Monday, March 31, 2008

Fact Check: Washinton Post Says Obama "Overstates"


"By Michael Dobbs
Sunday, March 30, 2008; A01

Addressing civil rights activists in Selma, Ala., a year ago, Sen. Barack Obama traced his "very existence" to the generosity of the Kennedy family, which he said paid for his Kenyan father to travel to America on a student scholarship and thus meet his Kansan mother.

The Camelot connection has become part of the mythology surrounding Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Caroline Kennedy endorsed his candidacy in January, Newsweek commentator Jonathan Alter reported that she had been struck by the extraordinary way in which "history replays itself" and by how "two generations of two families -- separated by distance, culture and wealth -- can intersect in strange and wonderful ways."

It is a touching story -- but the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified.

Contrary to Obama's claims in speeches in January at American University and in Selma last year, the Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 airlift of 81 Kenyan students to the United States that included Obama's father. According to historical records and interviews with participants, the Kennedys were first approached for support for the program nearly a year later, in July 1960. The family responded with a $100,000 donation, most of which went to pay for a second airlift in September 1960.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton acknowledged yesterday that the senator from Illinois had erred in crediting the Kennedy family with a role in his father's arrival in the United States. He said the Kennedy involvement in the Kenya student program apparently "started 48 years ago, not 49 years ago as Obama has mistakenly suggested in the past."

The real story of Barack Obama Sr.'s arrival in the United States and the subsequent Kennedy involvement in the airlifts of African students sheds light on the highly competitive presidential election of 1960 and Africa's struggle to free itself from colonialism, as well as the huge strides made by the Obama family, which has gone in two generations from herding goats in the hills of western Kenya to the doors of the White House.

In his speech commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Selma civil rights march, Sen. Obama linked his father's arrival in the United States with the turmoil of the civil rights movement. Although the airlift occurred before John F. Kennedy became president, Obama said that "folks in the White House" around President Kennedy were looking for ways to counter charges of hypocrisy and "win hearts and minds all across the world" at a time when America was "battling communism."

"So the Kennedys decided 'we're going to do an airlift,' " Obama continued. " 'We're going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.' This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great-great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves. . . . So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born."

A more accurate version of the story would begin not with the Kennedys but with a Kenyan nationalist leader named Tom Mboya, who traveled to the United States in 1959 and 1960 to persuade thousands of Americans to support his efforts to educate a new African elite. Mboya did not approach the Kennedys for financial support until Obama Sr. was already studying in Hawaii.

Mboya, a charismatic politician, was assassinated in 1969. His daughter Susan, now living in Ohio, said the mass airlifts of Kenyan students to the United States had a "huge" impact on the young African nation, which gained its independence from Britain in 1963. She cited a University of Nairobi study that showed that 70 percent of top Kenyan officials after independence, including Obama Sr., were products of the American program.

In the late 1950s, there was no university in Kenya, and educational opportunities for Africans were limited. The British colonial government opposed Mboya's efforts to send talented young Kenyans to the United States for an education, arguing that there was a perfectly good university, Makerere College, in neighboring Uganda. The U.S. State Department supported the British and turned down Mboya's requests for assistance.

During his 1959 trip to the United States, the 29-year-old Mboya raised enough money for scholarships for 81 young Kenyans, including Obama Sr., with the help of the African-American Students Foundation. Records show that almost 8,000 individuals contributed. Early supporters included baseball star Jackie Robinson, who gave $4,000, and actors Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.

There was enormous excitement when the Britannia aircraft took off for New York with the future Kenyan elite on board. After a few weeks of orientation, the students were dispatched to universities across the United States to study subjects that would help them govern Kenya after the departure of the British. Obama Sr. was interested in economics and was sent to Hawaii, where he met, and later married, a Kansas native named Ann Dunham. Barack Jr. was born in August 1961.

Among the other students on the first airlift was Philip Ochieng, who went on to become a prominent Kenyan journalist. In a 2004 article for the Nation, Kenya's leading newspaper, Ochieng remembered Obama Sr. as "charming, generous and extraordinarily clever," but also "imperious, cruel and given to boasting about his brain and his wealth." Obama Jr. paints a similar portrait in his best-selling 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," describing his father as exceptionally gifted but also "wild," "boastful" and "stubborn."

After the success of the first student airlift, Mboya decided to expand the program in 1960 and to include students from neighboring African countries. This time, he raised $250,000 for 256 students. Universities and colleges promised scholarships worth $1,600,000, but Mboya still needed money for the airlift itself. His American friends suggested that he approach Sen. John F. Kennedy, who had just launched his presidential campaign. In addition to chairing a Senate subcommittee on Africa, Kennedy controlled the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, named after his older brother who was killed in World War II.

The two men met at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Mass., on July 26, 1960. Kennedy later said that the family was initially "reluctant" to support the program because of other commitments but eventually agreed to provide $100,000 because it was impossible to raise the funds elsewhere.

Stephen Plotkin, an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, said a search of the records did not turn up any evidence that the Kennedy family supported the 1959 airlift.

Vice President Richard M. Nixon, determined not to be outdone by his Democratic rival for the White House, persuaded the State Department to drop its long-standing refusal to fund the program. The head of the Nixon campaign "truth squad," Sen. Hugh Scott, accused Kennedy of attempting to "outbid the U.S. government" in a "misuse of tax-exempt foundation money for blatant political purposes." Kennedy responded by accusing the Nixon campaign of "the most unfair, distorted and malignant attack that I have heard in 14 years in politics."

The former executive director of the African-American Students Foundation, Cora Weiss, said some of the money provided by the Kennedys was used to pay off old debts and subsidize student stipends. Even though Obama Sr. arrived the previous year, he and other members of the 1959 cohort benefited indirectly from Kennedy family support.

According to a letter on file in the Mboya papers at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, "most" of Obama Sr.'s early expenses in the United States were covered by an international literacy expert named Elizabeth Mooney Kirk, who had traveled widely in Kenya. Kirk wrote to Mboya in May 1962 to request additional funds to "sponsor Barack Obama for graduate study, preferably at Harvard." She said she would "like to do more" to assist the young man but had two stepchildren ready for college.

Susan Mboya credits the student airlifts with helping to make Kenya "an island of stability in a region rocked by turmoil" until very recently. "We were fortunate in having a lot of highly educated people who were able to come back and take over the government after the British left," she said. Products of the airlift project included Africa's first female Nobel Peace Prize winner, the environmentalist Wangari Maathai.

Obama's Selma speech offers a very confused chronology of both the Kenya student program and the civil rights movement. Relating the story of how his parents met, Obama said: "There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Junior was born. So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama."

After bloggers pointed out that the Selma bridge protest occurred four years after Obama's birth, a spokesman explained that the senator was referring to the civil rights movement in general, rather than any one event.

Obama Sr. never quite lived up to his enormous potential. He achieved his dream of studying at Harvard after graduating from the University of Hawaii. He divorced Dunham in 1963 and married another woman.

He returned to Kenya and became a close aide to Mboya, a fellow Luo tribesman, at the Ministry of Economic Development. According to his old "drinking buddy" Ochieng, he antagonized other officials with his "boasting," was "excessively fond of Scotch" and ended up in poverty "without a job." He got into frequent car accidents, one of which led to the amputation of both his legs. He was killed in another car accident, in 1982, at the age of 46.

Special correspondent Michael Zielenziger in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this report."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Obama Claims Pastor Wright Acknowledged Offending People...Then His Campaign Denies He Said It

From ABC's Jake Tapper in Political Punch: "March 28, 2008 4:14 PM

On "The View" this morning, Barbara Walters asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., what he would have done had he learned about the incendiary remarks made by his since-retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, if Wright had not been on his way out the door?

"Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I think is the great character of this country - for all its flaws - then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church," Obama said.

This seemed to imply that Wright had acknowledged that he'd deeply offended people with inappropriate remarks. Right?

Wrong, says the Obama campaign.

"Sen. Obama was clearly saying that were Rev. Wright not retiring, he would need to be assured that the reverend understood why what he had said had deeply offended people and mischaracterized the greatness of this country," says spox Bill Burton.

Okay, except Obama wasn't "clearly" saying that at all.

Here's a clear way to say that: 'Had the reverend not retired I would have confronted him about his remarks. If after that Wright still refused to acknowledge that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I think is the great character of this country -- for all its flaws -- then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.'

For an eloquent man, not his most eloquent moment."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obama's Factory Size Deception

From NationalReviewOnline on March 27, 2008: "In the days leading up to the March 4 Ohio primary, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign aired a TV ad that featured a man named Steven Schuyler standing in front of a Delphi Packard Electric plant in Warren, Ohio. In the ad, Schuyler says he worked for Delphi, an automotive supplier, for 13 years until NAFTA enabled the company to ship his job to Mexico. “Barack Obama was against NAFTA,” Schuyler says, adding, “We need a president that will bring work into this country.”

