Guilt by Agreement - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Guilt by Agreement

An unapologetic aging domestic terrorist writes a book about “justice” and Barack Obama praises it. This isn’t guilt by association but guilt by agreement.

Had Ayers written a book about ping-pong and Obama praised it, perhaps that wouldn’t be revealing. But Ayers, the ultimate juvenile delinquent, wrote a book about the juvenile justice system and won a “rave review” from Obama, according to the New York Times.

“A searing and timely account of the juvenile court system, and the courageous individuals who rescue hope from despair,” Obama said of Ayers’ book, A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court.

Praising Ayers’ thoughts on juvenile justice — someone who has been quoted as saying of his youth, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough” — is like praising a famous arsonist who has penned a study of fire department lapses.

That Obama uncorked his political career at a “coffee” in the home of this fugitive from justice is a Tom Wolfe novel come to life. The radical influences on Obama are almost beyond parody: in youth, he sat at the knee of a Communist poet, Frank Marshall Davis, learned community organizing from the works of Saul Alinsky, received religious instruction from the “God damn America”-spewing Jeremiah Wright, and political tutoring from attendees at Communist Congresses like Alice Palmer.

Guilt by association? In Chicago, as evident in the fact that his first state senate campaign got a boost from Palmer introducing him to Ayers’ social circle, Obama sought reward by association and agreement with radicals.

Only expediency blunts Obama’s radicalism. After Jeremiah Wright’s Marxist hatreds of America became widely known, Obama claimed ignorance of his views and said that wasn’t the Wright “he knew.” But even Jeremiah Wright flagged that as a lie, noting, as the Obama campaign bus rolled over him, that the only person who had changed was Obama under his evolving political needs.

Obama associated with Wright not in spite of his views but largely because of them. It is hard to cry “guilt by association” when one of his two memoirs is named after a phrase from Wright’s lips. Obama associated with Ayers not in spite of his contempt for America’s system of justice but at least in part because of it, as illustrated in Obama’s praise for Ayers’ book touching on the justice system.

If McCain can’t establish guilt by agreement, that’s in large part because Obama’s temperament is considerably less fiery than his philosophy. This makes him the perfect vehicle for 1960s radicalism: his cool trot will get radicals on his shoulders to the same destination far more quickly than their unseemly stampede.

The irony is that Obama is radical in his views but not in his temperament, while McCain appears, at least in the last few weeks, radical in his temperament but not his views. McCain’s panicky reaches for the grand gesture to save a spiraling economy, or blowing up in anger at Des Moines editorialists, have only succeeded in making Obama look plausibly presidential.

Yet close examination of his words, which form his only real credential for the presidency, is not reassuring. If one were to cover up the names attached to his speeches/writings and Ayers’ — or his writings and Wright’s — it would be hard sometimes to tell the difference.

Obama’s casual calls for confiscating the profits of oil companies — based on the assumption that all wealth belongs to the state — or his description of a redistributionist tax system — based on the assumption that the state should tax for goals of “justice,” not just to pay for its legitimate functions — proceed on premises Wright and company taught him long ago. His most famous thought from the campaign– that economic frustration makes Americans turn to the opiates of God and guns– couldn’t have cemented this biographical background any better.

As his memoirs make clear, in which he recounts weeping at Wright’s sermons and lapping up the hard-bitten musings of veteran radicals, his associations with the far left produced in him little guilt and a lot of pride.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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