But the standard intellectual inquiry, for some reason, does not apply to the long, intimate relationship between Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who called himself a "second father" to young Barack.
Sen. Obama described his 20-year relationship with his pastor this way: "What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice. He's much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I'm not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that's involved in national politics." Indeed, Obama describes a relationship that is closer, far closer than the relationship that many sons have with their fathers.
Leftist New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd confidently places the actions, policies and decisions of George W. Bush at the feet of his father. Dowd insists, for example, that George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq was Dad-driven. She called the Iraq War "a Freudian tango" that provided a "chance for W. to complete his transformation from the screwup son to the son who fixed his father's screwups." None of that fear of chemical or biological attack in the wake of 9/11 national security stuff for Dowd. No, it's all about Dad.
In a recent column comparing blue-blooded "patricians" Bush-41 and Mitt Romney, Dowd writes, "Their political philosophies were not shaped by a passion for ideas as much as a desire to serve and an ambition to climb higher than their revered fathers. Pragmatism trumps ideology; survival trumps conviction. Both men, to the manner born in Greenwich and Bloomfield Hills, adapted uncomfortably to the fundamentalist tent meeting mood of the modern GOP, knowing their futures depended on Faustian deals with the right."
But Obama and Wright's relationship tells us nothing.
In a column about presidential aspirants and their fathers, Dowd puts the Bush and Romney quartet on the couch: "American politics bristles with Oedipal drama. Sons struggling to live up to fathers. Sons striving to outdo fathers. Sons scheming to avenge fathers. Sons burning to one-up fathers. Sons yearning to impress fathers who vanished early on. Sons leaning on fathers. Sons using fathers as reverse-play books. ...