IMUS BASHERS CLINTON & OBAMA USED
FOUL-MOUTHED RAPPERS TO RAISE FUNDS
OPINION JOUNAL, WSJ - - Senator Barack
Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is running for president, called
on MSNBC and CBS Radio to disassociate themselves from Mr. Imus,
and said that he would never go on the show again. He said he
had appeared once, more than two years ago. "He didn't just
cross the line," Mr. Obama said in an interview with ABC
News. "He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my
two young daughters are having to deal with today in America.".
In what segment of American culture would
one be most likely to encounter such stereotypes? We'd venture
to say the answer is rap music, also known as hip hop. There's
one rap band that actually calls itself Nappy Roots. And of course
references to women as "hos" are commonplace in rap
lyrics, such as this one by Christopher Bridges, who uses the
stage name "Ludacris":
You'z a Ho, (Ho)
You'z a Ho, I said that you'z a Ho (Ho)
You'z a Ho, (Ho)
You'z a Ho, (Ho)
You'z a Ho, I said that you'z a Ho (Ho)
You doing Ho activities
With Ho tendencies
Hos are your friends,
Hos are your enemies
At this point it gets too vulgar for this
columnist to feel comfortable quoting. . .
HENRY ADASO, ABOUT RAP & HIP-HOP, MARCH
2 - Ubiquitous sound architect Timbaland is set to host a lavish
fundraiser for Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham
Clinton in Miami, FL this month. Timbaland (born Timothy Mosley)
will host the fundraiser on Mar. 31, which is the last day of
the first-quarter fund-raising period for Presidential candidates,
according to the Miami Herald. The fundraiser is reportedly billed
at $1,000 per attendee. Former President Bill Clinton is also
slated to appear at the event. Now that Clinton has aligned herself
with a hip-hop bigwig, I wonder which rap star is going to host
Obama's fundraiser. May I suggest Kanye West.
MIAMI HERALD, MAR 31 - Hillary Clinton's
fundraiser tonight in Miami-Dade -- billed as the biggest ever
by a Democratic candidate in Florida -- at the adjacent homes
of uber-donor Chris Korge and mega-rapper Timbaland. The money
race has gotten so crazy this year that an individual candidate
during these first three months may raise as much money - $30
million - as the entire field of presidential candidates did
during the same time period in 2003.
The 2008 campaign is also expected to be
the first since Watergate in which none of the presidential candidates
accept public campaign financing because it would force them
to curtail their spending.
The contenders pretend to be above the
crass scramble for cash. ''96 hours to show substance works,''
said the e-mail from Edwards' campaign manager, accompanied by
a last-minute financial appeal. Obama is posting the number of
his donors to show that he is getting small checks from real
people, including a ``special education teacher in Florida, a
bartender in Colorado and a minister in New York.''
That's all well and good, but the modern-day
campaign simply cannot stay afloat without the trial lawyer in
Massachusetts, the oil executive in Texas and the investment
banker in California.
SAMPLE TIMBALAND LYRICS
Yeah, get nigga
Redman got fire nigga
Shots are in your hood when I'm high nigga
Shots of Cuervo are fuckin up my liver
Shots from the cameras on my niggas
Girlfriend drunk, so I'll jump around wit her
I step inside, you're quiet like a mime nigga
My watch do more things than James Bond nigga
I'm gonna do it now, I ain't gonna try nigga
(Put it down, put it down, put it down girl)
You better grind, cause you ain't spending mine girl
When Timbaland plan and I'll do the ground work
Whether you in Tims, Air Force, or Converse
Let me see the high niggas on the left side
And whole muthafuckas smokin on the right side
You sayin "fuck Gillahouse" nigga likewise
This is how I walk up on your ho ? hey
Put it down. . .
And so forth
IS OBAMA LOSING HIS GLOSS?
[It's always nice to see the archaic media
catch up with the Progressive Review]
LAS VEGAS SUN - Barack Obama, a month ago:
Democratic Party savior. Cool, smart, black, great personal story.
Barack Obama, this week: All flash, no
substance. Fast and loose with facts, Hillary will pummel him.
After a Las Vegas health care forum last week, Obama was deemed
a disappointment by a national magazine writer, and the theme
multiplied: Los Angeles Times, The Politico, the Associated Press,
Time magazine's Joe Klein made it official
this week: "Even over here in the Middle East, you can feel
the zeitgeist gently shifting - Obama ebbing, for the moment,
at least in media-land."
The chattering herd loves a narrative,
and this year, just as in past presidential years, the media
are moving like a pack, hunting for their beloved conventional
wisdom. . .
Obama's problem apparently began last week
in Las Vegas at a union-sponsored health care forum. Other than
former Sen. John Edwards, none of the candidates has specific
health care plans. They agree on some general principles, which
Obama laid out. Some in the pack found his performance lacking.
Tumulty, the Time correspondent who moderated
the forum, wrote a blog post: "In the post-game chatter
in the ladies room . . . there was a lot of complaining from
people who had found his entire presentation vague and unsatisfying."
Allen, former White House beat reporter
for Time and now a reporter at The Politico, published a piece
Monday noting Obama's "tendency toward seemingly minor contradictions
and rhetorical slips that serve as reminders that he is still
a newcomer to national politics."
Richard Cohen, the liberal Washington Post
columnist most reviled by liberals, hit Obama in his Tuesday
column: "He may be manipulating the facts in order to wrap
raw ambition in the gauze of a larger cause."
Finally, the Associated Press, that down-the-middle
news organization, confirmed the received wisdom in a news story
that probably ran in hundreds of papers: "The voices are
growing louder asking the question: Is Barack Obama all style
and little substance?
"The freshman Illinois senator began
his campaign facing the perception that he lacks the experience
to be president, especially compared to rivals with decades of
work on foreign and domestic policy," the AP story said.
"So far, he's done little to challenge it. He's delivered
no policy speeches and provided few details about how he would
lead the country.". . .
OBAMA AND THE MAGICAL NEGRO
DAVID EHRENSTEIN, LA TIMES
- Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois,
is running for president. . . But it's clear that Obama also
is running for an equally important unelected office, in the
province of the popular imagination - the "Magic Negro."
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern
folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to
explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs.
Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one
day to help the white protagonist," reads the description
on Wikipedia. . .
He's there to assuage white "guilt"
(i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery
and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes
of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure
for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest. As might
be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic - embodied by such
noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers,
Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle.
And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very
nickname is "Magic.". . .
The senator's famously stem-winding stump
speeches have been drawing huge crowds to hear him talk of uniting
rather than dividing. A praiseworthy goal. Consequently, even
the mild criticisms thrown his way have been waved away, "magically."
He used to smoke, but now he doesn't; he racked up a bunch of
delinquent parking tickets, but he paid them all back with an
apology. And hey, is looking good in a bathing suit a bad thing?.
Obama's fame right now has little to do
with his political record or what he's written in his two (count
'em) books, or even what he's actually said in those stem-winders.
It's the way he's said it that counts the most. . .
Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there
to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know
or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he
seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white
America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black
benevolence on him.
HOW OBAMA LOST INTEREST IN PALESTINE
ALI ABUNIMAH, ELECTRONIC INTIFADA - I first
met Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama almost
ten years ago when, as my representative in the Illinois state
senate, he came to speak at the University of Chicago. He impressed
me as progressive, intelligent and charismatic. I distinctly
remember thinking 'if only a man of this calibre could become
president one day.'
On Friday Obama gave a speech to the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee in Chicago. . . Reviewing the
speech, Ha'aretz Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner concluded
that Obama "sounded as strong as Clinton, as supportive
as Bush, as friendly as Giuliani. At least rhetorically, Obama
passed any test anyone might have wanted him to pass. So, he
is pro-Israel. Period.". . .
Obama offered not a single word of criticism
of Israel, of its relentless settlement and wall construction,
of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians.
While constantly emphasizing his concern
about the threat Israelis face from Palestinians, Obama said
nothing about the exponentially more lethal threat Israelis present
to Palestinians. . .
Obama said, "Hizbullah launched four
thousand rocket attacks just like the one that destroyed the
home in Kiryat Shmona, and kidnapped Israeli service members."
. . . As anyone who checks the chronology of last summer's Lebanon
war will easily discover, Hizbullah only launched rockets against
Israeli towns after Israel had heavily bombed civilian neighborhoods
in Lebanon killing hundreds of civilians, many fleeing the Israeli
onslaught. . . In total, forty-three Israeli civilians were killed
by Hizbullah rockets during the thirty-four day war. For every
Israeli civilian who died, over twenty-five Lebanese civilians
were killed by indiscriminate Israeli bombing -- over one thousand
in total, a third of them children. . .
