Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Should We Judge Obama By His Associates?

I caught myself in a humorous misconception the other day- I was outside taking a smoke break, and it occurred to me that the national political scene was quiet this summer. Of course this is a ridiculous idea. Upon a bit of reflection, I realized that I would have no idea how much is happening on the national news front. During the hot season I don't listen to hack radio. I don't watch television, nor do I read the newspapers. I don't even surf the net for current events. And because I'm learning nothing about what is going on outside of my localized personal bubble, I don't start conversations about politics. I remain oblivious unless something happens that is so dramatic that people are talking about it on the street.

I guess that's more common in the United States than I realize. Whenever I bring some topical matter up during the rest of the year, and I am met with blank stares, I wonder how it is possible to be that out-of-touch. The truth is that I forget my own state of ignorance from the previous summer. This whole phenomena has been brought home by recent inquiries about how I feel about Obama. I have many friends who are passionate in their support for his candidacy, and they are aware of my own history of investment in his prospects. I've been quite vocal in my advocacy. So in the face of apparent controversy over his ongoing statements and positions, I guess they look to me for reinforcement.

The reality is that, from the little news I have heard, there is reason for concern. Some of the people he has surrounded himself with are shifty at best. For example, Cass Sunstein (close Obama adviser and University of Chicago Law Professor) recently made comments rejecting the notion of holding the Bush Administration legally responsible for such crimes as illegal surveillance of citizens and torture. Supposedly he is concerned with the "criminalization of public service". He says that Democrats should "avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton — or even the “slight appearance” of it." His position is that only "egregious crimes should not be ignored".

Naturally this leads me and my friends to be a bit suspicious of Sunstein's mental processes. What exactly does he mean to insinuate by his remarks? If Bush should find (beyond any reasonable expectations) anyone in the White House willing to blow him, then we shouldn't raise much of a fuss? Sure, I'll go along with that. Anything capable of distracting him from the strenuous pressures of leading the nation should be heartily encouraged. Hell, I'd be happy to see him pick up the bottle again if it would make him embrace his lame duck status. An inactive Bush Administration is about the best we could ever expect. But I don't think Sunstein is limiting his proposal of retroactive immunity to sex acts.

Only a complete idiot, or someone who believes the executive branch should be above the law, would characterize the activities of Rove, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc. as "non-egregious". The most relevant question is how closely do Sunstein's expressed sentiments reflect those of Barack Obama? Has our would-be leader taken the investigation and prosecution of a rogue White House off the table? If so, we need to take a close critical look at a prospective Obama presidency. Now I admit that judging the man based upon his associations is a bit unfair. I held that conviction when the conservative hate machine started talking about Jeremiah Wright- but in the case of Sunstein, we have a guy that could be considered for a high level position in an Obama cabinet. That's a genuine threat.

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