It’s time to vet Obama’s inner circle too
Every president comes to Washington with a coterie of outside advisers, friends, and fixers they’ve picked up during the course of a career. Eventually one or more of them becomes controversial. Richard Nixon had Bebe Rebozo. Jimmy Carter had his brother Billy and Bert Lance. Ronald Reagan had Mike Deaver. Bill Clinton had many trailing after him — they became the menagerie implicated in Whitewater and Monicagate. But Barack Obama’s inner circle has almost completely escaped close scrutiny since he became president. That may be about to change, and the rich cast of characters making up Team Obama merits further attention.
A new biography of Obama by Edward Klein called The Amateur has rocketed to the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list. Among its explosive allegations is that after videos of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American sermons surfaced in the 2008 campaign, a close friend of Obama’s and a fellow member of Wright’s church named Eric Whitaker approached the reverend. In a taped interview with Klein, Wright said Whitaker offered him — via e-mail, through an intermediary — $150,000 to stop preaching and appearing in the media until after the election.
After Wright turned the offer down, Barack Obama set up a private meeting with him to urge him not to speak publicly during the campaign. Secret Service logs document that it took place, writes Klein. But Wright refused to cooperate, and the meeting ended in frustration for Obama.
Efforts to discredit Klein’s book by Team Obama went into overdrive after the revelation. Certainly, Klein made errors in a previous book attacking Hillary Clinton, and his occasional sloppiness in his current book isn’t up to the standards of a New York Times Magazine editor, which he used to be. But Klein says he has tapes with Wright to back up his account, which also includes the charge that Obama relied on Whitaker to find a replacement preacher once Wright was dropped from an Obama event.
Whitaker’s role in Obama’s world is important because, as Patrick Brennan has pointed out on National Review Online, “it’s almost impossible to overstate how close Whitaker is to the president.” He’s been a friend of and fundraiser for Obama for nearly 20 years and has joined the first family on every summer and Christmas vacation since 2008. Politico reported in 2009 that Whitaker had become “a kind of gatekeeper and spokesman for Obama’s inner circle.” ...