Friday, October 10, 2008

Guilt by Association

I have watched with some dismay the current effort to dimish Senator Obama because of the words or actions of people he knows and even some that he doesn't.

The Senator is being criticized because the magazine published by the church he used to attend gave an award to Minister Louis Farrakhan. Senator Obama has condemned Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semetic words and actions and as near as I can tell the two have never met. Yet somehow Senator McCain's campaign wants to try to link Senator Obama to Farrakhan.

Then there is Senator Obama's relationship with Rashid Khalidi. They have a relationship going back 12 years. Professor Khalidi is a supporter of Palestine and a harsh critic of Isreal. Senator Obama has made it clear that he does not agree with Rashid Khalidi on the issues in the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. But again, McCain and his supporters want to try to paint them together.

And then there is the Reverend Wright. Senator Obama's pastor for 20 years. The Reverend has said things in some of his sermons that most people find offensive. At the same time his church has been a real force for good in its neighborhood. But in a campaign that seems to make no allowance for nuance, some choose to believe that if Senator Obama attends that church, that he therefore endorses everything that his pastor has said. The Reverend Wright said some things that were strongly critical of the United States. So in a view that has no nuance, that means somehow that Obama agrees with those views.


I am a liberal. I have expressed my beliefs in my sister's house and she didn't throw me out. That doesn't make her a liberal. She is still my sister and I love her. That doesn't make me a religious conservative. I have family that have been known to use the N word. I don't approve of it, sometimes I tell them so. But that doesn't make me a racist. I have friends who believe that the Bush Administration was behind the 9/11 attacks. I disagree with them. But my relationship with them doesn't make me a nut.

If you can look into Senator Obama's past and find racist actions, or find where he said or acted like he hates America, or where he did anything other support Isreal, then talk about that.

If you want to know who his advisors will be, look at who they are. They are not Rashid Khalidi, or Reverend Farrakhan or even the Reverend Wright or Bill Ayers. He is getting economic advice from former Secretaries of the Treasury and private citizens like Warren Buffet. He is getting foriegn policy advice form former Secretaries of State.

Senator McCain actively pursued the support of nut job pastors like Haggi who have said their own idiotic, racist, sexist, hateful things. But I don't think that Senator McCain is a Racist or a Sexist or an Idiot. If one of those people was an advisor to teh McCain campaign, then I would care. But they are not. And the people that McCain's supporters are trying to link Senator Obama to are not his advisors either.

I disagree with Senator McCain on most major issues, not because of who he has as friends or acquaintances, but because of what he would do as President.


Matty said...

Points well made and I accept the premise in regard to Farrakhan (though they did march together) and Khalidi. Wright and Ayers are a different story.

The difference between having friends that say things you disagree with and sitting in the church of your mentor for 20 years hearing things like what Wright says and believe is huge. I meant to mention the Hagee thing earlier. When McCain sought out Hagee's endorsement it was on his reputation as a powerful grassroots figure. McCain had never been to his church and they had never even met until late in the GOP primaries. They were virtual strangers.

If McCain had repeatedly visited Hagee's church, you might have a point but this is a guy who's endorsement seemingly would mean something to a GOP candidate, was found to be a moron and was summarily tossed out for it. That is how it should go.

I know you don't regularly attend church but let me explain how this works. I don't care who you are or where you go to church, if you sit in a pew for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years it is a de facto endorsement of the belief system preached at that church. It is that way in every religion on the planet. The alternative is that you don't agree with it but you are compelled to stay for other reasons. This can't be the case for Obama because he attended the church explicitly because of Rev Wright, his spiritual mentor. I will repeat... There is NO correlation between Hagee and Wright situations.

BTW, most people would say that advisor and mentor are synonyms. Oh and speaking of people who are actually advising him....

Now Ayers. He's not a radical... He's not a person with whose belief system I disagree.... He is a terrorist and an unrepentant one at that. Now, their association doesn't make Obama a terrorist but it does make him the kind of guy who doesn't mind being around a guy who attacked the country Barack intends to lead. From a national security standpoint, that should give one pause.

Yes, you being at our house doesn't make you a Republican, but if you hung out at the house of an unrepentant murderer it would make you the kind of guy that doesn't feel that this particular crime is especially troubling. That's the point.

