Friday, February 29, 2008

What Would an Obama Presidency Look Like?

If Barack Obama wins the Democratic Primary and goes on to defeat McCain to win the Presidency, what would his post-partisan Presidency look like? Obama has run a campaign claiming to be beyond the partisanship of the 90's. He has stated that he would like to appoint Republicans to his cabinet. He has promised an end to government for special interests yet he has a track record of including big campaign contributors (like nuclear power companies in Illinois) in his decisions.
What would his administration look like? Obama's wife was hired by the Chicago Daley machine before she became part of the health care industry (now big Obama contributors too). The infamous Chicago Daley machine has supported Obama's campaign. Will Daley have a say in Obama's cabinet? Chicago real estate developer and slum lord (currently under federal indictment) has been an Obama supporter and mentor for nearly 20 years. Would an Obama Presidency include Rezko at his big table? Illinois Senate President Emil Jones has told several interviewers the funny story of how he made Obama a US Senator. Would Emil Jones join the Obama Administration or would he have a more behiond the scenes role in shaping policy and hiring staff?
Obama has campaiged against the Clinton Presidency yet many of Obams's staff were members of the Clnton Administration. Would including former Clinton advisors in his Presidency mean that his promises of change were meaningless campaign rhetoric?

Obama Played the Race Card & Blamed Clinton

From by Sean Wilentz on February 27, 2008: "After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama's promises of a pure, soul-cleansing "new" politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the latest ploy by the Obama camp--over allegations about the circulation of a photograph of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress--will be exposed by the press as the manipulative illusion that it is.

Most of the recent correctives have concerned outrageously deceptive advertisements approved and released by Obama's campaign. First, in Iowa, the Obama camp aired radio ads patterned on the notorious "Harry and Louise" Republican propaganda from 1993, charging falsely that Senator Hillary Clinton's health care proposal would "force those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it, punishing those who won't fall in line." In subsequent primary and caucus campaigns, the Obama campaign sent out millions of mailers, also featuring the "Harry and Louise" motif, falsely claiming that Clinton favored "punishing families who can't afford health care in the first place." A few bloggers and columnists, notably Paul Krugman in The New York Times, described the ads as distorting, but the national press corps mainly ignored them--until Clinton herself, seeing the fraudulent mailers reappear in Ohio over the past weekend, publicly denounced them.
The Obama mass mailings also attempt to appeal to Ohio's labor vote by claiming that Clinton believed that the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was a "'boon' to our economy." More falsehood: In fact, Clinton had not said that; Newsday originally applied the word "boon" and has now noted the Obama campaign's distortion. In this campaign, Clinton has called for a moratorium on all trade agreements until they are made consistent with labor and environmental standards--and account for the effect on jobs in the United States. Obama makes a big deal about how Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. But he fails to mention that, within the councils of her husband's administration, Hillary Clinton was a skeptic of free trade agreements, and as a senator and candidate she has said that NAFTA contained flaws that need to be rectified. Ignoring all that, the Obama flyer features an alarming photograph of closed plant gates, having no connection to any action of Senator Clinton's, as well as the dubious quotation about her from Newsday in 2006. Newsday has criticized "Obama's use of the quotation" as "misleading ... an example of the kind of slim reeds campaigns use to try and win an office." Obama, without retracting the mailing (and while playing to protectionist sentiment in the party) said only that he would have his staff look into the matter--long after the ad has done its dirty work.

Misleading propaganda is hardly new in American politics --although the adoption of techniques reminiscent of past Republican and special-interest hit jobs, right down to a retread of the fictional couple, seems strangely at odds with a campaign that proclaims it will redeem the country from precisely these sorts of divisive and manipulative tactics. As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign's most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign's strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters--a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a "post-racial" figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the "race-baiter card" before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.


Readers of Philip Roth's award-winning novel, The Human Stain, will be familiar with the race-baiter card and its uses, but so will anyone who has been exposed to the everyday tensions that can arise from the volatile mixture of race and politics. In Roth's novel, a college professor loses his job and his reputation after he asks one of his classes whether two African American students who have regularly been absent are "spooks." The context of the professor's remarks make it clear that he used the term to mean "ghosts" or "specters" and intended no racial disparagement--but that makes not the slightest difference, as his enemies on the faculty fan the argument that he is a blatant and incorrigible race-baiter who can no longer be trusted to teach young minds. An innocent remark becomes a hateful one when pulled through the prism of ideology, ill will, and emotional exploitation. One day, Roth's professor (who, ironically, turns out to be a black man passing as white) is a respected, even revered member of the faculty; then the race baiter card gets played, and his career is suddenly destroyed.

Even before the first caucus met in Iowa, the Obama campaign was ready to play a similar game. In mid-December 2007, one of the Clinton campaign's co-chairs in New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen, remarked entirely on his own on how the Republicans might make mischievous and damaging political use of Obama's admitted use of marijuana and cocaine during his youth. The observation was not especially astute: Since George W. Bush, both the electorate and the press have seemed to be forgiving of a candidate's youthful substance abuse, so long as says he has reformed himself. Nor had the Clinton campaign prompted Shaheen to make his comment. But it was not a harebrained remark, given how the Republicans had once tried to exploit the cocaine addiction of Bill Clinton's brother, Roger, and even manufactured lurid falsehoods about Clinton himself as the member of a cocaine smuggling ring during his years as governor in Arkansas. And it was not in the least a racist comment, as cocaine abuse has afflicted Americans of all colors as well as classes. Indeed, there have been persistent rumors that Bush abused cocaine as well as alcohol during his younger days--charges he addressed in the 2000 campaign by saying that when "he was young and foolish" he had done "foolish" things.

None of the reports at the time about Shaheen's miscue (and the Clinton campaign's decision to relieve him of his ceremonial duties) mentioned anything about racial overtones. Yet the Obama campaign kept stirring things up. After being questioned for ten minutes about the drug allegation on cable television--and repeatedly denying that the national campaign had anything to do with it--Clinton campaign pollster Mark Penn mentioned the word "cocaine" (which was difficult to avoid in the context of the repeated questioning about drugs). "I think we've made clear that the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising, and I think that's been made clear," he said. Obama's campaign aides (as well as John Edwards's) immediately leapt on Penn and chastised him as an inflammatory demagogue for using the word that Obama himself referred to in his memoir as "blow." Since then, Obama's strategists and supporters in the press have whipped the story into a full racialist subtext, as if Shaheen and Penn were the executors of a well-plotted Clinton master plan to turn Obama into a stereotypical black street hoodlum--or, in the words of the fervently pro-Obama and anti-Clinton columnist Frank Rich of the New York Times, "ghettoized as a cocaine user."

The racial innuendo seemed to fade when Obama won his remarkable victory in the Iowa caucuses. With the polling data on the upcoming New Hampshire primary auguring a large Obama triumph, it looked as if the candidate's own appeal might sweep away everything before it. But at the last minute (as sometimes happens in statewide primaries), there was a sudden movement among the voters, this time toward Clinton. Many ascribed it to an appearance by Clinton in a Portsmouth coffee shop on the eve of the vote, where, with emotion, she spoke from the heart about why she is running for president. Others said that misogyny directed at Clinton on the campaign trail as well as on cable television and the Internet turned off women voters. The uprising was certainly sudden: As late as 6 p.m. on primary day, Clinton staff members with whom I spoke were saying that they would consider a loss by ten percentage points or less as a kind of moral victory. But instead, Clinton won outright, amazing her own delighted supporters and galling the Obama campaign.

That evening, the Democratic campaign became truly tangled up in racial politics--directly and forcefully introduced by the pro-Obama forces. In order to explain away the shocking loss, Obama backers vigorously spread the claim that the so-called Bradley Effect had kicked in. First used to account for the surprising defeat of Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley in the California gubernatorial race in 1982, the Bradley Effect supposedly takes hold when white voters tell opinion pollsters that they plan to vote for a black candidate but instead, driven by racial fears, pull the lever for a white candidate. Senior Clinton campaign officials later told me that reporters contacted them saying that the Obama camp was pushing them very hard to spin Clinton's victory as the latest Bradley Effect result. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, a cheerleading advocate for Obama, went on television to suggest the Bradley Effect explained the New Hampshire outcome, then backed off--only then to write a column, "Echoes of Tom Bradley," in which he claimed he could not be sure but that, nevertheless, "embarrassed pollsters and pundits had better be vigilant for signs that the Bradley effect, unseen in recent years, has crept back."

In fact, the Bradley Effect claims were utterly bogus, as anyone with an elementary command of voting results could tell. If the "effect" has actually occurred, Obama's final voting figures would have been substantially lower than his figures in the pre-election polls, as racially motivated voters turned away. Later, Bill Schneider, the respected analyst on CNN, several times went through the data on air to demonstrate conclusively that there was no such Bradley Effect in New Hampshire. But even on primary night, it was clear that Obama's total--36.4%--was virtually identical to what the polls over the previous three weeks had predicted he would receive. Clinton won because late-deciding voters--and especially college-educated women in their twenties--broke for her by a huge majority. Yet the echoes of charges about the Bradley Effect--which blamed Obama's loss on white racism and mendacity--lingered among Obama's supporters.

The very next morning, Obama's national co-chair, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., a congressional supporter from Chicago, played the race card more directly by appearing on MSNBC to claim in a well-prepared statement that Clinton's emotional moment on the campaign trail was actually a measure of her deeply ingrained racism and callousness about the suffering poor. "But those tears also have to be analyzed," Jackson said, "they have to be looked at very, very carefully in light of Katrina, in light of other things that Mrs. Clinton did not cry for, particularly as we head to South Carolina where 45 percent of African-Americans will participate in the Democratic contest ... we saw tears in response to her appearance, so that her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina, not other issues." And so the Obama campaign headed south with race and racism very much on its mind--and on its lips.


