A Reply to David:
Sorry to turn this blog briefly into the Orin/David show, but here's a quick response to David B's reply below:

1) David B argues that his best evidence that Obama is a "product" of that culture is Obama's "failure to recognize the harm that his association with Ayers, and his much closer association with Rev. Wright, could do to his presidential ambitions." He writes: "These guys are mainstream figures in Hyde Park, and wouldn't raise many eyebrows in Cambridge or Morningside Heights, but they are toxic in most other parts of America."

  I really don't get this argument. Barack Obama is the surprise Democratic nominee for President. (Recall that, a year ago, everyone thought Hillary would be the nominee.) Further, Obama now has a lead in the polls over his Republican rival with less than a month to go. If Obama actually made a calculation years ago about the impact of his connection with Ayers and Wright on his Presidential ambitions, as David imagines, isn't the best evidence that Obama was quite accurate in his calculation?

2) David next argues that " I think it's clear that Obama thought that pointing out that he is willing to be friendly with a colleague who vehemently opposes abortion shows him to be an especially open-minded, non-judgmental guy," and that anyone who thinks that being friends with someone who is pro-life is somehow notable is just out of the maintstream.

  This argument misrepresents what Obama said. Obama did not point out Coburn because Coburn is pro-life. He pointed out Coburn because — in Obama's own words — Coburn "said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions." In other words, Coburn didn't just express the pro-life position. Rather, he advocated executing doctors who provide them. It is that view that Obama sees as outside the mainstream, not the view that providing abortions should be a crime.

  UPDATE: In his update below, David states, "Obama is neither the leftist caricature that some critics assert, [but] nor is he the postideological, nonpartisan advocate of change his campaign would like to portray." I agree. At the same time, I don't understand what that has to do with his connections to Wright and Ayers or his view of Coburn. It seem to me that there is a lot of room for liberal partisanship beyond the "intellectual culture" of New Haven or Cambridge.