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Sweet: Obama's Chicago connections getting scrutiny. Rezko, Farrakhan, Goolsbee, Ayers, Wright.

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With more attention focused on frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama' (D-Ill.) his Chicago links to controversial figures are getting more attention. A primer on Tony Rezko, Austan Goolsbee, William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright.

SAN ANTONIO -- With increasing frequency, Republicans are taking aim at Sen. Barack Obama as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton faces an uphill fight to keep her presidential hopes alive. And several people from Chicago connected to Obama -- with the major figure being the indicted Tony Rezko -- could provide material his foes can use.


If Obama wins the nomination, he will face an onslaught from presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as well as the Republican National Committee, with a research and press operation churning out e-mails about Obama's record. Here's a look at some of the Chicago people who are already in play:

Tony Rezko
Rezko's trial on corruption charges starts Monday. Rezko has a longtime relationship with Obama. Any mention of Obama in the trial -- he is a side figure -- could have political ramifications for Obama and be grist for ads. While Obama's connections to Rezko have long been the subject of stories in the Chicago newspapers, the trial is the peg for other news organizations to be doing their own examinations.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan
Farrakhan recently offered an unsolicited endorsement of Obama. He is considered by many Jews as an anti-Semite. At the Democratic debate in Cleveland last Tuesday, Obama said he would "reject and denounce" Farrakhan's help.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Obama continues to explain to Jewish voters his relationship with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is retiring from the Trinity United Church of Christ at 400 W. 95th. A magazine connected to Wright honored Farrakhan. Last Sunday, Obama said Wright "is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with."

Austan Goolsbee
An economics professor at the University of Chicago, Goolsbee is one of Obama's top economic advisers. Goolsbee is at the center of several news reports -- on Canadian television and ABC News -- dealing with Obama and NAFTA. Obama has said that as president, he would ask Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade agreement. The reports finger Goolsbee -- who did visit the office of the Canadian counsel general in Chicago but not to talk about trade -- as being the source of sending the message to Canada that Obama's bark is worse than his bite on NAFTA. (UPDATE FROM PRINT VERSION. To be clear, the initial purpose of the visit was for Goolsbee to take a tour. That did not preclude trade talk from coming up.)

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said any suggestion that there is a back channel is "ridiculous" and that news reports concerning this have been "debunked" and Obama stands by his statements.

William Ayers
Hyde Park welcomed William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to the neighborhood after they resurfaced as local civic leaders following their years on the lam as members of the Weather Underground. But stories by Bloomberg's Tim Burger and the Politico's Ben Smith have drawn attention to Obama's ties to the former radicals. Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a national reputation for studying urban school systems. Ayers served with Obama on the board of the Chicago-based Woods Funds. "While Ayers and Dohrn may be thought of in Hyde Park as local activists, they're better known nationally as two of the most notorious -- and unrepentant -- figures from the violent fringe of the 1960s anti-war movement," Smith wrote. "Obama's relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides," Smith concluded.

5 Comments

Ms. Sweet:

I heard your phone interview this morning on MSNBC and have read your post above and others.

I admit to being curious about something that you have not reported on heretofore.

One of the things that makes us who we are, are the biases that we have which makes us uniquely ourselves.

Ms. Sweet, what is your bias or biases to and/or for Senator Obama? And, why this particular subject seems to be your 'raison d'etre' (reason for being)?

I don't want to jump to any conclusions concerning this and I wonder, what your judgment is?

I would be able to respect your columns a great deal more, if you outlined why you have such tenacity about the subject matter.

I, for one, truly welcome your response to this.

LYNN SWEET REPLY
I write about many aspects of Obama's rrun for president. The blog is also Obama-centric because he is from Chicago and I work for a Chicago newspaper.

O.K., Tony. What can I say. Life has its 'trials' and tribulation. A little lawyer humor, there. Just remember what Bart said, "I didn't do it; nobody saw me do it. You can't prove a thing." Look, we'll have to talk later and, by the way, I reserve the right to define 'later'.

Louie. I know I said I 'would' reject and denounce anti-semitism and you'll take comfort in knowing that as soon as Hillary releases her tax records I'm going to work as hard as I can to get this issue back on the agenda.

Jerry, Uncle Jerry, what can I say. Family is family, but as busy as I am, I might have to miss the next reunion.

Gool. Remind me of exactly who it was that introduced us.

Billy, Bernie. We'll have to take up that 'transcending ideological divides' in the next life, if you get my drift. In the mean time, you two just keep teaching the truth as only you can see it, somewhere, out there, in the mist, through the fog and on and on as long as it's arbitrary and judgmental. I always wanted to be a good teacher, but I just don't have your credentials.


When you start a trip, you fill 'er up. Well, I want to thank you all for fronting the first tank full.

Yea, I'll miss you and I'll need another tank full. Never fear, I hear Oprah has a lot of 'change'.

Oh, how I love this game.

Thank you for the balanced and informative information. This is all I want from the media. I don't need any slanted viewpoints. Just give the information and let me decide what to do with it.

Dari--Please read The Boys on the Bus, by Timothy Crouse. This book gives you an idea of the usual cheerleading we've come to expect from campaign reporters. Ms. Sweet is a huge cut above this practice. To accuse a reporter of being biased because you don't like hearing 'bad' things about, perhaps, your most favorite candidate ever is to engage in Red Scare tactics which we have long ago denounced. Her columns deserve your respect, if you've been a careful reader. And her blog certainly is one of the more open blogs around in terms of letting people comment without fear nor favor. (Tim Crouse was assigned by Rolling Stone magazine to do the piece on the journalists covering McGovern, I think.)
And one more thing, Dari--if you're upset with the coverage our Senator has received to date--note in a different post from Lynn today that the Times of London is saying that the testimony of an FBI mole on Rod B and Barack O's visits to Mr. Rezko is expected. If anything, the Chicago media has been very respectful, perhaps too, of a local grown national candidate. He probably can weather this sort of thing--when Bill and Hilary were younger, they weathered stuff like this too. Maybe if the local media hadn't been so deferential, we would not be in the fix we're in--hoping our favorite son doesn't implode on us a the top of the ticket. If he loses in Ohio and Texas, there will be calls that he drop out. I hope you won't attack journalists who report on people who say so.

I stood about 10 rows away from Pope John Paul the II and heard him give mass in Rome. I still don't support the stance on abortion that he and the Catholic Church take.
I went to a small liberal arts college that produced some of the nation's greatest leaders. I am not in agreement with thier ideologies, nor would I hope anyone would say that I do.
Just because Obama, the Senator, is in contact with certain people, does not mean he IS those people.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 3, 2008 8:44 AM.

Sweet: Latest air invoices from Obama campaign. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet column: Obama's African trip dominates foreign policy resume. is the next entry in this blog.

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