Here are some things we can look forward to learning about Barack Obama:
· That he was mentored in high school by a member of the Soviet-controlled Communist Party.
· That he launched his Illinois state Senate campaign in the home of a terrorist and a killer.
· That while serving as a state senator, he was a member of a socialist front group.
· That his affiliations are so dodgy that he would have trouble getting a government security clearance.
· That there is reason to doubt his "loyalty to the United States."
These and many other implausible accusations were offered by a group of conservatives yesterday -- including a living relic from the House Committee on Un-American Activities -- in a Capitol Hill basement. The charges ranged from the absurd to the merely questionable, but anybody who watched the Swift Boat campaign of 2004 make John Kerry look like a war criminal knows that's not the point.
The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy took a blow with Hillary Clinton's collapse. But it is regrouping, and finding plenty of sinister things to say about Obama -- even if he didn't trade cattle futures.
The group, assembled by something called America's Survival Inc., gathered in the basement of Ebenezer Coffee House at Second and F streets NE. They shared the stage with a big drum set, and posters documenting items they would seek to tie to Obama: an SDS newsletter from 1969 (when he was 7), and a police killing from 1970 (when he was 8).
"We believe that any public figure with links to foreign and hostile interests should be asked to explain those associations," the organizer, Cliff Kincaid, told about two dozen conservatives and a few reporters. "In the case of Obama, a relatively new figure on the national scene, we submit the facts suggest that he would have serious difficulty getting a security clearance in the United States government. An FBI background check was once used to examine one's character, loyalty to the United States, and associations."
"He's a member of an organization [that is] openly a front for two socialist groups," reported another participant, Trevor Loudon.
"Obama was raised and educated in a very Marxist-rich environment, which often would limit his worldview," reported a third, Max Friedman.
But the star of the show was the ancient Herbert Romerstein, who once plied his trade for the Un-American Activities committee. "We decided to start going back and seeing what things influenced him even before he was born," Romerstein announced without a trace of irony, before tying Obama to the Communist Party of the 1930s in Hawaii and Soviet spies on the island. "This is the atmosphere that young Barack Obama grew up in."
The smoking gun? Obama's "mentor" during his teens, according to Kincaid, was "a key member of a Soviet-controlled network that was sponsored by Moscow and active in Hawaii."
These accusations fall somewhere between guilt by association and guilt by invention, but the accusers were just getting started.
In college, Obama "admits selecting Marxist professors among his friends and attending socialist conferences," Kincaid went on. In Chicago, he said, "Obama launched his political career back in 1995 at the home of communist-terrorist Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn," the two Weather Underground figures who have already made a cameo in the campaign. Kincaid then made the unilateral decision to accuse Dohrn of the 1970 killing of a policeman, a charge no prosecutor has made.
"The Weather Underground terrorists," Romerstein added, "were instrumental in getting him to office in the first place."
Those charges were relatively benign compared with the questions. One inquired about the link between "the American left and Islamofascists." Another asked about nefarious influences on Michelle Obama. A third raised the possibility that Obama's "change" slogan is based on the 1961 communist "Movement for Change."
"It's clear that the communists and the socialists are backing him," Kincaid confirmed.
The questions continued: "The Obama-Muslim connection . . . the background of Michelle Obama . . . How he gave $23,000 to this church . . . Was it connected with Tony Rezko . . . the results from Gary, Indiana, which were so late in being released."
It was beginning to sound like a UFO convention. But the panelists took it seriously, firing questions back at the audience. "Was Barack Obama working for Bill Ayers?" Kincaid wondered aloud. Romerstein demanded: "How come for 20 years he sat in the pews and listened to a raving anti-American racist? How did he bring his two young children to this church to hear Wright rave on?"
The evidence was compelling enough for participant Friedman. For him, the Rosetta Stone was Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, who Friedman alleged was the protege of a man with "a Communist Party-front record" in Chicago. "The more I look at this, I'm seeing there are a lot of red-diaper babies around here," he deduced. "By putting these pieces of the puzzle together, I'm beginning to see something much bigger."