Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Obama and the crooked Rezko

Rick Moran has a BIG article telling you almost anything you might want to know about the Rezko corruption case and Obama's involvement with Rezko. By all means read the full article but I think that all I need to do here is cut to Rick's summing up:

There is no evidence that in any of his dealings with Rezko that Obama broke any law. The question is one of ethics. And judgment, of course. And truthfulness. Obama's relationship with Rezko is much more extensive than he has ever admitted. Their 17-year relationship went beyond "one fundraiser" as Obama claims, and a few social dates with the gals.

Rezko was a patron, a valued supporter, and a business partner. And almost certainly a close friend as well.

The significance of this relationship is that it proves that Barack Obama is not who he claims to be - a new kind of politician who will lead us all to the Promised Land. Obama can lie like any normal politician. He can do favors for his supporters who give him money. He can do business with scam artists like Rezko whose illegal activities authorities are still trying to unravel.

Given what we know already, there doesn't seem to be a "bottom" to this story yet. And what we find when we get there may yet prove to be Barack Obama's undoing as a candidate for President of the United States.

Obama: A Thin Record For a Bridge Builder

Hillary Clinton has been trying to make a point about Barack Obama that deserves one last careful look before Tuesday's probably decisive Democratic primaries: If Obama truly intends to unite America across party lines and break the Washington logjam, then why has he shown so little interest or aptitude for the hard work of bipartisan government?

This is the real "where's the beef?" question about Obama, and it still doesn't have a good answer. He gives a great speech, and he promises that he can heal the terrible partisan divisions that have enfeebled American politics over the past decade. And this is a message of hope that the country clearly wants to hear.

But can he do it? The record is mixed, but it's fair to say that Obama has not shown much willingness to take risks or make enemies to try to restore a working center in Washington. Clinton, for all her reputation as a divisive figure, has a much stronger record of bipartisan achievement. And the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, has a better record still.

Obama's argument is that he can mobilize a new coalition that will embrace his proclamation that "yes, we can" break out of the straitjacket. But for voters to feel confident that he can achieve this transformation should he become president, they would need evidence that he has fought and won similar battles in the past. The record here, to put it mildly, is thin.

What I hear from politicians who have worked with Obama, both in Illinois state politics and here in Washington, gives me pause. They describe someone with an extraordinary ability to work across racial lines, but not someone who has earned any profiles in courage for standing up to special interests or divisive party activists. Indeed, the trait people remember best about Obama, in addition to his intellect, is his ambition.

Obama worked on some bipartisan issues, such as a state version of the earned-income tax credit, after he was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996. But he also gained a reputation for skipping tough votes. The most famous example was a key gun-control vote that he missed in December 1999 because he was vacationing in Hawaii. The Chicago Tribune blasted him and several other vote-skippers as "gutless." One Chicago pol says that "the myth developed that when there was a tough vote, he was gone."

Obama's brash self-confidence led him into his only big political blunder. Prodded by the Daley machine, he challenged Bobby Rush, an incumbent Democratic congressman and former Black Panther, in 2000. Rush pounded Obama by more than 2-1in the primary. "He was blinded by his ambition," Rush told The New York Times last year.

Obama has been running for president almost since he arrived in the U.S. Senate in 2005, so his Senate colleagues say it's hard to evaluate his record. But what stands out in his brief Senate career is his liberal voting record, not a history of fighting across party lines to get legislation passed. He wasn't part of the 2005 "Gang of 14" bipartisan coalition that sought to break the logjam on judicial nominations, but neither were Clinton or other prominent Democrats. He did support the bipartisan effort to get an immigration bill last year, winning a plaudit from McCain. But he didn't work closely with the White House, as did Sen. Edward Kennedy.

The Obama campaign sent me an eight-page summary of his "bipartisan accomplishments," and it includes some encouraging examples of working across the aisle on issues such as nuclear proliferation, energy, veterans affairs, budget earmarks and ethics reforms. So the cupboard isn't entirely bare. It's just that, unlike McCain, Obama bears no obvious political scars for fighting bipartisan battles that were unpopular with his party's base.

"The authentic Barack Obama? We just don't know. The level of uncertainty is too high," one Democratic senator told me last week. He noted that Obama hasn't been involved in any "transformative battles" where he might anger any of the party's interest groups. "If his voting record in the past is the real Barack Obama, then there isn't going to be any bipartisanship," this senator cautioned.

Voting for a candidate is always an act of faith -- a belief that the politician will win a mandate that allows him to transcend his own past limitations and those of his party. Ronald Reagan taught the country something about the ability of a world-class communicator to create such a new political space that defies the previous categories.

No one who has watched Obama's sweep toward the nomination would say it's impossible that he can be the great uniter. I just wish we had more evidence.


Obama's NAFTA demagoguery

His campaign claims a million jobs have vanished because of the deal. That sounds devastating, but over the last 14 years, the American economy has added a net total of 25 million jobs -- some of them, incidentally, attributable to expanded trade with Mexico. When NAFTA took effect in 1994, the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. Today it's 4.9 percent.

But maybe all the jobs we lost were good ones and all the new ones are minimum-wage positions sweeping out abandoned factories? Actually, no. According to data compiled by Harvard economist Robert Z. Lawrence, the average blue-collar worker's wages and benefits, adjusted for inflation, have risen by 11 percent under NAFTA. Instead of driving pay scales down, it appears to have pulled them up.

Manufacturing employment has declined, but not because we're producing less: Manufacturing output has not only expanded, but has expanded far faster than it did in the decade before NAFTA. The problem is that as productivity rises, we can make more stuff with fewer people. That's not a bad thing. In fact, it's essentially the definition of economic progress.

We're not the only country facing that phenomenon. China makes everything these days, right? But between 1995 and 2002, it lost 15 million manufacturing jobs.

Even if the candidates don't want to acknowledge the gains of the last 14 years, it's hard to see how they can blame NAFTA for economic troubles in Ohio or elsewhere. The whole idea was to eliminate import duties in both the United States and Mexico (as well as Canada). What everyone forgets is that we got the best of that bargain, since our tariffs were very low to begin with....

Critics complain that while exports to Mexico have risen, imports from Mexico have risen even faster. But that's not because we embraced free trade. It's because our economy has been more robust than theirs. Prosperous consumers buy more goods, from both home and abroad, than struggling consumers. Absent NAFTA, the trade imbalance with Mexico would not be smaller. It would be bigger....

I think one reason why Clinton has been falling behind is because she has not really challenged Obama's bogus remarks about issues like NAFTA, instead trying to imply that she is against it too. Obama is flunking econ 101 and Hillary is saying me too rather than pointing out just how wrong he is and how much her husband's trade policy has helped America.

Investor's Business Daily has more stats on the benefits of NAFTA trade. Why didn't Hillary say shame on you Barack Obama about the demagoguery instead of waffling on her earlier positions?



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