Guilt by association *UPDATED*

On the liberal side of the American political world, one of the lingering horrors of the McCarthy era is “guilt by association.” Certainly that was the lesson I, a young liberal, took away from teachings about that era. As I learned it, it wasn’t that the HUAC hearings were aimed at discovering genuine Communist infiltration into the military, weapons development and politics. Instead, in the intense (and irrational) anti-Communist hysteria of the period, the hearings were aimed at discovering who talked to whom.

For that reason, as I was taught, if you were a victim of this witch hunt, your actual political beliefs didn’t matter. Instead, it was who you knew that was the determining factor in whether you would be destroyed. That is, even if you weren’t a Communist, if your best friend was, you were guilty by association.

This phrase, “guilt by association,” has been running through my head a lot lately in this latest election. The MSM tried tarring John McCain very hard because Pastor John Hagee, who is a friend of Israel (good), but not a friend of Catholics (bad), is a supporter and because McCain has not repudiated that support. In MSM land, this was obviously a sign that McCain is anti-Catholic, although he’s never given any indication by word or deed that this is so.

This “guilt by association” tendency isn’t limited to the MSM, of course. When Ron Paul’s candidacy looked as if it had legs, a lot of people in the blogosphere were very upset by the fact that White Supremacists were latching on to him. They found even more upsetting the fact that he didn’t disavow these people. The nail in the coffin, though — and something that distinguishes Paul from McCain — is the fact that the White Supremacists weren’t just picking up on subliminal Paulian code that appealed to them, they were recognizing one of their own.

All of which gets me to the increasing number of stories about Barack Obama’s connection to a lot of unsavory (from my point of view) people: Jeremiah Wright, anti-Semite and anti-American; Tony Rezko, probable criminal; and William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, unrepentant, homegrown Leftist terrorists.

With each new revelation, the defense that both Obama and his followers offer is that Obama can associate with these people without either agreeing with or trying to advance their politics. In other words, Obama shouldn’t be brought down by that old McCarthyite bugaboo of “guilt by association.”

Obama made this point explicitly when he likened his friendship with Ayers to his friendly relationship with Tom Coburn. Since we know that Obama, despite his friendly relationship with Coburn, does not share Coburn’s extreme pro-Life stance (abortion should be illegal and abortionists should then be tried as murderers), why in the world should we assume that Obama, despite his friendly relationship with Ayers, Dohrn, Reszko and Wright shares their terrorist, anti-Semitic, anti-American, criminal viewpoints? Obama’s problem, he and his supports argue, if there is in fact a problem, is that he’s just too nice a guy.  [UpdateHere’s a nice Dean Barnett piece on Obama’s indiscriminate friendliness.]

I think Obama’s problem is bigger than just being indiscriminately friendly. Unlike McCain, who had not courted either Hagee specifically or anti-Catholics generally, Obama has actively courted people with noxious attitudes, and he’s courted a lot of them. In other words, Jeremiah Wright isn’t just a powerful pastor for whose political support Obama is grateful, since it will throw a lot of votes his way. Instead, Obama has had a close affiliation with him for more than twenty years — Obama has sought him out and explicitly identified him as a mentor. This is not a casual acquaintance with someone who has some interesting and, perhaps, distasteful eccentricities; this is someone whose intellectual influence Obama actively sought.

The same holds true for Obama’s association with the Ayers/Dohrns. A rising politician can’t always choose his fans, but Obama has had a much closer relationship than that and, on Obama’s side, it’s been one in which he or his wife has sought them out. After all, it was in their home that he launched his political career, and it was his wife who intentionally put them together on panels that would advance that career. Obama wasn’t just be a nice guy, friendly to random supporters; he was courting them. In the political world, one doesn’t go the extra mile to court someone unless one feels that there is a common cause.

Obama himself might challenge my argument by saying “But I didn’t know that Wright was anti-Semitic and anti-American [presumably having slept through all of Wright’s sermons and tossed his newsletters]; and I didn’t know that Ayers and Dohrn were domestic terrorists [since I am ignorant of recent history and never bothered to listen to anything the two of them are still boasting about now]; and I had no idea Rezko was a crook [because I think it’s normal to get sweetheart deals on valuable property when I’m a politician who can be of use to the person throwing the deal my way]. I’m innocent. I knew nothing. [A wonderful new use of the Sargent Schultz defense.]”

Even if Obama’s “I know nothing” defense is true (and it’s a very worrisome defense from someone who claims the intelligence and acumen to be leader of the free world), I still don’t think it changes the fact that we have to view him with suspicion because of those who are drawn to him. Even if he doesn’t embrace them, why do they embrace him?

It’s apparent that Obama’s political message — the real message, not just the vapid “change” stuff — is appealing to people who hate America, who hate Israel, who hate Jews, who hate capitalism and who hate to abide by pesky little things like laws. No matter what he says about them, or how he tries to disassociate himself from them, they continue to view him as a kindred spirit. And as a handy dandy chart on both Obama and Hillary demonstrates, quite a few of them see Hillary as a fellow-traveler too. (I know of no such chart that can be made for McCain, but please correct me if I’m wrong.)

