pageok
pageok
pageok
Response to Orin:

Orin suggests that I'm "connecting Obama to radical views." Well, connecting is a bit ambiguous, but I did specify quite strongly (and sincerely) that I don't think that Obama shares the views of people like Ayers or Wright.

I do, as Orin says, think that Obama is the product of a particular (and, to most Americans) peculiar liberal culture, centered in elite universities (like Obama's alma maters, Columbia and Harvard) and university towns (like Hyde Park), where the typical American political spectrum is skewed. Individuals who would be considered fringe leftists according to the ordinary spectrum are considered more-or-less mainstream "progressives," while run-of-the-mill conservatives are considered to be fringe "reactionaries."

Orin fails to note the best evidence I've presented that Obama is a product of that culture: his failure to recognize the harm that his association with Ayers, and his much closer association with Rev. Wright, could do to his presidential ambitions. These guys are mainstream figures in Hyde Park, and wouldn't raise many eyebrows in Cambridge or Morningside Heights, but they are toxic in most other parts of America.

Orin says that Obama proved himself not to be a product of that culture because he treated conservatives at Harvard fairly. But there is no inconsistency between treating someone fairly, and thinking that his views are on the fringe; this just shows Obama is a decent person.

Indeed, the praise heaped on Obama for treating conservatives fairly, if anything, suggests that he accepted the prevailing view about conservatives, but nevertheless treated them fairly. If Obama had rejected the prevailing culture, it would have been unremarkable that he would not treat conservatives like pariahs. Could you imagine someone saying of an old-fashioned, working-class style liberal like Tip O'Neill, "he showed his openmindedness by treating Republicans with the same respect as he treated members of the Communist Party, USA?"

Orin and I can agree to disagree about the significance of Obama's analogizing of Ayers' past as a Communist domestic terrorist to Coburn's present as a vehemently anti-abortion Senator. But, putting Ayers aside for a moment, I think it's clear that Obama thought that pointing out that he is willing to be friendly with a colleague who vehemently opposes abortion shows him to be an especially open-minded, non-judgmental guy.

Here's what doesn't compute for me. Even though I strongly believe that abortion should be legal, it has never occurred to me that the fact that I am friendly with various people who think that abortion is murder and want to criminalize it is a sign of special tolerance on my part. Perhaps that's because I realize that this position is fairly widely held in the United States, often by people who are sincere, thoughtful, and a far cry from the intolerant fanatical theological zealots of many pro-choicer's imagination (just look at what some have assumed about Sarah Palin, solely because of her anti-abortion views). That Obama would publicly state on his own behalf that "some my (not-so-best) friends" vehemently oppose abortion--even if he weren't analogizing this particular friend to an unrepentant terrorist--suggests to me that he is, indeed, a product of an insular liberal intellectual culture. (And let's not forget the attitude toward rural, less educated American who "cling to guns and religion).

UPDATE: By the way, while some pro-Obama commenters seem to think I'm being horribly unfair to Obama, commenters on right-wing blogs that linked my previous posts seem to think I'm being much too charitable for not recognizing Obama as the radical red they think he is. Some pro-Obama commenters have asked what the point is of these posts, if I'm not demonstrating that Obama is some horrible pro-terrorist monster. Well, whoever said that I thought Obama was a horrible pro-terrorist monster? And since when is it against blogging ethics to try to draw a reasonably subtle (critical) portrait of a presidential candidate? Obama is neither the leftist caricature that some critics assert, nor is he the postideological, nonpartisan advocate of change his campaign would like to portray.

Lyle (mail):
William Ayers and his wife are about as respectable of people as David Duke is... and David Duke hasn't ever perpetrated an act of violence in his life.
10.7.2008 1:52am
JB:
These guys are mainstream figures in Hyde Park, and wouldn't raise many eyebrows in Cambridge or Morningside Heights, but they are toxic in most other parts of America.

