The problem with a thin resume like Barack Obama's is that it causes voters to look into all the nooks and crannies of a candidate's life for clues about the qualities he would bring to office. That's why in the waning days of this long contest, undecided voters might want to focus on a radio interview Obama gave in 2001 and a dinner he attended in 2003. One raises a red flag about his political philosophy while the other brings the issue of Israel into the campaign.
In the 2001 interview with Chicago's WBEZ-FM, Obama discussed the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a court noted for the crucial Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case but also for controversial liberal decisions stretching the bounds of the Constitution.
Obama said the Warren court "never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." It "didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted." (My emphasis.)
The Founding Fathers were distrustful of the concentration of power in government, and indeed, the Constitution is a document written to limit the authority of government and safeguard the liberty of the individual. In contrast, Obama believes in a big, beneficent government making life better by, for example, spreading the wealth around. In his world, social justice trumps individual liberty.
Obama goes on in the interview to say he could come up with "a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts" but that "our institutions just are poorly equipped to do it."
All that sounds like Obama favors a government and a court that would "break free" from the Constitution. He's left no doubt an Obama presidency would advance "economic justice." His remarks make you wonder what kind of justices he would pick for the court to better "equip" it for his purposes. Maybe someone who sympathizes to a degree with the view of 1960s extremist Bill Ayers that American society at its core is unjust and needs a radical reworking.
This interview suggests Obama wants to reframe the underlying worldview of the Constitution to achieve what he sees as necessary "political and economic justice in this society." Abandoning the anchor foundation of the Constitution would undermine the concept of individual liberty that has made America the most free, innovative, productive country in the world.
The 2003 dinner was held to honor Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian advocate, Obama friend and scholar who was leaving the University of Chicago for Columbia University. Speakers accused Israel of terrorism and likened Israeli settlers in the disputed territories to Osama bin Laden.
The dinner was disclosed by the Los Angeles Times, which has a videotape of it but won't release that because of an agreement with its source. John McCain's campaign is demanding release of the tape and wonders whether Ayers attended the event. McCain has tried to use Obama's association with the unrepentant bomber to raise questions about his judgment and values.
While Obama has voiced firm pro-Israel views, that hasn't stopped Palestinian Americans from, as the Times reported, "believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say." While not speaking for the campaign, the Rev. Jesse Jackson recently opined Obama's election would mean the end of "decades of putting Israel's interest first" in the Middle East.
There's more than the Khalidi dinner and Jackson's remark bringing Israel into the campaign. Earlier this year, Obama said, "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel then you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel."
Well, Israel will hold elections early next year, and right now the favorite looks to be Benjamin Netanyahu, the candidate of Likud.