By the time Clinton and Obama (along with Edwards) debated in South Carolina, it was clear that nerves had been rubbed raw. Obama's supporters, including New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, had been making much of a lame, off-color but obviously preposterous joke that Martin Luther King's close friend and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young had made back in December about Bill Clinton having slept with more black women than Obama. Supposedly, Young's tasteless quip--"I'm just clowning," he said, sounding embarrassed--was as part of some sort of concerted Clinton campaign. Likewise, also in December, former Senator Bob Kerrey's misinformed defense of Obama, in an interview on CNN, for having attended a secular madrassa in Indonesia (he did not) became twisted by the pro-Obama camp, including Herbert once again, into some sort of sneak attack orchestrated by cynical, race-baiting Clintonites. Kerrey is a Clinton supporter, but is notoriously unscripted. Once again, the Clinton campaign had to apologize. But the Obama campaign began ratcheting up the racial politics in earnest during the run-up to the South Carolina contest.

It has never been satisfactorily explained why the pro-Clinton camp would want to racialize the primary and caucus campaign. The argument has been made that Hillary Clinton wanted to attract whites and Hispanics in the primaries and make the case that a black candidate would be unelectable in the general election. But given the actual history of the campaign, that argument makes no sense. Until late in 2007, Hillary Clinton enjoyed the backing of a substantial majority of black voters--as much as 24 percentage points over Obama according to one poll in October--as well as strong support from Hispanics and traditional working-class white Democrats. It appeared, for a time, as if she might well be able to recreate, both in the primaries and the general election, the cross-class and cross-racial alliances that had eluded Democrats for much of the previous forty years. Playing the race card against Obama could only cost her black votes, as well as offend liberal whites who normally turn out in disproportionally large numbers for Democratic caucuses and primaries. Indeed, indulging in racial politics would be a sure-fire way for the Clinton campaign to shatter its own coalition. On the other hand, especially in South Carolina where black voters made up nearly half of the Democratic turnout, and especially following the shocking disappointment in New Hampshire, playing the race card--or, more precisely, the race-baiting card--made eminent sense for the Obama campaign. Doing so would help Obama secure huge black majorities (in states such as Missouri and Virginia as well as in South Carolina and the deep South) and enlarge his activist white base in the university communities and among affluent liberals. And that is precisely what happened.

First came the Martin Luther King-Lyndon B. Johnson controversy. Responding to early questions that he was only offering vague words of hope instead of policy substance, Obama had given a speech in New Hampshire referring to Martin Luther King, Jr. "standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial" during his "I have a dream" speech. (This rhetorical formulation was reminiscent of a campaign speech delivered in 2006 by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, another client of David Axelrod, Obama's message and media guru; in a later speech, Obama would repeat Patrick's rhetoric word for word.) When asked about it, Clinton replied that while, indeed, King had courageously inspired and led the civil rights movement, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," she said, adding that "it took a president to get it done." The statement was, historically, non-controversial; the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, among others, later said that Clinton "was absolutely right." The political implication was plainly that Clinton was claiming to have more of the experience and skills required of a president than Obama did--not that King should be denigrated. But the Obama campaign and its supporters chose to pounce on the remark as the latest example of the Clinton campaign's race baiting. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black congressman--neutral in the race, but pressured by the Obama campaign arousing his constituency--felt compelled to repeat the charge that Clinton had disparaged King, and told the New York Times that "we have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics." Several of the Times's op-ed columnists, including Bob Herbert and Maureen Dowd as well as Rich, rushed to amplify how Hillary was playing dirty, as did the newspaper's editorial page, which disgracefully twisted her remarks into an implication that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change."

Clinton complained that her opponent's backers were deliberately distorting her remarks; and Obama smoothly tried to appear above the fray, as if he knew that the race-baiting charge was untrue and didn't want to level it directly, but didn't exactly want to discourage the idea either. "Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn't make the statement," Obama said in a conference call with reporters. "I haven't remarked on it. And she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

Meanwhile, below the radar, the Obama campaign pushed the race-baiting angle hard, rehearsing and sometimes inventing instances of alleged Clintonian racial insensitivity. A memo prepared by the South Carolina campaign and circulated to supporters rehashed the King-Johnson matter, while it also spliced together statements of Bill Clinton's to make it seem as if he had given a speech that "implied Hillary Clinton is stronger than Nelson Mandela." (The case, with its snippets and ellipses, was absurd on its face.) The memo also claimed, in a charge soon widely repeated, that he had demeaned Obama as "a kid" because he had called Obama's account of his opposition to the war in Iraq a fanciful "fairy tale."And a few reporters, while pushing the Obama campaign's line that black voters had credible concerns about the Clintons' remarks, had begun to notice that the Obama campaign was doing its utmost to fuel the racial flames. "There's no question that there's politics here at work too," said Jonathan Martin of Politico. "It helps [Obama's] campaign to... push these issues into the fore in a place like South Carolina."

When asked about the race-baiting charges, Obama campaign spokeswoman Candice Tolliver roiled the waters: "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation or is there something bigger behind all of this?" Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., the Obama co-chair, as before, was more direct and inflammatory, claiming that the "cynics" of the Clinton campaign had "resorted to distasteful and condescending language that appeals to our fears rather than our hopes. I sincerely hope that they'll turn away from such reactionary, disparaging rhetoric." The race-baiting card was now fully in play.

Among those dismayed by Obama's tactics and his supporters' was Bill Moyers. In a special segment on his weekly PBS broadcast in mid-January, Moyers, who as a young man had been an aide to President Johnson, demolished the charge that Clinton had warped history in order to race-bait Obama. "There was nothing in [Clinton's] quote about race," he observed. "It was an historical fact, an affirmation of the obvious." Moyers rehashed what every reputable historian knows about how King and Johnson effectively divided the labor, between King the agitator and Johnson the president, in order to secure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Moyers said was happy to see that, by the time he went on the air, the furor appeared to be dying down and that everyone seemed to be returning to their senses and apologizing--"except," he pointedly noted, "the New York Times." But this upbeat part of his assessment proved overly optimistic.


By the time the Obama campaign backed off from agitating the King-Johnson pseudo-scandal, it had already trained its sights on Bill Clinton--by far the most popular U.S. president among African Americans over the past quarter-century. Not only were Bill and Hillary supposedly ganging up on Obama in South Carolina--"I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama complained during the South Carolina debate--the former president was supposedly off on a race-baiting tear of his own. Yet, once again, the charges were either distortions or outright inventions.

The Obama campaign's "fairy tale" gambit was particularly transparent. Commenting on Obama's explanation of why he is more against the war in Iraq than Hillary Clinton, and disturbed by the news media's failure to report Obama's actual voting record on Iraq in the Senate, the former president referred to what had become the conventional wisdom as a "fairy tale" concocted by Obama and his supporters. Time to play the race-baiter card! One of Obama's most prominent backers, the mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, stretched Clinton's remarks and implied that he had called Obama's entire candidacy a fairy tale. (The mayor later coyly told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had not intended to criticize Clinton: "Surely you don't mean he's the only one who can use the phrase 'fairy tale,'" Franklin said, in a tone that the reporter described as "mock indignation.") Appearing on CNN, one of its pundits, Donna Brazile, hurled the wild charge that Clinton had likened Obama to a child. "And I will tell you," she concluded, "as an African American I find his words and his tone to be very depressing." With those kinds of remarks--"as an African American"--the race card and the race-baiter card both came back into play. Although Brazile is formally not part of Obama's campaign, her comments made their way to the South Carolina memo, offered as evidence that Clinton's comment was racially insensitive.

On January 26, Obama won a major victory in South Carolina by gaining the overwhelming majority of the black vote and a much smaller percentage of the white vote, for a grand total of 55 percent. Although the turnout, of course, was much larger for the 2008 primaries than for any previous primary or caucus, Obama had assembled a victorious coalition analogous to that built by Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 South Carolina caucuses. (Bill Clinton won the 1992 state primary with 69 percent of the vote, far outstripping either Jackson's or Obama's percentages.)

When asked by a reporter on primary day why it would take two Clintons to beat Obama, the former president, in good humor, laughed and said that he would not take the bait:

Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice in '84 and '88 and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign. He's run a good campaign everywhere. He's a good candidate with a good organization.
According to Obama and his supporters, here was yet another example of subtle race-baiting. Clinton had made no mention of race. But by likening Jackson's victories and Obama's impending victory and by praising Obama as a good candidate not simply in South Carolina but everywhere, Clinton was trying to turn Obama into the "black" candidate and racialize the campaign. Or so the pro-Obama camp charged.

Clinton's sly trick, supposedly, was to mention Jackson and no other Democrat who had previously prevailed in South Carolina--thereby demeaning Obama's almost certain victory as a "black" thing. But the fact remains that Clinton, who watches internal polls closely and is an astute observer, knew whereof he spoke: when the returns were counted, Obama's and Jackson's percentages of the overall vote and the key to their victories--a heavy majority among blacks--truly were comparable. The only other Democrats Clinton could have mentioned would have been himself (who won more than two-thirds of the vote in 1992, far more than either Jackson or Obama) and John Edwards (who won only 45 percent in 2004, far less than either Jackson or Obama). Given the differences, given that by mentioning himself, Clinton could have easily been criticized for being self-congratulatory, and given that Edwards had not yet dropped out of the 2008 race, the omissions were not at all surprising. By mentioning Jackson alone, the former president was being accurate--and, perhaps, both modest and polite. But Obama's supporters willfully hammered him as a cagey race-baiter.

Not everyone agreed with the race-baiting charge--including Jesse Jackson himself. Jackson noted proudly to Essence magazine that he had, indeed, won in 1984 and 1988, and, even though he had endorsed Obama, criticized the Obama campaign, saying, "again, I think it's some more gotcha politics."

