Known by the Company We Keep?

Jan 27, 2009 at 11:56 am

Republicans made a lot of fuss about Barack Obama’s associations during last year’s presidential campaign. Now that same standard might come back to haunt them.

Because Obama attended church where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright preached, the GOP told us it must mean that Obama shared all of Wright’s incendiary beliefs about the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the origin of the AIDS virus. Because Obama lived near ex-‘60s radical William Ayers and attended some of the same events, they breathlessly added that it must mean Obama approves of blowing up public buildings.

What, then, does that say about Rob Portman, the former GOP congressman who is the odds-on favorite to run for George Voinovich’s seat in the U.S. Senate in 2010?—-

Check out the photograph of Portman with Jim Schifrin, publisher of The Whistleblower, a gossipy Web-based newsletter that’s been around for more than a decade. Schifrin, who calls himself Charles Foster Kane after the newspaper magnate in the classic film Citizen Kane, is frequently criticized for writing racist and misogynistic comments as regular parts of The Whistleblower’s content, including a recent joke about Obama’s assassination.

Portman is the Terrace Park resident who spent years in the House of Representatives before leaving to become U.S. Trade Representative in the Bush Administration.

Schifrin often touts his friendships with Republican officials like Portman and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Here’s an odious excerpt about a recent lunch Schifrin allegedly had with Deters. It stated, “…Hamilton County Prosecutor ‘JayWalking Joe’ Deters, although McCain’s Southwest Ohio Chairman did find time to sample the hot and sour soup at the King Wok in Clifton on Friday with Beloved Whistleblower Publisher Charles Foster Kane, where the pair compared the latest tasteless Obama jokes, such as: Q: What do Abe Lincoln, JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama have in common? A: Nothing, yet!

It continued, “Q: What's the difference between Sarah Palin naked and Michelle Obama naked? A: Playboy and National Geographic!”

And on and on it went. Comedy, thy name is subtlety.

If Portman follows Deters’ example, he will refuse to publicly repudiate such comments.

In July, Schifrin wrote about another lunch date with Deters, this time in Newport, where they allegedly joked about Obama's speech before the NAACP national convention. The newsletter stated, “The best joke at lunch was: Obama lost a lot of points with colored people at his speech Monday night when he promised them all jobs.”

A day later, local blogger Jason Haap decided to ask Deters about the “lunch.” Haap approached Deters on Fountain Square while the befuddled prosecutor was watching Sen. John McCain's speech to the NAACP.

In a confrontation caught on videotape, Deters said his friendship with Schifrin was “his personal life.” When asked if he repudiated Schifrin's racist diatribes, Deters replied, “Get that camera out of my face.”

Apparently it’s too daring to ask some Republican politicians to condemn racist remarks, even in the 21st century.

Et tu, Mr. Portman?