There was absolutely nothing in Obama's
speech that deviated from the hardline consensus underpinning
US policy in the region. Echoing the sort of exaggeration and
alarmism that got the United States into the Iraq war, he called
Iran "one of the greatest threats to the United States,
to Israel, and world peace." While advocating "tough"
diplomacy with Iran he confirmed that "we should take no
option, including military action, off the table." . . .
Over the years since I first saw Obama
speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian
and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May
1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote
speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress
I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University
of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright
in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed
approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the
winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.
He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic
nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies.
But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off
his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered,
"Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right
now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things
calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism,
including columns I was contributing to the the Chicago Tribune
critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
But Obama's gradual shift into the AIPAC
camp had begun as early as 2002 as he planned his move from small
time Illinois politics to the national scene. In 2003, Forward
reported on how he had "been courting the pro-Israel constituency."
He co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing
the state of Illinois to lend money to the Israeli government.
If disappointing, given his historically
close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's about-face
is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary
to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps
him in power. Palestinian-Americans are in the same position
as civil libertarians who watched with dismay as Obama voted
to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, or immigrant rights advocates
who were horrified as he voted in favor of a Republican bill
to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border
OBAMA CAMPAIGN FUDGED CANDIDATE'S MUSLIM
PAUL WATSON, LA TIMES - As a boy in Indonesia,
Barack Obama crisscrossed the religious divide. At the local
primary school, he prayed in thanks to a Catholic saint. In the
neighborhood mosque, he bowed to Allah. Having a personal background
in both Christianity and Islam might seem useful for an aspiring
U.S. president in an age when Islamic nations and radical groups
are key national security and foreign policy issues. But a connection
with Islam is untrod territory for presidential politics. . .
No one knows how voters will react to a
candidate with an early exposure to Islam, a religion that remains
foreign to many Americans.
Obama's campaign aides have emphasized his strong Christian beliefs
and downplayed any Islamic connection. The candidate was raised
"in a secular household in Indonesia by his stepfather and
mother," his chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said in a statement
in January after false reports began circulating that Obama had
attended a radical madrasa, or Koranic school, as a child.
"To be clear, Senator Obama has never
been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian
who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago," Gibbs'
Jan. 24 statement said. In a statement to The Times on Wednesday,
the campaign offered slightly different wording, saying: "Obama
has never been a practicing Muslim." The statement added
that as a child, Obama had spent time in the neighborhood's Islamic
His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers,
along with two people who were identified by Obama's grade-school
teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his
family as a Muslim at both of the schools he attended. That registration
meant that during the third and fourth grades, Obama learned
about Islam for two hours each week in religion class.
The childhood friends say Obama sometimes
went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. "We prayed but
not really seriously, just following actions done by older people
in the mosque. But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and
went to the mosque together and played," said Zulfin Adi,
who describes himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends.
The campaign's national press secretary,
Bill Burton, said Wednesday that the friends were recalling events
"that are 40 years old and subject to four decades of other
information." Obama's younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said
in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended
the mosque only "for big communal events," not every
OBAMA FAILED HIS PROMISE ON WAR OPPOSITION
RICK KLEIN, BOSTON GLOBE -
A review of Obama's record during his 26 months in Congress reveals
that he has taken a more nuanced and cautious position on the
war than the full-bore opposition. Campaigning for the Illinois
Senate seat in 2003 and 2004, Obama scolded Bush for invading
Iraq and vowed he would "unequivocally" vote against
an additional $87 billion to pay for it. Yet since taking office
in January 2005, he has voted for four separate war appropriations,
totaling more than $300 billion.
Last June, Obama voted no to Senator John
F. Kerry's proposal to remove most combat troops from Iraq by
July 2007, warning that an "arbitrary deadline" could
"compound" the Bush administration's mistake. And last
week, he voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution that stated
the Senate would not cut off funding for troops in Iraq. . .
Obama has voted for war appropriations
because he wants the troops provided for fully, said Bill Burton,
an Obama spokesman. Aides said that Obama has criticized the
war several times early in his Senate career, but that he delayed
rolling out specific plans and major Senate speeches while learning
about his new office.
DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST -
A brewing argument over Iraq between the presidential campaigns
of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama broke into public
view here Monday night when Clinton's chief strategist challenged
Obama's credentials as a consistent opponent of the war. Mark
Penn and Obama strategist David Axelrod engaged in a pointed
and occasionally heated exchange during a public forum at Harvard
University over the issue that has become the central point of
dispute between the two leading candidates for the 2008 Democratic
nomination. Clinton (N.Y.) voted for the October 2002 resolution
authorizing the Iraq war, while Obama (Ill.), then a state senator,
publicly opposed the war. . .
Penn, responding to a question about Clinton's
vote for the resolution, used the opportunity to attack Obama,
arguing that he had said in 2004 that he was not sure whether
he would have voted against the resolution had he been in the
Senate. "Obama said he didn't know exactly how he would
have voted in Congress because he didn't have the full intelligence,"
Axelrod quickly interrupted Penn and disputed
his interpretation of events, charging that the Clinton strategist
had distorted the meaning of what Obama had said at the time.
Penn also argued that since Obama arrived
in the Senate in 2005, his voting record has been virtually identical
to Clinton's. "Senator Obama voted $301 billion in funding.
So did Senator Clinton," he said. "Senator Obama voted
against a definite withdrawal date. So did Senator Clinton."
Penn went on to say that when it comes to their records, there
is "very little difference in the Senate, where people actually
have to cast votes," and argued that the nomination battle
should not be decided on the basis of the two senators' war records.
OBAMA SOFTENS HIS ANTI-PALESTINE POSITION
THOMAS BEAUMONT, DES MOINES REGISTER -
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on Sunday told a small group of Iowa
Democrats that U.S. policy in the Middle East can be compassionate
as well as tough . . . Obama told the Muscatine-area party activists
that he supports relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinian
people. He said they have suffered the most as a result of stalled
peace efforts with Israel. "Nobody is suffering more than
the Palestinian people," Obama said while on the final leg
of his weekend trip to eastern Iowa. "If we could get some
movement among Palestinian leadership, what I'd like to see is
a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly
to the Palestinian people," he added.
OBAMA'S EARLY AUDACITY
TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS - On March
2 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Craig Robinson.
Robinson is the head coach of the Brown University men's basketball
team, and he also happens to be Barack Obama's brother-in-law.
Obama married Robinson's younger sister, Michelle, in 1992. .
. In the early 1990s, when his sister brought her new boyfriend
home for the first time, Craig Robinson was understandably wary.
Now read how the article ends: "As for his brother-in-law,
Robinson still shakes his head when he remembers that initial
meeting. "We were talking about a variety of things and
he said, 'I'm thinking about running for president one day,'
" Robinson said. "I said, 'President? President of
what?'". . . So, if Robinson's recollection is accurate,
more than five years before Barack Obama first ran for elected
office he was thinking and talking somewhat openly about running
for President. . .
OBAMA LEFT 17 PARKING TICKETS UNPAID
FOR YEARS. . .
UNTIL HE WAS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
SOMERVILLE NEWS, MA - Before Barack Obama
was a United States senator and a presidential hopeful, he was
a Harvard University law student living in Somerville who parked
in bus stops and accumulated hundreds of dollars in parking tickets.
And for nearly two decades those parking tickets went unpaid,
until a representative of Obama's settled all his outstanding
debts with Cambridge's Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department
Obama attended Harvard Law School from
1988 to 1991. During his time at Harvard, Obama lived at 365
Broadway in Somerville, according to his parking tickets. Records
from the Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation office
show that between Oct. 5, 1988 and Jan. 12, 1990 Obama was cited
for 17 traffic violations, sometimes committing two in the same
day. The abuses included parking in a resident permit area, parking
in a bus stop and failing to pay the meter. Twelve of Obama's
17 tickets were given to him on Massachusetts Avenue.
In one eight day stretch in 1988, Obama
was cited seven times for parking violations and was fined $45.
Thirteen of the 17 violations occurred within one month in 1988.
Obama's disobedience of the rules of the
road earned him $140 in fines from the City of Cambridge. The
tickets went unpaid for over 17 years and $260 in late fees were
added to the tab. On Jan. 26, the fines and late fees were paid
in full. The final tally for Obama's parking breaches was $400,
according to Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation.
Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the
presidential candidate's parking violations were not relevant.
"He didn't owe that much and what he did owe, he paid,"
Psaki said. "Many people have parking tickets and late fees.