Hillary Clinton's unexpected popular victory in Nevada and her crushing Super Tuesday wins in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California seemed, according to media reports, to have been offset by Obama's more numerous victories in much smaller states that Democrats are highly unlikely to win in a general election. His string of victories in caucuses and primaries over the next four weeks gave the Obama campaign undeniable momentum. But Obama and his strategists kept the race and race-baiter cards near the top of their campaign deck--and the news media continued to report on the contest (or decline to report Obama's role as instigator) as if they had fallen in line.

The New York Times, for example, opened its front page on February 15th to report an utterly inaccurate and possibly wishful story that Representative John Lewis of Georgia--a genuine hero of the civil rights movement, a courageous voice for integration, and a stalwart Clinton supporter--had announced that he had decided that, in his role as superdelegate, he would vote for Obama. Lewis quickly called the story false, although he added that he was wrestling with his conscience over whether to switch. Meanwhile, the press generally ignored a report, confirmed by all involved, that Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., had warned one of Clinton's unshakable black supporters, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, that he'd better line up behind Obama. Jackson, once again playing the role of the Obama campaign's "race man" enforcer, posed a leading question: "Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?" Black congressmen were threatened to fall or line or face primary challenges. "So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position," Jackson said. Yet for the Obama-inspired press corps, it was the Clintons who were playing the race card. "The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up," wrote Frank Rich, Obama's vehement advocate in the New York Times.

The Obama campaign has yet to reach bottom in its race-baiter accusations. On February 25, Hillary Clinton planned to deliver a major foreign policy address, an area in which Obama's broad expertise is relatively weak. Clinton was also riding high in the Ohio polls, despite the Obama campaign's false charges about her health plan and support for NAFTA. That same day, the notoriously right-wing, scandal-mongering Drudge Report website ran a photograph of Obama dressed in the traditional clothing of a Somali elder during a tour of Africa, attached to an assertion, without evidence, that the Clinton campaign was "circulating" the picture. The story was silly on its face--there are plenty of photographs of Hillary Clinton and virtually every other major American elected official dressed in the traditional garb of other countries, and Obama's was no different. The alleged "circulation" amounted, on close reading, to what Drudge's dispatch said was an e-mail from one unnamed Clinton "staffer" to another idly wondering what the coverage might have been if the picture had been of Clinton. Possible e-mail chatter about an inoffensive picture as spun by the Drudge Report would not normally be deemed newsworthy, even in these degraded times.

Except by Obama and his campaign, who jumped on the insinuating circumstances as a kind of vindication. The Drudge posting included reaction from the pinnacle of Obama's campaign team. "It's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world," said Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe, who also described the non-story as "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election" and "part of a disturbing pattern." Although he never explicitly spelled out the contours of this pattern, he was clearly alluding to race baiting. Later in the day, Obama himself jumped in, repeating the nasty, slippery charge that the Clinton campaign "was trying to circulate this [picture] as a negative" and calling it a political trick of the sort "you start seeing at the end of campaigns."

Although finally skewered, for the first time, on "Saturday Night Live" over the past weekend for its pro-Obama tilt, the press corps once again fell for this latest throw of the race-baiter card, turning the Drudge rumor into its number one story, obscuring Clinton's major national security address. In doing so, the media has confirmed what has been the true pattern in the race for the Democratic nomination--the most outrageous deployment of racial politics since the Willie Horton ad campaign in 1988 and the most insidious since Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, praising states' rights.

It may strike some as ironic that the racializing should be coming from a black candidate's campaign and its supporters. But this is an American presidential campaign--and there is a long history of candidates who are willing to inflame the most deadly passions in our national life in order to get elected. Sadly, it is what Barack Obama and his campaign gurus have been doing for months--with the aid of their media helpers on the news and op-ed pages and on cable television, mocked by "SNL" as in the tank for Obama. They promise to continue until they win the nomination, by any means necessary.

Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (Norton)."

Why We Need Partisanship (and why Obama is wrong about red states and blue states)

From By Gabor Steingart: "The third myth is the most dangerous of them all, because it shakes the very foundations of the United States Constitution. Critics across party lines claim that America is a divided nation, whipped up into a frenzy by both parties, which they insist are only capable of thinking in terms of friends and foes. All of the current candidates promise to put an end to the current atmosphere of polarization and forge a great consensus. "We are one nation," says Obama. So does Mitt Romney. And so does everyone else.

But this system of dialogue, of checks and balances, is precisely what the framers of the Constitution intended. It is arduous and often nerve-wracking, but it works.

One party keeps the other party in check. Sometimes the House of Representatives opposes the Senate, or both pounce -- when needed -- on the man in the White House. This is the way it works -- and it's the way it is supposed to work.

Democracy thrives on differences of opinion, which translate into differences between parties. Promising to put an end to this ongoing dispute makes about as much sense as a supermarket manager announcing plans to combine the meat and produce departments -- and justifying his decision by saying that the management wants to overcome the decades-long polarization between steak-lovers and vegetarians.Citizens would be well-advised to demand disagreement and harsh words. The parties must remain partisan if voters are to have a real choice. In the country ruled by consensus that the candidates are now touting, voters would end up feeling like the shoppers in the imaginary supermarket with its combined meat-and-produce department: Vegetarians and meat-eaters would be equally unhappy.

Putting up with contradictions is probably a necessary part of the Washington system. After all, the American capital has never been entirely free of hypocrisy.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, was an early example of that hypocrisy. He opposed slavery politically, and yet he owned slaves himself. And, as DNA tests have now demonstrated, he fathered at least one child with his housekeeper, Sally Hemmings."

Obama Lies About NAFTA Re-Confirmed by Canadian TV Network

Obama Won't Ban Blackwater Mercenaries

From The Nation on February 27, 2008: "A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in. Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors.
Obama's broader Iraq withdrawal plan provides for some US troops to remain in Iraq--how many his advisers won't say. But it's clear that Obama's "follow-on force" will include a robust security force to protect US personnel in Iraq, US trainers (who would also require security) for Iraqi forces and military units to "strike at Al Qaeda"--all very broad swaths of the occupation.
"If Barack Obama comes into office next January and our diplomatic security service is in the state it's in and the situation on the ground in Iraq is in the state it's in, I think we will be forced to rely on a host of security measures," said the senior adviser. "I can't rule out, I won't rule out, private security contractors." He added, "I will rule out private security contractors that are not accountable to US law."

But therein lies a problem. The US Embassy in Iraq is slated to become the largest embassy in world history. If Obama maintains that embassy and its army of diplomats and US personnel going in and out of the Green Zone, which his advisers say he will, a significant armed force will be required for protection. The force that now plays that role is composed almost exclusively of contractors from Blackwater, DynCorp and Triple Canopy. And at present, these contractors are not held accountable under US law. Obama and a host of legal experts, including in the Justice Department, acknowledge that there may be no current US law that could be used to prosecute security contractors for crimes committed in Iraq, such as the killing of seventeen Iraqi civilians last September in Baghdad's Nisour Square.

Obama's proposed increase in funding to the diplomatic security division would ostensibly pave the way for a protective force composed entirely of US government personnel, but the process of building that force would likely take a long time. Short of dramatically reducing the US civilian and diplomatic presence in Iraq that necessitates such a security force, Obama may have no choice but to continue the contracting arrangements with firms like Blackwater if he is elected President.

The irony is that it was Senator Obama who sponsored a bill in February 2007 defining a legal structure to prosecute State Department contractor crimes in US courts. Obama staffers say they will "fight like hell to get it passed." But it may not pass before the next President takes power. Even if it does and Bush signs it, serious questions will remain unresolved about how contractor crimes can be monitored effectively. The senior adviser acknowledged that Obama could find himself in a situation where, as President, he continues using forces he himself has identified as "unaccountable." The Obama campaign, in other words, may have painted itself into a corner.
Obama campaign and Senate staffers characterize this as an inherited problem with no good alternatives. "We are in a situation where, because of bad planning and a series of disastrous policy choices by the Bush Administration, we're forced to rely on private security contractors," says the senior adviser. "What we're focused on at the moment is getting the legal architecture in place that will hold these guys accountable to the same standard that [applies to] enlisted US military personnel." In Iraq right now, the number of private contractors is basically equal to the number of US troops. While Obama advisers say they plan to "have a serious look" at the role of contractors in Iraq, one adviser seemed to indicate that unarmed contractors would continue to operate at significant levels. "These contractors are not only providing private security functions like Blackwater. They're rebuilding schools, they are serving food, they're doing logistics, they're driving trucks, and the important question is, If you take those 100,000-plus contractors out of Iraq, what do you replace them with? Inevitably the answer is, You replace them with US military."

But, the senior adviser notes, "ideally we would have diplomatic security personnel, US government personnel, not subcontracted but US Bureau of Diplomatic Security agents providing security to all our ambassadors."

Obama Snubbed S.F. Mayor During Gay Marriage Fight

From The Advocate on February 8, 2008: "During his Senate run for Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is said to have declined to have his picture taken with San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who at the time was in the center of a national turmoil over his decision to allow same-sex marriage in the city.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that the snub took place at a fund-raiser in 2004 hosted by former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

"I gave a fund-raiser, at his [Obama's] request at the Waterfront restaurant," Brown told the Chronicle. "And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn't get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin."

While the Obama campaign has denied the rumors, Newsom's staff has corroborated the event. In a Reuters interview in January 2007, Newsom alluded to the event when asked about his thoughts on potential Democratic candidates Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore. He was also asked about his peers' reaction to his allowing same-sex marriages, which some allege helped Republicans by introducing a wedge issue in an election year.

Newsom said he received harsh reactions from other politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike.