The Delphi ad might qualify as the most deceptive of the 2008 race. First, Delphi did not exist as an independent company when Congress passed NAFTA in 1993. It was part of General Motors until it was spun off as an independent supplier in 1999. Second, foreign competition did not drive the company to eliminate American jobs. It declared bankruptcy in 2005 because the legacy labor costs it inherited from GM made it impossible to compete against other U.S.-based suppliers. Third, workers at the Warren, Ohio plant were offered generous buyouts and early-retirement packages. Its employees were not just kicked to the street. When Delphi became an independent company in 1999, it inherited GM’s high-wage, high-benefit autoworkers’ union contracts. Addressing reporters after Delphi declared bankruptcy in 2005, then-CEO Robert S. “Steve” Miller explained, “other U.S.-based suppliers, many of which were organized by the same unions . . . were paying less than half the automaker wages and benefits [that Delphi was paying].” Contrary to Obama’s ad, domestic competition played a bigger role in Delphi’s downfall than did competition from Mexico.

Even with its legacy costs, Delphi might have managed. But its relationship with GM harmed it in other ways. When Delphi declared bankruptcy, GM was still its biggest customer, responsible for about 50 percent of its sales. When GM’s market share tanked in 2003, so did Delphi’s profits. Delphi’s fate and the fates of its U.S. employees are tied to the fate of GM, which for multiple reasons has struggled, along with Ford and Chrysler, to stay afloat in recent years.

In his 2005 remarks to reporters, Miller argued that the U.S. auto industry’s problems have little to do with import competition. “Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are competing from assembly plants in our back yard,” he said, “but without the crippling work rules and social costs embedded in [GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s] labor contracts.”

The example of Honda is particularly relevant to any examination of Ohio’s economy. The Japanese automaker opened its first plant in Ohio in 1979, and since then it has opened three more and become one of the state’s top employers. Workers in Honda’s Ohio plants don’t belong to a union, but the company pays competitive wages and benefits and has never laid off any of its Ohio employees.

As for Delphi Packard Electric in Warren, Ohio, it was downsized as part of the corporate restructuring that followed the bankruptcy, but — unlike other Delphi plants in the U.S. — it wasn’t shuttered or sold. All but 700 of the plant’s 3,800 employees took buyout offers or early-retirement packages. Those who stayed on accepted a new labor contract that brought wages and benefits closer to the prevailing rates in the supply business.

In April 2007, the Youngstown Vindicator ran a story about a former Delphi employee named Karole Kowalski who took a $140,000 buyout and invested it in an associate’s degree at Youngstown State University. “She’s excited about her plan,” according to the report, “and is hopeful the cutbacks at Packard were the best thing that could have happened to her. She couldn’t work as a laborer any more because of her back, and the buyout has given her the chance to retrain.”

If all ex–Delphi Packard workers were offered buyouts or early-retirement packages, it stands to reason that Steven Schuyler, the man in the Obama TV ad, took a similar deal. The Obama campaign ignored National Review Online’s repeated requests for more information about Schuyler, but a Delphi retiree told the Vindicator, “Schuyler took the buyout and got a good cash sum to quit his job.” When I spoke to Vindicator editor Todd Franko, he said he still hadn’t been able to contact Schuyler to confirm this.

Kowalski and Schuyler offer dramatic contrasts for participants in the debate over free trade in this country. Kowalski’s approach speaks of a willingness to embrace the changes that are occurring in the U.S. economy and view them as opportunities. Schuyler’s approach — the one Obama has apparently embraced — is characterized by bitterness that things had to change, and rank dishonesty about why they did.

— Stephen Spruiell is an NRO staff reporter. "

Judicial Watch: Obama ‘intended to leave no paper trail’

From on March 26, 2008: "The president of a prominent watchdog group said Wednesday that he believes Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) “intended to leave no paper trail” during his time in the Illinois Senate. Judicial Watch, which has been seeking access to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) records from her time in the White House, argued Wednesday that the Illinois senator, who has criticized the former first lady for a lack of openness, has his own “records problem.”

“The more we learn about the Illinois Senator, the more obvious it becomes that he is anything but the ethically upright outsider he purports to be,” said Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch.

The group rose to prominence when it repeatedly took on former President Bill Clinton during his time in office. It also sought records from the Bush administration regarding Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force.

In a statement, Fitton noted that his group has sought access to Obama’s records as a state senator and questioned whether the presidential candidate has been forthcoming with regard to what happened to those documents.

He said that “nobody knows where they are, if they exist at all” and claimed that “Obama’s story keeps changing.”

However, the Obama campaign said the senator’s records are available.

“All of Sen. Obama’s correspondence with state agencies and records of requests Obama made to them on behalf of his constituents are available to the public and have been accessed by our opponents and members of the news media,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt. “Illinois State senators have limited staff – Obama did not have a scheduler – and so no detailed record exists of all of his daily activities in Springfield.”

Fitton argues that Obama’s public accounts of what happened to his records do not mesh with information from the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State. He added that the Judicial Watch investigation “suggests” that the senator could have had his records archived in a way that would grant the public access to them.

“It appears that Obama never kept records of his time in the Illinois state legislature, or he discarded them,” Fitton stated. “Either way, he clearly intended to leave no paper trail.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Real Conversation About Race? What Are You talking About?

Jonah Goldberg in on march 26, 2008: "Thank God for Barack Obama. For until his "More Perfect Union" speech last Tuesday, it seems it never occurred to anyone that America needed to talk about race. "Maybe this'll be the beginning of a conversation," Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan proclaimed on "Meet the Press." According to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, just the fact of Obama's address proves that a "national dialogue on race" is "essential." The Chicago Tribune reported that "many voters, black and white, say they were moved by Obama's speech ... which they see as a long-awaited invitation to begin an honest, calm national dialogue about race." Newspaper editorial boards agree. In the words of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Prodding Americans to confront their racial differences is, by itself, an accomplishment of historical proportions."

Because so many people agree on this brilliant new strategy to heal our national wounds, I can only assume that I'm the one missing something. Because when one luminary after another smacks his forehead like someone who forgot to have a V8 in epiphanic awe over the genius of Obama's call for a national conversation on race, all I can do is wonder: "What on Earth are you people talking about?"

"Universities were moving to incorporate the issues Mr. Obama raised into classroom discussions and course work," the New York Times reported within 48 hours of the speech.

Oh, thank goodness Obama fired the starter's pistol in the race to discuss race. Here I'd been under the impression that every major university (and minor one for that matter) in the country already had boatloads of courses -- often entire majors -- dedicated to race in America. I'd even read somewhere that professors had incorporated racial themes and issues into classes on everything from Shakespeare to the mating habits of snail darters. And scratching faintly in the back of my mind, I felt some vague memory that these same universities recruited black students and other racial minorities, on the grounds that interracial conversations on campus are as important as talking about math, science and literature. A ghost of an image in my mind's eye seemed to reveal African American studies centers, banners for Black History Month and copies of books like "Race Matters" and "The Future of the Race" lined up on shelves at college bookstores.

Were all of the corporate diversity consultants and racial sensitivity seminars mere apparitions in a dream? Also disappearing in the memory hole, apparently, were the debates that followed Hurricane Katrina, Trent Lott's remarks about Strom Thurmond, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, the publication of "The Bell Curve" and O.J. Simpson's murder trial. Not to mention the ongoing national chatter about affirmative action, racial disparities in prison sentences and racial profiling by law enforcement.

And the thousands of hours of newscasts, television dramas and movies -- remember Oscar-winning films such as 2004's "Crash?" -- dedicated to racial issues? It's as if they never existed, vanishing like the image on a TV screen after the plug's been pulled. The New York Times' six-week Pulitzer Prize-winning series, "How Race Is Lived in America": just an inkblot?

It all seems so otherworldly. I feel like one of the last humans in an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" movie in which all of the pod people are compelled by some alien DNA to pine continually for yet another "conversation" about a topic we've never, ever stopped talking about. And if I just fall asleep, I too can live in the pod-people's dream palace, where every conversation about race is our first conversation about race. Snatching me from any such reverie was this masterful understatement from Thursday's New York Times: "Religious groups and academic bodies, already receptive to Mr. Obama's plea for such a dialogue, seemed especially enthusiastic."

No kidding. Janet Murguia is one such especially enthusiastic person. She hoped, according to the Times, that Obama's speech would help "create a safe space to talk about [race]."

Who is Janet Murguia? Oh, she's just the president of a group called the National Council of La Raza, which -- despite what they'll tell you -- means "the race." In fact, doesn't it seem like the majority of people begging for a "new conversation" on race are the same folks who shout "racist!" at anyone who disagrees with them?