It's not guilt by association... it's a shocking abundance of guilty associates, AKA bad judgment.

Uncle Walt said...

If I hung out with OJ, you might be right. But Bill Ayers was in the Weather Underground 40 years ago and had since become a respected professor, educator, and Citizen of Year for Chicago in 1997. There is no evidence that they had a close relationship. Serving on the same board as someone does not establish a relationship. Ayers did host a coffee as a fundraiser for Obama, but his support for Obama's political career is not demonstration that they had any thing like a close relationship.

By all accounts they haven't seen each other in over a year and have had little contact since 2002.

Thats not much of a relationship to build some critisism on.

Uncle Walt said...

I agree that you are accepting, even endorsing what a church stands for when you attend. The question then is what did the Reverend Wright's church stand for while Senator Obama was worshiping there.

Like many of us, the Reverend Wright does not appear to be one dimensional. I am reluctant to question the patriotism of a Black man in 1960's America who would join the Marines when he clearly had other options. His short career included being part of a team the cared for President Johnson after his surgery in 1966.

He transformed a small church into one of the largest churches in Chicago. Reverend Wright has received a Rockefeller Fellowship and seven honorary doctorate degrees, including from Colgate University, Valparaiso University, United Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary. Wright was named one of Ebony magazine's top 15 preachers. He was also awarded the first Carver Medal by Simpson College in January 2008, to recognize Wright as "an outstanding individual whose life exemplifies the commitment and vision of the service of George Washington Carver".

The Trinity Church is an important force for good in Chicago.

So, yes, when you are in a church, you believe it reflects your values.

And if you look at the whole broad panorama of that church and its pastor, there are reasons to stay that overshadow the sound bites that got played over and over and over again.

Matty said...

On both:

The issue with Obama isn't that he shared a room with a professor who used to be a terrorist. The problem is that Ayers was the first person that Obama turned to to launch his political career. That is not a small thing. Respected professor? Really? Who respects him? Just because he has tenure and can't be fired doesn't make him worthy of respect. Yes he was SDS and WU 40 years ago but the indictment is that he is unapologetic about it. I've seen several forums in which he and his wife still wish they had set of MORE bombs. He is the same hater that he was 40 years ago.

I have seen how non-profit boards work and it isn't a casual "how are ya?" They meet either in person or on a conference call to hash out issues that their org is dealing with on a quarterly basis. It involves constant communication, interpersonal interaction and plenty of work together. Don't tell me that they were aquantainces. Obama was on one of those specifically on the recommendation of Ayers himself. Whatever you can say about them, Ayer saw Obama as his ideological ally and that's scary.

Oh crap, gotta go.

I'll write more later.

Uncle Walt said...


Chicago Sun Times:,CST-NWS-ayers18.article


Washington Post:

Discover the Network (an avowedly conservative website. The article describe a relationship that was never more than a professional association between two people with the same passion for educational reform.


Uncle Walt said...

If you think that associating the 1997 William Ayers is a bad thing because he used to be the 1972 William Ayers, then its a bad thing.

Clearly they shared goals in improving education in Chicago. Clearly they supported each other professionally.

Clearly William Ayers is not an advisor or anything close to an advisor to Barack Obama or his campaign.

If that relationship, where they haven't even had a professional relationship in 6 years or so, disqualifies Senator Obama from the public stage, then OK.

I disagree.

I think guilt by association is not a good way to evaluate our candidates.

What do you think this says about Barack Obama.

Do you think he will have Ayers as an advisor on Education issues? How do you think this relationship will affect his Presidency?

Matty said...

Ok Walt. I know for a positive fact that you are not dim. That means that we have a different definition of "guilt by association" or you are ignoring my point or some combination of the two.

Guilt by association is to say that because Ayers is a terrorist, Obama must also be... Because Wright is a race-baiter (in my opinion), thus Obama is too... because Rezko is a felon, Obama is too... because Obama marched with anti-semitic Farrakhan, he must be one too.

I want to make clear that I do not believe any of the those things.

I have said before that he is not guilty by association but he has had a startling number of guilty associates.