"One of the three Democrats you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me," Newsom told Reuters, "even though I've done fund-raisers for that particular person -- not once, but twice -- because of this issue."

San Francisco supervisor Bevan Duffy told the Chronicle that the mayor's endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Obama, which was announced six months ago, was due to repaying political favors. Newsom says that the snub did not influence his decision, though Brown thinks otherwise.

"I think he has harbored this resentment for years," Brown said about Newsom in the Chronicle story. "I would guess that is part of the rejection of the Obama campaign."

During the same campaign season, then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also worked to avoid San Francisco, following the controversy. Brown said that he doesn't blame Obama for his caution because of the heavy conservative vote in southern Illinois.

Newsom, who attended a Town Hall meeting with the Clinton campaign on Monday, said he still looked forward to voting for Obama -- in eight years. (The Advocate)"

As God As My Witness: Obama & The Gays

Have You Been Banned By Americablog Yet?

I am a liberal Democrat. From the time I first learned about liberal and progressive blogs, I was hooked. While I continue to read the major daily newspapers and have either CNN or MSNBC on in the backgound most of the time, I look to the blogs to shine a spotlight on the stories that the largely conservative mainstream media fails to report or investigate. Sadly, I have noticed a shift in coverage in many of my favorite blogs. Rather then provding all the facts so their readers can make informed choices during the Democratic Presidential Primaries, many (actaully most) liberal bloggers have adopted the same strategy as the mainstream media. These bloggers have decided that the primaries are over, that Obama is the only choice for liberals and they will support him no matter what the facts. I think we can all agree that the media has investigated, reported on, and attempted to tear apart the Clintons for the last 16 years. Now, our own bloggers have turned on their own and use the same tactics to destroy Hillary Clinton before all the votes are cast. I don't mind that the media and bloggers continue to investigate Clinton. What I find offensive and contrary to everything that we as liberals believe in, is when liberal bloggers refuse to do the same kind of reporting on Obama. Day after day, I would find stories that call into question Obama's judgement, his less then substantial record, and his very reason for being (his campaign is based largely on the idea that the American people want a new kind of politics, a change from the partisan polictics of the past, that somehow all our past fights to preserve our rights were unnecessary and somehow bad for our country). Taking this idea to it's logical conclusion, the Obama campaign would have us believe that it isn't good for the country for us to fight for Women's rights, to fight for privacy rights, to fight for gay rights, to fight for health care. Instead, we will all sit down after the election, share ideas, and compromise on every important issue. The Republicans, who have used every dirty tactic to prevent that from happening in the past, will apparently, give up and go along with this new kind of politics. Some bloggers have taken this to the expreme, covering every hint of mistake or mis-step by Clinton while refusing to even look at the real Obama record, the real Obama claims that he is somehome different then Clinton and better suited to lead. I sat by for months as my favorite bloggers clubbed Clinton over the head while ignoring the truths about Obama. I finally started posting reponses to the more ridiculous blogs and started sending stories that I felt presented a differnt view of Obama to the liberal blogs. Within two weeks of my posting reponses and sending uncovered storied to Americablog, I was banned from posting on the site. My posting were never obscene, offensive, hate filled or factually incorrect, yet I was banned while other posters continue to post the most horrible, hateful, and often inaccurate reponses. Every blogger has a right to control their content. Every blogger can choose to stifle dissent and use their blog to lie to their readers. Sadly, I thought more of my liberal bloggers then they thought of me and my opinions. I fear that we are about to select a candidate that few of us know..a candidate that we are setting up for failure. I believe that we must have the strongest candidate to defeat the Republicans. I do not believe that the Republicans will stop attacking..will stop dividing...will stop fighting, no matter who we elect. I do not believe that America is served by selectng a candidate who will give in and compromise on our core issues. I do not beleive that fighting for what we believe is bad. I do not believe that ignoring every negative fact that we know about Obama will make him a better candidate or a better President. I am sorry that our liberal bloggers have decided that by ignoring the facts, they will somehow go away. So, have you been banned by Americablog yet?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama Missed 40% of Senate Votes Since January 2007

From AP on February 7, 2008: "Obama has missed about 40 percent, or 170 votes" in the US Senate since Janaury 2007. Not only has he failed to hold hearings in his Senate Sub-Committee on European Affairs but he hasn't even bothered to show up for his job representing the people of Illinois. Could he have attempted to make some of his campaign promises realities by actually showing up for work in the US Senate and casting votes on key bills? Can you imagine a job applicant telling his perspective employer that he missed 40% of his work in his last job but you can trust him to do better if you hire him? H e thought all the faces America were important but not quite important enough to show up. Remember, he was too busy running for President to hold any Sub-Committee hearings. According to AP, Hillary Clinton "has missed 24 percent, or 108 votes" compared to Obama's 40 percent.

Obama's Hearing Problem

Steve Clemons in "In December, I did some research into how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each used legislative machinery at their disposal in the Senate to get some sense of their "executive abilities". For some reason, I expected Hillary Clinton to be too busy for things like subcommittee hearings and Obama to be drilling in and learning as much as he could because his experience in federal level legislative affairs might be perceived as weak.

I found the opposite -- and discovered that Barack Obama, despite his role as Chairman of the European Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had not held a single policy hearing during his tenure. In the Environment and Public Works Committee Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health, I found that Clinton had chaired and been actively engaged in a number of hearings during the same period.

When I discovered this, a number of Obama's own foreign policy advisers called me -- and one said, "I am as surprised as you are."

What is important to understand here is not that Obama is somehow weak on policy or performance because he didn't hold any hearings. It raises questions about how he deploys people in an array of different directions simultaneously. As a U.S. Senator, Obama has a huge staff -- and some compensated in part to support his committee responsibilities. He should have held any number of Hearings -- but these should have been organized for him by his staff.
This matter finally came up in the debates -- see below -- and I have to say that I was disappointed in Obama's response that he has been too busy to hold hearings because he was running for the presidency. I think that the best thing he can do now is to make sure that during the next months, his Senate staff organizes some hearings for the Subcommittee on NATO and Afghanistan, Kosovo, or any number of other subjects.

He needs to take this criticism and turn it around so that as he moves through the primary process, he modifies his management focus to make sure that his "substantive work" -- being paid for by taxpayers in his role in the Senate -- is getting the same attention as his ambition to move into the White House."

CNN Finally Covers Media Bias for Obama

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama's Own Words on His Failure to Hold Senate Hearings

Obama: Too Busy for the Senate

From "Does anyone else think that this is a problem?

Tonight, when confronted with the reality that Obama has not held any hearings vis-a-vis NATO involvement in Afghanistan as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Europe subcommittee chair, Obama's response was that he hadn't done so because he has been running for President since he became chair of the subcommittee.
Turns out that not only has Obama not held a hearing on this topic, but that he has held no hearings at all as chair of this subcommittee.

Now, I understand enough about the Congress to understand that some subcommittees meet very infrequently, but seriously...

There is the threat of a new civil war with the Kosovo situation. The illegal proliferation of "loose nukes" from Russia continues. Britain has a new Prime Minister. The European Union is experiencing difficult growing pains. Parts of the EU have been pioneers on climate change, etc.

And not one single hearing since Obama took over as chairman 14 months ago. Amazing.

His answer tonight was even more startling. He could have said that nothing extremely pressing required a hearing, or that the subcommittee membership had decided not to meet, but instead, his response, which was probably the true response, was that he had been too busy...running for President. Couple that with myrad important votes that he has missed in his Presidential endeavour, and I think that the people of Illinois should question whether they are getting their money's worth in their Senator."

More on Obama's MIA Senate Record

From and, Joe Conason writes: "Doubts about Barack Obama’s presidential credentials have crystallized during the past two weeks over his stewardship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on European Affairs, which has convened no policy hearings since he took over as its chairman last January. That startling fact, first uncovered by Steve Clemons, who blogs on the Washington Note, prompted acid comment in Europe about the Illinois senator’s failure to visit the continent since assuming the committee post, and even speculation that he had never traveled there except for a short stopover in London.
But why should those questions matter to Americans who consider Senate hearings so much useless verbiage? And why does anyone care whether and where a would-be president has traveled, on official or personal visits?

The simple answer to the first question is that Senate hearings do not merely provide occasions for grandstanding as many voters may suspect, but fulfill a critical purpose in providing information and perspective to lawmakers. In the Senate, the foreign relations subcommittees have few direct legislative responsibilities, but they have traditionally gathered substantive research for the committee itself and for the rest of the Senate.

Should Obama wonder whether he ought to have bothered with his subcommittee, he could ask his friendly rival Joe Biden, D-Del., who chaired the Europe subcommittee for many years during the Cold War. Biden effectively exploited the chairmanship to transform himself from a junior member into one of the Senate’s most knowledgeable experts on arms control, nuclear weapons, European attitudes toward America and the Soviet Union, the European Union’s policies, and the role of NATO, which also comes under the subcommittee’s mandate. As a result, Biden starred in Senate hearings on the SALT II arms treaties and eventually established himself as a leading national voice on foreign policy.

“I wouldn’t call it a neglect of duty but a missed opportunity to explore issues that will be of fundamental importance to the next administration,” says ambassador John Ritch, who served for two decades as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s senior staffer on European affairs and East-West relations, before going on to represent the Clinton administration at the United Nations organizations in Vienna.