This sort of disconnect between rhetoric and reality is the kind of thing one finds in novels by Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Milan Kundera. To my un-rehabilitated ear, Murguia sounds like an old Soviet apparatchik saying that what the U.S.S.R. really needs is an open and frank conversation about the importance of communism.

Why do voluptuaries of racial argy-bargy want another such dialogue? For some, it's to avoid actually dealing with unpleasant facts. But for others -- like La Raza or the college professors scrambling to follow Obama's lead -- when they say we need more conversation, they really mean their version of reality should win the day. Substitute "conversation" with "instruction" and you'll have a better sense of where these people are coming from and where they want their "dialogue" to take us.

Copyright 2008, Tribune Media Services Inc."

Ed Koch on Why Obama's Speech Was Unconvincing

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch on Obama in on March 25, 2008: "Barack Obama's speech last week addressing his 20-year relationship with his radical pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was very well done, yet unconvincing.

Obama sought to explain that relationship and why he could not end this close association, despite the minister's hate-filled rhetoric. He said, "There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Rev. Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?"

Yes, those are the questions that people are asking.

Many of Rev. Wright's incendiary statements are on videos sold by his church. Minister Louis Farrakhan, a friend of Rev. Wright with whom he traveled to visit Muammar Khadaffi in Libya, also makes his sermons and those of others associated with the Nation of Islam available for sale. Their attacks on the U.S. and Israel often coincide with those of Rev. Wright.

Rev. Wright's sermons charge that the U.S. government gives African-Americans drugs, created AIDS and is deliberately infecting blacks with that disease. His sermons claim that the U.S. unjustifiably nuclear bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, and that 9/11 and the deaths of 3,000 Americans were caused by U.S. foreign policy. He alleges Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinians; calling Israel a "dirty word" and "racist country." He blames Israel for 9/11 and supports the divestment campaign against it, denouncing "Zionism." His venomous thoughts are summed up in his most discussed sermon in which he says the U.S. government "wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, not God Bless America. God damn America. God damn America for killing innocent people."

Senator Obama in his speech acknowledged that the rantings of his minister are "inexcusable," but stated, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Before we discuss his grandmother, let's examine the impact of Rev. Wright's statements on the Senator's two daughters. Nothing says it better than a song from the musical "South Pacific," to wit, "You have to be taught to hate and fear...You've got to be carefully taught." Few dispute that Rev. Wright's sermons are filled with hate.

Why didn't Senator Obama stand up in the church and denounce his hateful statements or, at the very least, argue privately with his minister? It was horrifying to see on a video now viewed across America the congregation rise from the pews to applaud their minister's rants.

Now to Obama's grandmother. There was a time spanning the 70's to the mid-90's when many blacks and whites in large American cities expressed the same feelings on street crime held by Obama's grandmother. Indeed, Reverend Jesse Jackson made similar comments in 1993 at a meeting of his organization, Operation Push, devoted to street crime. According to a November 29, 1993, article in the Chicago Sun-Times, he said, "'We must face the No. 1 critical issue of our day. It is youth crime in general and black-on-black crime in particular.' Then Jackson told the audience, 'There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved....After all we have been through,' he said. 'Just to think we can't walk down our own streets, how humiliating.'"

Isn't that exactly what Obama's grandmother was referring to? To equate her fears, similar to Jesse Jackson's, with Wright's anti-American, anti-white, anti-Jew, and anti-Israel rantings is despicable coming from a grandson. In today's vernacular, he threw her under the wheels of the bus to keep his presidential campaign rolling.
For shame.

What is it that I and others expected Obama to do? A great leader with conscience and courage would have stood up and faced down anyone who engages in such conduct. I expect a President of the United States to have the strength of character to denounce and disown enemies of America - foreign and domestic -- and yes, even his friends and confidants when they get seriously out of line.

What if a minister in a church attended primarily by white congregants or a rabbi in a synagogue attended primarily by Jews made comparable statements that were hostile to African-Americans? I have no doubt that the congregants would have immediately stood up and openly denounced the offending cleric. Others would have criticized that cleric in private. Some would surely have ended their relationships with their congregation. Obama didn't do any of these things. His recent condemnations of Wright's hate-filled speech are, in my opinion, a case of too little, too late.

It is also disturbing to me that Obama's wife, Michelle, during a speech in Wisconsin last month, said, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

Strange. This is a woman who has had a good life, with opportunities few whites or blacks have been given. When she entered Princeton and Harvard and later became a partner in a prestigious law firm, didn't she feel proud to be an American? When she and the Senator bought their new home, was there no feeling of accomplishment and pride in being a U.S. citizen? When her husband was elected to the state legislature and subsequently to the United States Senate, didn't she feel proud of her country?

Senator Obama was asked if he thought his speech changed any minds. He replied he didn't think so, and certainly not of those who weren't already for him. A more important question is, whether his 20-year relationship with Wright has done lasting damage to his candidacy. We will soon know.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City."

Obama's Resume Embellishments

From on March 26, 2008: "“Senator Obama has called himself a constitutional professor, claimed credit for passing legislation that never left committee, and apparently inflated his role as a community organizer among other issues. When it comes to his record, just words won’t do. Senator Obama will have to use facts as well,” Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.

Sen. Obama consistently and falsely claims that he was a law professor. The Sun-Times reported that, “Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama’s primary [Senate] campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter.” In academia, there’s a significant difference: professors have tenure while lecturers do not. [Hotline Blog, 4/9/07; Chicago Sun-Times, 8/8/04]

Obama claimed credit for nuclear leak legislation that never passed. “Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks. He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was ‘the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed.’ ‘I just did that last year,’ he said, to murmurs of approval. A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks. Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama’s comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.” [New York Times, 2/2/08]

Obama misspoke about his being conceived because of Selma. “Mr. Obama relayed a story of how his Kenyan father and his Kansan mother fell in love because of the tumult of Selma, but he was born in 1961, four years before the confrontation at Selma took place. When asked later, Mr. Obama clarified himself, saying: `I meant the whole civil rights movement.’” [New York Times, 3/5/07]

LA Times: Fellow organizers say Sen. Obama took too much credit for his community organizing efforts. “As the 24-year-old mentor to public housing residents, Obama says he initiated and led efforts that thrust Altgeld’s asbestos problem into the headlines, pushing city officials to call hearings and a reluctant housing authority to start a cleanup. But others tell the story much differently. They say Obama did not play the singular role in the asbestos episode that he portrays in the best-selling memoir ‘Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.’ Credit for pushing officials to deal with the cancer-causing substance, according to interviews and news accounts from that period, also goes to a well-known preexisting group at Altgeld Gardens and to a local newspaper called the Chicago Reporter. Obama does not mention either one in his book.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/19/07]

Chicago Tribune: Obama’s assertion that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing ’strains credulity.’ “…Obama has been too self-exculpatory. His assertion in network TV interviews last week that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing strains credulity: Tribune stories linked Rezko to questionable fundraising for Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2004 — more than a year before the adjacent home and property purchases by the Obamas and the Rezkos.” [Chicago Tribune editorial, 1/27/08]

Obama was forced to revise his assertion that lobbyists ‘won’t work in my White House.’ “White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was forced to revise a critical stump line of his on Saturday — a flat declaration that lobbyists ‘won’t work in my White House’ after it turned out his own written plan says they could, with some restrictions… After being challenged on the accuracy of what he has been saying — in contrast to his written pledge — at a news conference Saturday in Waterloo, Obama immediately softened what had been his hard line in his next stump speech.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 12/16/07] `Selective, embellished and out-of-context quotes from newspapers pump up Obama’s health plan.’ “Obama’s ad touting his health care plan quotes phrases from newspaper articles and an editorial, but makes them sound more laudatory and authoritative than they actually are. It attributes to The Washington Post a line saying Obama’s plan would save families about $2,500. But the Post was citing the estimate of the Obama campaign and didn’t analyze the purported savings independently. It claims that “experts” say Obama’s plan is “the best.” “Experts” turn out to be editorial writers at the Iowa City Press-Citizen - who, for all their talents, aren’t actual experts in the field. It quotes yet another newspaper saying Obama’s plan “guarantees coverage for all Americans,” neglecting to mention that, as the article makes clear, it’s only Clinton’s and Edwards’ plans that would require coverage for everyone, while Obama’s would allow individuals to buy in if they wanted to.” [, 1/3/08]