All the parking tickets and late fees were paid in full."
Psaki declined to comment further. She
refused to say how the fines went unpaid so long and what prompted
Obama to finally pay them.
PRESIDENTS AND PARKING TICKETS
If I just found out that one of my friends
had left 17 parking tickets in Somerville, Massachusetts unpaid
nearly two decades it would not lessen my affection towards that
friend. As has been said, a friend is one who knows your faults
and doesn't give a damn.
[Besides, I didn't return the copy of "The
Care and Feeding of Hamsters," which I borrowed from the
Cleveland Park Library in 1973 until I found it in my basement
in 1991. The maximum fine was $7; I paid $25 out of guilt which
may have been more than necessary since I seem to have been made
a life member of the Friend of the Cleveland Park Library as
If I found that someone had accumulated
the parking tickets shortly before becoming president of the
Harvard Law Review I would have been smugly amused by the confirmatory
evidence for my assumptions about that institution.
If the offender had run for State Senate
of Illinois from a Chicago district, I would have probably supported
him since the violations were in the lower range of offenses
generally associated with that post.
But what if the offender had an repetitive
tendency to write things in books and speeches like the following?
"Our failure as progressives to tap
into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical,
though. Our fear of getting 'preachy' may also lead us to discount
the role that values and culture play in addressing some of our
most urgent social problems."
Or as the violator put it down in Selma
just the other day:
"One of the signature aspects of the
civil rights movement was the degree of discipline and fortitude
that was instilled in all the people who participated. Imagine
young people, 16, 17, 20, 21, backs straight, eyes clear, suit
and tie, sitting down at a lunch counter knowing somebody is
going to spill milk on you but you have the discipline to understand
that you are not going to retaliate because in showing the world
how disciplined we were as a people, we were able to win over
the conscience of the nation. I can't say for certain that we
have instilled that same sense of moral clarity and purpose in
I tend not to follow the moral reiterations
of people with 17 unpaid parking tickets, especially one who
seems to have abruptly stopped accumulating them once the Harvard
Law Review presidency was in sight and didn't bother paying them
until a still higher presidency was in sight.
There is a bit of arrogance, contempt and
self indulgence lurking behind such behavior. One unpaid ticket
is a messy desk, two is a messy schedule, three a messy life,
but 17 suggests a certain philosophical indifference to the law
or other psychological flaw.
Not that all fines should be paid. For
example, just 14 miles down the road from Somerville is Concord,
Massachusetts, where in July of 1846 Henry David Thoreau was
arrested by Constable Samuel Staples for failure to pay the poll
tax, a dramatic, albeit admittedly unpreachy, statement in opposition
to slavery. A veiled woman, perhaps his aunt, arrived to pay
his fine but Thoreau refused to leave. Then, according to Wendy
"According to some accounts, Emerson
visited Thoreau in jail and asked, 'Henry, what are you doing
in there?' Thoreau replied, 'Waldo, the question is what are
you doing out there?' Emerson was 'out there' because he believed
it was shortsighted to protest an isolated evil; society required
an entire rebirth of spirituality."
In the present instance, the 17 unpaid
Somerville parking tickets have resulted in neither jail nor
are they likely - despite the offender's best desires - to result
in an entire rebirth of spirituality. Instead, they stand as
a reminder of the sometimes subtle, sometimes simple, accord
we strike with each other in order to live in the same town.
And how some observe this accord and others think they are too
clever or too important to bother.
It is a small matter that becomes somewhat
more significant when one thinks about the past six years under
a president who has routinely ignored the laws of the United
States in order to satisfy his egoistic and psychotic needs.
Many of these violations have their roots in behavior and attitudes
learned as a young man, including at college.
It's not an insurmountable problem but
it doesn't help much when your media representative declares
the issue not relevant. After all, as they say: deceive me once,
shame on thee. . . Deceive me, the Traffic, Parking and Transportation
Department, the Democratic Party, the media and the voters 17
times until your consultants tell you better pay up, shame on
all of us.
From left to right,
Michelle Obama, then Illinois state senator Barack Obama, Columbia
University Professor Edward Said and Mariam Said at a May 1998
Arab community event in Chicago at which Edward Said gave the
keynote speech. [Ali Abunimah archives]
HOW OBAMA LOST INTEREST IN PALESTINE:
If disappointing, given
his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's
about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks
is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as
long as it keeps him in power. Palestinian-Americans are in the
same position as civil libertarians who watched with dismay as
Obama voted to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, or immigrant
rights advocates who were horrified as he voted in favor of a
Republican bill to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence
on the border with Mexico.
THE OBAMA-JFK MYTH TODAY'S JOHN R. STINGO AWARD
goes to any member of the media who compares Barack Obama with
John F. Kennedy on any grounds other than gender and age. The
JFK connection is pure spin - part of the audacity of hope-hustling
that is at the heart of the Obama campaign. In fact, not only
is Obama quite unlike Kennedy, all of today's presidential candidates
would have a hard time against either Kennedy or Nixon in an
REALITIES OF OBAMA'S FATHER
BY ALL RIGHTS, the character of Barack
Obama's father should be of little concern to the voter. But,
like John Kerry with his war record, Obama has tried to get maximum
mileage out of his family story and thus has to be prepared for
An alternative approach, as we suggested
with Kerry, is to shut up about it and let others do the talking.
It's a hard concept for politicians to get, especially hyper-egoed
An exception, however, is John McCain who
has gone through more hell than anyone running for president.
And while that hasn't improved his rightwing politics, he does
provide an example of how to handle one's past. For example,
just before interviewing McCain, Don Imus mentioned that someone
had remarked that he thought McCain was really stiff. Imus explained
it was because of his war injuries. The response: then why doesn't
he talk about them?
When McCain came on the air and Imus pressed
him, he laughed about it and commented that maybe he should wear
a sandwich board labeled, "Eat at Joes and by the way. .
One can't imagine either Obama or Kerry
responding in a similar fashion. It's one of the reasons you
get the swift boat affair or stories like this:
DAILY MAIL, UK -
It is a classic story of the American dream made real: an impoverished
Kenyan goatherd rising to become a brilliant Harvard-educated
economist. On the way he fights racial prejudice at home and
corruption at work, survives the heartbreak of a broken relationship
and, despite it all, leads the fight to rid Africa of its colonial
This extraordinary story is told by US
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama as he recalls the life of the
man who inspired him to political success - his father.
Mr Obama's book, Dreams From My Father,
is flying off the shelves of US book stores, exciting and astonishing
readers in equal measure. It is a bestseller, and no wonder -
because the story just gets better and better. . .
"My story is part of the larger American
story," he declared in the electrifying speech that won
him his Senate seat just two years ago. "In no other country
on Earth is my story even possible.". . .
His lovingly written account of the debt
he owes his father, also called Barack Obama, will do no harm
at all to his presidential hopes.
Indeed, by offering up a conveniently potted
account of his personal history in this way, he might even have
made a preemptive strike on those sure to pose the awkward questions
that inevitably face a serious contender for the White House.
Yet an investigation by The Mail on Sunday
has revealed that, for all Mr Obama's reputation for straight
talking and the compelling narrative of his recollections, they
are largely myth.
We have discovered that his father was
not just a deeply flawed individual but an abusive bigamist and
an egomaniac, whose life was ruined not by racism or corruption
but his own weaknesses.
And, devastatingly, the testimony has come
from Mr Obama's own relatives and family friends. . .
TIME - Obama's wife, Michelle,
earns $45K a year sitting on the corporate board of Treehouse
(formerly Dean) Foods, whose biggest customer is - you guessed
it - Wal-Mart. Not to mention that Treehouse appears to have
a bit of an executive compensation issue. According to the article
by Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago, the CEO of Treehouse earned
$26.2 million in salary and stock options last year, making him
the second highest paid exec in the state, ahead of the CEO's
of corporate giants Motorola and Abbot Labs. And three other
execs at Treehouse made over $10 million last year, all working
for a company with only $700 million in revenues.
PUTTING BLACK FACES ON IMPERIAL POLICIES
GLEN FORD, BLACK AGENDA REPORT - "Barack Obama is our son and he deserves
our support," declared Illinois Senate President Emil Jones
Jr., speaking to a gathering of Black Democrats at the party's
winter meeting, in Washington, earlier this month. By Jones'
logic, Condoleezza Rice deserves automatic African American support
as "our daughter," and Colin Powell, her predecessor
as George Bush's Secretary of State, was due fealty as "our
Jones' embrace of the entire African American
family tree must also, therefore, extend to U.S. Supreme Court
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the most reactionary, anti-Black
member of the High Court; and to "our brother" J. Kenneth
Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State whose consuming
mission in 2004 was to deny the franchise to as many fellow Blacks
as possible. . .
