Obama and Liberal Culture -- A Response to David B:
In his post below, my co-blogger David Bernstein argues that Obama "is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh." I won't be voting for Obama in November, but I don't see the evidence that Obama is part of that "intellectual culture."

  David offers two pieces of evidence in support of his claim. The first is that Obama went to Harvard Law School at a time when David went to Yale Law School, and in his experience Yale Law had such an intellectual culture. There are a bunch of problems with this argument, I think. The most obvious is that conservatives who worked with Obama at Harvard saw him as distinct from the "intellectual culture" that David describes. Unlike others, Obama gave conservatives a fair shake.

  David uses the "fair shake" comment to effectively connect Obama to the fringe. He reasons that the comment shows that Obama was at a place where it was unusual to treat conservatives fairly. Thus, by implication, Obama is part of an intellectual culture that does not treat conservatives fairly. I think the more relevant point is that Obama himself stood out from that culture, though, not that he was a part of it.

  Second, David notes that in distancing himself from Ayers, Obama pointed out that he was good friends with Tom Coburn. David construes that as effectively equating Ayers and Coburn. But I read Obama's comment very differently. In the first part of the answer, Obama distanced himself from Ayers. He then added one sentence about Coburn, which is this: "The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."

  Obama's sentence is inarticulate, because he does not say why this "fact" is relevant. If you read the entire quote in context, though, I think the most natural way to construe that comment is much more innocuous. Obama was just saying that a lot of people have taken crazy or disturbing views, and it makes no sense to assume from Obama's conections to that person that the person's crazy or disturbing views reflect Obama's values. He not only knows Tom Coburn, but he is actually a friend, and yet Coburn's comment in favor of killing abortion doctors doesn't somehow "rub off" on Obama. Similarly, the fact that he knows Ayers doesn't mean that Ayers' views "rub off," either. If you read the full answer to the question, I think you'll see that this is probably what he had in mind.

  Like David, I think Obama is very liberal. My sense is that Obama is the most liberal major party candidate for President since George McGovern in 1972. Like David, I won't be voting for him. Still, I don't see the point of connecting Obama to radical views without evidence that Obama himself personally held them.