His gracefully written autobiographical "Dreams From My Father" -- we could learn, if we could get through all 464 pages -- is a story not of transcending racial barriers but of developing a black and African identity.
The presidency is a uniquely personal office, and each incumbent puts his individual stamp on it. Obama's choice to join Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church and his choice to befriend William Ayers were not those most Americans would make, and Hillary Clinton was quick to declare, perhaps opportunistically, they were not choices she would have made.
This doesn't mean that Obama is responsible for Wright's outrageous statements or for Ayers' criminal acts (the charges against him were dropped because of government misconduct). But Obama's choices to associate with Wright and Ayers tend to undercut his appealing message -- very appealing after 15 years of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- that we must strive to overcome the racial and cultural and ideological divisions which have dominated our politics They are something that voters are entitled to weigh as they make their decisions.
Obama fans are upset that ABC News' Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson broke the unwritten rule that you are not supposed to ask Democratic candidates about these things. Associations with unrepentant radicals and comments made to contributors at a San Francisco fund-raiser in a billionaire's mansion are supposed to be kept indoors. Only the face that the candidate wants to place before the public should be seen.
Beliefs that most activist liberals share should be kept under wraps if they are unpopular with most of the voting public. That is how mainstream media have operated for the last generation or more. But not at Philadelphia's Constitution Center on April 16. The rules had changed. And Barack Obama was not well prepared.