All this talk by the troglodytes in the right-wing media about Obama's past associations is hateful, mean-spirited and thoroughly politically motivated. But it also reasonable and justified. While I don't think anchors and obstensibly unbiased journalists should be doing it (respectable venues are supposed to actually BE fair and balanced), independent investigative reporters probably should. Those are the kind of questions that need to be asked, not just of Senator Obama, but of all candidates.
I tend to be fond of Barak Obama and his style, so I personally hope he turns out to be an honest patriot with a minimum number of skeletons in his closet. That being said, however, let me tell you my take on how those old associations came to be and how they relate.
I am willing to speculate that, in his early days, Obama was a young, eager, up and coming would-be community leader who was new to the harsh ways of Chicago politics. I think he was a positive-thinker, an eager but naive kid, who didn't stop to give any thought to whether sitting on a committee with a sixties radical or sitting in on radical sermons would ever come back to bite him later in his political career.
I would suggest that he was just enthusiastically grabbing for whatever opportunities came his way and honestly did not see any harm in having passing business relationships with questionable people. Plus, I also have noticed that it seems to be a huge part of Obama's personal makeup to disregard someone's weaknesses and failures and talk with them anyway if he believes there is good to come out of it. That is why he saw no harm in joining with Ayers in improving Chicago's education system....and it is also why he has said publicly that he would have no problem in meeting with the likes of Ahmadinejad, Castro or Chavez, in spite of their reputations, if something constructive stood to be achieved.
I see this as maybe a bit pollyannish on his part, but I also see it as a mark of good leader. And perhaps of a great President. Working with ALL people without prejudging them just might be the first step toward reaching solutions through compromise and cooperation. On Capitol Hill, they call it working across the aisle. On the international stage, it would be the antithesis of the Bush Doctrine, and a big part of the 'change' we are needing.
As a Christian, let me add that I believe Jesus, had he been a politican, would have done it precisely that way as well.