Kathleen Parker

We can make no similar analysis of Obama, since he hasn't fought in any wars in his lifetime. But we have been given a glimpse at how Obama responds to external pressures and where he draws the line on loyalty and self-sacrifice. When it comes to family and friends, it seems Obama is first a survivalist.

A few months ago, when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright first came to national attention, Obama was nearly demure when he said: "I can no more disown (Wright) than I can disown my white grandmother."

He may not have disowned his white grandmother, but Obama didn't exactly paint a sympathetic -- or loving -- portrait of her either. He essentially threw her under the bus, saying that she had made racist remarks while he was growing up, a statement that served only to highlight Obama's own remarkable transcendence.

After several weeks of balancing his professed love for Wright with the controversial statements of his chosen father figure and spiritual mentor, Obama eventually left his church of 20 years. But why then, after all those years, did Obama finally find the door?

What changed was the degree of his self-interest. As long as Wright was helping Obama burnish his bona fides within the African-American community, it didn't matter that the minister's rhetorical flights of fancy bordered on paranoid, racist delusion. Only when Wright became a potential obstacle to Obama's ambition -- by saying that Obama was simply behaving as a politician -- did Obama show Wright the underside of that very busy bus.

Clark is right that getting shot down doesn't qualify one to be commander in chief. But it is relevant to wonder with whom one would rather share a foxhole.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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