Jones and the larger political current
he represents would utterly gut Black politics of all substance,
rendering the entire electoral process worthless to the Black
masses. Perhaps the greatest irony of Jones' issueless directive
is that it masquerades as a Black empowerment strategy. In a
transparent bid to shame Blacks in the Hillary Clinton camp -
another political desert - Jones said African Americans don't
"owe" anyone. Jones elaborated later, in a conversation
with a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. "How long do we have
to owe before we have an opportunity to support our son?"
In other words, Black people's "debt"
to the Clintons - as if such ever existed - has been paid, and
now it's time to herd Black voters behind Obama, like so many
cattle. Jones' brand of politics holds that Black people don't
have interests or political ideals, only obligations to one politician
or the other. In Jones' world, African Americans are constantly
indebted, but nobody owes them anything - certainly not Obama,
"our son.". . .
Jones' remarks exemplify an extraordinary
vulgarization of African American politics, the product of uncritical,
Jim Crow-era reflexes that linger within the Black polity, combined
with the growing influence of corporate money in the Black leadership-creation
OBAMA APOLOGIZES FOR TELLING THE TRUTH
BARACK OBAMA, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY - We
ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized,
and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent
$400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young
CHICAGO SUN TIMES - Obama, in an interview
with the Des Moines Register right afterward, told the paper,
"I was actually upset with myself when I said that, because
I never use that term," he said. "Their sacrifices
are never wasted. . . . What I meant to say was those sacrifices
have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy
and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give
them a clear mission."
[If you support the war, the lives were
not wasted. If, however, you think the war was pointless and/or
illegal, badly planned and counter-productive, then the lives
were wasted. It's as simple as that. . . except to the media
IS OBAMA TOO BORING TO BE PRESIDENT?
CONFIRMING our view that no president of
the Harvard Law Review should be elected president of the United
States, Barack Obama has given us a frightening insight into
how he handles crises.
It wasn't actually that big a crisis, but
you'd never know from Obama's reaction. It was caused by a Los
Angeles Times article that suggested Obama had exaggerated his
role in the effort to get asbestos out of some Chicago apartments.
The story - a familiar one of a big time pol rewriting history
- didn't get much play but the Obama campaign came back with
a 1700-word response faithfully reproduced online by the Chicago
Among the high points that only a former
editor of the Harvard Law Review could enjoy was Obama's argument
that one Hazel Johnson was an activist and not an organizer,
perhaps the best piece of political quibbling since Bill Clinton
[another Ivy law grad] wondered what "is" is. Obama
even had a cite:
"Loretta Augustine-Herron, who was
the basis for the character "Angela" in Dreams of My
Father, was present at the initial meeting with the Chicago Housing
Authority to discuss the issue of asbestos in the Altgeld Garden
apartments. When asked about the role that Johnson played in
the asbestos work at Altgeld, Augustine-Herron said, 'Hazel was
there [for the asbestos work]. . . [she] might have been an activist.
But she was not an organizer.' [Conversations with Loretta Augustine-Herron,
Of course, there have innumerable activists
and organizers who have done similar things to getting rid of
asbestos in an apartment without ever once thinking that they
should run for president. But then, perhaps they just didn't
have the sort of touch the Chicago Sun Times described and the
Obama campaign proudly quoted:
"Altgeld Gardens resident Hazel Johnson,
69, worked with Obama in the Developing Communities Project on
pushing the Chicago Housing Authority to remove asbestos from
public housing and other issues. She remembers Obama renting
a bus to take a group of residents downtown to protest at CHA
headquarters. 'He even got us coffee and doughnuts," she
said. "And he didn't have to do that.'" [Chicago Sun
How can you resist a candidate like that?
OBAMA MAY NOT KNOW HOW TO RUN, BUT HE
KNOWS HOW TO PASS
NATHAN GONZALES, WALL STREET JOURNAL -
In 1997, Obama voted "present" on two bills (HB 382
and SB 230) that would have prohibited a procedure often referred
to as partial birth abortion. He also voted "present"
on SB 71, which lowered the first offense of carrying a concealed
weapon from a felony to a misdemeanor and raised the penalty
of subsequent offenses.
In 1999, Obama voted "present"
on SB 759, a bill that required mandatory adult prosecution for
firing a gun on or near school grounds. The bill passed the state
Senate 52-1. Also in 1999, Obama voted "present" on
HB 854 that protected the privacy of sex-abuse victims by allowing
petitions to have the trial records sealed. He was the only member
to not support the bill.
In 2001, Obama voted "present"
on two parental notification abortion bills (HB 1900 and SB 562),
and he voted "present" on a series of bills (SB 1093,
1094, 1095) that sought to protect a child if it survived a failed
abortion. In his book, the "Audacity of Hope," on page
132, Obama explained his problems with the "born alive"
bills, specifically arguing that they would overturn Roe v. Wade.
But he failed to mention that he only felt strongly enough to
vote "present" on the bills instead of "no."
And finally in 2001, Obama voted "present"
on SB 609, a bill prohibiting strip clubs and other adult establishments
from being within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, and daycares.
If Obama had taken a position for or against
these bills, he would have pleased some constituents and alienated
others. Instead, the Illinois legislator-turned-U.S. senator
and, now, Democratic presidential hopeful essentially took a
OBAMA BY SOMEONE WHO ACTUALLY COVERED
EDWARD MCCLELLAND - When reporters go one
on one with Barack Obama, they end up writing things they'll
regret in the morning papers. It's a phenomenon called "drinking
the Obama juice." One besotted scribe called him "tall,
fresh and elegant." And the august Atlantic Monthly mooned
about Obama's "charisma, intelligence and ambition, tempered
by a self-deprecating wit," titling its article "The
OK, Obama is tall (6 feet 2 inches), intelligent
(Harvard Law, two bestselling books), and damn, he's ambitious
(running for president after two years in Congress). But he's
As a correspondent for the Chicago Reader,
I covered Obama's 2000 campaign to unseat Bobby Rush, the ex-Black
Panther who's been a Democratic congressman from Chicago's South
Side since 1993. It's the only election Obama has ever lost.
As even one of his admirers put it, "He was a stiff."
You think John Kerry looked wooden and condescending on the campaign
trail? You should have seen this kid Obama. He was the elitist
Ivy League Democrat to top them all. Only after losing that race,
in humiliating fashion, did he develop the voice, the style,
the track record and the agenda that have made him a celebrity
senator, and a Next President. . .
Wherever Obama went, he talked like a poli-sci
thesis. Here's how he bragged on himself back then, as I reported
in the Reader: "My experience of being able to walk into
a public housing development and turn around and walk into a
corporate boardroom and communicate effectively in either venue
means I'm more likely to build the kinds of coalitions and craft
the sort of message that appeals to a broad range of people.".
Back in 2000, when I interviewed Obama
in his cubicle-size office at a downtown law firm, he started
the meeting by checking his watch. Then he dissed his congressional
district, half-joking that he was more committed to the South
Side than his opponents, because, number one, he'd moved there
from Hawaii, and number two, he could have been raking it in
on Wall Street. . .
I'd thought Obama had campaigned like an
ass, but I expected him to run for the U.S. Senate. And I expected
him to win. His white upbringing would appeal to suburbanites,
while South Siders might figure that Obama was as black a senator
as they were going to get, after the Carol Moseley Braun debacle.
His braininess, his haughtiness, his sense of entitlement --
they could only be pluses in a Senate campaign. They don't call
that place Ego Mountain for nothing.
In 2004, I went down to his Michigan Avenue
campaign office to interview him for the Reader. His press secretary
had already scolded me for the "negative" quotes in
my last article. I was expecting another preening, insecure performance.
But Obama charmed me right away. He did it to dozens of reporters
that year. "Good to see you again," he intoned, casually,
gliding across the room like Fred Astaire playing Abe Lincoln.
He had doffed his suit coat for shirtsleeves.. . .
Later, when I called his office for follow-up
questions, Obama jumped on the line and drilled me with more
details of his healthcare plan. He also repeated his "E
Pluribus Unum" speech, tweaking a few words. He was proud
of that one.
A few weeks after that, I heard him speak
at a North Side organic restaurant known for its liberal politics.
. . That wasn't the Obama I'd known. But it was the Obama America
came to know. I was sold. I voted for him twice that year. That
July, the Democrats made him the keynote speaker at their convention.
Terry Link believes that losing that congressional
race liberated Obama to be the real Obama -- the bright young
charmer Link had met as a fellow freshman in Springfield. . .