Sen. Obama said ‘I passed a law that put Illinois on a path to universal coverage,’ but Obama health care legislation merely set up a task force. “As a state senator, I brought Republicans and Democrats together to pass legislation insuring 20,000 more children. And 65,000 more adults received health care…And I passed a law that put Illinois on a path to universal coverage.” The State Journal-Register reported in 2004 that “The [Illinois State] Senate squeaked out a controversial bill along party lines Wednesday to create a task force to study health-care reform in Illinois. […] In its original form, the bill required the state to offer universal health care by 2007. That put a ‘cloud’ over the legislation, said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. Under the latest version, the 29-member task force would hold at least five public hearings next year.” [Obama Health Care speech, 5/29/07; State Journal-Register, 5/20/04]

ABC News: ‘Obama…seemed to exaggerate the legislative progress he made’ on ethics reform. “ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: During Monday’s Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., seemed to exaggerate the legislative progress he has made on disclosure of “bundlers,” those individuals who aggregate their influence with the candidate they support by collecting $2,300 checks from a wide network of wealthy friends and associates. When former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel alleged that Obama had 134 bundlers, Obama responded by telling Gravel that the reason he knows how many bundlers he has raising money for him is “because I helped push through a law this past session to disclose that.” Earlier this year, Obama sponsored an amendment [sic] in the Senate requiring lobbyists to disclose the candidates for whom they bundle. Obama’s amendment would not, however, require candidates to release the names of their bundlers. What’s more, although Obama’s amendment was agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent, the measure never became law as Obama seemed to suggest. Gravel and the rest of the public know how many bundlers Obama has not because of a ‘law’ that the Illinois Democrat has ‘pushed through’ but because Obama voluntarily discloses that information.” [ABC News, 7/23/07]

Obama drastically overstated Kansas tornado deaths during campaign appearance. “When Sen. Barack Obama exaggerated the death toll of the tornado in Greensburg, Kan, during his visit to Richmond yesterday, The Associated Press headline rapidly evolved from `Obama visits former Confederate capital for fundraiser’ to `Obama rips Bush on Iraq war at Richmond fundraiser’ to `Weary Obama criticizes Bush on Iraq, drastically overstates Kansas tornado death toll’ to `Obama drastically overstates Kansas tornado deaths during campaign appearance.’ Drudge made it a banner, ensuring no reporter would miss it.” [, 5/9/07]

Courtesy of AndreWalker’s MyDD diary, “Just Embellished Words: Obama’s Record of Exaggerations & Misstatements” and campaign press releases."

Obama's Famous Anti_War Speech "Re-Created" By Campaign

From on March 25, 2008: "On Oct. 2, 2002, a modest crowd gathered at the Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago for what would be the city's first organized rally to protest the coming war.

The roster of speakers included a future presidential front-runner. But back then, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator with an eye on a U.S. Senate seat.

Now, at nearly every campaign rally in his run for the presidency, Obama cites the speech he delivered on that day, in which he came out strongly against the Bush administration on Iraq.

Obama told the anti-war rally that day, "I don't oppose all wars. I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war."

The speech, delivered five-and-a-half years ago, allows Obama, now the junior senator from Illinois, to say something that his rival for the Democratic nomination, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), cannot: that he never supported the war. At the time of the speech, the U.S. Senate had not yet given President Bush authorization to use military force to topple Saddam Hussein.

A Centerpiece of Obama's 'Judgment' Argument

On the campaign trail, Obama promotes his 2002 speech in steady and relentless fashion.

"On the most important national security question since the Cold War, I am the only candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning," he said.

Clinton dismisses Obama's early opposition to the war, saying, "I have the experience. John McCain has the experience. All Barack Obama has is just a speech."

Obama counters that the speech demonstrated his sound judgment, and that it showed the kind of political courage a president needs. He says it was risky to deliver such a speech barely a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, at a time when the president was riding high in the polls.

"My objections to the war in Iraq were not simply a speech," Obama said. "I was in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign. It was a high-stakes campaign. I was one of the most vocal opponents of the war." (Obama delivered the speech in October 2002; he did not officially declare his candidacy for the U.S. Senate until January).

Rally Attendees Remember Obama's Speech

Even in this era of YouTube and camera phones, a recording of Obama's speech is all but impossible to find. The Obama campaign has gone so far as to re-create portions of the speech for a television ad, with the candidate re-reading the text, with audience sound effects.
In the actual speech, Obama said the U.S. should focus on Afghanistan and on capturing Osama bin Laden. He spoke of "weekend warriors in the Bush administration with an ideological agenda." He called Saddam Hussein a butcher, but also stressed that the Iraqi dictator posed no imminent or direct threat to the United States. On that day, Obama also predicted a United States' occupation of Iraq of undetermined cost, length and consequences.

Marilyn Katz, one of the event's organizers, recalls the audience's reaction. "The crowd was pretty much transfixed," she said.

But Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, was less impressed. Andrade says he has seen Obama give great speeches, most notably at the 2004 Democratic Convention, but the 2002 anti-war speech was not one of them.

"There was nothing magic about it," Andrade said, adding, "There was nothing about that speech that would have given anybody any sense that he was going places. We were just glad that he was one of those who was willing to step up at a time when very few people seemed to be willing to do that."

So, just how much attention did the speech attract?

Bill Glauber, who covered the rally for the Chicago Tribune, says he didn't even quote Obama.

"I guess other media was there," Glauber says, "but we didn't quote Barack Obama at his famous anti-war speech. He was not the main guy."

Glauber says that he did not even mention Obama in his newspaper article on the rally and instead focused on the rally's other speaker, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Was the Speech Risky?

Obama cites the speech as an example of his political courage, but David Mendell, author of Obama: From Promise to Power, says the address was not necessarily a risky move.
"I still don't think it was an inordinate risk here in Illinois, where you have a very blue-state crowd," Mendell said, adding, "I might take issue with just how risky it was."

In Obama's subsequent successful run for the Senate, he benefited from word-of-mouth about the speech — spread by the educated, liberal, mostly white crowd that attended the rally. The same word-of-mouth about the speech could also help him in his run for the White House."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come

From "Sometimes things are so obvious that they pass us by without notice. Perhaps it is because they are so blatantly true that we choose not to acknowledge them. Or maybe it is that because they challenge our preheld conceptions so strongly that we choose to ignore their reality. Because otherwise we would feel bewildered, alone and helpless.

I know that many who once supported Senator Obama are in complete shock over the revelations of his 20 year intimate association with a bigot and a racist. It doesn’t fit into the mold of who we think Barack Obama is. His pastor surely doesn’t preach the “message” of hope that Obama is associated with. In fact his pastor preaches what one could only define as hate. But just why is it that we so strongly believe that Senator Obama has a message of hope and a new kind of politics? In the preface of his book The Audacity of Hope which he patterned after a sermon of his spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright, Obama gives us a glimmer of an answer.

Audacity of Hype

“I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them.”

You see, Senator Obama believes that if enough people project their views of what he should be onto him that he will be able to take advantage of their ignorance and become elected to the highest office of the most powerful nation on earth. That is the more subtle message to what Obama states plainly. But he won’t tell you that because doing so would cause you to wake up and realize that he is just taking advantage of your hope and your faith in him to hoodwink you into giving him the reins to power.

How else do you explain his oft-cited ability to bring people together? Does he have any experience whatsoever of doing this in a legislative body? Has he used his supposedly remarkable skills to bring an end to the partisan bickering and stalemate on Capitol Hill? Has he been able to work across the aisle and bring people together to end the Iraq war? Has he been able to work across the aisle to do anything other than water down regulatory legislation so much that it becomes unnecessary while at the same time taking money from the industry he was supposed to be regulating?

Unfortunately the answer to all these questions is a simple word: NO!

And yet still we hear from pundits and political hacks how Obama has the ability to do this and that without a shred of evidence that he has ever demonstrated the slightest capacity to do so. Not a shred of evidence. In fact many of his supporters when asked what his legislative achievements are seem bewildered and begin to stutter just like he is so famous for doing. Because quite simply they cannot answer the question. Truthfully.

So we are to take his word that he has these abilities because why? Because he tells us he can? Because people say that he can? Because his opponent and/or her husband are such terrible people? Because we may never again have the chance?

It seems there are no easy or substantial answers. Because to answer these questions based on the evidence requires not only a willing suspension of disbelief, it requires a huge leap of faith. And faith is an article of religion not politics.

So to form our judgments we are left with the truth. And the truth is that Senator Obama has a pattern of associations with unsavory characters. And I am being generous and polite. What follows is one of the most recent videos making it’s way around the internet. It includes clips I have not seen before that I find revolting and entirely offensive. And I am a Democrat.

America is the same as Al Qaeda?

What this type of information in the hands of the Republican machine and their money will do is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Mark my words, if we are so unfortunate to have this man as our candidate we will need to redefine the term swiftboating for an entire generation."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama Senate Record Embellishments

From on March 24, 2008: "After weeks of arduous negotiations, on April 6, 2006, a bipartisan group of senators burst out of the "President's Room," just off the Senate chamber, with a deal on new immigration policy.

