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The Questionable Rise Of Barack Obama

A lengthy but insightful article from last month’s from last month’s Houston Press News:

Barack Obama and Me

It was the year 2000 and I was a young hungry reporter in Chicago covering a young hungry state legislator

By Todd Spivak
Published: February 28, 2008

It’s not quite eight in the morning and Barack Obama is on the phone screaming at me. He liked the story I wrote about him a couple weeks ago, but not this garbage.

Months earlier, a reporter friend told me she overheard Obama call me an asshole at a political fund-raiser. Now here he is blasting me from hundreds of miles away for a story that just went online but hasn’t yet hit local newsstands.

It’s the first time I ever heard him yell, and I’m trembling as I set down the phone. I sit frozen at my desk for several minutes, stunned.

This is before Obama Girl, before the secret service detail, before he becomes a best-selling author. His book Dreams From My Father has been out of print for years.

I often see Obama smoking cigarettes on brisk Chicago mornings in front of his condominium high-rise along Lake Michigan, or getting his hair buzzed at the corner barbershop on 53rd and Harper in his Hyde Park neighborhood.

This is before he becomes a U.S. senator, before Oprah starts stumping for him, before he positions himself to become the country’s first black president.

He is just a rank-and-file state senator in Illinois and I work for a string of small, scrappy newspapers there…

When asked about his legislative record, Obama rattles off several bills he sponsored as an Illinois lawmaker.

He expanded children’s health insurance; made the state Earned Income Tax Credit refundable for low-income families; required public bodies to tape closed-door meetings to make government more transparent; and required police to videotape interrogations of homicide suspects.

And the list goes on.

It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

Republicans controlled the Illinois General Assembly for six years of Obama’s seven-year tenure. Each session, Obama backed legislation that went nowhere; bill after bill died in committee. During those six years, Obama, too, would have had difficulty naming any legislative ­achievements [sic].

Then, in 2002, dissatisfaction with President Bush and Republicans on the national and local levels led to a Democratic sweep of nearly every lever of Illinois state government. For the first time in 26 years, Illinois Democrats controlled the governor’s office as well as both legislative chambers.

The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.

Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s kingmaker.

Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio ­program.

I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'”

“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”

“Barack Obama.”

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

“I don’t consider it bill jacking,” Hendon told me. “But no one wants to carry the ball 99 yards all the way to the one-yard line, and then give it to the halfback who gets all the credit and the stats in the record book.”

During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama’s stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn’t have done it without Jones.

Before Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, he was virtually unknown even in his own state. Polls showed fewer than 20 percent of Illinois voters had ever heard of Barack Obama.

Jones further helped raise Obama’s profile by having him craft legislation addressing the day-to-day tragedies that dominated local news ­headlines.

For instance. Obama sponsored a bill banning the use of the diet supplement ephedra, which killed a Northwestern University football player, and another one preventing the use of pepper spray or pyrotechnics in nightclubs in the wake of the deaths of 21 people during a stampede at a Chicago nightclub. Both stories had received national attention and extensive local coverage…

So how has Obama repaid Jones?

Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’s Senate district.

Shortly after Jones became Senate president, I remember asking his view on pork-barrel spending.

I’ll never forget what he said:

“Some call it pork; I call it steak.”

On the stump, Obama has frequently invoked his experiences as a community organizer on the Chicago South Side in the early 1990s, when he passed on six-figure salary offers at corporate law firms after graduating from Harvard Law School to direct a massive voter-registration drive.

But, as a state senator, Obama evaded leadership on a host of critical community issues, from historic preservation to the rapid demolition of nearby public-housing projects, according to many South Siders…

Though it didn’t make national news, Obama inflamed many residents in his old state Senate district last March when he endorsed controversial Chicago alderman Dorothy Tillman in a runoff election.

Flamboyant and unpredictable, Tillman is perhaps best known for once pulling a pistol from her purse and brandishing it around at a city council meeting. The ward she represented for 22 years, which included historic Bronzeville, comprised the city’s largest concentration of vacant lots.

Just three months before Obama made his endorsement, the Lakefront Outlook community newspaper ran a three-part investigative series exposing flagrant crony­ism and possible tax-law violations that centered on Tillman and her biggest pet project, a taxpayer-funded cultural center built across the street from her ward office that had been hemorrhaging money since its inception.

The series won a national George Polk Award, among the most coveted prizes in journalism. Not bad for a 12-page rag with a circulation of 12,000 and no Web site. I had already left the Outlook and had nothing to do with the project.

In the end, Tillman lost the election despite Obama’s endorsement, which critics said countered his calls for clean government. Obama told the Chicago Tribune that he had backed Tillman because she was an early supporter of his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign…

Obama has spent his entire political career trying to win the next step up. Every three years, he has aspired to a more powerful political position.

He was just 35 when in 1996 he won his first bid for political office. Even many of his staunchest supporters, such as Black, still resent the strong-arm tactics Obama employed to win his seat in the Illinois Legislature.

Obama hired fellow Harvard Law alum and election law expert Thomas Johnson to challenge the nominating petitions of four other candidates, including the popular incumbent, Alice Palmer, a liberal activist who had held the seat for several years, according to an April 2007 Chicago Tribune report.

Obama found enough flaws in the petition sheets — to appear on the ballot, candidates needed 757 signatures from registered voters living within the district — to knock off all the other Democratic contenders. He won the seat unopposed.

“A close examination of Obama’s first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career,” wrote Tribune political reporters David Jackson and Ray Long. “The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.”

Three years later, in September 1999, Obama was already preparing his first national campaign. He ran for U.S. Congress against veteran incumbent Bobby Rush, a former co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Rush painted the largely unknown freshman lawmaker as an out-of-touch elitist, and won the 2000 primary by more than 30 percentage points.