So what do you make of a campaigner whose
persona changed so drastically in four years? That he's finally
learned to be himself, or that he's putting on an act? He's doing
both. All great politicians are also great performers. . . Obama
has also grown into the character he was born to play: the great
uniter who can bring together old and young, black and white,
Democrat and Republican. So far, he's playing it brilliantly.
Even his comic timing has improved . . .
Some of us, though, are still trying to
figure out how he got to be Elvis, Lord Byron and Bobby Kennedy,
all in the same dark suit.
DEMOCRACY NOW - In political
news, Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama
has suggested he would increase the Pentagon's budget if elected
president. Obama made the comment during a campaign stop in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa. He said that because the Iraq war has depleted
our military "there's probably going to be a bump under
an Obama presidency in initial spending just to get back to where
MATT TAIBBI, ROLLING STONE
- Here's the thing about Obama, the reason they call him a "natural"
and a "rare talent." When Hillary Clinton spouts a
cliché, it's four words long, she's reading it off a teleprompter,
and it hits the ear like the fat part of a wooden oar. Even when
Hillary announced she was running for president, she sounded
like she was ordering coffee. Obama on the other hand can close
his eyes and the cliches just pour out of his mouth in huge polysyllabic
paragraphs, like Rachmaninoff improvisations. In this sense he's
exactly like Bill Clinton, who had the same gift. He is exactly
what is meant by the term bullshit artist.
THE COLONEL JOHN R. STINGO AWARD
[Given in memory of the late New York
columnist who, as AJ Liebling put it, never permitted "facts
to interfere with the exercise of his imagination."]
TO PETER SLEVIN OF THE WASHINGTON POST for his touching description of Barack Obama's
past that fills the gap left by the lack of meaningful activities
in his present. The story was modestly headlined, "Obama
Forged Political Mettle In Illinois Capitol." Makes you
wonder where Biden, Vilsack, Edwards and Richardson forged their
Turns out that Obama "emerged as a
leader while still in his 30s by developing a style former colleagues
describe as methodical, inclusive and pragmatic. He cobbled together
legislation with Republicans and conservative Democrats, making
overtures other progressive politicians might consider distasteful.
Along the way, he played an important role in drafting bipartisan
ethics legislation and health-care reform."
Wow, it doesn't get much better than that for the Washington
elite. And he's black to boot.
FOR A SLIGHTLY MORE dour view:
MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO - It was only about
two years ago, during a meeting with reporters at his Illinois
campaign headquarters after his election to the U.S. Senate,
that he ridiculed as "a silly question" whether he
would run for president or vice president before his term ends
in 2011. . . "I can unequivocally say I will not be running
for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making
sure that I'm the best possible senator on behalf of the people
As he told NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet
the Press" after his election in 2004, "I don't know
where the restrooms are in the Senate." Then last October,
on the same show, he backed away from the pledge, saying it reflected
his "thinking at the time" but that he had not thought
about the idea "with the seriousness and depth that I think
it required.". . .
At the DNC meeting, Obama surprised some
in the audience by seeming to scoff at the intricacy of public
policy. "There are those who don't believe in talking about
hope," he said. "They say, well, we want specifics,
we want details, we want white papers, we want plans. We've had
a lot of plans, Democrats. What we've had is a shortage of hope."
A former Democratic official in close touch
with several of the campaigns said: "Downplaying the importance
of specific plans and ideas seems like a really strange strategy
from somebody who is clearly very smart, policy-wise, but hasn't
established that with the broader public yet.". . .
KARIN STANON, AP - Bruce Harrison, founder
of the Waikoloa, Hawaii-based Family Forest Project, says he
found links between the Democratic senator from Illinois and
Presidents George Washington, James Madison, Harry Truman and
Jimmy Carter. Apparently the common ancestor is one Lawrence
Washington, an English wool merchant born circa 1500. Lawrence
is Obama's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great
grandfather on his mother's side. Lawrence was George Washington's
great-great-great-great-great grandfather on his father's side.
In addition to four presidents, Stanton reports, Lawrence Washington's
descendants include Gen. George S. Patton, Adlai Stevenson, and
TIM NOAH, SLATE - Stanton neglects to tell
readers that this Obama ancestor built the Washington family
estate in Oxfordshire, Sulgrave Manor, on land that King Henry
VIII confiscated from the Catholic Church. She also neglects
to point out that, according to the same genealogical database,
George Washington is President George W. Bush's 11th cousin eight
times removed, and that Dubya may be "at least a 79th great-grandson
of the famous King Solomon of the Bible, whose name is synonymous
with great wisdom." Talk about regression to the mean!
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE TOPIC, you may have
missed this from last August:
ROBIN GIVHAN, WASHINGTON POST
- Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, offers an easy
smile from the cover of the fall issue of Men's Vogue. He has
been shot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, who has
given him the high-gloss treatment for which the Vogue brand
is famous. . . In the cover image, he is shown wearing a crisp
white shirt and a pale blue tie with a pattern of fine stripes.
But since there are no grand flourishes, the eye zeroes in on
the details. The barrel cuffs. The fact that the forearm button
on the left sleeve is undone. The tiny wrinkles along the seams.
One gets the impression that Obama wasn't fussed over and primped
-- at least not lavishly.
The picture of him in his white shirt and
his quiet smile against the wood-grain backdrop of his Chicago
home office is all about ease, control and confidence -- but
not specifically power. Inside the magazine, the senator is photographed
in his Capitol Hill office and he once again is wearing a white
shirt and a blue tie, this one with tiny white dots. In this
image, the tie is loosened, his sleeves are rolled up and the
shirt is wrinkled. Leaving it so obviously mussed was, without
question, intentional. The subtext is clear: The lawmaker is
at work. He is not posing or posturing. It is as though the photographer
-- without assistants, without a sittings editor -- popped in
for a minute and Obama swiveled around in his office chair for
the shot. Click, flash. And he went back to the hard work of
There is a photo of Obama standing on the
steps of the Capitol and being swarmed by a group of students
as if he were a rock star. They are in shorts and T-shirts. He
wears a dark suit with his tie snugly knotted. And there is a
Camelot-like portrait of the family cuddling on the grass in
their Chicago back yard. He wears khakis, and his shirt sleeves
are pushed up as he hugs his two young daughters. His wife, Michelle,
looks on -- her legs tucked under her and a strand of neat beads
around her neck. A reader would be forgiven for trying to find
evidence of a touch football game in the photo.
In each image, Obama is pictured in warm
light or soft focus. He is pondering, nurturing, working. But
never glad-handing, pontificating or fundraising. The pictures
celebrate the idea of Obama rather than the reality of politics.
OBAMA NEVER HAD SELF-ESTEEM PROBLEMS
JOHN MCCASLIN, WASHINGTON TIMES - Sen.
Barack Obama knew as early as the third grade that he wanted
to be president of the United States. The Voice of America and
its Indonesian TV service are reporting that the Illinois Democrat,
who recently made it official that he is seeking the presidency
in 2008, "declared his goal of becoming president when he
was in grade school in Indonesia more than 35 years ago."
In an interview with VOA's Indonesian Service, Mr. Obama's third-grade
teacher said he wrote in a class assignment that he "wanted
to be president," according to VOA's Web site. The assignment
was called, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
THE PROBLEM WITH POST-MODERNIST CANDIDATES
like Obama and Clinton is that you have to keep deconstructing
them. And what you find is more likely to give you a headache
than clarity. For example, we all know that Obama opposed the
war in 2002. But did you know that Obama voted in 2006 against
a Senate resolution calling for getting troops out of Iraq by
July 2007? Those voting for the resolution: Akaka, Boxer, Durbin,
Feingold, Harkin, Inouye, Jeffors, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg,
Leahy, Menendez and Wyden.
Then on Feb 12, 2007, CNN reported, "Sen.
Barack Obama called Monday for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq
in 2007, arguing that the threat of an American pullout is the
best leverage Washington has left in the conflict."
This, from Eric Ruder, gives a further
sense of what we're up against:
ERIC RUDER, COUNTERPUNCH, AUG 3, 2004 -
For those hoping for an alternative to Bush's war on the world,
Obama's rise has raised many hopes. In 2002, Obama spoke at an
antiwar rally in Chicago, and as the convention neared, he reiterated
his view that the U.S. war on Iraq was a defining campaign issue.
Nevertheless, his performance before and
at the convention confirmed that even the party's new liberal
star would fail to oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq in any
Like Kerry, he only quibbled over the hows.