Ritch points out that as subcommittee chair, Obama could have examined a wide variety of urgent matters, from the role of NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq to European energy policy and European responses to climate change — and of course, the undermining of the foundations of the Atlantic alliance by the Bush administration. There is, indeed, almost no issue of current global interest that would have fallen outside the subcommittee’s purview. "

Obama Admitted He was Too Busy Running for President to Do His Job as a Senator

"Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan." Barack Obama February 26, 2008

During last night's (February 26, 2008) Presidential Debate on MSNBC Barack Obama admitted something that we have written about here but the mainstream media has ignored (to be fair, most liberal bloggers..Americablog, Daily KOS have ignored it too while No Quarter and have covered it). Obama is the Chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee on European Affairs. He has been Chairman for over a year. The Sub-Committee "is responsible for U.S. involvement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), relations with the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Matters relating to Greenland and the northern polar region are also the responsibility of this subcommittee. The Sub-Committee is also responsible for all matters within the region under its jurisdiction with respect to terrorism and non-proliferation, crime and illicit narcotics, U.S. foreign assistance programs, and the promotion of U.S. trade and exports" according to

Last night, it took Hillary to bring it far as I know, no reporter has ever asked him about it, including the MSNBC reporters at last night's debate. When asked about it last night, he admitted that he had not held hearings because he has been busy running for President.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama's name likely to come up in Rezko trial

From Chicago Tribune on February 16, 2008: "The name of Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama is likely to brush up against the impending federal corruption trial of Antoin "Tony" Rezko as the result of a judge's ruling Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve, who is presiding over Rezko's trial, told prosecutors they could introduce evidence to support allegations that Rezko used straw men to make political contributions on his behalf.

Prosecutors have alleged that the money came from fees Rezko illegally siphoned from a state pension board.
In her ruling, St. Eve said the government contends that Rezko directed business associates Joseph Aramanda and Elie Maloof to make contributions to an unnamed political candidate in late 2003 and 2004 because Rezko had already contributed the maximum legal amount.

The only candidate Maloof and Aramanda contributed to during that time frame was Obama, then running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Maloof and Aramanda each gave $10,000 to Obama's campaign.

Maloof of Vernon Hills had supported Obama in an earlier political campaign, and disclosure reports from that effort listed her as a vice president of operations for a Rezko pizzeria management firm. Aramanda is a Glenview businessman whose son received a coveted summer internship in Obama's Capitol Hill office in 2005.

Until his recent legal troubles, Rezko had been a longtime friend and financial supporter of Obama's political career. Prosecutors have not alleged any wrongdoing on Obama's part, but the developments come at an awkward time as Obama faces crucial March 4 primary contests, one day after the scheduled start of the trial.

Obama's campaign says it has given more than $150,000 in Rezko-linked contributions to charity, including the money from Aramanda and Maloof.

"We had no knowledge of any straw donations and have returned any of the donations about which we have any reasonable question," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement late Monday."

How Obama Bought a Mansion that He Couldn't Afford (and Michelle's Connections to the Chicago Daley Machine)

From and the Chicago Tribune: "The Obamas’ new home has received a lot of attention in the corporate media and on the blogs. This post will discuss other perspectives.

Hyde Park, where the Obamas have lived since 1994, is home to the University of Chicago (UC) Law School and at least one of UC’s hospitals. Leo Struass taught in the university’s Committee on Social Thought. The Federalist Society was born at UC, and it is the alma mater of many Neo Cons, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Kenwood, where the Obamas’ new home sits, is a small neighborhood, only 1.09 miles in area. It is bound on the south by Hyde Park, on the north by North Kenwood, and on the west by the neighborhood of Highland. Kenwood was once one of the most elite neighborhoods in all of Chicago.
The Obamas had decided that politics was Barack’s ultimate future while still dating. In 1991, then Michelle Robinson, who was then Obama’s fiancĂ©e, left her job at the law firm of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. She went to work for the city of Chicago, first as an assistant to Mayor Daley, then as the Executive Director of Public Allies Chicago, a nonprofit that provides leadership training to young adults interested in public service careers.

In 1996, she left the Public Allies to help create a student volunteer program at The University of Chicago. By the time of this interview, she was the Executive Director of Community Affairs for The University of Chicago Hospitals. This is how Michelle portrays her change of career:

She was devastated when her father died from MS complications. “That’s when I started analyzing my life, sitting in a firm,” she recalls, adding that in that same year she also lost one of her best friends from college to cancer. She soon left the firm to pursue a much lower-paying path in the public sector.

The fact is Michelle was actively recruited for City Hall by a close friend, Valerie Jarrett, who was Mayor Daley’s Deputy Chief of Staff at that time. Valerie later became the Finance Chair of Obama’s 2004 US Senate campaign and then First Treasurer of Barack’s political action committee, Hopefund.
It helps to have friends at City Hall. Among other positions, Michelle was appointed twice to sit on the board of the Commission of Chicago Landmarks for two consecutive terms. Michelle maintained this board seat from 1998 to March 2005, although normally a member only serves one 4 year term.

Flush from the success of Barack’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the Obamas decided it was time to find a residence more fitting for their anticipated new status. Barack’s 1995 autobiography Dreams of My Father soared, and they knew Alan Keyes was no threat to their future success in the US Senate elections.

Sitting on the Commission of Chicago Landmarks board, Michelle knew of a permit, waiting for review and approval to sell, for a designated Historical Georgian revival home built in 1910 with four fireplaces, glass-door bookcases fashioned from Honduran mahogany, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar owned by a doctor in Kenwood. The Commission is supported not only by donations and taxes but also by charges for permits. It’s a pretty extensive process, and they want a complete history of the house and property when a permit is requested. Once the Board approves a permit, the application goes to the city planning or zoning commission if more than a simple sale is involved.

The doctor who owned the Kenwood home wanted more than the Obamas could afford. As Barack has stated in numerous press interviews, buying the home would be a stretch. Barack contacted his patron Tony Rezko, despite knowing he was under investigation at the time, in order to see what could be done so the Obamas could afford their dream house. Sub-division was likely the agreed-on solution. In order to divide the lot, which the doctor purchased as one entity, he would have to:

– Hire an approved architect and general contractor, who had been involved in renovations and sub-divisions in Kenwood previously

– Have the lots surveyed and new plot plans drawn

– Re-start the Landmark Commission permit approval process

– Hold a public hearing (required).

On page 51 of the Commission on Landmarks Ordinances, one finds a justification for the doctor agreeing to subdividing the land.

The applicant bears the burden of proof that the existing use of the property is economically infeasible and that the sale, rental or rehabilitation of the property is not possible, resulting the property not being capable of earning any reasonable economic return.

Pages 51 and 52 of the Landmark ordinances show how many proofs and other forms of extensive documentation are required in order to subdivide the land. Can any rational person believe the doctor would have been willing to go along with having his property sub-divided, and all the work and time involved, without compensation and assistance? Who paid for this?

With Michelle sitting on the Landmarks board, Commission approval wasn’t expected to be an issue, even though I have not located notice of the Public Hearing from any of the involved boards. From there it would go to the City Planning Board and the Zoning Boards, which also require public hearings. Each of these steps average between 6 weeks and 3 months to complete.

The doctor’s property was located in what Chicago Zoning Terms refer to as Residential Single zone 1, or RS1. This means the house the Obamas bought required 6,250 sq. ft of area. Even if it had the designation lowered to RS2, it still would have required 5,000 square feet, as seen on page 5 of Chicago’s zoning ordinances. Starting on page 8, the ordinances specify setbacks and how much space must be available on each side of a building. The open space on the building’s sides normally conform to Fire Regulations, so that equipment can access all portions of a building during crises.

Public Records at the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, the Chicago Planning Department and Chicago Zoning Boards would show the exact dates of permits, hearings and approvals. Michelle was so confident she listed the Obamas’ condo, which was located on the first floor of a Hyde Park Brownstone. In October 2004, Michelle expressed surprise to a Chicago interviewer that the Condo had sold so quickly, which meant they either had to put off a closing date or write in a lease agreement for a specified amount of time in their Condo purchase contract.

2004 was a year flush with success for the Obamas: the autobiographical book sales increased; the DNC speech had been well received; Obama won his US Senate seat; and Michelle received a recent promotion to a $316,962-a-year position as Vice President at The University of Chicago Hospitals. Their income was over 1.67 million dollars, with anticipation of even greater gains ahead.

All that needed to be done, in the name of the doctor, on the Kenwood property was completed by March 2005, and the house was finally listed. Michelle Obama resigned her seat on the Chicago Commission on Landmarks at the same time. Barack and Michelle closed on their new home in June of 2005, for $1.65 million dollars, $300,000 less than the asking price, and most likely using the proceeds of their Condo for a down payment, while taking out a mortgage for $1.32 million from Northern Trust. Tony Rezko’s wife purchased the newly divided sub-plot for the full price of $625,000 and closed on the same day.
The City of Chicago requires parking permits, or people must rent space at parking garages for around $30 per diem. There is no overnight on-street parking. The Obamas had no yard to park on, and most likely parked on Rezko’s property.

Within in a month of purchasing their new home, the Obamas began the same process the doctor previously went through. Because Tony Rezko was being indicted, they needed to be distanced from him. So the Obamas hired a lawyer and an architect. Additionally, the Obama’s wanted to put up a fence separating the two properties. On page 21 of the Landmark Ordinances above, it states fences for Historic homes can be no more than 5’ high and must not be visible from the street. If the Obamas had purchased a prefab chain, picket or wooden fence, they would have lost the Historic designation and also the eight-year property tax freeze benefit accrued by agreeing to keep the house in conformance with Landmark regulations.
The concrete wall and evergreens were most likely done after the city appropriated land for sidewalks, and the paving of what has been noted as a wide and busy thoroughfare. If you notice, the trees were planted one to two feet behind the concrete wall, most probably a result of zoning constraints.

The new fence was specially fabricated to conform to historic standards, and the $14,000 cost was billed to Rezko per agreement by Obama and Rezko. Obama states he paid for the architect and Lawyer. Strangely enough the fence actually sits ON the property line between the two lots. Obama agreed to yard maintenance for both properties. And given Obama’s history with the Harvard Law Review and his limited known court experience from public records, Obama most likely either edited or personally wrote the legal documents for his sub-division and the fence. On January 12, 2006, the Obamas closed on the 1/6th of Rita Rezko’s property they purchased for $104,500."