We'll see about that, won't we? If McCain's focus on Ayers works, you're right. If it doesn't, I'll be looking for your post noting that these connections are in fact not toxic.
10.7.2008 1:56am
jbn (mail):

often by people who are sincere, thoughtful, and a far cry from the intolerant fanatical theological zealots of many pro-choicer's imagination (just look at what some have assumed about Sarah Palin, solely because of her anti-abortion views).

So someone who believes that a 14 year old girl who is impregnated by a rapist should be tried as a criminal if she tries to abort the fetus is "sincere" and "thoughtful?"

Did you, like Rich Lowry see little starbursts bouncing around the room when Palin winked during the debate?
10.7.2008 1:57am
DavidBernstein (mail):
You're right, JBN, you think her position is stupid and evil, so she must not be sincere and thoughtful.
10.7.2008 1:59am
Kevin!:
After Orin's post and this one I'm left baffled about what Bernstein is trying to prove.

Bernstein has conceded that Obama doesn't share any of Ayers' beliefs. He is a "decent person." He's "open-minded" albeit within the narrow milieu Bernstein identifies.

So what's left is... Obama has been surrounded by liberals for a long time. Wow! This is shocking. It's almost like Obama is, himself, a liberal.

Perhaps this would be bad news if Obama shared the cliquish, close-minded tendencies of those certain elite liberals. But, as Bernstein himself notes, he pretty much doesn't. At most, he's guilty of a gently circumscribed worldview.

I find it remarkable that Bernstein considers it not only possible, but even highly likely, that Obama conducted his affairs in 1997 with a view towards national politics and a future Presidential run.

And also remarkable that Bernstein thinks that Obama, even if he had seen the later controversy through some sort of non-elitist lens, would conclude that joining the Chicago Liberal Elite would DAMAGE his national chances. If it wasn't for their support and guidance he would've never become a State Senator, and then a Senator. Frankly, they aren't hurting him now. Or are we seeing different polls?
10.7.2008 1:59am
DavidBernstein (mail):
And actually, I heard Sarah Palin with my own ears say that she doesn't think anyone should go to jail for having an abortion, so I guess we have the pro-choice imagination at work.
10.7.2008 1:59am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Frankly, they aren't hurting him now. Or are we seeing different polls?
What polls do you see that say that these associations aren't hurting Obama? I see plenty of polls suggesting that Obama is significantly ahead in the presidential race, but you do understand that one claim has nothing to do with the other, right?
10.7.2008 2:04am
LTEC (mail) (www):
Kerr thinks Bernstein is attacking Obama by claiming he was immersed in a repulsive culture. Actually, Berstein is defending Obama.

The facts on the surface clearly show Obama as having a close, long-term, political relationship with some awful people. Bernstein is being an apologist for this, saying it only happened because of the the repulsive culture, and even then, Obama rose somewhat above it.
10.7.2008 2:04am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I find it remarkable that Bernstein considers it not only possible, but even highly likely, that Obama conducted his affairs in 1997 with a view towards national politics and a future Presidential run.
Obama could have ditched Ayers in 2001, after his horrifying interview with the Times. But, FWIW, I had classmates at Yale Law who had started planning their political careers well before they entered law school, and behaved accordingly. The politically ambitious are not like you and me....
10.7.2008 2:05am
TruthInAdvertising:
"the praise heaped on Obama for treating conservatives fairly, if anything, suggests that he accepted the prevailing view about conservatives, but nevertheless treated them fairly."

Mind reading Mr. Bernstein? Someone who is not Obama praises Obama for treating conservatives fairly and from that, you deduce that Obama "accepted the prevailing view about conservatives" but still considered them to be outside the mainstream. On what basis are we supposed to accept your interpretation of what Senator Obama may have thought at that time in his life? It's amazing how you've managed to conflate the statement of one person into this worldview of Obama.
10.7.2008 2:07am
David M. Nieporent (www):
But, FWIW, I had classmates at Yale Law who had started planning their political careers well before they entered law school, and behaved accordingly. The politically ambitious are not like you and me...
An obvious example is the last Democratic president, who openly admitted that his approach to military service was based on politics. From his now famous letter to the head of ROTC at Arkansas:

"The decision not to be a resister and the related subsequent decisions were the most difficult of my life. I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress. It is a life I still feel compelled to try to lead."

