|The Company Obama Keeps
by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D.
What are we to make of Barack Obama? Most of us think he makes
a good impression: he is friendly,
likeable, intelligent and courteous. His speeches are often inspiring and
eloquent. He remains calm and controlled
under verbal fire, and he seems to do so without much effort. A friend and fellow faculty member at the U. of Chicago,
Cass Sunstein, describes him as an excellent listener, very reasonable and willing to go where the evidence
takes him. All of this sounds most admirable.
Nevertheless, there has emerged within the last several
weeks an increasing sense of discomfort with Mr. Obama, and not just because of
his political views. Of course those
views do matter. For one thing, his overall
voting record is extremely liberal, a fact which makes many of us uneasy. For another, some of his recent remarks
suggest either a troubling ignorance of basic economics or a willingness under the
banner of "fairness" to punish productivity with higher taxes. Whatever economic
and social policy positions he declares as a presidential candidate, it is
clear that Mr. Obama lives in the far left camp of American politics. His voting record and economic policies are
likely to keep him there.
But what has emerged in the last few months as most troubling
about this very interesting man has more to do with who he is personally than
what he believes politically. Based on what we have learned recently about a
number of persons close to him, we are reminded of the old saw that a man may
be judged by the company he keeps. The
most notable company Mr. Obama has kept for the last twenty years is, of
course, his pastor and father-figure, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, an
unusually hateful race monger and America basher, and a man whom Mr. Obama and
his wife Michelle have chosen to guide their children's religious education. Less prominent, but still making headlines, is
Mr. Obama's relationship with a man he describes as his mentor and friend, Tony
Rezko, who is now being tried in federal court on charges of financial and
political wrongdoing. A third person to
whom Mr. Obama is obviously close is his very accomplished wife, Michelle
Obama, whose black racism and hostility toward America, dating back to her college
days, has lately attracted attention in the press. Finally, Mr. Obama has had an ongoing
relationship with former radical Weather Underground leader, William Ayers, who
only a few years ago said he wished he had set off more bombs in his radically
destructive youth than he in fact did.
It appears from this list that Mr. Obama is quite comfortable
with persons in whom anger is a prominent dynamic, or criminal impulses are overtly
expressed, or both. In fact, it would
not be a stretch to conclude that he is even attracted to such persons, not
just comfortable with them, given his conscious choices of wife, pastor and
friends. Your average political candidate, for example, would probably not
count among his friends an ex-domestic terrorist or an indicted federal
defendant, nor listen on Sundays to hate speech in church, nor have a wife who angrily
claims she has been victimized by American society, especially if she is highly
educated in two elite universities and highly paid for her work in a
third. In fact, given what we know about
the way the human mind works, what would
be a stretch would be any claim that Mr. Obama's relationships with this many
angry and/or destructive people are purely coincidental, though we can expect his
supporters to make that very claim in his defense. Indeed, from a psychodynamic perspective, his
tolerance of, let alone his affection for, persons who are enduringly angry almost
guarantees that he has his own anger "issues."
So, does he actually have such issues? Behind his calm, cordial and well controlled
persona, is Mr. Obama an angry man? Is
there any evidence to that effect in his personal history? Would he describe himself as significantly
angry or hostile?
And anyway, does any of this matter? It should.
We should know by now that a candidate's character is not irrelevant to
the office he seeks. We should also know that an undercurrent of anger is not
irrelevant to character. It would seem
beyond coincidence that many of the most prominent people in Mr. Obama's life
are either verifiably angry or have antisocial attitudes, or both. This is one of the reasons why many Americans
have become uncomfortable with him.
There is something wrong with the picture of Mr. Obama as we get to know
more about him and about the company he keeps.