Barack Obama literally embraced Professor Bell at a public gathering.
After Obama went out into the world and worked for a time in a private business, he regarded himself as being, in his own words, "a spy behind enemy lines."
Later, when he began his political career by running for state office in Illinois, his campaign began with a fundraiser in the home of Bill Ayers, who had been a domestic terrorist who planted bombs in public places, including the Pentagon.
When this association was later revealed, Obama said that he was still a child during Ayers' years as a terrorist.
But Obama was by no means still a child when Ayers defended his years of terrorism in a statement that appeared in the New York Times — ironically, on Sept. 11, 2001.
This is not the Barack Obama that most voters saw and elected president of the United States in 2008.
What they saw was a carefully crafted image of a bright, articulate, energetic and genial fellow who would heal our racial and partisan divides. His likability was high and remained so, even after many became disappointed with his policies.
His geniality has carried him over many rough spots. But have you ever heard of a grumpy confidence man? Geniality is a prerequisite for the job.
What many regard as a failure of Obama's foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, may well be one of his biggest successes.
His desire to redistribute wealth domestically is part of a larger ideological vision that includes a redistribution of power internationally.
Obama has long said that the United States plays too large a role internationally. His policies suggest that Islamic countries need a larger role.
The troubling question is whether he still sees his own role as "a spy behind enemy lines" in the White House.
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. His website is www.tsowell.com.