As the half-dozen senators -- including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- headed to announce their plan, they met Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who made a request common when Capitol Hill news conferences are in the offing: "Hey, guys, can I come along?" And when Obama went before the microphones, he was generous with his list of senators to congratulate -- a list that included himself.

"I want to cite Lindsey Graham, Sam Brownback, Mel Martinez, Ken Salazar, myself, Dick Durbin, Joe Lieberman . . . who've actually had to wake up early to try to hammer this stuff out," he said.

To Senate staff members, who had been arriving for 7 a.m. negotiating sessions for weeks, it was a galling moment. Those morning sessions had attracted just three to four senators a side, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recalled, each deeply involved in the issue. Obama was not one of them. But in a presidential contest involving three sitting senators, embellishment of legislative records may be an inevitability, Specter said with a shrug.

Unlike governors, business leaders or vice presidents, senators -- the last to win the presidency was John F. Kennedy in 1960 -- are not executives. They cannot be held to account for the state of their states, their companies or their administrations. What they do have is the mark they leave on the nation's laws -- and in Obama's brief three-year tenure, as well as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's seven-year hitch, those marks are far from indelible.

"It's not an unusual matter for senators to take a little extra credit," Specter said.

Immigration is a case in point for Obama, but not the only one. In 2007, after the first comprehensive immigration bill had died, the senators were back at it, and again, Obama was notably absent, staffers and senators said. At one meeting, three key negotiators recalled, he entered late and raised a number of questions about the bill's employment verification system. Kennedy and Specter both rebuked him, saying that the issue had already been resolved and that he was coming late to the discussion. Kennedy dressed him down, according to witnesses, and Obama left shortly thereafter.

"Senator Obama came in late, brought up issues that had been hashed and rehashed," Specter recalled. "He didn't stay long."

Just this week, as the financial markets were roiling in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse, Obama made another claim that was greeted with disbelief in some corners of Capitol Hill. On March 13, Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, unveiled legislative proposals to allow the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee new loans from banks willing to help homeowners in or approaching foreclosure. Obama and Clinton were in Washington for a day-long round of budget voting, but neither appeared at the housing news conference.

Yet Obama on Monday appeared to seek top billing on Dodd's proposal.

"At this moment, we must come together and act to address the housing crisis that set this downturn in motion and continues to eat away at the public's confidence in the market," Obama said. "We should pass the legislation I put forward with my colleague Chris Dodd to create meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages so that Americans facing foreclosure can keep their homes."

Dodd did say that Obama supported the bill, as does Clinton. But he could not offer pride of authorship to the candidate he wants to see in the White House next year.

"I've talked to him about it at some length," Dodd said. "When Senator Obama was there for that full day of voting, we had long conversations about it. He had excellent questions and decided to support it."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Obama's Toxic Mentors Corrode Campaign

From on March 23, 2008: "Long before Barack Obama launched his campaign for the White House, when he was considering a run for the US Senate in 2003, he paid an intriguing visit to a former Chicago sewers inspector who had risen to become one of the most influential African-American politicians in Illinois.

“You have the power to elect a US senator,” Obama told Emil Jones, Democratic leader of the Illinois state senate. Jones looked at the ambitious young man smiling before him and asked, teasingly: “Do you know anybody I could make a US senator?”

According to Jones, Obama replied: “Me.” It was his first, audacious step in a spectacular rise from the murky political backwaters of Springfield, the Illinois capital.

The exchange also sealed an intimate personal and political relationship that is likely to attract intense scrutiny amid the furore over Obama’s links to some of Chicago’s most controversial political and religious power brokers.

Obama has often described Jones as a key political mentor whose patronage was crucial to his early success in a state long dominated by near-feudal party political machines. Jones, 71, describes himself as Obama’s “godfather” and once said: “He feels like a son to me.”

Like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the outspoken pastor of Obama’s Chicago church, and like Tony Rezko, the millionaire fundraiser and former friend of Obama who is on trial for corruption, Jones is in danger of becoming a hindrance to his prot駩’s presidential ambitions.

For almost a year Jones has used his position as leader of the state senate to block anticorruption legislation passed unanimously by the state’s lower house. He has also become embroiled in ethical controversies concerning his wife’s job and his stepson’s business.

None of them is linked to Obama, but the Democratic contender can ill afford another scandal related to his former Chicago allies. Despite his electrifying speech on race last week, the opinion polls make worrying reading for the senator and his aides. Hillary Clinton appears to be regaining lost ground and John McCain, the Arizona senator who has sewn up the Republican nomination, has edged ahead of his warring rivals.

When Obama stood before a row of American flags in Philadelphia on Tuesday, he faced the greatest challenge of his candidacy. His campaign was reeling from the potentially fatal fallout of Wright’s rabid videotaped sermons, in which the Chicago preacher exclaimed, “God damn America,” and said that the US government had invented Aids to infect black people.

Obama’s response was hailed as one of the bravest and most eloquent speeches on race delivered by an American politician. Even conservative commentators such as Charles Murray of National Review called it “flat-out brilliant”; Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to president George W Bush, called it “one of the finest political performances under pressure” since John F Kennedy addressed concerns about his Catholicism in 1960.

Other analysts, Democrat and Republican, took a different view of Obama’s refusal to turn his back on Wright – whom he portrayed as part of an embittered legacy of discrimination.

Some saw it as a potential gift both to Clinton, who has been surging in opinion polls since videos of Wright were posted on the internet, and to McCain, whose aides have begun to wonder whether Obama might prove an easier target than Clinton in November.

“Nothing could be more dangerous to Mr Obama’s aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday – for 20 years – in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable,” said Shelby Steele, a Stanford University historian and author of a book on Obama.

Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio talk-show foghorn, expressed the popular view more succinctly: “No country wants a president who is a member of a church with this kind of radicalism as its mainstream.”

The latest polls confirm that, for all the acclaim heaped on Obama’s speech by political insiders, voters seemed to be taking a sharp step back from the charismatic candidate who built his campaign on the promise of a break from “old politics”. One of Obama’s best-known slogans – and the title of his bestselling book – is “the audacity of hope”, a phrase that originally came from one of Wright’s sermons.

In Pennsylvania, the next big state to hold a primary, on April 22, Clinton has doubled her lead in the past two weeks and is now 26 points ahead. In North Carolina, which votes on May 6, Obama has been leading comfortably all year but is now only one point ahead. A national Gallup poll on Friday put Clinton ahead of Obama by two points for the first time since January.

Unfortunately for Democrats, their nomination battle seems to be helping McCain. The Republican rose to a eight-point lead over Obama and a 10-point lead over Clinton in Rasmussen tracking polls released on Friday.

Obama retains an almost insurmountable lead in the crucial count of convention delegates who will pick the Democratic nominee, and on Friday he picked up a useful endorsement from one of those delegates – Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, one of America’s leading Hispanic politicians. Richardson had been close to the Clintons and was regarded as a possible vice-presidential choice for Hillary. His first task will be to rally Hispanic voters in the hope of averting late primary losses that would damage Obama’s chances of picking up uncommitted party officials – the so-called superdelegates likely to decide the contest.

Other Democrats are worried that Obama may have given his Republican rivals the ammunition needed to undermine his campaign. McCain insists he will not engage in dirty tricks, and his aides distributed a memo last week warning Republicans to stay away from “overheated rhetoric and personal attacks”.

Yet Republican surrogates are drooling at the prospect of linking Obama to Wright’s rants.

They intend to ask why he has stopped wearing an American flag badge on his lapel, and why his wife, Michelle, said at a rally: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

The Clinton camp is treading carefully, aware that overt attacks on Obama might alienate black voters. Yet the New York senator’s aides are quietly pleased by what they regard as an overdue scrutiny of Obama’s past. They believe he will come to be seen not as some Messiah but as an unusually gifted political hack who has made compromises with dodgy associates, just like most other American politicians.

That intensifying scrutiny may soon lead to Jones’s Illinois door, and to further uncomfortable insights into the unflattering political realities that accompanied Obama’s climb from obscurity.

At one point during Obama’s 2003 Senate campaign, Jones set out to woo two African-American politicians miffed by Obama’s presumption and ambition. One of them, Rickey “Hollywood” Hendon, a state senator, had scoffed that Obama was so ambitious he would run for “king of the world” if the position were vacant.

When Jones secured the two men’s support, Obama asked his mentor how he had pulled it off. “I made them an offer,” Jones said in mock-mafioso style. “And you don’t want to know.”

Jones is now at the centre of a long row over his attempt to block proposed laws cracking down on his state’s “pay-to-play” tradition – whereby companies hoping to win government contracts have to contribute to the campaign funds of officials.

