A Reply to David:
Sorry to turn this blog briefly into the Orin/David show, but here's a quick response to David B's reply below:

1) David B argues that his best evidence that Obama is a "product" of that culture is Obama's "failure to recognize the harm that his association with Ayers, and his much closer association with Rev. Wright, could do to his presidential ambitions." He writes: "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."

  I really don't get this argument. Barack Obama is the surprise Democratic nominee for President. (Recall that, a year ago, everyone thought Hillary would be the nominee.) Further, Obama now has a lead in the polls over his Republican rival with less than a month to go. If Obama actually made a calculation years ago about the impact of his connection with Ayers and Wright on his Presidential ambitions, as David imagines, isn't the best evidence that Obama was quite accurate in his calculation?

2) David next argues that " 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," and that anyone who thinks that being friends with someone who is pro-life is somehow notable is just out of the maintstream.

  This argument misrepresents what Obama said. Obama did not point out Coburn because Coburn is pro-life. He pointed out Coburn because — in Obama's own words — Coburn "said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions." In other words, Coburn didn't just express the pro-life position. Rather, he advocated executing doctors who provide them. It is that view that Obama sees as outside the mainstream, not the view that providing abortions should be a crime.

  UPDATE: In his update below, David states, "Obama is neither the leftist caricature that some critics assert, [but] nor is he the postideological, nonpartisan advocate of change his campaign would like to portray." I agree. At the same time, I don't understand what that has to do with his connections to Wright and Ayers or his view of Coburn. It seem to me that there is a lot of room for liberal partisanship beyond the "intellectual culture" of New Haven or Cambridge.
DavidBernstein (mail):
No, he didn't advocate executing doctors, at least according to Obama. He said it MIGHT be appropriate to apply the death penalty, and this, assumedly, would only even be considered once abortion was made into first-degree murder by statute. And even then, how is being friendly with a Senator who takes one very tentative position you find extreme remotely like being friendly with an unrepentant domestic terrorist who wishes he had "done more"?
10.7.2008 2:17am
10.7.2008 2:21am
Jameson (mail):

Where is the allegation that Obama is "friendly" with Ayers? According to this WaPo piece, the only hard connections with Ayers are 1) a $200 campaign contribution and 2) a joint membership on a community board.

Although Ayers and Obama may very well have met, that's hardly evidence of actual friendship. It may call Obama's judgment in question but it hardly even implies real friendship with terrorists.

[I can't seem to post the link, but it's the WaPo "fact-checker" dated 02/2008 ("obamas_weatherman_connection")]
10.7.2008 2:28am
I feel privileged to watch a meltdown. Prof. Bernstein, there are plenty of small gov't folks out there. Reclaim the Republican party.
10.7.2008 2:29am
richard cabeza:
Jameson, there's more professional association. Of course, when you have major networks interviewing people who write such columns and then using them to support the opposing conclusion, no wonder you're so confused.
10.7.2008 2:35am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm going to sleep now, so I'm not going to hunt links, but neighbors have been quoted as saying they were part of the same social circle, Obama held one of his first fundraisers when he was a nobody at Ayers' house, etc. etc.
10.7.2008 2:36am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Well, I was just quoting Obama. But Obama doesn't seem to get that people aren't picking on his relationship with Ayers primarily because he has radical views, but because he's an unrepentant domestic terrorist. If Coburn were an unrepentant abortion clinic bomber, I doubt Obama would fail to understand the issue.
10.7.2008 2:40am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):

Even if we take your logic as correct, doesn't it disturb you that Obama takes advocacy of changing the law so that abortionists would be executed after due process the same as a terrorist blowing people up? Given that the mighty mind and general brilliance of the Obassiah is why we're supposed to vote for him, the fact that rule of law and general terrorism is the same in his mind is frightening.
10.7.2008 2:49am
Roger Schlafly (www):
It is a little strange to compare a terrorist bomber to someone who peacefully advocates a change in the law.
10.7.2008 3:29am
Ohio Scrivener (mail):

For Obama to compare a statement by one his fellow senators with the actions of a domestic terrorist is both disingenuous and morally obtuse. Sen. Tom Coburn advocated a change in the law governing abortion. I disagree with Coburn's position, but he has every right to advocate it on behalf of his constituents. Ayers, however, is the left-wing equivalent of an abortion clinic bomber. He has taken the law into his own hands and terrorized his fellow citizens in the process. How anyone, even someone suffering from a bout of moral relativism, can compare the two is beyond me.

For any partisan still struggling with this point, I suggest a little role reversal. Imagine a Republican candidate justifying his association with an abortion clinic bomber by saying -- "Hey, no worries, I'm also friends with Senator Obama who opposed the Illinois version of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act."
10.7.2008 3:50am
Jay Myers:
I must differ with your first point, Professor Kerr, that Obama must have made the correct decision regarding Ayers since Obama is ahead of McCain in the polls. Obama barely squeaked out a win against a very mismanaged Clinton campaign and now has a very slim lead over John McCain, whose own campaign has often been far from stellarly run. This, in a year that was supposed to be an avalanche for Democrats because of Bush's unpopularity, a host of Republican scandals, and a war that is unpopular with many people. In fact, despite that 'perfect storm' against Republicans Obama was merely tied with McCain until the recent magnification of the economic crisis. I guess it's a good thing Obama is so charismatic or else he'd really be in trouble, huh?
10.7.2008 3:22pm
Suzy (mail):
No, the point of his comparison was not that Coburn himself is equivalent to an abortion clinic bomber. The point is that Coburn has made extreme statements, of the same sort that motivate a certain group of domestic terrorists. If we should not judge that Coburn is a terrorist sympathizer because of these statements--and obviously, we should not--then why would we be arguing that Obama is some kind of extremist because he served on the same charity board as Ayres? This point seems to be missed in all the analysis on this topic.
10.7.2008 4:47pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Anyone going after Prof Bernstein is a left wing hack.
10.7.2008 5:11pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):

Obama held one of his first fundraisers when he was a nobody at Ayers' house

This claim is made incessantly. Please show that Obama, not Palmer, chose the location for this event. Also, please demonstrate that the event was a "fundraiser."

At least you didn't throw in the other unsubstantiated claim that is made incessantly, that it was allegedly Obama's first campaign event.
10.7.2008 7:23pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
A tremendous amount of verbiage does not negate two facts: Obama chose to be friends with and chose to work with (on volunteer committees) an unrepentant terrorist. Obama chose, for 25 years, to attend church services conducted by a racist, white-hating minister who Obama considers to be a friend.

No intellectualizing is needed for me to conclude that Obama is not the right person to be President. His choice of friends does say a lot about him. If Obama doesn't choose friends based on their viewpoints, perhaps he's just 'star-fucking'. After all, Ayers, Wright, and Coburn are famous (or notorious). If this is true, it says something different (but equally bad) about Obama. Will he, as president, become 'friends' with the most notorious leaders throughout the world? Will he give Putin a big hug? Will he offer asylum to Georges Rutaganda?
10.7.2008 8:53pm