He wrote that at age 23.
10.7.2008 2:08am
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
I'm sure BHO isn't quite as far left as Ayers, but he certainly is far-left. And, there's still a lot of things we don't know about him and that the campaign isn't willing to divulge and the MSM isn't exactly spending night and day searching for.

Plus, there's things like this speech which no one outside a small circle probably heard about. I'm going to guess he's the first major party presidential candidate who could have been easily mistaken for a member of MEChA.
10.7.2008 2:09am
Jameson (mail):
David,

I see a few remaining problems with the arguments presented here. With respect to the notion that a liberal university culture characterizes leftist views as "mainstream": there may indeed be a tendency to accept more liberal views than the country as a whole in such a setting. However, it does not logically follow that any views to the "left of the mainstream" are accepted by any member. For example, there's no reason to think that a member of a conservative think-tank would endorse the bloody Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, simply because they both happen to have views that are both to the "right" of the mainstream. Similarly, the fact that Obama existed in a liberal culture doesn't mean that he adopted any specific liberal views, nor does the existence of a liberal culture imply the majority (or even significant minority) endorsement of Ayers et al.

There are two more difficulties with what you term the "best evidence I've presented that Obama is a product of that culture" - that Obama fails to recognize the damage that Ayers and Wright can do to his ambitions. First, it's far from clear that Obama isn't concerned about the electoral damage that Ayers and Wright could cause him. He's publicly disavowed each of their views, and has gone out of his way to delink himself from them. Second, there's an empirical difficulty here: neither Ayers nor Wright are new - they've been around for months. Despite that fact, Obama is now standing on his biggest polling lead to date. This suggests that a majority of Americans (by definition the mainstream) don't actually hold this against Obama in significant numbers. Since you would probably be hard-pressed to find a large number of people who approve of the Weather Underground's tactics, the most likely explanation is probably that they find Obama's disavowals sincere.

(I find the notion that Obama should be held responsible for who chooses to praise him somewhat disingenuous. He faces a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't problem here: if he receives praise from third parties, it's proof that he was the product of an overly liberal culture. If he hadn't, well, that would be taken as evidence of the same thing. To the extent that Obama was notably different from his classmates, it may indicate the culture he came from but it says more about his classmates than it says anything about him. Certainly at a minimum it suggests Obama wasn't a pure product of that culture.)

Finally, with respect to the Coburn remarks, it seems pretty clear to me from context that Obama was arguing that he could be friends with people whose views he didn't share. This list of polls (http://www.religioustolerance.org/abopoll05.htm) suggest that at least partial support of legal abortion is a decidedly majority position in the country. I'm not interested in arguing whether it should be or not, but it at least suggests that Obama was characterizing Coburn's views as decidedly to the right of many Americans, which parallels Wright and Ayers. Maybe it's not as extreme, but the point remains: you don't need to share the opinions of diverse people to know them.

To be honest, it seems like many of your objections stem from the fact that you hold opposite views from Obama and thus you yourself are the product of a "conservative culture" that views many of Obama's positions as highly liberal - when relative to the country as a whole they are much less extreme. Is this at all possible?
10.7.2008 2:18am
TruthInAdvertising:
"Obama is neither the leftist caricature that some critics assert, nor is he the postideological, nonpartisan advocate of change his campaign would like to portray."

That's right, Obama is busy running at the top of the non-affiliated party.
10.7.2008 2:27am
Ricardo (mail):
DB,

Some of us can already guess that you have conservative friends. The real comparison is if you treat leftists or socialists with respect and if you maybe even count some of them as friends.

Moreover, unlike you, Obama is a partisan political candidate and in today's climate it does say something for someone's character that they don't demonize someone who disagrees deeply with the candidate's stated political platform. Finally, I'm not sure Obama has ever stated that conservative views are "fringe." If you have a citation to the contrary, please share. If he has, he is obviously poorly served by his political advisers considering how close the race has been.

