Monday, March 3, 2008

Is Obama Just A Failure With A Good Rap?

Post below lifted from Riehl World. See the original for links

It's funny how the media can shape our perceptions of anything as perhaps different from the reality of a situation. Spending some time trying to look more deeply into Barack Obama's background, one could come away wondering, what has he ever really accomplished in the real world, besides giving good speeches and running for office? When and where did he start community organizing, for instance? I've read he started in Harlem but can't find details on that. What there is, is this and this.
In the early 1980s, when Jerry Kellman interviewed a young, idealistic Ivy League graduate for a $10,000 a year job with Chicago's Developing Communities Project (DCP) he had no way of knowing it would be a meeting that would follow him for the rest of his life.

But Obama wasn't a "new" grad. I'd like to know more about these two seemingly lost years - years during which it would appear he failed at making money, frankly.
After graduating from Columbia University in 1983 with a major in political science, Obama worked as a financial consultant in New York City. But he was bored-and drawn to public service. In 1985, he moved to Chicago to work with local churches organizing job training and other programs for poor and working-class residents of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project where 5,300 African-Americans tried to survive amid shuttered steel mills, a nearby landfill, a putrid sewage treatment plant, and a pervasive feeling that the white establishment of Chicago would never give them a fair shake.

It's relevant, as for all intent and purposes he seems to have failed as a community organizer - at least as far as bringing any real change. He left in frustration after only three years. I'm not trying to diminish whatever it is he has done. But aside from talking a lot and making people feel better about themselves, I'm just not sure what he has accomplished with any consistency in life beyond running for office.
Perhaps his most confrontational effort was to pressure city authorities to remove asbestos from the apartments in 1986. When the on-site manager didn't take action, Obama nudged the residents into confronting city housing officials in two angry public meetings downtown. These generated "a victory of sorts," Obama said later, as workers soon began sealing the asbestos in the buildings. But the project gradually ran out of steam and money. In fact, some tenants still have asbestos in their homes, according to current resident Linda Randle, 53, who worked with Obama in the '86 anti-asbestos campaign.

Faced with such frustrations, after three years in Chicago, Obama decided to apply his skills in the wider world. He entered Harvard Law School in 1988, became the first African-American president of Harvard Law Review in 1990, and earned his law degree in 1991. He returned to Chicago to work as a civil rights lawyer and teach at the University of Chicago Law School. He eventually won a seat in the Illinois State Senate and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.


Style beating substance in Democrat race

This week the US has its real and decisive Super Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama go head-to-head in the Democratic primaries in the huge states of Texas and Ohio. If Clinton wins big in both, she has an excellent chance of taking out her party's US presidential election nomination. If Obama wins either or both, which is much more likely, he will be almost impossible to stop. If Obama wins one of the two, he will have won 12 out of the past 13 contests in a row. It's difficult to imagine him losing from there.

The Democratic primary is a bizarre and complex process, with delegates to the eventual nominating convention awarded according to congressional districts and how big the Democratic turnout in those districts was in previous elections. There are also several hundred superdelegates - party heavies who don't have to get elected.

If Clinton wins Texas and Ohio, then the two Democrats will keep duking it out for weeks, if not months. But it's more likely that Obama will win at least one of the states and then either Clinton will drop out or Obama will keep winning and, even if he doesn't get enough delegates to clearly secure the nomination before the convention, it will be impossible for the superdelegates to go against the wishes of the majority of Democratic voters. Imagine how Hillary would look if the Democratic Party, virtually on a technicality, denied the presidential nomination to a black man who had won the votes. Yikes!

The Obama phenomenon is more or less completely unprecedented in national US politics. Perhaps its nearest equivalent is the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. It is a triumph of celebrity politics. Nothing has been sadder than to watch Clinton railing against the creepy reverence with which the US media deals with Obama, and the astounding adulation he inspires across the land.

In truth, Clinton has little to complain about. Obama's candidacy is just a better, slicker version of her own - for Clinton herself is essentially a celebrity candidate. Obama is a first-term senator, Clinton is a second-term senator. Until she won her Senate seat in New York, which she won very much on the power of her husband's presidency, Hillary had never won any election in her adult life. Nor had she ever held any executive position, like being a state governor. Her real claim to fame was that she was Bill Clinton's wife. Of course, since she's been in the Senate she's worked hard to look and sound substantial. Obama, on the other hand, just looks and sounds pretty.

I rather fear we're seeing the infantilisation of American politics. It's common in the Philippines for movie stars and political leaders' wives, sons and daughters to run for president on the basis of their relationships. It hasn't really been common in America before. You might nominate Ronald Reagan as a movie star who became president. But he had had a coherent political philosophy for a long time and, much more importantly, was a two-term successful governor of the giant state of California before he became president. George W Bush undoubtedly got a huge boost from being a president's son. But he had been a two-term successful governor of another giant state, Texas, before he ran for president.

Obama is essentially the candidate for cuteness and glamour. His soaring rhetoric flies so high partly because it is so weightless. On foreign policy sometimes he talks like a super hawk -- even threatening once to bomb Pakistan to kill terrorists. At other times he is the most dove-ish left liberal. Clinton is right to say the media doesn't scrutinise Obama's positions in the way it does other candidates. If Obama doesn't win this time, or if he does, can a George Clooney or Oprah Winfrey candidacy be far behind?



Brief Excerpts

A Leftist grouch about Obama: "A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if elected Obama will not 'rule out' using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in. Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors."

Another Leftist grouch about Obama: "Hillary Clinton is right. She gets the first question more often than Obama, and usually the toughest ones. Then again, as everyone was very, very quick to point out after Tuesday's debate, she also jumps for it first when it's a toss-up. Of course they did the count right away. When it comes to Hillary Clinton, there's no doubt that, whether it's the first or second question, her response is likely to be subject to strict scrutiny, which, as we say in the law, tends to be strict in theory and fatal in fact, while her opponent gets judged by a sort of rational basis test that means if there's any conceivable version of what he's saying that makes sense, he gets a pass."

Vanderleun is thinking about what would happen if Obama were assassinated.

The NYT thinks Obama will have trouble winning the Jewish vote.

I have noted before that Obama has the quite crazy indifference to the truth that characterizes psychopaths. Here are another two examples of it.


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