Jones’s staff say he blocked the bill because he intends to produce something tougher. No proposals have appeared.

Cynthia Canary, an activist against corruption who is fighting to have the laws passed, says Obama had little choice as an Illinois politician but to deal with an ethically dubious regime. “You hold your nose and work through the system,” she said.

Yet she also thinks America is being done a disservice by those who portray Obama as somehow above the uglier wheeler-dealing of politics. “He’s a pragmatic politician, and in the end if you think that he’s superman, your heart is going to get broken.”

The Secret Side of Obama's David Axelrod (Illinois residents can blame him for high utility bills)

From Business Week March 14, 2008:
"The master of "Astroturfing" has a second firm that shapes public opinion for corporations
by Howard Wolinsky

David Axelrod has long been known for his political magic. Through his AKP&D Message & Media consultancy, the campaign veteran has advised a succession of Democratic candidates since 1985, and he's now chief strategist for Senator Barack Obama's bid for President. But on the down low, Axelrod moonlights in the private sector.

From the same River North address, Axelrod operates a second business, ASK Public Strategies, that discreetly plots strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients to tilt public opinion their way. He and his partners consider virtually everything about ASK to be top secret, from its client roster and revenue to even the number of its employees. But customers and public records confirm that it has quarterbacked campaigns for the Chicago Children's Museum, ComEd, Cablevision, and AT&T.

ASK's predilection for operating in the shadows shows up in its work. On behalf of ComEd and Comcast, the firm helped set up front organizations that were listed as sponsors of public-issue ads. Industry insiders call such practices "Astroturfing," a reference to manufacturing grassroots support. Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward, who has been battling the Children's Museum's relocation plans, describes ASK as "the gold standard in Astroturf organizing. This is an emerging industry, and ASK has made a name for itself in shaping public opinion and manufacturing public support."

lowest of low profiles
Eric Sedler, 39, a former public relations director at AT&T and corporate-reputation specialist at PR giant Edelman, is the "S" in ASK and the company's managing partner. The "K" is John Kupper, 51, a former congressional press secretary and ad-industry consultant, while the "A," of course, is Axelrod, a onetime Chicago Tribune reporter who got his start in politics when he managed Illinois Democrat Paul Simon's first election to the U.S. Senate. Sedler says opponents mischaracterize what ASK does. "I reject the notion that a company can't advocate a public policy," he says. "These issues are complicated, and people have different points of view." Axelrod, 53, did not respond to phone messages and e-mails.

Though the consultancies share management—Kupper, like Axelrod, is also a partner at AKP&D—and loft space, the two firms come across as polar opposites. On its Web site, AKP&D lists dozens of candidates and referendums it has worked on. Sample ads are available for downloading. Employees are named. ASK's site is minimalist, revealing little more than that its three partners do all their work themselves. Sedler says, in fact, that in his six years at ASK, he had never done an interview with the media before. "We're not in a business that warrants a huge public profile," he explains.

Axelrod's political connections can cross over into his corporate business. Mayor Richard M. Daley, one of Axelrod's friends and earliest clients, is pushing construction of a new Children's Museum in Grant Park to replace a facility on Navy Pier that the museum says it has outgrown. So far, though, "open-space" foes such as Reilly have stymied the move. The museum retained ASK early in 2007. Sedler says Axelrod's ties with Daley had nothing to do with the contract.

ASK is counseling the museum, which reports annual revenue of more than $11 million, including government grants, on its message strategy. It is also writing ads, including a 60-second radio spot that stresses how the new quarters would blend into Grant Park and be more accessible. Sedler won't say how much ASK is receiving, joking that it's "about 30¢ per hour." Consultants at other PR firms say corporate clients pay monthly retainers of up to $25,000, though nonprofit groups usually pay less. In addition, firms typically get 15% of whatever clients spend on advertising.

ASK's relationship with ComEd goes back much further: The Chicago-based utility says ASK has been an adviser since at least 2002. ASK's workload picked up in 2005, as the Exelon subsidiary was nearing the end of a 10-year rate freeze and preparing to ask state regulators for higher electricity prices. Based on ASK's advice, ComEd formed Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity (CORE) to win support.

One TV commercial, penned by ASK, warned of a ComEd bankruptcy and blackouts without a rate hike: "A few years ago, California politicians seized control of electric rates. They held rates down, but the true cost of energy kept rising. Soon the electric company went bust; the lights went out. Consumers had to pay for the mess. Now, some people in Illinois are playing the same game." CORE, which describes itself on its Web site as "a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations," was identified as the ad's sponsor. After a complaint was filed with state regulators, ComEd acknowledged that it had bankrolled the entire $15 million effort.

The message seemed effective. Pollster Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates in Washington, which has worked with both of Axelrod's businesses, says his research showed that after the advertising campaign, ComEd customers were more supportive of a rate hike than customers served by other electric utilities elsewhere in Illinois.

Axelrod's public and private efforts bump into each other at ComEd, too. Illinois employees of the utility and its parent, Exelon, have contributed $181,711 to Obama's presidential bid—more than workers at any other company in the state.

a big contract
Illinois does not require public-affairs firms to register as lobbyists unless they seek to influence officeholders directly. But New York does. In New York City, Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden, hired ASK to stop the New York Jets from building a stadium nearby in Manhattan. In its ads and materials, the opposition called itself the New York Association for Better Choices. Records show ASK was paid $1.2 million by Cablevision from 2004 to 2005., an online weekly covering New York government, described ASK's payday as "the biggest lobbying contract of the year."

Among ASK's other clients: AT&T. The telecom company, formerly known as SBC Communications, had been a customer, Sedler confirms, when it requested ASK's help to defeat a broadband referendum in three Fox Valley suburbs in 2004. ASK received $22,500 for its voter-persuasion drive.

In politics, Axelrod's AKP&D is as partisan as they come. But ASK travels easily across the aisle. Gene Reineke, head of Hill & Knowlton's Chicago office and former chief of staff for Republican Governor Jim Edgar, says his PR firm shared ComEd as a client and now works with ASK on the Children's Museum. "Their firm is outstanding," he says. "I think it's one of the best in the field, to be honest."

Avis LaVelle, a former Daley press secretary who now runs Lavelle-Cousin Issues Management, also teamed with ASK on ComEd's CORE campaign. She says their consultancies are practicing a new kind of PR, bringing tools and know-how from the world of politics into the corporate and nonprofit realms. "A lot of what is done to shape public opinion in political life," LaVelle says, "can be applied to public affairs for corporations."


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama blew it

From By Michael Meyers
March 20, 2008
"Tim Rutten's column, "Obama's Lincoln moment" and The Times editorial, "Obama on race" both miss the mark.

In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama's "momentous" speech on race settled on merely "explaining" so-called racial differences between blacks and whites -- and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the "black experience," Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain't what it used to be in America.

He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors' skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.

In fact, I'd say that considering the nation's undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.

I waited in vain for our hybrid presidential candidate to speak the simple truth that there is no such thing as "race," that we all belong to the same race -- the human race. I waited for him to mesmerize us with a singular and focused appeal to hold all candidates to the same standards no matter their race or their sex or their age. But instead Obama gave us a full measure of racial rhetoric about how some of us with an "untrained ear" -- meaning whites and Asians and Latinos -- don't understand and can't relate to the so-called black experience.

Well, I am black, and I can't relate to a "black experience" that shields and explains old-style black ministers who rant and rave about supposed racial differences and about how America ought to be damned. I long ago broke away from all associations and churches that preached the gospel of hate and ethnic divisiveness -- including canceling my membership in 100 Black Men of America Inc., when they refused my motion to admit women and whites. They still don't. I was not going to stay in any group that assigned status or privileges of membership based solely on race or gender.

We and our leaders -- especially our candidates for the highest office in the land -- must repudiate all forms of racial idiocy and sexism, and be judged by whether we still belong to exclusionary or hateful groups. I don't know any church that respects, much less reflects, my personal beliefs in the absolute equality of all people, so I choose not to belong to any of them. And I would never -- as have some presidential candidates -- accept the endorsement of preachers of the gospel according to the most racist and sexist of doctrines.

But someone's race or religion is not mine or anybody else's concern. I couldn't care less that Wright is a Christian or that Louis Farrakhan professes to be a Muslim. I couldn't care less whether the hateful minister who endorsed John McCain is, deep inside, a decent man or a fundamentalist. But I do care about these pastors' divisive and crazed words; I do care that their "sermons" exploit and pander to the worst fears and passions of people based on perceptions and misperceptions about race. I hate that these preachers' sermons prejudge people's motives or behavior based on their race or ethnicity. I hate the haters, and I expected Obama to make a straightforward speech about what has become the Hate Hour -- and the most segregated hour -- in America on Sunday mornings.

