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October 15th, 2008
04:02 PM ET

The presidential race: A question of character?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/15/art.obama.car.jpg]
Peter Wehner
Commentary Magazine

We have always understood that character, broadly defined, is important to possess for those in high public office, in part because it tells us whether our leaders warrant our trust, whether their word is dependable, and whether they are responsible. And one of the best indicators of character is the people with whom you associate. This is basic, elementary-school level common sense. The odds are your parents wanted you to hang around with the “right” crowd instead of the wrong crowd because if you hung around with the latter it meant its members would be a bad influence on you, it would reflect poorly on you, and you’d probably end up getting into trouble.

What applies to 10-year-olds also applies to presidential candidates.

Over the years, Barack Obama hung around with some pretty disturbing characters, and what we’re talking about aren’t isolated incidents. It has happened with a slew of people on a range of issues. He has connected himself with domestic terrorists (William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn), with an anti-American and racist minister (Jeremiah Wright), and with corrupt people (Antoin “Tony” Rezko) and organizations (ACORN). What we see, then, is a pattern.

Will it be something that will manifest itself if Obama is elected President? It’s impossible to know for sure, and we can hope it wouldn’t be the case. But it might.

The concern is not that Obama will invite domestic terrorists to the White House for signing ceremonies or private lunches; rather, it is that we know enough about Obama to say that his enormous personal ambition has clouded his judgment over the years. He looks to be a man who will do disquieting things in order to climb the ladder of political success; when he was in Hyde Park, the rungs on that ladder included Mr. Ayers and the Reverend Wright. This kind of trait — soaring ambition trumping sound judgment — can manifest itself in very problematic ways, especially when you occupy the most powerful office in the world.

For those who say that these associations don’t matter, that they’re “distractions” from the more urgent problems of our time and an example of “Swift-boating,” consider this: if John McCain had sat in the pew of a pastor who was a white supremacist and launched his political career at the home of, and developed a working relationship with, a man who bombed abortion clinics or black churches and, for good measure, was unrepentant about it, McCain’s political career would be (rightly) over, and he would be (rightly) ostracized.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Nathan

    How much “change” are we looking for? Isn’t it time to stop kidding ourselves? Isn’t it time to leap into the next millennium? Are we looking for just a little bit of change? I’m sure Mr. McCain will bring some change to the current direction of this country, but is that enough in 2008, after all that has happened?
    Mr. McCain’s “experiences” and heroism is greatly admired and honorable, but that is not the kind of experience that can transform this country and prepare it to conduct itself in this global community and what the future has in store. We need a vision to ensure our future is “very” different, not just a “little” different. We are already too late. We can’t afford to have our children get up in front of national television and make comments like “Obama is Arab”. We have to be done with this level of ignorance. The world is different. We need to overcome racism, sexism, nationalism, so our children are raised with 21st century standards. The “Grand Old Party”, by definition, is unable and unequipped to lead us into the rapidly changing times. They can barely handle the present, much less the future. Obama has spent his adolescence helping the masses and digging into the roots of our problems. The experiences of a POW will not help us now; they are in fact totally irrelevant to the needs of this country and the world.

    Nathan
    Denver, CO

    October 16, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  2. JaiNishia

    Barrack Obama Is My Candidate!

    Barrack Obama is the strongest candidate who is running for the upcoming presidential election in November. Why cant Americas see pass the color of his skin. Who cares if he is an Africa American Male? Are we no longer equal? What are saying by not electing him for president? That African Americans will never be quailed enough because of his their skin color and or gender? If that’s not racism in full effect, I don’t know what is? The sad part about it, unlike an employer he could file a discrimination lawsuit against them, but the American people what he is supposed to do?

    Americans are tried of false statements and their promises being deferred, we a ready for change, we are ready for Barrack Obama.

    October 16, 2008 at 11:24 am |
  3. Laura

    John McCain's condescending attitude about how Obama runs his camp. is crazy to me. McCain actually has the understanding in his mind that some how Obama should run his camp on what McCain thinks he should do. When McCain criticized Obama for not meeting him in the town hall debates like he wanted him to and then actually using that as a reason to blame Obama for how negative the race has gotten was ridiculous! Then criticizing Obama for not taking public financing and then suggesting that he had to some how run it by him before Obama decided what he was going to do to finance his camp. just showed that McCain thinks that Obama some how has to answer to him and it is this attitude that makes McCain very hard to watch. I have one thing to say to McCain..... it is obvious to me that if we use the financing of the campaigns as a indicator on who is smarter in the matters of money then by your own admission Obama can out spend you 4 to 1 then who do you think the people are going with on financial matters.

    October 16, 2008 at 10:20 am |
  4. Linda/Michigan

    Character is just as or more important an issue as the economy or healthcare. Obama's associations since his college days are of great concern to me. People that surround you, do have influence over your way of acting and thinking. Obama's refusal to release college records and his thesis, sounds an alarm as to what he is trying to hide. His dealings with Ayers, I believe go beyond, we served on a board together. His financial dealings with Rezko, who is awaiting sentencing, I question. His admiration of Rev. Wright, who he wouldn't disown until the media pressure became unbearable. Donating over $800,000 to an organization that he knew was connected to voter fraud is unbelievable. Character and judgement are so important, and to those who would dismiss this are making a terrible mistake.

    October 16, 2008 at 9:53 am |
  5. Deirdre

    Double Standard Here? What about the congressman who were Ku Klux Klansmen. They weren't only hanging around them, they were "them". I wonder why no one was ever concerned about the impact they may have on issues pertaining to ethnic people. I guess it didn't matter. Perhaps they have turned from their evil ways and have chosen to dedicate the rest of their lives to helping people. Is it possible to be or associate with negative people in our lives and not be influenced for life. I vote "yes".

    October 16, 2008 at 9:37 am |