The day before his speech, Obama told reporters, "On Iraq,
on paper, there's not as much difference, I think, between the
Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would
have been a year ago." He added, "There's not that
much difference between my position and George Bush's position
at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position
The speech itself took Bush to task for
lying about the reasons for war and for invading and occupying
"without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace,
and earn the respect of the world." In other words, Obama,
the great liberal hope, thinks that Bush should have sent more
troops--and that the Democrats are more capable of seeing the
war on Iraq through to victory.
Obama is a gifted politician. Like Bill
Clinton, he knows how to encourage people of opposite political
beliefs to see what they want to see in his speeches and policy
prescriptions. Thus, even Rich Lowry, a right-wing booster of
the Bush gang, praised Obama's speech for its "hawkish attitude,"
its "rallying cry of unity" and its "authentic,
unashamed" embrace of "an awesome God."
This method carries through on other issues.
Obama finds a way to talk left--but makes it clear that he will
never pose a threat to corporate interests or make a policy proposal
that would carry a hefty price tag.
IT IS SUCH bobbing and weaving that adds
appeal to John Edwards' flat out admission to error on the war.
After all, when Obama and Clinton do something wrong, they don't
have to apologize, they simply redefine what happened. Edwards
handled things differently:
JONATHAN DARMAN NEWSWEEK, FEB 19 - In the
fall of 2005, John Edwards sat down with a pad and pen and scrawled
out three simple words: "I was wrong." It was nearly
three years after he'd joined a Senate majority in voting to
authorize war in Iraq. After an unsuccessful run as John Kerry's
vice presidential candidate in the 2004 election, Edwards had
returned home to North Carolina and watched as the war descended
into chaos. Increasingly filled with regret, he concluded that
the three-word confession would be the right way to start a Washington
Post op-ed admitting his vote was a mistake.
But when a draft came back from his aides
in Washington, Edwards's admission was gone. Determined, the
senator reinserted the sentence. Again a draft came back from
Washington; again the sentence had been taken out. "We went
back and forth, back and forth," Edwards tells Newsweek.
"They didn't want me to say it. They were saying I should
stress that I'd been misled." The opening sentence remained.
"That was the single most important thing for me to say,"
Edwards recalls. "I had to show how I really felt."
A BRITISH TAKE ON OBAMA . . .
TIM HAMES, TIMES, UK -
Far the most worrying - part of this saga is the way that Mr
Obama rebuts . . . criticism on the rare occasions that he is
confronted with it. When he was pressed in a recent interview
for detailed positions he replied that, unlike others in the
2008 struggle, he had already expressed himself in two books
that had sold well.
Extensive research confirms that Kermit
the Frog has also released two tomes that attracted a substantial
share of dollars (Before You Leap and One Frog Can Make a Difference).
As far as I am aware, Kermit is not in line for the Democratic
nomination next time. . .
Mr Obama is supposedly sweeping the nation,
if not the globe, perhaps the solar system. Despite this, he
is, after months of publicity that a Hollywood star would die
for, miles behind Mrs Clinton in all national polls for the Democratic
prize and is far from establishing a lead in Iowa or New Hampshire,
the Alpha and Beta of presidential primary politics. Yet, never
mind the numbers, who cares about statistics when charisma is
lurking out there?
Charisma is the most overrated attribute
in politics. This is not to deny that some eminent statesmen
- Roosevelt, Churchill, Kennedy - have exhibited the quality.
They all, nonetheless, acquired it alongside experience. Franklin
Roosevelt had no great reputation as a speaker before his election.
Winston Churchill was mocked by a contemporary for spending hours
rehearsing his impromptu addresses. John. F. Kennedy was scarcely
Cicero until he raided the family fortune to hire writing talent.
The reality, on either side of the Atlantic,
is that - while personal charisma is the icing on the cake -
proven competence is the cake itself. For every Sir Richard Branson
who runs a business well, there must be a hundred, probably a
thousand, duller chief executives who are huge assets for their
corporations. . .
OBAMA: CONSCIENCE VS. CAUTION
PAUL HOGARTH, BYOND CHRON - "Barack's
Senate record has been cautious -- but he's not a triangulator,"
said an old friend of mine who used to work closely with Barack
Obama and was one of his former students at the University of
Chicago. "He's always been an incrementalist, but has the
right long- term vision," said another friend from Chicago
who has followed his career closely over the years.
Both of these people are leftists
who wouldn't say such kind words about Obama if they felt that
a familiar politician had sold out after reaching the national
stage. They're answering a question that many progressives have
about a politician who was unknown less than three years ago
-- who really is Barack Obama?. . .
Obama's new book, "The Audacity
of Hope," offers some insights about who he really is --
but I can't say that I felt either assured or dejected after
reading it. If you look beyond the optimistic and eloquent rhetoric
that makes it an uplifting book to read, it's still hard to determine
whether Obama would be a visionary President like FDR who moves
the country decidedly to the left -- or just another Bill Clinton
who will sell out for the sake of expediency.
I grew up in Chicago, and actually
lived three doors down from Barack Obama -- right when he was
kicking off his political career with a run for the Illinois
State Senate. I never knew him all that well, but I remember
him as a staunch progressive who echoed the spirit of the late
Mayor Harold Washington. . .
But Obama's record in the Senate
has been a mixed bag for many progressives, and has surprisingly
been more moderate than his Illinois colleague, Dick Durbin.
. . He's been a good vote against George Bush's Iraq policy and
for withdrawal, but we haven't heard the sense of moral outrage
from him that so many of us feel on a daily basis. And if you
go to websites like Daily Kos, it won't be long before you find
leftists grumbling about how Obama spends his time lecturing
progressives for being too harsh and too partisan in their dismay
at Republicans and conservative Democrats. . .
Throughout the book, I found
myself continuously frustrated by Obama's deference to Republicans
and the excesses of the Bush Administration -- as he gives the
opposition a certain aura of credibility that they simply do
not deserve. As he discusses the Senate debates over the President's
"war powers" to combat terrorism and the Republicans'
manipulation of the Terri Schiavo affair, he writes "as
much as I disagreed with [their positions], I believed they were
worthy of serious debate."
What you don't get from his book
is a sense of outrage that the political spectrum has moved so
far to the right that we are today debating questions that were
called insane twenty years ago. As Obama himself even admits,
"by nature I'm not somebody who gets real worked up about
A more charitable view is that
Obama is an eternal idealist who longs for a time when political
opponents can disagree without being disagreeable -- as he deplores
the partisanship that plagues Washington. . .
Obama's on our side -- but there's
one thing that you can really tell from reading his book: he
is cautious to a fault. And that's not the Obama I remember.
MORE POLITICAL NEWS
GOOD OLD GOLDEN MADRASSA DAYS
[It is noteworthy that Barack Obama's schooling
- and the fact that he is black - seems to be the most interesting
thing anyone can write about him. But the media still can't get
the madrassa thing right. Despite the spin being put on it by
Obama's own staff and the media, Obama did go to a madrassa;
it's just that a madrassa isn't what a lot of people think it
Thus we find ourselves in the classic Washington
conundrum: arguing about the real nature of something that intrinsically
isn't real. Obama is doing a bad job of trying to suppress his
education and religious influences and his opponents are doing
a bad job in trying to suggest there was something evil to it
While Bill Sammon doesn't get madrassa
right, he does have a good review of Obama's own description
of his past. So read, enjoy and remember that pretty soon there'll
be enough Muslims in the country that you'll want one on the
ticket. . . .Sort of like Hillary Clinton discovering a Jewish
grandmother just in time for her New York Senate race.]
SAMMON, DC EXAMINER - Although Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian,
his childhood and family connections to Islam are beginning to
complicate his presidential ambitions.
The Illinois Democrat spent much of last
week refuting unfounded reports that he had been educated in
a madrassa, or radical Islamic school, when he lived in Indonesia
as a boy. "The Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta
is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa,"
said a statement put out by the senator's staff. But the school
did teach the Quran, Islam's holy book, along with subjects such
as math and science, according to Obama, who attended when he
was 9 and 10.
"In Indonesia, I had spent two years
at a Muslim school," he wrote in his first memoir, "Dreams
from my Father." "The teacher wrote to tell my mother
that I made faces during Koranic studies."
Obama - whose father, stepfather, brother
and grandfather were Muslims - explained his own first name,
Barack, in "Dreams": "It means 'Blessed.' In Arabic.
My grandfather was a Muslim."
In his second memoir, "The Audacity
of Hope," Obama added: "Although my father had been
raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed
Still, when his father, a black Kenyan
named Barack Obama Sr., died in 1982, "the family wanted
a Muslim burial," Obama quoted his brother, Roy, as saying
The statement put out by Obama's office
last week referred to his father simply as "an atheist,"
without mentioning his Muslim upbringing.