I expected Obama, who up to now had been steering a perfect course away from the racial boxes of the past, to challenge racial labels and so-called black experiences. We're all mixed up, and if we haven't yet been by the process of miscegenation, trans-racial adoptions and interracial marriage, we sure ought to get used to how things will be in short order.

That would have been the forward-looking message of a visionary candidate. But Obama erred by looking backward -- as far back as slavery. What does slavery have to do with the price of milk at the grocery store? He referenced continuing segregation, especially segregated public schools, but stopped short. What is he going to do about them? How does he feel about public schools for black boys or single-sex public schools and classes? What does the gospel according to Wright say about such race-based and gender-specific schemes for getting around our civil rights laws?

We can't be united as a nation if we continue to think racially and give credence to racial experiences and differences based on ethnicity, past victim status and stereotypical categories. All of these prejudices surrounding tribe-against-tribe are old-hat and dysfunctional -- especially the rants of ministers, of whatever skin color or religion, who appeal to our base prejudices and to superstitions about our supposed racial differences. The man or woman who talks plainly about our commonality as a race of human beings, about our future as one nation indivisible, rather than about our discredited and disunited past, is, I predict, likely to finish ahead of the pack and do us a great public service.

Michael Meyers is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP. These views are his own. "

ABC News: Bureid in Eloquence, Obama Contraditions About Pastor

March 19, 2008—
"Buried in his eloquent, highly praised speech on America's racial divide, Sen. Barack Obama contradicted more than a year of denials and spin from him and his staff about his knowledge of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial sermons.

Similarly, Obama also has only recently given a much fuller accounting of his relationship with indicted political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a longtime friend, who his campaign once described as just one of "thousands of donors."

Until yesterday, Obama said the only thing controversial he knew about Rev. Wright was his stand on issues relating to Africa, abortion and gay marriage.

"I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," Obama said at a community meeting in Nelsonville, Ohio, earlier this month.

"He has said some things that are considered controversial because he's considered that part of his social gospel; so he was one of the leaders in calling for divestment from South Africa and some other issues like that," Obama said on March 2.

His initial reaction to the initial ABC News broadcast of Rev. Wright's sermons denouncing the U.S. was that he had never heard his pastor of 20 years make any comments that were anti-U.S. until the tape was played on air.

But yesterday, he told a different story.

"Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes," he said in his speech yesterday in Philadelphia.

Obama did not say what he heard that he considered "controversial," and the campaign has yet to answer repeated requests for dates on which the senator attended Rev. Wright's sermons over the last 20 years.

In the case of his relationship with Rezko, Obama has also been slow to acknowledge the full extent of his relationship.

It was only last week that he revealed Rezko had raised some $250,000 in campaign contributions for him.

The campaign had initially claimed Rezko-connected contributions were no more than $60,000, an amount the campaign donated to charity. Then the figure grew to around $86,000, and there were additional revelations that put the amount at about $150,000. Obama's $250,000 accounting was a substantial jump and clearly contradicted earlier campaign statements that Rezko was just one of "thousands of donors."

Rezko is now on trial in federal court in Chicago, charged with a pattern of bribing state officials to obtain various Illinois state contracts. Rezko has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Obama was initially vague about Rezko's role in helping him buy a new home on Chicago's south side. Unable to afford an adjacent vacant lot the seller wanted to sell at the same time as the house, Obama approached Rezko. Rezko's wife bought the lot on the same day Obama bought the house, and then later, Mrs. Rezko sold the Obamas a strip of the lot which gave the Obamas a larger backyard.

Obama called it a "bone-headed" mistake but never revealed, until he met with Chicago reporters last week, that Rezko had actually toured the house with him and been deeply involved in the transaction.

In a statement, campaign press secretary Bill Burton said, "Last week, Sen. Obama spent almost three hours answering every single question about Tony Rezko posed by the local reporters who've covered the story closest for years. Those newspapers said they were more than satisfied with his open, honest answers. We've given all of the money contributed to Barack Obama's federal campaigns that could reasonably be credited to Mr. Rezko's political support to charity. Sen. Obama also provided an estimate of the most that could have possibly been raised as a result of Mr. Rezko's efforts, but that estimate is not a basis upon which any individual contributions can be donated to charity. "

As to Rev. Wright, Burton said, "While Sen. Obama was not in church for the incendiary and offensive statements of Rev. Wright that have been played on television over the last week, yesterday he delivered a deeply personal, honest speech on race in America in which he acknowledged that over the course of 20 years, of course he heard statements from Wright that could be considered controversial."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama'a Forgotten People

From Larry Johnson's

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bad News for Obama: American's Don't Like His Pastor

March 17, 2008 from "Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who has become part of the national political dialogue in recent days, is viewed favorably by 8% of voters nationwide. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 58% have an unfavorable view of the Pastor whose controversial comments have created new challenges for Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign.

Wright was Obama’s Pastor until he retired last month, but Obama has repudiated the preacher’s comments.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of voters say that Wright’s comments are racially divisive. That opinion is held by 77% of White voters and 58% of African-American voters. In addressing the issue, Obama warned against injecting race into the campaign .

Most voters, 56%, said Wright’s comments made them less likely to vote for Obama. That figure includes 44% of Democrats. Just 11% of voters say they are more likely to vote for Obama because of Wright’s comments.

However, among African-Americans, 29% said Wright’s comments made them more likely to support Obama. Just 18% said the opposite while 50% said Wright’s comments would have no impact.

Overall, voters are evenly divided as to whether Obama should resign his membership in the Church—42% say that he should while 40% disagree. White voters, by a 46% to 33% margin, say that Obama should leave the Church. African-American voters, by a 68% to 16% margin, say he should not. Wright retired last month as Pastor of the Church.

The story became big news in the past several days and has had at least a temporary impact on public perceptions of Obama. Last Thursday, 52% of voters nationwide had a favorable opinion of Obama. That figure has fallen to 47% on Monday (see recent daily results). In recent days, Obama has also lost ground to John McCain in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters say they have read, seen, or heard news stories about Wright’s comments.

A recent Fox News report looked at the question of whether or not Wright is a political liability for Obama .

Crosstabs are available to Premium Members only.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information."

Obama'a European Problem

From Joe Conasson in on December 29, 2007: "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.

That is why congressional hearings matter, and why a subcommittee chairmanship represents a significant responsibility. Knowledge is not just power but the fundamental requirement for either house of Congress to act as an equal of the executive branch in government.

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.

Certainly Obama is capable of formulating the concepts and questions that his subcommittee could have explored. In an otherwise unimportant press release hailing the visit of Poland's president to Washington last July, he took the trouble to note several important issues affecting our relations with Europe, including the renewal of transatlantic relationships, repairing our ties with what the Bush White House contemptuously called "old Europe," integrating Russia into Western institutions, consulting our allies on proposed missile defense deployments, and securing additional European troops for the Afghan security mission.
Perhaps he could not have been expected to undertake an ambitious round of hearings when he was in the midst of deciding to run for president -- but that decision may merely point up the conflict between ambition and experience that has raised questions about his candidacy.

So much for what might have been. Both Obama and his campaign spokespersons have taken pains to deny the suggestion that he has spent no time in Europe. As he said at the first Democratic debate last April, Obama regards the European Union and NATO as the most important allies of the United States, which would make ignorance of Europe a huge void for an aspiring chief executive.

"I've traveled extensively in Europe ... I love Europe," Obama told the Iowa Independent Web site a couple of days ago. But as Clemons noted on the Washington Note, the Obama campaign has not provided much detail on his European experiences and itineraries so far.

Those details are readily available, as indicated in a Chicago Tribune profile of Obama, which covered his 2005 senatorial trip to examine nuclear sites in Russia with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That story, whose deeper theme was Obama's tutelage in foreign affairs, mentioned that he had traded his blue tourist passport -- "which he had taken across Asia, Australia and Africa as well as most of Europe" -- for a burgundy-colored passport that identifies him as an official of the U.S. government.

If Obama wants to show where he has been, he merely has to release his passport records. Then everyone would know that his boast about traveling extensively in Europe is true -- even if this year he didn't have time to convene a hearing on the momentous issues affecting our relations with that continent and the world. "

Pastor Was An Early Concern for Obama Campaign

From LA Times Top of the Ticket Blog: "After he moved to Chicago in the mid-1980s to work as a community organizer, Barack Obama forged close ties with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- joining the pastor’s Trinity United Church of Christ in 1988 and using the topic of a Wright sermon, "the audacity of hope," as the title of his most recent best-selling book.

But more than a year ago -- long before some of Wright’s more incendiary sermons became hot-button videos on YouTube, forcing Obama to publicly renounce his pastor last week -- the Obama campaign had a sense that Wright's sharp tongue might spell trouble for the Illinois senator. (For a sermon sample, click on the Read more line below.)