New Questions Raised on Obama's Home Purchase: Was it Funded by Iraqi Billionaire?

From "A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.
The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Antoin "Tony" Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.

Three weeks later, Mr Obama bought a house on the city's South Side while Mr Rezko's wife bought the garden plot next door from the same seller on the same day, June 15.
Mr Obama says he never used Mrs Rezko's still-empty lot, which could only be accessed through his property. But he admits he paid his gardener to mow the lawn.

Mrs Rezko, whose husband was widely known to be under investigation at the time, went on to sell a 10-foot strip of her property to Mr Obama seven months later so he could enjoy a bigger garden.

Mr Obama now admits his involvement in this land deal was a “boneheaded mistake”.

Mrs Rezko’s purchase and sale of the land to Mr Obama raises many unanswered questions.

It is unclear how Mrs Rezko could have afforded the downpayment of $125,000 and a $500,000 mortgage for the original $625,000 purchase of the garden plot at 5050 South Greenwood Ave.

In a sworn statement a year later, Mrs Rezko said she got by on a salary of $37,000 and had $35,000 assets. Mr Rezko told a court he had "no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets, no unencumbered assets [and] is significantly in arrears on many of his obligations."

Mrs Rezko, whose husband goes on trial on unrelated corruption charges in Chicago on March 3, refused to answer questions about the case when she spoke by telephone to The Times.

Asked if she used money from her husband to buy the land next to Mr Obama's house, she said: "I can't answer these questions, I'm sorry."

Asked how long she and her husband had known Mr Auchi, she replied: "I will not be able to answer this question."

Mr Auchi's lawyer, asked whether the Fintrade Services loan was used to buy the land which became Mr Obama's garden, stated: "No, not as far as my client is aware."

Mr Auchi's links with Mr Rezko are a new political headache for Mr Obama, the charismatic Illinois senator vying to become America’s first African-American president.

Hillary Clinton has sought to make Mr Rezko, who has bankrolled Mr Obama's political career since his first run for the Illinois state senate in the mid-1990s, into an election issue by calling him a "slum landlord" in a televised debate. She has repeatedly suggested that Mr Obama has effectively not been "vetted" by media scrutiny and will not withstand "the Republican attack machine".

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr Obama, told The Times: “The bottom line is Obama does not recall ever meeting him [Mr Auchi].”

The house-and-garden deal raised questions about whether Mr Rezko, a property developer and fast-food restauranteur, made it possible for the Obamas to purchase a mansion they could otherwise not afford.

Mrs Rezko paid the asking price for the garden but the Obamas bought the house for $1.65 million, - $300,000 less than the asking price. The sellers deny they offered the Obamas a discount on the house because the garden had fetched full price from Mrs Rezko.

Mr Rezko has since been indicted for allegedly scheming to pressure companies seeking business with the state of Illinois for kickbacks and contributions to the governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign. He goes on trial on March 3.

A prosecution document filed last month alleged that a "political candidate" - identified by the Chicago Sun-Times as Mr Obama - received a $10,000 campaign contribution from what is said to be a $250,000 kickback in the corruption case. That means Mr Obama's name could figure in Mr Rezko's trial, although he is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Mr Obama insists he never used his office to do favours for Mr Rezko but admits that, as an Illinois state senator, he once wrote letters to housing officials urging them to provide money in support of a proposed apartment building for elderly people which Mr Rezko wanted to build.

Mr Obama has publicly sought to atone for his closeness to Mr Rezko, paying $150,000 to charity to distance himself from a man accused of political corruption.

The spotlight fell on Mr Rezko's ties to Mr Auchi last month when the Chicago businessman was thrown in jail for violating his bail terms by failing to declare a different $3.5 million loan from the British billionaire, made in April 2007. Prosecutors feared Mr Rezko, who travels widely in the Middle East, might flee to a country without an extradition treaty such as his birthplace of Syria.

Mr Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe. He, in a statement from his media lawyers, claims he is appealing against the sentence.

Mr Auchi founded his Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holding (GMH) in 1979, a year before he left Iraq. He says that he did business with his native country when it was considered a friend of the West but ceased to trade with the late Saddam Hussein's regime once sanctions were imposed after the invasion of Kuwait.

Mr Rezko has told a court that Mr Auchi is a "close friend." Mr Auchi's lawyer told The Times: "It is untrue that my client and Mr Rezko are 'close friends'. Mr Auchi first met Mr Rezko after the 2003 Iraq war and they have a business relationship."

Mr Rezko and Mr Auchi have been partners in a pizzeria business in the Mid-West and a major 62-acre land development in Riverside Park in Chicago.

According to court documents, Mr Rezko's lawyer said his client had "longstanding indebtedness" to Mr Auchi's GMH. By June 2007 he owed it $27.9 million.

Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr Auchi lent Mr Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007.

That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be "forgiven" in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development.

A posting last week on a GMH-owned website,, portrayed Mr Auchi as a Middle Eastern "Donald Trump" with a global business construction empire.

Mr Auchi visited the United States in 2004. Pictures show him meeting Emil Jones, the president of the Illinois state senate, an ally of Mr Obama, a former state senator.

Both Mr Auchi and Mr Obama say they have no memory of meeting each other. But, according to a source, the two may have had a brief encounter at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago where Mr Auchi’s visit was being honoured with a dinner attended by the Governor when Mr Obama, coincidentally in the hotel, dropped in.

An aide to Mr Obama said he did attend an event at the Four Seasons at which Mr Rezko was present but does not remember meeting Mr Auchi. "He shook a lot of hands and met a lot of people," the aide said. "We do not remember individual people."

Prosecutors say that, after Mr Auchi was unable to enter the United States in 2005, Mr Rezko approached the US State Department to get him a visa and apparently asked "certain Illinois government officials to do the same." Mr Obama denies he was approached. Mr Auchi's lawyer has emphasised to The Times that it would be entirely false to imply that money had been lent by GMH to Mr Rezko in return for Mr Rezko seeking to assist Mr Auchi to obtain a visa. The two men's relationship, the lawyer stressed, was a busines s one.

Mr Auchi's lawyer said the purpose of the Fintrade Services loan was to "assist the financial position" of a pizzeria company called AR Pizza, in which GMH held a shareholding. He said the loan had since been repaid in the form of a greater stake in the Chicago 62-acre land project.

AR Pizza has since become a defendant in a civil lawsuit by the Papa John's pizzeria chain, which alleges that it continued to operate a string of former Papa John's franchises under the name "Papa Tony's" without permission.

Mr Auchi's lawyer said: "My client played no part in the management and/or day to day running of AR Pizza, the GMH Group being an entirely passive investor in the company. Further, there was no need as a mimimum return on the investment was guaranteed. As to the court proceedings, my client is not a party to these. He denies any wrongdoing in relation to his involvement in AR Pizza."

Mr Rezko was also a major fundraiser for Governor Blagojevich. The governor's chief fundraiser Christopher Kelly, who also served as his gambling adviser, is fighting tax charges related to betting losses. The Associated Press reported that last month Mr Auchi's conglomerate also gave a loan to Mr Kelly secured on a Nevada land deal which the governor’s bagman was involved in.

Obama Explains Why He Won't Run for President (something about not having experience)


"I'm a believer in knowing what you're doing when applying for a job, and I think that if I were seriously consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to start now before having served a day in the Senate. Now, there are some people who would be comfortable doing that, but I'm not one of those people." - Barack Obama (November 8, 2004)

Stay-at-home Barack Obama comes under fire for lack of foreign experience

From "Fresh doubts over Barack Obama’s foreign policy credentials were expressed on both sides of the Atlantic last night, after it emerged that he had made only one brief official visit to London – and none elsewhere in Western Europe or Latin America.
Supporters of Hillary Clinton, who has seen Mr Obama tighten the Democratic presidential race over recent weeks, say that his relative inexperience contrasts with her extensive overseas travel and personal relationship with many world leaders.

Yesterday they underlined this message by pointing to reports showing that Mr Obama had failed to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European subcommittee, of which he is chairman. There was also strikingly robust criticism from an independent Washington think-tank about a “disconcerting void” over transatlantic relations in Mr Obama’s foreign policy, as well as from a former British Minister for Europe.

Mr Obama’s advisers say that he has an “intuitive grasp” of world affairs because he spent part of his childhood abroad. “The benefit of my life of having both lived overseas and travelled overseas is, I have a better sense of how they’re thinking and what their society is really like,” Mr Obama said last month.
Reacting to the latest attack on his international credentials, Mr Obama’s advisers pointed out that he had met Tony Blair, among other world leaders, in Washington or on official trips to Africa, the Middle East, Russia and former Soviet Republics.

In a statement emphasising his early opposition to the Iraq war – which Mrs Clinton backed initially – and his support for Nato in Afghanistan, a spokesman said: “Barack Obama will be a leader who understands that the security of the US and Europe is shared. As someone who has lived in Indonesia and has family in Kenya, he will also be uniquely able to bridge the divide between the G8 nations and the developing world.”

The spokesman said that Mr Obama had held European subcommittee hearings on the nomination of two US ambassadors in the past year when he had been busy with his presidential campaign.

But Steve Clemons, the director of foreign policy at the New American Foundation in Washington, said that such hearings were not the same as convening full meetings on pressing policy issues such as the future of Nato. “Someone who is seeking the presidency should have some facility for the most important anchor in global affairs, which is the transatlantic relationship,” he said. “The major threats in the 21st century are changing but what is not changing is the vital necessity of Europe and the US collaborating in meeting those challenges with Europe, for instance, in the lead on dealing with Iran. This is a very disconcerting void in Obama’s profile.”