But with pundits already making faith a
major issue in this presidential campaign - as evidenced by questions
about Republican Mitt Romney's Mormonism - Obama's religious
background is likely to come under further scrutiny.
"He comes from a father who was a
Muslim," said civil rights author Juan Williams of National
Public Radio. "I mean, I think that given we're at war with
Muslim extremists, that presents a problem."
Obama's grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama,
for whom the senator was given his middle name, Hussein, was
fiercely devoted to Islam, according to an account in "Dreams."
The grandfather, who died in 1979, was described by his widow
when Obama visited Kenya in the late 1980s.
"What your grandfather respected was
strength. Discipline," Obama quoted his grandmother as telling
him. "This is also why he rejected the Christian religion,
"For a brief time, he converted, and
even changed his name to Johnson. But he could not understand
such ideas as mercy towards your enemies, or that this man Jesus
could wash away a man's sins.
"To your grandfather, this was foolish
sentiment, something to comfort women," she added. "And
so he converted to Islam - he thought its practices conformed
more closely to his beliefs."
When Obama was 2 years old, his parents
divorced and his father moved away from the family's home in
Hawaii. Four years later, his mother married an Indonesian man,
Lolo Soetoro, who moved his new wife and stepson to Jakarta.
"During the five years that we would
live with my stepfather in Indonesia, I was sent first to a neighborhood
Catholic school and then to a predominately Muslim school,"
Obama wrote in "Audacity." "In our household,
the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf."
Obama's stepfather was a practicing Muslim.
"Lolo followed a brand of Islam that
could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and
Hindu faiths," Obama recalled. "He explained that a
man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised,
he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share."
"It was to Lolo that I turned to for
guidance and instruction," Obama recalled. "He introduced
me as his son."
Although Obama wrote of "puzzling
out the meaning of the muezzin's call to evening prayer,"
he was not raised as a Muslim, according to the senator's office.
Nor was he raised as a Christian by his mother, a white American
named Ann Dunham who was deeply skeptical of religion.
"Her memories of the Christians who
populated her youth were not fond ones," Obama wrote. "For
my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness
in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of
As a result, he said, "I was not raised
in a religious household."
Later in life, however, he was drawn to
the writings of an influential American Muslim who served as
the spokesman for the militant Nation of Islam.
"Malcolm X's autobiography seemed
to offer something different," Obama wrote. "His repeated
acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words,
his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising
order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force
He added: "Malcolm's discovery toward
the end of his life, that some whites might live beside him as
brothers in Islam, seemed to offer some hope of eventual reconciliation."
While working as a community organizer
for a group of churches in Chicago, Obama was repeatedly asked
to join Christian congregations, but begged off. "I remained
a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient
conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation
too easily won," he wrote.
But after much soul searching, he eventually
was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ. "It came
about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did
not magically disappear," he explained. "But kneeling
beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God's
spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated
myself to discovering His truth."
Obama's family connections to Islam would
endure, however. For example, his brother Roy opted for Islam
over Christianity, as Obama recounted when describing his 1992
wedding. "The person who made me proudest of all,"
Obama wrote, "was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo,
his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African
heritage. He converted to Islam, and has sworn off pork and tobacco
NOW about this madrassa business. First
from a Philip Weiss column we quoted the other day, an explanation
by Palestinian scholar Saifedean Ammous:
"The term Madrasah simply means school,
and is used exactly as in English, so you could use it to refer
to a Jewish, Christian or Islamic Madrasah, as well as a public,
private, elementary or secondary Madrasah. In the English language,
and due to the amount of coverage that some of these schools
in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been getting over the last few
years, the term Madrasah has been associated with religious schools
that supposedly indoctrinate and train terrorists."
"Obama clearly went to a Madrasah
in Indonesia, in that he clearly went to a school. . . Even if
he did go to a religious school, that almost certainly doesn't
mean that it was a place where they learned Koran and not chemistry.
In all likelihood it was an Islamic school inasmuch as Catholic
schools in America are Catholic: a regular school teaching all
the regular subjects, but putting a little extra emphasis on
religion and the morality of its students."
WIKIPEDIA - In the Arabic language, the
word implies no sense other than that which the word school represents
in the English language, such as private, public or parochial
school, as well as for any primary or secondary school whether
Muslim, non-Muslim or secular. Unlike the understanding of the
word school in British English, the word madrasah refers in American
English to a university-level or post-graduate Islamic school.
A typical Islamic school (madrasah) usually
offers two courses of study: a "hifz" course; that
is memorization of the Qur'an . . . and an 'alim course leading
the candidate to become an accepted scholar in the community.
. . Depending on the educational demands, some madrasahs also
offer additional advanced courses in Arabic literature, English
and other foreign languages, as well as science and world history.
In India, there are around 30,000 operating
madrasahs. . . Madrasah education is always provided for free.
As a result, the madrasahs often have a multifarious student
enrollment, including some Hindus and Christians. . .
Due to administrative mishandling, radical
political indoctrination of students and adopting a more conservative
view of the simple teachings of Islam, especially in certain
Muslim countries such as Pakistan, madrasahs nowadays are frequently
deemed as ideological and political training grounds for hatred
against the West. In Pakistan in particular, the heavy emphasis
on religious teachings to the exclusion of more economically
viable subject areas has been criticised. There are also many
allegations and documented cases of physical abuse in madrasahs,
especially in the UK, such as corporal punishment, beatings and
other such practices; such criticisms are usually limited to
western countries, as practices such as these are an established
pedagogic norm in many nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nigeria.
US STATE DEPARTMENT, MARCH 14 2006 - Today,
during her visit to Ma 'Muriyah madrassah in Jakarta, U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice announced the creation of the Indonesian
version of Sesame Street, the popular educational children's
television program. The new program will be funded through a
$8.5 million grant from the U.S. Government through the United
States Agency for International Development to the Sesame Workshop.
Secretary Rice, Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe,
and USAID Mission Director William M. Frej were welcomed to Ma
'Muriyah by Mr. Sidi Muralin Singedekane, owner of the school,
and Headmistress Yawairiyah. Speaking to students, teachers and
education officials, Secretary Rice said the Indonesian version
of Sesame Street will help build a foundation for successful
life-long learning for millions of Indonesian children, as it
has for children around the world. . .
While at Ma 'Muriyah, Secretary Rice visited
the classrooms for second and sixth graders who are participating
in USAID's Decentralized Basic Education Program. The program
introduces more participatory teaching and learning techniques
to help increase student's performance in math, science and reading.
Ma 'Muriyah madrassah is an elementary
and junior high school in the Cikini neighborhood. Of the madrassah's
125 students, half come from disadvantaged families. Many live
in temporary houses along the river.
OBAMA'S 2004 SPEECH REVISITED
Since the establishment media
is trying to get us to elect a man as president on the basis
of one speech he gave, I thought it might be useful to go back
and look at Barack Obama's 2004 talk.
Before preceding further, it
should be noted that electing anyone on the basis of a speech
is a dangerous way of going about politics because, in the first
place, you're not necessarily voting for the person who wrote
it. I have long argued that speech writers ought to be listed
on the ballot alongside their candidates and if any writer gets
fired or leaves, then a special election needs to be called to
select a new speechwriter-enhanced politician.
But that reform is a long way
off so we'll just go along with the dominant principle that anyone
who gives a good speech is entitled to be president.
Unfortunately, Obama's 2004 speech
wasn't all that good. One can't read it without a sense that
it wasn't the all too familiar cliches that appealed to the media
and voters as much as the fact that they were being delivered
by a black man. What Obama did was to say absolutely nothing
that a centrist white voter would find offensive or nerve troubling.
Not a hint of Jackson, Sharpton, Farrakhan or King.
The speech consisted of 2341
words (including the applause credits listed in the transcript).
These broke down into the following:
15% - A description of Obama's
7% - Standard cliches about the U.S.
10% - Standard warm and fuzzy anecdotes
16% - Words in praise of the candidate, John Kerry
8% - Cliches about hope
15% - We're all in this together, there's nothing much to argue
The last theme can be summed
up as why can't the pro-war, anti-abortion, evolution-despising
Christian evangelical and the secular, pacifist, pro-gun control
gay just be friends? It is a theme that seems to be central to
Obama's current plans. Yet what does Obama have to offer to resolve
such conflicts? Nothing but mushy, goo-good imprecations of the
sort we used to hear from our fourth grade teacher. It's actually
a lot harder than that.
