Commentary Magazine


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Taking His Sweet Time

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” When it comes to following Don Corleone’s sage advice, Barack Obama is a natural. Sure, he’s tight with Ted Kennedy and Bill Richardson, but they didn’t baptize his kids (like Jeremiah Wright), or advise him on foreign policy (like Robert Malley). Obama’s talent for cleaving to his political enemies is definitely a “change” from politics as usual. But is it change we can believe in?

The exit of Malley from Obama’s campaign is yet another instance in which the candidate who speaks of “the fierce urgency of now” addresses an immediate and obvious problem with the galling indifference of whenever. For at least six months, we’ve known that Robert Malley’s associates and his record of anti-Israel revisionism have no place in an American presidential campaign. But Obama, being Obama, could no sooner denounce his Arafat-embracing Middle East advisor than, say, not sell out his grandmother. Instead, the campaign shrugged the issue off by claiming Malley was not a “day-to-day” advisor.

Just as in the case of Jeremiah Wright, Obama tried to wish the whole thing away until the very source of the problem addressed him directly. Rev. Wright picked a fight with Obama, and Robert Malley called Obama up to cut ties. I’m not sure why Malley said that his own dealings with Hamas would be a “distraction,” when it’s doubtful Obama would have noticed.

Setting aside the ideological implications of Obama’s friendly enemies, why is no one alarmed by a Presidential nominee who, to quote another mob movie, has a habit of being late to his own funeral. Is Obama slow in analyzing crises because he’s carefully considering all the angles? Or because he can’t be bothered with any issue that distracts him from his historic destiny? He’ll answer the phone at 3 AM–only it’ll have been ringing since 3 in the afternoon.