Mr Obama’s visit to London in August 2005 was a one-day stopover when he returned from a trip to Russia with other senators on the Foreign Relations Committee and met Mr Blair in Downing Street.

Denis MacShane, a Minister for Europe in Mr Blair’s Government, said he had been troubled by comments Mr Obama had made on the Middle East peace process and the prospect of military action in Pakistan. He added: “A lot of people are concerned that international policy is not his strongest suit, just as it was not with George Bush in 2000.

Mr Obama also met Mr Blair twice in Washington, and Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French Interior Minister. But anecdotes are circulating in Washington about how he has turned down requests from other visiting foreign dignitaries, such as an Italian opposition leader who was told that the senator was in “presidential mode” and only seeing leaders of countries.

Foreign relations

— George Bush visited China, Japan, Mexico, Spain, UK, Israel, Ireland, The Gambia, Italy and Egypt before becoming President

— When Theodore Roosevelt travelled to Panama in 1906 to visit the Panama Canal he became the first President to leave the country

— In 1992 Bill Clinton criticised President Bush for his foreign travel. In office President Clinton made 133 trips abroad

— Hillary Clinton claims to have visited 82 countries when her husband was in the White House

— This year Rudy Giuliani claimed that his work as a security consultant, combined with his time as New York Mayor, had taken him on more than 90 foreign trips, “more than any other candidate for president in the last 5 or 6 years”

Sources: National Taxpayers' Union; Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama Mentor Emil Jones Obtained $2.25 Million Grant to Group with Ties to Michelle Obama, Then Barack Lied About It

From Chicago Tribune on May 3, 2007: "SPRINGFIELD - Barack Obama has expressed pride in his ability to bring home old-fashioned pork.
During his nearly eight years in Springfield, he tucked special earmarks into massive budget bills to shower small bequests on inner city schools, parks and youth service agencies.

But some of the larger grants Obama sponsored were tied to political allies and show how difficult it is even for politicians advocating reform to avoid the appearance of favoritism as they dole out taxpayer funds. Several non-profit directors, for instance, gave money to Obama's campaigns soon after their allotments were awarded.
"My philosophy was that, if money was being distributed, then it would be inappropriate for me to not get my share for my district," Obama, now one of the U.S. Senate Democrats' leaders on ethics reform, said in an interview. "Did I think it was the best way to prioritize government spending? No."

The Tribune analyzed 119 grants in which Obama steered more than $6 million for Chicago projects between late 1999 and late 2002, the heart of his Statehouse career and the center of a state government frenzy in which Obama said the pork-barrel process was "wide open."

Typical of his grants was the $5,000 Obama delivered to the South Shore Public Library for chess equipment, books and knitting supplies, or the $5,000 to help the Sir Miles Davis Academy plaster and paint walls and repair windows.

But other grants reflected politics. In 2001, for example, Obama steered $75,000 to a South Side charity called FORUM Inc., which promised to help churches and community groups get wired to the Internet. Records show five FORUM employees, including one who had declared bankruptcy, had donated $1,000 apiece to Obama's state Senate campaign.

As the grant dollars were being disbursed to FORUM, the Illinois attorney general filed a civil lawsuit accusing the charity's founder of engaging in an unrelated kickback scheme. Just days after the suit was filed, Obama quietly returned the $5,000 in donations. "I didn't want to be associated with money that potentially might have been tainted," he said.

FORUM founder Yesse Yehudah, who unsuccessfully ran for state Senate against Obama in 1998, denied wrongdoing and, without admitting guilt, settled the attorney general's lawsuit by paying $10,000 to a charity. He declined to comment.

Obama was not accused of wrongdoing, and he said none of his state grants came about as a quid pro quo.

"It happens that there were major supporters in my district who had been supporters before they got member initiatives," Obama said, noting that some of his contributors had been his allies for years.

One of those long-time supporters was Rev. Michael Pfleger, the politically active leader of St. Sabina Church. He gave Obama's campaign $1,500 between 1995 and 2001, including $200 in April 2001, about three months after Obama announced $225,000 in grants to St. Sabina programs.

Pfleger said he made those donations personally, not on behalf of the church or to win grants.

"At a time when less people vote than ever, I don't think pastors should be silent on politics," Pfleger said.

Another supporter, Henry English, made two donations to Obama totaling $900 in 2001 after Obama helped send a $50,000 grant to a non-profit group that English ran, the Black United Fund of Illinois. English scoffed when asked if his donations were related to the grants.

"It's something that I did," he said. BUFI and Obama "have somewhat of a relationship. He is from down the street."

Personal ties to Obama also were evident in some pork dispensed by his political allies. The Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theatre received a $4.5 million grant to help pay for a $10 million cultural center.

Obama's mentor in Springfield, state Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago), sponsored the grant. And at the time $2.25 million of the grant was disbursed, Obama's wife, Michelle, sat on the non-profit dance group's board.

Obama said in the interview that at the time of the award in 2003 his wife wasn't a board member, though tax returns of the charity indicate she sat on the board in 2002 and 2003. Jones' spokeswoman said Michelle Obama did not lobby him for the funds."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Experts Condemn Obama's Health Insurance Attack Mailer

From Larry Johnson's "Harbage, 2/23/08: “As Senator John Edwards former Healthcare Advisor and a currently unaffiliated healthcare reform proponent, I think that anyone familiar with the Harry and Louise campaign from the early 1990s would immediately recognize the similarity between the insurance industry’s attacks and the Obama Campaign’s mailer. This attack simply drives the debate to the lowest common denominator of generating fear.”

Ezra Klein, American Prospect: “When I say that Obama is demagoguing universal health care, this sort of campaign literature is what I’m talking about…The Obama campaign kept their hairstyles and barely even changed their clothing — which is really quite unfair to Harry and Louise, who probably let go of the plaid years back. What’s worse is that the argument they’re making is applicable to any kind of universal health care arrangement, including the arrangements Obama himself will eventually have to adopt.”

Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2/1/08: “Sorry, but this is just destructive — like the Obama plan, the Clinton plan offers subsidies to lower-income families. And BO himself has conceded that he might have to penalize people who don’t buy insurance until they need care. So this is just poisoning the well for health care reform. The politics of hope, indeed…I know that Obama supporters want to hear no evil, but this is really, really bad.”

Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Review of Journalism, 2/4/08: “[Obama’s] new mailer attacking [Senator Clinton’s] proposal resurrects the ghosts of Harry and Louise, the infamous pair in TV commercials sponsored by the insurance industry, which helped sink Bill Clinton’s efforts at reform. In those ads, a man and woman seated at the kitchen table worry that under his plan they wouldn’t be able to choose their doctor. The message: “If we let the government choose, we lose.” In Obama’s mailer, a man and a woman are seated in the same positions at a kitchen table—the woman even has the same long, blonde hair. The message: “Hillary’s plan forces everyone to buy insurance even if you can’t afford it. Is that the best we can do for families struggling with high health care costs?”

Rosanne on Experience vs Inspiration

From on February 22, 2008: "When I fly in an airplane I want the pilot with the most experience, not the one who can inspire hope in me that I get to where I am going. When I pay my taxes, I want the person filing them to be experienced, not the new person who inspires hope in me that he can do the job. When I hire someone to fix my washing machine, I want the tried and true experienced person, not the one who inspires me to hope that he can fix it. When I go to the doctor I do not want to get the one who inspires hope in me that s/he can cure what's wrong, but the one who knows what the hell to do the minute I call. It's not really the job of a public servant to inspire, but to get the job that the people demand done. The democrats think that if they have hope and are inspired things will get better, but they actually won't. When Oprah makes her employees sign her fifty page non-disclosure statement, she doesn't "hope" they can't break it, she pays teams of experienced lawyers to MAKE SURE they can't break it, or be sued in an experienced court by an experienced judge."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fact Check: Obama's Attack on Hillary's Health Plan are False

From "Obama mailer on Clinton health care plan lacks context.
An Obama mailer stretches the differences between the candidates on health care. Specifically:

It touts measures included in Obama's plan to help low-income individuals buy insurance but fails to mention that Clinton would provide similar financial assistance.

It says Obama's plan would save the average family $2,500 per year – an estimate provided by experts at the campaign's request – but doesn't say that Clinton estimates hers will save $2,200 per year.

It also neglects to point out that Clinton's plan isn't the only one that would have an enforcement mechanism for those who failed to purchase insurance. Obama's plan, which would require that children be insured, would need one as well, though it would affect fewer persons. The Clinton campaign objected to the mailer on grounds that its image of a middle-class white couple is reminiscent of the "Harry and Louise" TV spots that the health insurance industry used to attack the 1993 Clinton health care plan. We see the resemblance, but fail to see the relevancy.
Barack Obama said at the Jan. 31 debate in Los Angeles that his health care plan has "about 95 percent" in common with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's. Nevertheless, his campaign sent out a piece of direct mail that lacks a good amount of context and could mislead those who are not familiar with Clinton's plan. The mail piece drew an angry protest from the Clinton campaign, which compared it to the well-known "Harry and Louise" TV spots by the Health Insurance Association of America that attacked the 1993 Clinton health care planThe mailer focuses on the primary difference between the two candidates' proposals: whether they would require everyone to obtain coverage. Clinton's plan would require all Americans to get insurance, though she hasn't said what will happen if they don't. Obama's plan would require insurance for all children but not for adults. Both plans would help consumers with the cost of getting coverage – although you wouldn't know it from reading Obama's mailer.

Affordability for All?

The mailer opens with the claim that "Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it." Clinton's plan does require everyone to have health insurance, and there will be some kind of penalty for those who don't comply. The mailer is correct on that point. But the Obama mailer leaves out any information on cost-reduction measures and low-income help that Clinton's plan offers, while it touts such measures found in his plan – some of which very closely mirror Clinton's.