He is not associated with any of these people anymore because he IS smart and knows that they are liabilities. But that didn't stop him using them to go from Chicago outsider to part of the machine.

I know you may wince at my mention of a reviled neo-con but Charles Krauthammer does an excellent job of explaining the point I'm trying to make here...

...particularly from the paragraph beginning with "Obama's political career was launched..." through the end.

He explains that it is the associations in such numbers that is a concern, not that Obama was actually involved in the activities personally.

I read through your links and none actually contradict my previous comment. In fact one (I forgot which) said exactly what I was talking about. They met 4 times a year for board meetings and also at occasional dinners and events involving the non-profits in question. That is 8 times a year officially (4 by 2 orgs) and then maybe another half dozen events a year over 3 years.

Walt, I have lots of friends that I don't get to see that often. I'm not saying they were blood brothers or that they were attached at the hip. Only that they were more than casual associates.

Actually one of the articles you sent mentioned that they did multiple fund raisers at Ayers house in the early days. I didn't even make that claim. Thanks for the ammo... hahaha

As Krauthammer pointed out if you make the example a Republican candidate having the same associations with an abortion clinic bomber who still felt like he should have bombed more clinics, you would have nothing but distain, as would I.

You said that had Barack been associating with the 1972 Ayers it would be different. I agree because that truly would be guilt by association and your wonderkind would be in jail. The problem is that 2001 Bill Ayers still sees 1972 Bill Ayers as a hero and a patriot.

He doesn't bomb anymore (because that might - only might - threaten his beloved tenure and ability to indoctrinate today's youth) but he is still the same whacko that felt like a real man for blowing up judges homes with their families inside. That far outweighs his supposed benefit to the Chicago public school system.

Uncle Walt said...

My concern is that we get into deuling bad judgement by association and don't talk about the issues in the campaign

THis article in the National Review raises the same kind of issues about McCain that you raise about Obama.

So which is more relavent to how they would govern as President. Talking about the people that are on McCains campaign staff right now, including his Campaign Manager, or Obama's associates from the late 1990's through 2002 who are not in any way advising the campaign.

I personally would rather talk about their positions on the issues

Anonymous said...

i like uncle walt!

Matty said...

Ohhh come on! You two can't gang up on me!

I checked out the National Journal Article and I am shocked.....

.... that you would even suggest that there is any comparison. I'm not a fan of they way that the lobbyist system works but it's neither illegal nor necessarily immoral. Not illegal and immoral like, say bombing the home of a judge with his family inside.

That piece about Ukraine is odd. Ukraine was having democratic elections in which nearly half the citizenry is Russian in language, tradition, identity and loyalty.... and always has been. They have a right to voice their opinion in a free election to they not? I don't agree with their hero worship of Putin but that shouldn't disqualify them from the process or access to the same resources as the Orange side.

This will never get us anywhere. I agree that we should stick more to the issues in which case I respectfully choose not to vote for the most liberal member of the US Senate. I mean, that's the difference right? You will vote for the liberal no matter what I say about him and likewise I won't vote for said liberal based on the stances policies he advocates.

The only difference this year is that you have a liberal that gets you excited this time (unless of course you were a fan of Kerry)

Tammi said...

Not that I am trying to throw gas on a fire (in fact some would claim that I am throwing water on everyone's fire with this), but give this article a read.

Obviously because I work for a progressive organization, this type of information is more likely to come across my desk than in other mainstream outlets. It is seriously on point, and [with the names changed] would be on point with regard to McCain as well.

I am really perplexed as to how what the actual tax/economic plans of both candidates escapes closer scrutiny, especially in the current crisis.

And don't all you bloggers get resentful if I don't reply back to posts. I am not chickening out to any discussion -- family knows why any debate with me can't happen on the worldwide web -- and the people whose opinion I value already have my email and access to my blog!!



Matty said...

This is absolutely the point I was trying to make in an earlier thread. Obama is a politician and thus he is beholden. To pretend otherwise is sophistry. I don't buy his post-partisan, post-racial, post-anything schtick.

I'm not a huge fan of McCain on all issues and I agree with his platform far more than I do with that of Obama. What I wish is that this election was more about what people believed rather than "The One" vs "Bush Lite" as it seems to have been billed by an in-the-bag media.