Suddenly, the presidential campaigns are addressing an issue that should have been at the forefront of this year’s election long ago. Call it “characters count.” We know people – especially public figures – by the company they keep. And we need to know much more about, to put it charitably, the characters that have figured prominently for years in Barack Obama’s life.
Over the weekend, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin brought the issue to the fore by observing caustically that the Democrats’ would-be commander-in-chief has “palled around with terrorists.” The Obama campaign immediately deployed talking points and a television ad conjuring up Charles Keating, a one-time friend and supporter of John McCain who was a driving force behind the 1980s-era savings and loan debacle.
The problem for Barack Obama is that convicted – and unrepentant – terrorist William Ayers is not the only person with a profound animosity towards this country with whom he has “palled around” since his youth. It is not, as the Democratic candidate maintains, a distraction or a sign of desperation on the part of his opponents that serious questions are finally being asked about the nature and the implications of the judgment he has exhibited in the past – and may exhibit in the future – as evidenced by his myriad and profoundly troubling personal ties. That is especially the case since so little is known about the junior Senator from Illinois and what he really means by “change.”
Take for example, the formative influence in Barack Obama’s youth that he calls in his memoirs simply “Frank.” As it happens, the Frank in question was Frank Marshall Davis, a well-known Stalinist Communist in Hawaii whose attachment to the Soviet Union and hatred for an America he loathed as racist and imperialistic caused the FBI to keep him under surveillance for at least 19 years. Evidently, young Obama and his father spent hours in the company of this mentor, presumably soaking in not only his alcohol but his virulent hostility towards America.
We now know that a similar view was espoused routinely from the pulpit of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Sen. Obama maintains that somehow he had not heard any of Wright’s loathing of this country – epitomized by the latter’s notorious plea, “God damn America.” When confronted with evidence of it, he could not bring himself to disassociate from his pastor of twenty years until that tie properly threatened to scupper his candidacy during the Democratic primaries.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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