Here’s Barack Obama’s résumé: four years in the U.S. Senate, eight in the Illinois Senate, senior lecturer on con law at the University of Chicago, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, associate for three years at a 12-attorney law firm, positions on the boards of various foundations in Chicago. He has no academic publications to his name – nothing for the law review and nothing for Chicago – but he did pen two bestselling memoirs. His greatest accomplishments as a Chicago community organizer were to convince the city to put a jobs placement office in the far South Side and to remove asbestos from Altgeld Gardens housing project. This is a fairly good record for a Harvard lawyer, but it doesn’t explain why so many people think he’s Pericles reborn. We can attribute that to his charisma and his rhetorical skills. His speeches, however, aren’t that substantive; he just throws around a lot of abstract nouns with positive connotations, plus he makes as many gaffes as the last guy. I think we’re witnessing a classic cult of personality, the kind of thing that used to happen in Latin America or Maoist Asia. “He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh…Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves,” says one admiring journalist. This blog is tracking Obama worship exceptionally. And the candidate is feeding it. He reformulated St. Paul’s three cardinal virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love, as “Faith, Hope, and Change” for a campaign advertisement. A couple of my favorite quotes:
“… A light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany … and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama.” –January 7
“I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.” –June 3
All politicians want you to believe they’re different from all the other politicians. Sadly, ninety percent of politicians are liars or thieves, and that goes for the young, handsome, and charming ones as well. A review of Obama’s record should remedy the perception that he is political Jesus. Sure, it’s misleading of him to call his entirely leftist Great Society platform a “new politics,” but that’s elementary compared to the rest of his duplicity.
Shady Land Deals: You’re not a real politician until you profit from a shady land deal. Barack Obama purchased his mansion with the assistance of now-convicted felon Tony Rezko. He then used his state senate seat to award subsidies to this developer and his ilk, and the resulting housing projects failed and inflicted misery on Chicago land tenants.
Gerrymandering: Now that Obama holds a statewide office, he is free to denounce gerrymandering, the practice in which a ruling political party redraws district lines to make their own candidates more likely to win elections there. After losing a 2000 House primary challenge to Bobby Rush, however, Obama schemed with John Corrigan, the Democrat in charge of gerrymandering Chicago, about how to create the “ideal map” for him.
Lobbyists: Lobbyists are Obama’s scribes and Pharisees, but his credentials on this issue are pretty questionable. Perhaps most egregiously, the candidate who pledges to “throw the lobbyists out of Washington” voted for the 2008 farm bill, which was written by the farm lobbyists and which was one of the most inhumane bills in American history. We are literally starving people in other parts of the world because Congress has voted by a veto-proof margin to turn our corn into ethanol, prop up our food prices to double or triple reality, restrict food imports from poor agricultural countries that can’t sell anything else, and wipe out local farmers with free U.S. grain every time there’s a humanitarian crisis (instead of buying from said farmers). It’s absurd that we have any farm subsidies at all in a country in which half the people are overweight and the restaurants dispose of enough food every night to Panama. This bill encapsulated everything I despise about government. Isn’t standing up for the poor a basic requirement for being a Democrat?
Federal Election Funding: Obama promised he would accept federal funding for the election. This would have capped the amount he could spend on the election at under $100 million. Then his campaign became the biggest money-making machine in political history, on pace for $500 million, so he broke his promise in order to money-bomb McCain in the fall.
DC Gun Ban: I have this flip on video. During the DC primary, the former constitutional law teacher supported the city gun ban and thought it was constitutional. When the Supreme Court struck the law down this summer, he agreed with the decision and said it was unconstitutional, and he averred he’d always felt this way.
Civil Liberties: Obama promised he would vote against unauthorized government wiretaps, which rallied war protesters and libertarians to his cause. When the issue came before the Senate, that’s not what happened.
Iraq: 2007 Obama:
“We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality, uh, we can send 15,000 more troops; 20,000 more troops; 30,000 more troops. Uh, I don’t know any, uh, expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to, uh, privately that believes that that is gonna make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”
“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”
“I had no doubt, and I said when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.”
NAFTA: Ran against it in the primary, then moderated his position for the general. My favorite part was the story about an Obama advisor calling Canada to say “j/k, j/k” after one anti-free trade speech.
Welfare Reform: He opposed the 1996 bill that slashed welfare rolls nationwide, yet he takes credit for this reduction in his campaign ad.
Working His Way Through College and Law School: Apparently Obama’s life story is also subject to editing when it is expedient.
Town Hall Meetings: Obama told Rolling Stone that town hall meetings are his favorite part of campaigning, and he separately said he would debate John McCain on foreign policy anywhere, any time. Yet, when McCain offered to have ten joint town halls with Obama running up to the election, Obama refused and instead offered to hold a single town hall on the Fourth of July, when everyone from television viewers to the townies themselves would rather be outside watching parades and fireworks.
On Small Town Pennsylvania Voters: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
The Strange Tale of Trinity United: Jeremiah Wright believes the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to eradicate African-Americans, that September 11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost,” and that black children are hard-wired to be more musical and oral than white children, who are more logical. From the pulpit, he said “God Damn America” and called the United States the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.” He is a proponent of black liberation theology; a leader of this movement whom Wright cites in interviews, James Cone, said:
“Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.”
Jeremiah Wright was also Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years, his spiritual mentor who first told him of the “Audacity of Hope,” who married him to Michelle Robinson and baptized their children. Obama donated tens of thousands of dollars to the church. Given how much you and I know about our pastors, it’s safe to say Obama knew what Wright was all about. The audience for his sermons certainly seems used to it. Yet when the press pushed Obama about it, he first said he must have missed the services in which his pastor made such contentious statements; when pressure mounted, he gave a speech on race relations in which he said, “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 wonderful person but also a racist, he informed the country). Alas, Wright kept making trouble, so Obama disowned him after all. Oddly enough, people haven’t been quoting that race speech so much lately.
Obama never got around to explaining why he chose this wayward shepherd over all others. It’s possible that he shares Wright’s radicalism, but it’s more likely he chose his church pragmatically. He wanted to make connections in the black community, which he later used for his state senate run, and he wanted to get African-American churches involved in politics. Trinity was the largest and most active black church in the city. It fit.
So, if you’re voting for Barack Obama this fall, do it because you agree with his liberal policy positions, or do it because after eight years of George Bush you can’t stand to see another Republican in office, no matter who it is. Don’t do it because you’re in love. He doesn’t deserve that.