As the media turns over every rock in the past of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, there has been shockingly little vetting of Barack Obama’s background.
Although candidates should not be judged solely by their behavior as adolescents, an examination of their overall past is fair and important, especially as we pick our next president. And former schoolmates can help provide character clues, such as the former Obama schoolmate who told Newsmax that she is surprised he is running for president.
“I remember he didn’t hang out with a group I thought was the right group to hang out with,” said the woman who attended Punahou High School in Honolulu with Obama. “It was the group known as the Bingham benches, the druggies’ group.”
Obama has admitted taking drugs in high school, but the fact that he kept company with others who were known to take drugs has not been reported previously. That appears to be part of a pattern of associating with questionable people, raising questions about his character and judgment. Among those people are William Ayers, who has admitted bombing buildings; convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko; and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whom Obama considered his mentor and who gave an award for lifetime achievement to Louis Farrakhan.
“I would say Obama didn’t show great character about choosing who he hung out with,” said the former schoolmate, who did not want to be quoted by name. “I think he behaved well and wasn’t getting into trouble, but he didn’t seem to hang out with the right people.”
The “druggie” group was called the Bingham benches because they tended to congregate around benches at a hall at the prep school named for the Rev. Hiram Bingham, the first Christian missionary in Hawaii.
“There were probably 15 or 20 in the group,” she said. “I hung out with theater people. He hung out with the Bingham benches, which were the ones that were more known as smoking dope.”
Obama, who graduated from Punahou in 1979, suggests in his book, “Dreams from My Father,” that he took marijuana and cocaine in part because of questions his race presented.
“I had learned not to care,” he wrote. “I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though.”
But the former schoolmate said that, because Hawaii has a multiethnic population, the whites — not blacks — were the ones who stood out as different at the private school.
Besides hanging out with the crowd who took drugs, Obama associated with athletes at the school, the former schoolmate said.
“He was very active in basketball,” she said. “But I kind of look at (the others) he hung out with.”
In contrast, Steve Case, who founded America Online, also attended the school then and was admired widely. “That was a kid, you’d say that guy could be president of the United States,” she said. “I was shocked to see that Obama would be a person running for president.”
The John McCain campaign is running an ad highlighting the relationship between Obama and Ayers, who was a founding member of a group that bombed the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in the 1970s. Obama launched his political career at Ayers’ home in 1995. From 1999 to 2002, he served with him on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago.
During that time, Ayers was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs . . . I feel we didn’t do enough.”
In response to criticism about his relationship with Ayers, Obama has offered the irrelevant comment that he was 8 when Ayers was bombing buildings.
In contrast to Obama’s relationship with Ayers, John McCain has declared Obama’s relationship with Wright off limits because it has to do with religion. Yet there is nothing religious about Wright’s declaration that America and whites created the virus that causes AIDS to kill off blacks, trained professional killers, imported drugs, and created a racist society to oppress blacks.
“The government gives those drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, not ‘God Bless America’ — God damn America,” Wright has said.
Wright was quoted in his church’s magazine, Trumpet, heaping praise on Farrakhan.
“When Minister Farrakhan speaks, Black America listens,” Wright said. “His depth on analysis [sic] when it comes to the racial ills of this nation is astounding and eye-opening. He brings a perspective that is helpful and honest.”
Farrakhan has called whites “blue-eyed devils” and the Antichrist. He has described Jews as “bloodsuckers” who control the government, the media, and some black organizations.
Obama was so close to Wright for 20 years that he referred to him as an uncle. By contrast, even the most liberal Democrats invariably say they would walk out when asked what they would do if their minister began spouting such hated.
Obama has said he made some “bad decisions” in high school. The fact that he associated with Ayers, remained a member of Wright’s church until this year, and exposed his children to Wright’s hate-America tirades shows the same poor character and lack of judgment Obama admits displaying in high school.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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