No matter what Hillary’s and Obama’s best intentions are regarding terrorists and America haters, they’re sending a message that’s resonating with that crowd. And if it’s resonating with the hate America crowd, no matter how Hillary or Obama try to disavow seeking that crowd out, their message must be analyzed, in part, by considering their most defended fans.

UPDATE: Here’s another example of an unsavory character who feels that an Obama presidency will best serve his political ends. Whether or not Obama sought him out his irrelevant. This person’s desire to associate with Obama is significant in itself, and Obama’s passivity here doesn’t lessen what is, in my eyes, ideological guilt by association.

Oh, and another example just crossed my radar here.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • 11B40


    I did my growing up back in the Bronx in the 50s and 60s. At the time, there were about 2 million people living in the borough and my neighborhood was mostly apartment buildings of five or six stories, so there was a sizable population of youngsters. As we grew up, different factions developed and were defined by their proclivities for certain types of behaviors. Prominent among the boy children were the ball-players and the JDs (short for juvenile delinquents). Among the girl children were the good-girls and the beauty-school-dropouts.

    At a certain point, there was a emotional resonance between myself and the JDs. In the close quarters of our neighborhood, where I was spending my time soon became apparent to my father. He took me aside one evening to find out from me what was developing. I offered the usual justifications, that people didn’t like the way they acted or dressed but that they were really not bad guys. My father’s prescription was short and emphatic: “If you lay down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.”

    This “guilt by association” canard that is being used to ameliorate Senator Obama’s associations is just another example of the Left’s affinity for non-judgementalism. We are all hard-wired to observe and interpret social inter-actions. It is part of what has contributed to our success as a species. For me, the give-away is that these associations all seem to be on the far left end of the spectrum. Senator Obama has made his own bed.

  • Allen

    This is what I call trying to pass a steer as a bull. Upon cursory examination you know what’s going on. Let’s see if I have it right.

    I don’t listen to my spiritual mentor.
    I did a business deal without checking it out.
    He’s just a neighbor.


    I don’t take advice. (Joint Chiefs, I know they’re around but I didn’t hear them.)
    I don’t do due diligence. (CIA, who’s that?)
    I don’t know anything about the people I interact with. (Who’s in my Cabinet?)

    You want to be President?

  • ExPreacherMan


    You are still somewhat stuck in a small chunk of the liberal past. The McCarthy committee was actually the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HCUA). You wrote the old liberal pejorative “HUAC” which was a left wing code-word by which we Conservatives could immediately determine whether or not the writer was liberal. HUAC pronounced “Hooack” was a liberal war cry… You should remember hearing the comrades screaming .. as they destroyed McCarthy.

    I know, I was deeply involved in Conservative politics back then. I followed all of the hearings, checked the background and witnessed the decimation of a patriot who exposed many actual communists in our government (and Hollywood) — not just “fellow travelers.”

    The liberal media from top to bottom, with an organized all out assault, did everything in their power to destroy McCarthy (which they eventually did) because he was treading on their toes and the toes of their friends and comrades in Hollywood. We did not have Conservative Blogs back then — and Conservatives were outnumbered and out-manned. Thus the Communists got away with their slime (and the Lefties still are).

    You should read Ann Coulter’s book “Treason” which has proven to be accurate and well documented. NewsMax has a great piece on the book from several years ago. Well worth the read for a sincere Conservative… whether you like Coulter or not.

    Ann Coulter – NewsMax – Treason

    In Christ,


  • Scott in SF

    Wow, things are bad.
    I put a post on your books list about the new Evan’s book, Blacklisted by History.
    Preacherman– Joe McCarthy was a senator. The House Committee met in the House, not the senate, and Joe wasn’t part of it.
    Yes you are right, no blogs, liberal media, communists fought back. But the bigger story that needs to be retold is that the State Department and other senators were working with Moscow agents and their helpers. They were the ones that ruined him. McCarthy went after the State department because the FBI had exposed agents working there and the Truman State department was keeping them on anyway, when some of them were finally let go under pressure, they were sent over to the UN! Eisenhower basically continued the policy disaster and North Korea is still here to prove it.

  • ExPreacherMan


    You are right about McCarthy being a Senator — and I made him into a mere Congressman…

    I plead either insanity or senility, whichever you choose…

    But the HUAC and HCUA argument is valid. I can still hear the Libs screaming, “Abolish the Hooack!”

    Th ose were the days when the US government was awash with Communists (I believe it still is — at least with sympathizers) and had McCarthy not sacrificed himself for his country, we would be speaking Russian right now.

    Thanks for the correction.

    In Christ,


  • Alex

    Such is the power of received opinion, and my routine skepticism, that it was only recently I began to question the demonization of McCarthy. Now I understand Boris Yeltsin admitted after the end of the Cold War that Joe McCarthy had been substantially right about Soviet penetration of the State Department.

  • Danny Lemieux

    “If you lay down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas”. Hmm – my Golden Retriever and my family resemble that remark…or does it not apply to wrestling with dogs?

    Are we back to discussing Book’s dog?