It's more likely that he thinks particular conservative views are wrong or mistaken and has reasons for thinking so. Indeed, couldn't you do everyone a favor and just list Obama's policy proposals that you find objectionable along with a substantive point-by-point response and what you think should be done instead?

That would raise the quality of debate quite a lot as opposed to recycling official McCain campaign talking points. People can go to any conservative blog for the latter.
10.7.2008 2:30am
richard cabeza:
recycling official McCain campaign talking points

That's funny, it wasn't until a couple of days ago that McCain's campaign would even touch this stuff. It's been on this site longer, I do believe. If anything's recycled, it's the VC's own political posts.

But that wouldn't fit the VRWC narrative.
10.7.2008 2:37am
Grover Gardner (mail):

Even though I strongly believe that abortion should be legal, it has never occurred to me that the fact that I am friendly with various people who think that abortion is murder and want to criminalize it is a sign of special tolerance on my part.


If that isn't tolerance, what the heck is it?
10.7.2008 2:56am
Ricardo (mail):
That's funny, it wasn't until a couple of days ago that McCain's campaign would even touch this stuff.

Yes, October 4 to be exact. See this article. Here's an unnamed "Republican operative": "We've got to question this guy's associations. Very soon. There's no question that we have to change the subject here." And if you don't like anonymous quotes, here's McCain adviser Greg Strimple, "We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans."

There are five Bernstein posts on Obama's relationship with Ayers from October 4 until now -- that's over a period of less than 72 hours after something of a lull in Ayers-related posts. It is funny but maybe not in the way you imagine.
10.7.2008 3:08am
Bad English:
"So someone who believes that a 14 year old girl who is impregnated by a rapist should be tried as a criminal if she tries to abort the fetus is "sincere" and "thoughtful?"


The hysterical ignorance of such a statement is beyond belief. There is, obviously, no evidence whatsoever that Palin has ever suggested such a thing. This is pure fever swamp territory.
10.7.2008 9:07am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Indeed, couldn't you do everyone a favor and just list Obama's policy proposals that you find objectionable along with a substantive point-by-point response and what you think should be done instead?
$500 an hour gets you whatever blog post you want. You can send a $5,000 retainer to my office address.
10.7.2008 9:31am
runape (mail):
Bernstein, even your premise reveals your unwillingness to let go of partisanship. It's quite clear you haven't spent significant amounts of time in Hyde Park, or you would know that Ayers is not part of the "mainstream," or even widely accepted, at least vis-a-vis his terrorist past. Some people choose to work with him on education and other issues because he has something to contribute, and they are willing to look past his past. Others are not. But the ability to look past his past for the sake of working with him on current issues is not the same as accepting or condoning his past activities, and few people I know in Hyde Park would condone what he did. You are lashing out against a non-existent political base, and your unfiltered resentment (of what?, one might ask) is seeping out.
10.7.2008 10:15am
runape (mail):
Incidentally, how are you calibrating the political spectrum? Why do you insist that Obama "radical" or "extreme," while Berenson or whomever else is "mainstream"? To half of America, at least, Berenson and those with similar views are quite "extreme." The use of such terms is misleading and a poor effort at distorting the conversation.
10.7.2008 10:46am
davidbernstein (mail):
In August 2008: (1) 20% of Americans considered themselves to be very conservative; (2) 40% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat conservative; (3) 2% of Americans considered themselves to be moderate; (4) 27% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat liberal; (5) 9% of Americans considered themselves to be very liberal; and (6) 3% of Americans did not know or refused to answer. So yes, being conservative is by definition not extreme, and holding views that go well beyond "very liberal" like Ayers is extreme.
10.7.2008 1:55pm
runape (mail):
"So yes, being conservative is by definition not extreme, and holding views that go well beyond "very liberal" like Ayers is extreme."