There was one other theme in
the speech - taking 8% of the words - that was startling to rediscover:
Obama was subtlety but distinctly anti-government. A sample:
"Now, don't get me wrong,
the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and
office parks, they don't expect government to solves all of their
problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And
they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and
people will tell you: They don't want their tax money wasted
by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.
"Go into any inner-city
neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't
teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to teach, that
children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and
turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says
a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.
"People don't expect --
people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But
they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change
in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has
a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain
open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.
So now we're going waste months
in the search for a candidate who will provide "just a slight
change in priorities." And that, in his own words, is precisely
what Obama promises.
What Obama was doing was sending
a signal to the establishment that he wouldn't cause any trouble,
that he was willing to join the extremist center, that most dangerous
faction of American politics - the one that starts wars, destroys
the environment, and celebrates economic equality all the time
bragging about how moderate it is. Besides, as Harry Truman said,
"Whenever a fellow tells me he is bipartisan, I know he
is going to vote against me."
The following is not from the
works of Barry Goldwater but from a Chicago resident running
for president: "Perhaps the single biggest thing we could
do to reduce [inner city] poverty is to encourage teenage girls
to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock."
WHITE LIBERALS LOVE OBAMA BUT BLACK
ACTIVISTS AREN'T SO SURE
TONY ALLEN-MILLS, TIMES, UK -
He is a media darling, a paparazzi target and a source of inspiration
for millions of Democrats who dream of retaking the White House
in 2008. But Senator Barack Obama, the charismatic African-American
who is shaking up the presidential primary race, has not impressed
some of America's most powerful black activists. Civil rights
leaders who have dominated black politics for much of the past
two decades have pointedly failed to embrace the 45-year-old
Illinois senator who is considering a bid to become America's
first black president.
At a meeting of activists in
New York last week, the Rev Jesse Jackson, the first black candidate
to run for president, declined to endorse Obama. "Our focus
right now is not on who's running, because there are a number
of allies running," Jackson said.
The Rev Al Sharpton, the fiery
New York preacher who joined the Democratic primary race in 2004,
said he was considering another presidential run of his own.
And Harry Belafonte, the calypso singer who became an influential
civil rights activist, said America needed to be "careful"
about Obama: "We don't know what he's truly about."
The unexpected coolness between
the old civil rights guard and the new Democratic hopeful has
added an intriguing twist to the budding rivalry between Obama
and Senator Hillary Clinton, who hopes to emulate her husband,
former president Bill Clinton, in attracting support from black
voters. . .
When asked about Obama's likely
candidacy, [Sharpton], renowned for outrageous self-publicising
antics, shrugged: "Right now we're hearing a lot of media
razzle-dazzle. I'm not hearing a lot of meat, or a lot of content.
I think when the meat hits the fire, we'll find out if it's just
fat, or if there's some real meat there.". . .
"He's a young man in many
ways to be admired," Belafonte said. "Obviously very
bright, speaks very well, cuts a handsome figure. But all of
that is just the king's clothes. Who's the king?"
OBAMA HAS SO INTRODUCED BILLS
EXCITING NEWS on the Obama front:
Media Matters reports that Dick Morris lied when he said that
Obama had never introduced a bill. Turns out he has introduced
152 bills and resolutions. The best Media Matters could come
up with were these:
- A bill that passed Congress
"to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo."
- A bill directing the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission to establish guidelines for tracking spent
- A bill extending provisions
in the Safe Drinking Water Act that relate to preventing and
- A bill amending the Clean Air
Act to establish a renewable diesel standard.
- A bill improving benefits and
services for members of the armed forces and veterans.
Give that man the White House.
It doesn't get much better than that.
A CHICAGO BUSINESS
MAGAZINE, CRAIN'S, reports that Obama's wife earns $45,000 a
year on the board of a company whose major customer is Wal-Mart.
The company, Treehouse, earns $700 million a yeawr with $36 million
of it going to four top executives.
GLEN FORD AND PETER GAMBLE, BLACK
COMMENTATOR, DECEMBER 2005 - U.S. Senator Barack Obama has planted
his feet deeply inside the Iraq war-prolongation camp of the
Democratic Party, the great swamp that, if not drained, will
swallow up any hope of victory over the GOP in next year's congressional
elections. In a masterpiece of double-speak before the prestigious
Council on Foreign Relations, November 22, the Black Illinois
lawmaker managed to out-mush-mouth Sen. John Kerry - a prodigious
Obama's speech had the Democratic
Leadership Council's brand stamped all over it. Triangulating
expertly, Obama first praised the war record of Rep. John Murtha
(D-PA), who has called for immediate steps towards U.S. military
redeployment out of Iraq, hopefully in six months, then dismissed
both Murtha's bill and any hint of "timetables" for
withdrawal. In essence, all Obama wants from the Bush regime
is that it fess up to having launched the war based on false
information, and to henceforth come clean with the Senate on
how it plans to proceed in the future. Those Democrats who want
to dwell on the past - the actual genesis and rationale for the
war, and the real reasons for its continuation - should be quiet.
Both sides are wrong, says Obama
- deploying the classic triangulation device - for engaging in
a "war of talking points" - "one I am not interested
in joining." Then Obama positions himself above the fray.
In the near term Obama, a semanticist
with a vengeance, says, "we need to focus our attention
on how to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq. Notice
that I say 'reduce,' and not 'fully withdraw.'". . .
In a speech of 4,250 words, Obama
manages to only once speak any variant on the word "occupation"
- and he puts that in someone else's mouth. He drapes himself
in military (and political) camouflage, agreeing with "our
top military commander in Iraq
that a key goal of the military
was to 'reduce our presence in Iraq, taking away one of the elements
that fuels the insurgency: that of the coalition forces as an
Obama sees virtue in a prolonged
American military presence:
"I believe that U.S. forces
are still a part of the solution in Iraq. The strategic goals
should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled
with a shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy
that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies
our efforts to train Iraqi forces.
"At the same time, sufficient
numbers of U.S. troops should be left in place to prevent Iraq
from exploding into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and a haven
for terrorism." Here we see contradictions so glaring, that
we cannot believe a man of Obama's intelligence to be innocent
of rank, purposeful obfuscation. If the U.S. troops are to remain
in place in order to "prevent" Iraqis, in and out of
government, from taking certain actions, then the Americans are
meant to be a classic occupying force - the real power in Iraq.
It becomes clear that, in matters
of war and of peace, Barack Obama is engaged in a balancing act
- one that he believes can be endlessly perfected by the proper
use of speechifying and terminology.
"We must find the right
balance - offering enough security to serve as a buffer and carry
out a targeted, effective counter-insurgency strategy, but not
so much of a presence that we serve as an aggravation. It is
this balance that will be critical to finding our way forward."
. . .
In his senatorial incarnation,
Obama does his best to avoid aggravating anybody - except the
people to his left. Certainly, he does not want to aggravate
the Bush Pirates, lest they resume saying nasty things about
"reasonable" people such as himself. . .
Everyone with a political antenna
understands that Obama is jockeying for position as a VP or presidential
nominee-maker in 2008. He has created a political action committee,
Hope Fund, to finance 14 of his senatorial colleagues - ten of
whom are DLC (that's half of the DLC presence in the Senate.)
Although not a formal member of the DLC, Obama's stance on the
Iraq war places him squarely in their camp on this issue - and
he is advertising the fact. The arc of his ambition dictates
ANTI-WAR, JANUARY 2005 - Recently,
the Democratic Party's rising "progressive" star Barack
Obama said he would favor "surgical" missile strikes
against Iran. As Obama told the Chicago Tribune on September
26, 2004, "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is
resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including
economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not
cooperate, at what point ... if any, are we going to take military
He added, "[L]aunching some
missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us
to be in" given the ongoing war in Iraq. "On the other
hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear
weapons is worse." Obama went on to argue that military
strikes on Pakistan should not be ruled out if "violent
Islamic extremists" were to "take over."
A CHICAGO BUSINESS MAGAZINE, CRAIN'S, reports that Obama's wife earns $45,000
a year on the board of a company whose major customer is Wal-Mart.
The company, Treehouse, earns $700 million a yeawr with $36 million
of it going to four top executives.
OBAMA SUPPORTED PRO-WAR CANDIDATES
JUSTIN RAIMAONDO, ANTI-WAR -
[Obama] supported Joe Lieberman over Ted Lamont, donating $4,200
to the eventual candidate of the "Connecticut for Lieberman"
Party. He also gave $10,000 to defeat antiwar stalwart Christine
Cegelis, who nonetheless came within a few thousand votes of
winning against a decorated war hero.
MORE SLIPPING AND SLIDING WITH
OBAMA ON IRAQ