What to Make of Associations

In an infamous photograph, the unfortunate Rosalynn Carter,  the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, was captured posing next to serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was convicted and later executed for the rape and murder of 33 boys. At the time of the photograph, of course, no one knew the secret crimes of Gacy. Such images are the inevitable consequence of retail politics: politicians graciously and generously having the pictures taken with any reasonably friendly face without much vetting.

No serious person finds fault with Ms. Carter for the photograph. Not only was she ignorant of who Gacy was, it is likely that when Gacy’s crimes became known she did not even recall having that particular photograph taken. The Carter-Gacy photograph is the far end of celebrity associations. On the other end are very personal and ongoing relationships, where we are likely to know the character of our acquaintances. In such cases, it is fair to draw some inferences from the close associations of political candidates. What then are we to make of the association of Democratic Candidate Barack Obama and Tony Rezko, Chicago businessman and convicted felon and unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers?

Tony Rezko has used his wealth and political contributions to become a local king maker in Chicago and was Obama’s earliest contributor. Rezko and also since been convicted of receiving kickbacks from state contracts. Receiving political contributions from unsavory people is difficult for even conscientious politicians to avoid.  Though, it must be mentioned, that Rezko was also responsible for soliciting millions of dollars of other contributions from Rezko’s friends and business associates for Obama. Obama could not have been oblivious to Rezko background and importance to his political future. Perhaps most disturbing is the involvment of Rezko in a exceptionally profitable real estate deal for the Obama and his wife [1].

In 1995, when Obama was beginning his political career, Political.com reports in a sympathetic article that:

“In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.  [2]”

Obama has also served on the boards of foundations together for considerable periods of time. At this point, Obama claims he was ignorant of Ayers’s past. This would be exculpatory though not particularly credible given that his first denials focused on the casual nature of the relationship. In addition, anyone who is quoted on September 11, 2001 (an unfortunate coincidence) as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” [3] s unlikely to be too reticent with regard to his political perspective.

The truth is that political ascension in the Left-wing political structure of 13th district of Illinois required passage through the gauntlet of the local Left-wing power establishment of which William Ayers is a part. Nonetheless, to understand how truly reprehensible even a relationship of convenience between Obama and Ayers is, imagine how much appropriate criticism there would be leveled if McCain had even a vaguely similar relationship with an abortion clinic bomber or a unrepentant KKK radical would had bombed black churches. The assertion Ayers was just a guy in the neighborhood does more to discredit the kind of neighborhood comfortable with Ayers than it does to excuse Obama.

Now, we may be called to served a public function with those not only that we happen to disagree with, but what about those that are genuinely morally despicable. Perhaps, we serve those functions rather than to abandon them exclusively to the unsavory. However, prudence and judgment dictate a clear separation from such people.

Obama should had said at the time, “Ayers is domestic terrorist who should not serve on this board and should not even be accepted by his university community. I serve with there only to fight against the policies such a person might try to implement.” He would have been morally correct and political destroyed.

Does this mean that Obama is fundamentally as corrupt as Rezko or that he embraces bombing as a tactic like Ayers? No, though we should all feel uncomfortable that he does not have greater discomfort in these environs.  Rather, it demonstrates the pull of a political ambition to which all other considerations are lashed. If political success requires alliance with the politically corrupt and with unrepentant domestic terrorists, Obama seems to pay that price too willingly and without obvious introspection. Indeed, there appears to be no incident in his career where he stood stood up for principle when he expected to pay a political cost. As has been noted, he has too often voted “present.” These issues are  particularly relevant to the Obama candidacy. Obama has had few executive or legislative accomplishments. Hence, the understanding of Obama’s personal history is one of the few ways we have to assess the prospects for an Obama presidency.

  1. Tim Novak, “Obama and his Rezko Ties,” Chicago Suntimes, April 23, 2007.
  2. Ben Smith, “Obama Once Visited 60’s Radicals,” Politico.com, February 22, 2008.
  3. Dinitia Smith, “No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen,” NY Times, September 11, 2001.

2 Responses to “What to Make of Associations”

  1. Matt Batts says:

    Do you get up every morning consumed with nothing but hatred for Barack Obama and burning with a desire to see him destroyed?

    Your puny and morally despicable attempt to link Obama with Ayers rests upon the fact that Obama launched his career in 1995 in Ayers’ living room. In case you didn’t know, John McCain in 1998 had a fundraiser hosted by Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. Does this mean that McCain endorsed Liddy’s plan to kill columnist Jack Anderson in the 1970’s (which Liddy himself recounts in Will, his autobiography)?

    Of course not.

    But, Frank has nothing substantive to attack Obama with, so his last resort is to try the “guilt – by – tenuous – and – exaggerated – association – card”. Fair enough. What are we, then, to make of Sarah Palin’s husband Todd’s membership in the Alaskan Independence Party, which advocates Alaska’s secesssion from the U.S. and whose founder has made anti-American statements?

    Oh, wait. They’re conservative. As Frank has taken every opportunity to point out, conservatives are great and noble and should never be questioned like us mere mortals.

  2. Frank Monaldo says:

    Dear Matt,

    Thank you so much taking the time to reply. I can assure you that I do not wake up consumed with hatred for Barack Obama. I believe the tone of my original post was moderate and calm. I do not know Obama, but probably would enjoy a dinner conversation with him. However, I have different standards for a president.

    But on the point of your comment. I believe that by comparing the relationship between Gordon Liddy and McCain to William Ayers and Obama you are inadvertently committing the logical fallacy of argument by weak analogy (See http://www.fallacyfiles.org/wanalogy.html). Far be it from me to hold up Liddy as a model of virtue, but he differs from Ayers in many important respects.

    1) Liddy has paid his debt to society by serving five and half years in jail. Ayers has not and brags about the fact that he is “gulity as sin and free as a bird.”

    2) Ayers in unrepentant and wishes that he had bombed more.

    3) Liddy loves his country but fell into the trap of believing the ends justifies the means. Ayers does not appear to love his country.

    As I said in the original post, a far more apt analogy would have been if McCain had had a similar relationship with an unrepentant individual who had bombed an abortion clinic and bragged how he got away with it. You do not have to respond, but ask yourself in your heart if you would have so easily dismissed that association as you do Obama’s with Ayers.

    Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to post a reply.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.