1. I am not suggesting that Ayers is not extreme. I am suggesting that Obama is not extreme. You have repeatedly characterized Obama as "extreme," "out of the mainstream," "far-left," etc. Obama's policy preferences are well within the mainstream of the Democratic party.

2. Polls such as the one I presume you are referring to without citation are misleading precisely because the Republican party has seized on the word "liberal" as code for "communist," a blow the Democratic party has foolishly never recovered from. America certainly is a conservative place as compared to, say, Europe, but if you polled people on their policy preferences rather than their attachment to the labels "liberal" or "conservative," you would find that the electorate is roughly split in half between those who hold views similar to the mainstream Republican party and those who hold views similar to the mainstream Democratic party.

3. Those who insist on using labels such as "extreme" or "far-______" (on either side of the aisle) are substituting pejoratives for substantive debate in an effort to frighten readers into agreeing with them. Focus on substance, not labels, and you'll earn a gold star.
10.7.2008 2:03pm
Philistine (mail):

In August 2008: (1) 20% of Americans considered themselves to be very conservative; (2) 40% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat conservative; 2% of Americans considered themselves to be moderate;(3) (4) 27% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat liberal; (5) 9% of Americans considered themselves to be very liberal; and (6) 3% of Americans did not know or refused to answer.


Is this a typo? If not, do you have a link to the survey? I've never seen a poll where only 2% considered themselves "moderate" given those choices. Most I've seen had "moderate" as the plurality (usually by a pretty substantial margin).
10.7.2008 2:26pm
runape (mail):
"Is this a typo? If not, do you have a link to the survey? I've never seen a poll where only 2% considered themselves "moderate" given those choices. Most I've seen had "moderate" as the plurality (usually by a pretty substantial margin)."

It's not a typo; it's plagiarism. He is quoting (without citation) this post at the American Thinker - http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/08 /the_biggest_missing_story_in_p.html. He has an out because the quote is not substantive, but nevertheless, poor form.

The article's argument is that there is a Great Leftist Conspiracy that results in all polls except this one skewing left.
10.7.2008 2:59pm
Philistine (mail):

It's not a typo; it's plagiarism. He is quoting (without citation) this post at the American Thinker - http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/08 /the_biggest_missing_story_in_p.html. He has an out because the quote is not substantive, but nevertheless, poor form.



Thanks.

Looking at the Actual Poll Questions it becomes clear on this one. Question D3, which asks voters to self-identify doesn't actually give the choice of "moderate" (DNR on the question--do not read)--only very conservative, conservative, liberal and very liberal. So those answering "moderate" are vounterring a choice beyond what is given to them.

Still somewhat interesting that when given the choice between being charachterized as liberal vs. conservative, it's 60-36 conservative--but I don't think you can compare it to polls that actually have "moderate" as a choice.
10.7.2008 3:50pm
Suzy (mail):
I don't think Obama was equating the two men in the sense required for this argument. Indeed, the point of the comparison seems to be lost entirely: Coburn has advocated the same theoretical position, that abortionists deserve death, as domestic terrorists who have bombed and set fire to clinics and murdered doctors. I assume Obama makes this comparison with the ultimate goal of showing that even the views of people he counts as friends could be considered extremist by some. I doubt he would be friends with Coburn if he thought that was a truly fair characterization of his views; I also doubt he would associate with Ayres at all if he thought that serving on the same charity board would lend credence to that man's radical positions. Presumably this is why Obama never saw the need to carefully distance himself, because he didn't think their work created a close enough tie that it was an issue. I don't see why we have to work so hard to impute motives or decide that Obama is part of a certain liberal academic culture, when much more obvious explanations are ready to hand. Unless, of course, the motive is purely partisan.
10.7.2008 4:25pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
bad:

The hysterical ignorance of such a statement is beyond belief. There is, obviously, no evidence whatsoever that Palin has ever suggested such a thing.


The "hysterical ignorance" is all yours. The statement was a reference to Coburn, not Palin.
10.7.2008 7:16pm