For instance, the mailer says Obama's plan will save the average family $2,500 per year. That estimate comes from several Harvard professors who examined the plan at the Obama campaign's request. But Clinton says the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs, estimates her plan would do nearly as well, saving about $2,200 per year per family.

Also, the mailer says Obama's proposal "offers health care coverage for all Americans similar to that of members of Congress, and subsidies to help those who cannot afford it." It leaves out the fact that Clinton, too, proposes allowing Americans to "choose from dozens of the same plans available to members of Congress," as her Web site states. Instead of direct federal subsidies, Clinton would rely on tax credits that hold premiums to a set percentage of income:

Clinton Plan: This credit will ensure that securing quality health care is never a crushing burden for any working family. This guarantee will be achieved through a premium affordability tax credit that ensures that health premiums never rise above a certain percentage of family income. The tax credit will be indexed over time, and designed to maintain consumer price consciousness in choosing health plans, even for those who reach the percentage of income limit.

The Clinton plan doesn’t specify what "a certain percentage" will be, and whether health care is perceived as a "crushing burden" will probably depend on the family. Obama's plan is similarly vague, promising "income-related federal subsidies" for those who "need assistance" but not specifying amount or eligibility requirements.

The Obama campaign is trying to shift the focus to some unspecified "punishment" that Clinton's plan would mete out for those who didn't obtain coverage. It's true that a "mandate" implies penalties for noncompliance, and Clinton's campaign has yet to outline what those would be. But Obama's plan, which would mandate coverage for children, would presumably also have some enforcement mechanism, and he doesn't make explicit what that would be, either, at least as his plan is laid out on his Web site.

According to news reports, the Clinton campaign lashed out at the use of the mailer in a conference call with selected reporters, complaining that the mail piece bears a resemblance to the "Harry and Louise" TV spots of 1993 and 1994

More Lies from Obama Campaign

Obama's campaign sent a mailer attacking Hillary's health care proposal using the same scare tactics that the insurance companies used against her plain in the 90's. So much for Obama's new kind of politics...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama's Ties to 60's Radicals

From on February 22, 2008: "In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

While Ayers and Dohrn may be thought of in Hyde Park as local activists, they’re better known nationally as two of the most notorious — and unrepentant — figures from the violent fringe of the 1960s anti-war movement.

Now, as Obama runs for president, what two guests recall as an unremarkable gathering on the road to a minor elected office stands as a symbol of how swiftly he has risen from a man in the Hyde Park left to one closing in fast on the Democratic nomination for president.

“I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers’ house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress,” said Dr. Quentin Young, a prominent Chicago physician and advocate for single-payer health care, of the informal gathering at the home of Ayers and his wife, Dohrn. “[Palmer] identified [Obama] as her successor.”

Obama and Palmer “were both there,” he said.

Obama’s connections to Ayers and Dorhn have been noted in some fleeting news coverage in the past. But the visit by Obama to their home — part of a campaign courtship — reflects more extensive interaction than has been previously reported.

Neither Ayers nor the Obama campaign would describe the relationship between the two men. Dr. Young described Obama and Ayers as “friends,” but there’s no evidence their relationship is more than the casual friendship of two men who occupy overlapping Chicago political circles and who served together on the board of a Chicago foundation.
But Obama’s relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides.

In one sense, Obama’s journey toward the cultural and political center is not unusual among national politicians. But its velocity is.

Politicians of an earlier generation had their own relationships with figures now far to their left. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instance, interned at a radical San Francisco law firm while in law school.

On the other side of the political spectrum, many in the generation before hers shifted dramatically on civil rights. John McCain voted against creating a holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and later called that a mistake.

The relationship with Ayers gives context to his recent past in Hyde Park politics. It’s milieu in which a former violent radical was a stalwart of the local scene, not especially controversial.

It’s also a scene whose liberal ideological features — while taken for granted by the Chicago press corps that knows Obama best — provides a jarring contrast with Obama’s current, anti-ideological stance. This contrast between past and present — not least the Ayers connection — is virtually certain to be a subject Republican operatives will warm to if Obama is the Democratic nominee.

The tension between the present and recent Chicago past is also evident in some of his positions on major national issues. Many national politicians, including Clinton, have moved toward the center over time. But Obama’s transitions are still quite fresh.

A questionnaire from his 1996 campaign indicated more blanket opposition to the death penalty, and support of abortion rights, than he currently espouses. He spoke in support of single-payer health care as recently as 2003.

Like many of the most extreme figures from the 1960s Ayers and Dohrn are ambiguous figures in American life.

They disappeared in 1970, after a bomb — designed to kill army officers in New Jersey — accidentally destroyed a Greenwich Village townhouse, and turned themselves into authorities in 1980. They were never prosecuted for their involvement with the 25 bombings the Weather Underground claimed; charges were dropped because of improper FBI surveillance.

Both have written and spoken at length about their pasts, and today he is an advocate for progressive education and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago; she’s an associate professor of law at Northwestern University.

But — unlike some other fringe figures of the era — they’re also flatly unrepentant about the bombings they committed in the name of ending the war, defending them on the grounds that they killed no one, except, accidentally, their own members.

Dohrn, however, was jailed for less than a year for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating other Weather Underground members’ robbery of a Brinks truck, in which a guard and two New York State Troopers were killed.

“I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough,” Ayers told the New York Times in 2001.

And their rehabilitation in establishment circles, even in Hyde Park, has its limits.

Though he is a respected figure in liberal educational circles, Ayers wrote recently about how in 2006 he was informed he was persona non grata at a progressive educators’ conference in the summer of 2006.
“We cannot risk a simplistic and dubious association between progressive education and the violent aspects of your past,” he quoted the conference organizers, whom he described as friends, as writing to him.

But the couple has been embraced, by and large, in the liberal circles dominating Hyde Park politics.

“Bill Ayers is one of my heroes in life,” said Sam Ackerman, a longtime local activist. “I knew Tony Rezko, and he ain’t no Rezko.”

But others in Hyde Park, whose intellectual and political life revolves around the University of Chicago, view the couple with ambivalence.

“I feel very uncomfortable with their past, but neither of them is thought of as horrible types now — so far as most of us know, they are legitimate members of the community,” said Cass Sunstein, a University of Chicago law professor who has known Obama since the early 1990s and supports his campaign.

“Not only is Obama the opposite pole from radicals like Ayers and Dohrn at least as one point were, he’s not a conventional left liberal by any means,” he said.

Others are less inclined to even consider forgiveness.

“Ayers was a terrorist. Bernardine Dohrn was a terrorist. Ayers has never offered one word of apology — he glories in it, thinks it’s terrific. And that to me is not what I would call acceptable or mainstream behavior,” said Dan Polsby, a former law professor at Northwestern who is now dean of George Mason University Law School. “If Obama takes a different view on that — well, OK, that’s data about Obama.”

On Thursday, Ayers spoke at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he refused to answer questions from Politico about his relationship with Obama.

Dohrn did not respond to a message left at her office.

Obama’s campaign dismisses the notion that his relationship with Ayers should be seen through the lens of the latter’s violent past, or his present lack of regret for the bombings.

“Sen. Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence,” said Obama’s press secretary, Bill Burton. “But he was an 8-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost 40 years ago is ridiculous.”

He described Ayers as “a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a former aide to Mayor Richard J. Daley,” referring to printed reports that he had “advised” Daley on school reform.

As Bloomberg News reported recently, Obama and Ayers have crossed paths repeatedly in the last decade. In 1997, Obama cited Ayers’ critique of the juvenile justice system in a Chicago Tribune article on what prominent Chicagoans were reading. He and Ayers served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago for three years starting in 1999. In 2001, Ayers also gave $200 to Obama’s state Senate reelection campaign.

Many details of the 1995 meeting are shrouded by time and by Obama’s and Ayers’ refusals to discuss it.

The exact date is not known, but it was in the second half of 1995, before Palmer’s decision — late in her losing congressional primary against Jesse Jackson Jr. — to jump back into the special election for her state Senate seat. (Her decision produced a rift between her and Obama, who was able to get her thrown off the ballot on technical grounds.)

“That’s too long ago — that’s ancient history,” Palmer said, when asked of the meeting.

Dr. Young and another guest, Maria Warren, described it similarly: as an introduction to Hyde Park liberals of the handpicked successor to Palmer, a well-regarded figure on the left.

“When I first met Barack Obama, he was giving a standard, innocuous little talk in the living room of those two legends-in-their-own-minds, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn,” Warren wrote on her blog in 2005. “They were launching him — introducing him to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread.”

Contacted by e-mail, Warren declined to describe the meeting further and later blogged of her concern that Republicans would use accounts of the event for “left-baiting.”

Young described the gathering as a matter of “due diligence” for Palmer to introduce her chosen successor to constituents. “Many of us knew him already,” he said.

They, like others in his old Chicago world, now consider him a bit too “conservative” for their liking, as Warren wrote recently.

Ackerman, the Hyde Park activist, complained of his votes for continued funding for the Iraq war.

“A lot of people were very angry when he voted to fund the war,” he said. “But any candidate running for president is going to strive for broader appeal and move more to the center — I don’t believe that Barack has departed from his basic principles.”

Dr. Young said, however, that he isn’t supporting either of the leading presidential candidates because he is a single-issue voter, and the issue is single-payer health care.

He said he was disappointed that Obama is “equivocating” on his support for single-payer health care, after saying in the past that he supported it. But he said Obama’s style — “cautious, deliberate, defensive” — was also familiar from the senator’s Hyde Park days.

“In fairness, there’s no double dealing,” he said. “It’s part of his stated strategy: He wants to get maximum unity.”