Three years later, in January 2003, Obama announced his bid for the U.S. Senate, where he cruised to victory thanks to the self-destruction [sic] of his top opponents in both the primary and general elections.

Obama joined a crowded field of seven candidates vying to fill an open Senate seat being vacated by retiring two-term incumbent Peter Fitzgerald. For months, he polled in the middle-of-the-pack behind frontrunner and former securities trader Blair Hull, who spent $30 million of his own fortune on the primary.

But Hull’s campaign imploded just weeks before the election when his divorce files were unsealed, revealing an ex-wife’s charges of verbal and physical abuse.

Obama unleashed a barrage of television ads just before the election, when the other candidates had largely depleted their war chests. He won the nomination with 53 percent of the vote.

In the general election, Obama squared off against another multimillionaire: Jack Ryan, who later dropped out of the race after a judge ordered his divorce files unsealed. The documents revealed that Ryan’s ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, a former Miss Illinois best known for her role as Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, accused him of trying to coerce her to perform sex acts in public….

In the end, Obama won more than 70 percent of the vote in the most lopsided Senate election in Illinois history and became the fifth African-American to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Three years later, in February 2007, Obama announced his bid for the White House in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln had made his famous House Divided speech…

It is especially interesting how cronyism and the highly unusual practice of opening up divorce records has led to Mr. Obama’s meteoric rise.

(Thanks to Petra for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, March 23rd, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “The Questionable Rise Of Barack Obama”

  1. tpublius says:

    Obama’s questionable rise was bouyed by his malicious switcheroo of a verse from the Bible. Check it out:

    “The Audacity of Barack” — He Slipped Racially Poisonous “Change” into the Bible “Quote” Dedicating His “Dreams”

    Obama, who can stop the oceans from rising, can also bring “change” to the words of the Bible. And get away with it, unnoticed, like a pickpocket with two wallets.

    Obama faked the Biblical “quote” in the dedication, “changed” it so that it works for him. Cleverly edited, the phony “quote” better fits the tone for his repeatedly bitter account of his personal feelings of racial alienation and visceral rage in America. He accomplishes his slight of hand by falsely telling his readers that 1 Chronicles 29:15 says “For we are strangers before THEM (emphasis added), and sojourners, as were all our fathers.” “Sojourners” of course means aliens in a foreign land, visitors who don’t really belong.

    If a reader has any doubt regarding who Obama perceives as these “sojourners,” or who Obama thinks is the “them” in the verse, the answer is made clear on page four, where Obama recalls how he and his roommate together “enjoyed” verbally humiliating and “laughing at” solitary white pedestrians who strayed in front of their apartment in the “shifting border” of Harlem in Manhattan. .

    Over more than 400 pages of “Dreams” we learn how implacably alienated Obama and his various roommates, beer and dope buddies, and fellow super cool party animals are, and believe they have every right to be. This alienation holds as constant as the Northern star, from Hawaii to New York and on to people he “organized” in Chicago. The alienation is endless, everlasting, and indelible, the consequence not only of rampant white racism, but simply of being a racial minority. Not enough “we,” too many “them.” It comes as welcome relief of sorts when Obama describes how much more comfortable he felt when he went “home” to Africa, where he enjoys “the freedom of not being watched.”

    The more you read his “Dreams,” the more brilliant Obama’s choice of that Biblical dedication about being alien visitors in a foreign land seems. But there is just one minor problem: it isn’t true. Obama, not God, wrote the “quotation.” In his masterful, unseen hand, the “you” or “thou” (meaning God) becomes an unwelcoming “them,” and a semi-colon conveniently “changes” to a period. Obama’s inserted period cuts off the Biblical voice, and also cuts the reader off from any chance of grasping the true meaning of the real Biblical verse. Quickly and subtly, Barack alters the passage from a humble recognition of the power of God into something completely different– a Bible based indictment of a racist America. God’s (Obama’s actually) word adds enormous gravitas to Obama’s ensuing “chronicle” of racial anger, alienation, and resentment.

    If Obama can cause the oceans to go down, this power must be weighed against the danger that with his “Dreams,” the smooth and clever Obama also has the power to command a very different ocean to rise– a sea of increased racial resentment and anger. Far from being the “great uniter” Obama may well become the greatest divider in American history. How will the alienated black Americans Obama describes throughout his “Dreams” react if Obama is not elected President? What “we” versus “them” recriminations and accusations will follow? How divided will America be in the aftermath of Obama’s misadventure? Will we then all feel we are unhappy “sojourners” in an alien land?

    An Obama defeat might greatly increase the pernicious effect of his transformation of 1 Chronicles 29:15 from being a uniter of our common humanity before an almighty God, into a divider of America into “we” and “them.” America may well reap a whirlwind of racial alienation either way– if we do elect him, or if we do not elect him.

    If we elect him, we hand the reins to a recklessly deceptive man, a cipher obsessed with his racial identity, endlessly going over and over the racial slights he has experienced. But if we do not elect him, many of his followers may conclude the worst about the “them” Obama has has inserted into 1 Chronicles 29:15.

    If only Obama had been true to the actual prayer by David to God as written in 1 Chronicles 29:15, and taken it his heart– “For we are strangers before YOU (not “THEM”) (emphasis added), and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” Then this man on the way to the White House might have been humbled by the awesomeness of God as compared to our transitory days on earth, rather than going, as he has, through his life with his nose out of joint, focused on his own anger and inner feelings about his racial identity. As it is, Obama is clearly not ready for prime time, much less for taking command of the helm in America next January 24th.

    Pass on this infomation! Anyone with a Bible and a copy of Obama’s book can check it out.

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