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The Company Obama Keeps

8:03 PM, Mar 26, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Marc Ambinder wrote today of Obama's troubles with McPeak and Rev. Wright:

The problem with guilt by association arguments is that they tend to render insignificant the degree or quality of the association that allegedly tarnishes one participant.

Fair enough. But there comes a point when one looks at the people Obama has surrounded himself with and begins to wonder. On Israel, Obama has no real track record, so voters can judge him only by his words and the words of those who advise him. Will Gen. McPeak, whose "odious" statements on Israel have drawn condemnation from supporters and foes alike, have Obama's ear on such issues? We don't really know. But if their association is insignificant in degree and quality, why doesn't Obama toss him overboard?

Obama also refuses to disown Rev. Wright, whose anti-Semitism is overt and unabashed. That Obama would show such loyalty to a character as poisonous as Wright is considered a sign of character by some, but it is another reason for supporters of Israel, of whom Jews make up only a small portion, to doubt Obama's commitment to the security of that close American ally.

Which brings me back to a quote that has gotten surprisingly little mileage in the last few days. Last month, long before the chickens came home to roost, Obama attacked McCain:

"I am looking forward to a debate with John McCain. John McCain is a good man. He's an American hero. We honor his service to this nation. But he has made some bad choices about the company he keeps."

If this is how we are to judge a candidate, then Obama still has a lot of explaining to do.