, they would likely have been deadly, much better than anything Bush was able to come up with against Kerry. The latest post was an elaboration for those unfamiliar with modern liberal elite university political culture.
10.7.2008 1:51am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
I think there's a point about the Ayers/Coburn comment which nobody I have seen here has made. Insofar as Obama is "equating" Ayers and Coburn, it's in their relation to him. A conservative senator is much closer to the political center than an ex-weatherman, but that doesn't mean he is much closer to a liberal Democrat.
10.7.2008 1:52am
Michael B (mail):
One very basic problem here however rests in the fact that Obama's campaign has obstructed attempts to better investigate aspect of the Ayers and Dhorn relationship.

Among other things, plausible deniability, as a ruse or tactic of that campaign, is greatly aided by such subterfuge.

Addressing the subject matter, at City Journal, Fire in the Night: The Weathermen tried to kill my family, excerpt:

"Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his ability to engage our imaginations, and especially for his ability to inspire the young once again to embrace the political system. Yet his myopia in the last few months has cast a new light on his "politics of change." Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois responsible for his friends' and supporters' violent terrorist acts. But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of judgment in his choice of mentors, associates, and friends, and for showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred they have demonstrated for this country."

And that, citizens, is precisely the framing that needs to be brought into full view, absent obfuscations, absent any rank dismissiveness, absent denials, ...
10.7.2008 1:53am
Bandon:
I generally agree with Orin's analysis of David's critique of Obama's associations with Ayres et al., but they are both making a much bigger deal out of this than it merits. Clearly, if these bloggers were Obama supporters, they would be arguing instead about whether McCain had learned any lessons from the Keating Five scandal. (Of course, that was a real scandal, requiring a formal ethics investigation, rather than a made up scandal based on loose principles of "guilt by association.")

I may have missed this, but do any of the VC bloggers support Obama in the upcoming election?
10.7.2008 1:58am
Nunzio:
Obama has to be aware of Ayers current unrepetant views about his bombings, but Obama hasn't called that detestable (as far as I've seen), only Ayers acts "from 40 years ago."

A simple, "I didn't know Bill Ayers still held to his radical beliefs about violence until recently. If I had known that about him, I would never have served on any boards with him or had him host a fundraiser for me. I believe in redemption, but Bill Ayers hasn't redeemed himself. He's still the same self-centered coward he was 40 years ago. He's not the least bit sorry for what he did. But I am sorry. I am sorry I ever met that man. I am sorry the FBI botched the case against him. Bill Ayer's unrepetant radical views have no place in our society."

Why doesn't Obama say this? Would Ayers come out and say: B.S. Barack knew all along about my unrepetant violent views and never said a word.
10.7.2008 1:59am
Ben P (mail):
What the hell does "mainstream" mean anyway? All I see here is that it means "everything I agree with."

Yes, Ayers said he doesn't regret the Weathermen setting bombs to protest the vietnam war. I'm sure the vast vast majority of Americans would find that reprehensible. But he's a "Distinguished Professor" at the University of Illinois and has been granted honorary degrees from other institutions. No only that, he's been consulted by public figures on his ideas on education.

I submit that despite his radical attitudes, he is mainstream. Tom Coburn believes in the death penalty for doctors who preform abortions. That belief is also far seperated from most americans, but Tom Coburn is also mainstream.
10.7.2008 2:02am
Nunzio:
Bandon,

I haven't decided to vote for Obama or not, but as far as Senate Ethics Investigations, the Senate has yet to call for an investigation into Obama's purchase of his current house three years ago with the help of Tony Rezko. At the time, Obama knew Rezko was under federal investigation but, because the seller wanted to sell the house and the vacant lot next door in one package, Obama asked for Rezko's help: Obama bought the house and Rezko bought the land next door.

This is at least as bad as Alan Cranston's role in the Keating 5 scandal, and much worse than McCain, Glenn, DeConcini and Riegle's role.

So when is the Senate going to investigate?
10.7.2008 2:03am
richard cabeza:
Bandon
Of course, that was a real scandal, requiring a formal ethics investigation, rather than a made up scandal based on loose principles of "guilt by association."

Yes, book endorsements and appointments to committees are guilt by association.
10.7.2008 2:07am
Bandon:
Richard C.,

I assume that means that you believe the "fair and unbiased" report of the NRO over that of the NYT.


Nunzio,

I agree that Obama's real estate purchase with Rezko's involvement was not a smart move, and Obama has acknowledged that. However, the efforts of the Keating 5 to intimidate federal regulators to stay away from Lincoln Savings reflect a much more serious ethical problem.


Anyone,

I'm still looking for any VC bloggers (not counting commenters) who are Obama supporters. Maybe the big media groups can spare a few. Possibly the VC could even work out a trade so that conservative and libertarian views could be better integrated into the MSM.
10.7.2008 2:39am
Nunzio:
Bandon,

If the Senate doesn't investigate, how will we know what Obama promised to do in return for Rezko's favor? Rezko is not the kind of guy who does stuff out of the goodness of his heart and Obama knows that. Again, Obama knew at the time that Rezko was under investigation for bribery.

I'm glad Obama's self-serving answer satisfied you, but that's not enough. The Senate investigated McCain, and the public deserves the same courtesy with respect to Obama's transactions with a major campaign contributor who he had good reason to believe was corrupt.
10.7.2008 2:53am
OrinKerr:
Bandon,

David Post is one; I suspect there are two others.
10.7.2008 3:53am
hawkins:

Obama's sentence is inarticulate, because he does not say why this "fact" is relevant. If you read the entire quote in context, though, I think the most natural way to construe that comment is much more innocuous. Obama was just saying that a lot of people have taken crazy or disturbing views, and it makes no sense to assume from Obama's conections to that person that the person's crazy or disturbing views reflect Obama's values.


You would really have to try hard to reach any other conclusion.
10.7.2008 9:06am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
cabeza, you repeatedly cite NR. Given that they are willing to publish a transparent falsehood (proof, proof), you should explain why anyone should take them seriously.
10.7.2008 7:05pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
nunzio:

Obama asked for Rezko's help


Please prove that "Obama asked for Rezko's help."
10.7.2008 7:06pm
Michael B (mail):
jukeboxsneer, sneeringly sneering, yet again.

juke, please prove to "us" you don't have your head piledriven up your patoot.
10.7.2008 8:23pm