That was the word anyway Sunday from Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, who acknowledged during a conference call with reporters that Wright was disinvited ...

from Obama's official candidacy announcement on Feb. 10, 2007, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

Wright had been expected to lead an invocation of some kind, but never appeared.

“There was no doubt that there was controversy surrounding him,” Axelrod said Sunday. “And we didn’t want to expose him … [or] make him the target and a distraction on a day when Sen. Obama was going to announce his candidacy.”

So if the savvy Obama campaign knew Wright was a problem a year ago, why did the Illinois senator, a parish member for two decades, wait until last week to disassociate and denounce the minister's inflammatory statements?

The topic is clearly uncomfortable for Obama and his aides, personally and politically. Axelrod's comments came only after prodding from a reporter and after he had initially suggested that Wright’s absence that day was due merely to the fact that the temperature was in the single digits.

And even as Obama has condemned some of Wright’s rhetoric and distanced himself from his longtime spiritual advisor, doing so has not been easy. Wright remained on an African American religious advisory committee for the campaign until Friday.

“Rev. Wright married him, introduced him, as he said, to the church, brought him into the church, into Christianity, baptized his children,” Axelrod said. “So this is a painful thing for him because he condemns the things Rev. Wright said, but he also knows him as a person.”

Wright has proven controversial in the past because of his association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made anti-Semitic remarks. But the controversy has grown in recent weeks with the spread of videos from Wright sermons where he condemns the United States for its foreign policy and treatment of blacks and takes on Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

As Wright put it, “Hillary ain't never been called a nigger! Hillary has never had her people defined as non-person."

On Friday, Obama posted a message at the Huffington Post website, explaining that he had not seen such sermons in person and saying that he disagreed with them. "I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy," he wrote.

-- Peter Wallsten"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Obama Wants Republicans to Choose Democratic Presidential Candidate

From "The Obama campaign hopes to register 100,000 Pennsylvania voters as Democrats before the state's March 24 voter registration deadline.
Vincent Rossmeier

Mar. 14, 2008 | Pennsylvania's Democratic primary is still over a month away, but Barack Obama's campaign is already out in full force in the Keystone State.

Obama has tried to downplay expectations for his performance in the state thus far, saying during a speech Tuesday that Hillary Clinton "is favored to win in a blowout." But both the Politico and the Los Angeles Times have published stories recently about the Obama campaign's efforts to register thousands of independent and Republican voters as Democrats before the March 24 voter registration deadline. The vote itself will be held on April 22; as it's what's called a "closed" primary, only registered Democrats will be allowed to participate in the Democratic half of the primary.

If the Obama campaign is to pull off an upset, the new registrants will be vitally important. As the Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown observes, "The final tabulations [of the voter rolls] from the Department of State could offer the first tangible indications of whether Obama can catch Clinton in a state where she holds the advantage."

So far, Clinton has tended to have an edge over Obama in closed primaries. With some exceptions, Obama typically attracts more support from Republicans and independents than his opponent, and he'll definitely need their votes this time around. The demographics of the state's Democrats seem to favor Clinton, and many of the state's most powerful Democratic politicians have endorsed her, including Gov. Ed Rendell and the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

While the Politico piece focuses on the Obama campaign's efforts to convert Republicans and independents, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from Wednesday indicates that the strategy adopted by Obama officials in Pennsylvania is similar to what they've employed in many other states. Marcia Gelbart and Dwight Ott write, "The Obama campaign is largely going after the coalition of voters it has relied on to win elsewhere: African Americans, college-age students, and independents who register as Democrats for the primary." In recent days, Obama organizers and staffers have reportedly been highly visible on Pennsylvania’s numerous college campuses.

According to the L.A. Times, the Obama campaign is seeking to register an additional 100,000 voters as Democrats in the next two weeks. Currently, there are 3.89 million registered Democratic voters in the state.

Obama himself has even been tapped for a video explaining registration and voting procedures. The video, which was posted to his campaign Web site's blog on Friday, can be viewed below. "

More Video on Obama's Spiritual Advisor

Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama Admitted That Rezko Played a Bigger Fund-raising Role

From on March 14, 2008: "Indicted Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko was a more significant fundraiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama's earlier political campaigns than previously known. Rezko raised as much as $250,000 for the first three offices Obama sought, the senator told the Tribune on Friday.

Obama also said for the first time that his private real estate transactions with Rezko involved repeated lapses of judgment. The mistake, Obama said, was not simply that Rezko was under grand jury investigation at the time of their 2005 and 2006 dealings. "The mistake was he had been a contributor and somebody involved in politics," he said.

In an extensive interview that he hoped would quell the lingering controversy over his relationship with Rezko, Obama said that voters concerned about his judgment should view it as "a mistake in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest."

But he added that voters should also "see somebody who is not engaged in any wrongdoing . . . and who they can trust."

Obama said that when he questioned Rezko about news reports of his questionable political dealings, his friend assured him there was nothing wrong. "My instinct was to believe him," he said.

Asked if he ever thought Rezko would expect something from their relationship, Obama was definitive. "No, precisely because I'd known him for [many] years and he hadn't asked me for favors."

Since the Tribune in November 2006 revealed their personal financial dealings, Obama has called himself "boneheaded" for doing business with Rezko at a time when the Chicago dealmaker was widely reported to be under federal grand jury investigation.

The most vexing issue hits Obama right at home. The Obamas and the Rezkos bought adjacent South Side properties from the same seller on the same day in June 2005. They subsequently engaged in a series of private transactions to improve and re-divide their parcels, giving the Obamas a bigger yard and a buffer for their $1.65 million Georgian revival home.

Over the last year, Obama has been reluctant to discuss his dealings with Rezko. His efforts to deflect questions seemed successful until January, when Sen. Hillary Clinton effectively introduced Rezko to a national audience by invoking his name at a caustic Democratic debate in South Carolina.

On the eve of the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries earlier this month, Obama cut short a combative news conference in San Antonio when reporters peppered him with Rezko questions, saying such requests "can just go on forever."

Clinton faces her own set of unanswered questions—about her personal tax returns, her scheduling records as first lady and donations to the Clinton Presidential Library. But that doesn't negate the unease that even some Obama supporters have expressed about Obama's ties to Rezko.

Though Obama insists he has answered all inquiries, his campaign's piecemeal written statements have left lingering uncertainties about whether the up-and-coming senator exchanged favors with the target of a federal probe.

The friendship between Obama and Rezko began in 1991, when Rezko was making his mark as a well-regarded, politically connected housing developer. Obama, a community organizer, won national recognition as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and Rezko offered Obama a job building inner-city homes with his Rezmar Corp. Though Obama declined, a friendship and political alliance began.

When Obama launched his bid for the Illinois Senate in 1995, Rezko was his first substantial contributor.

The following year, Obama was elected, then re-elected in 1998. Rezko helped bankroll Obama's subsequent campaigns: Obama lost a primary bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 but won re-election repeatedly as a state senator and then was sworn into the U.S. Senate in January 2005. Rezko, already under indictment by the time Obama announced his presidential run, has not contributed to or raised funds for that race."

Obama Sponsored Mail-In Vote Legislation...Now He is Against It

From on March 14, 2008: "On this morning’s conference call, Sen. Obama’s campaign manager repeated deep reservations about using the mail-in option in both Michigan and Florida. Yesterday, an Obama campaign strategist highlighted what he thought were potential problems:

"Obviously there are concerns about a mail-in vote. I mean, there are concerns about eligibility, ballot security," [Axelrod] said during a conference call. [AP, 12/11/08]
Even Sen. Obama is now expressing hesitation to endorse a vote by mail system. The Associated Press reported:

Obama...said in an interview with CNN that he had reservations about a vote by mail. "I think there's some concerns in terms of making sure that whatever we do is fair, and that votes are properly counted and the logistics make sense," he said.
But the Obama campaign is making a political argument that doesn’t match Sen. Obama’s legislative record. In June, Sen. Obama co-sponsored a bill that would establish a vote by mail grant program.

The text of the legislation Sen. Obama endorsed explains the benefits of a vote by mail system over other forms of voting:

(12) Vote by Mail allows voters to educate themselves because they receive ballots well before election day, which provides them with ample time to research issues, study ballots, and deliberate in a way that is not possible at a polling place.
(13) Vote by Mail is accurate--at least 2 studies comparing voting technologies show that absentee voting methods, including Vote by Mail systems, result in a more accurate vote count.
(14) Vote by Mail results in more up-to-date voter rolls, since election officials use forwarding information from the post office to update voter registration.
(15) Vote by Mail allows voters to visually verify that their votes were cast correctly and produces a paper trail for recounts."