Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Obama elitism

Maybe if ABC had made the 26th Democratic presidential debate this election season drag on for another couple of hours (on top of the two endless hours), someone would have gotten around to answering this question: When did households earning $200,000 and change become middle class? Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked both Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama if they would make "an absolute, read-my-lips pledge" that, if elected, there will be "no tax increases of any kind for anyone earning under $200,000 a year." Clinton pledged not to raise "a single tax on middle-class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year." Obama answered he would make a similar pledge, "it depends on how you calculate it (the income level), but it would be between $200,000 and $250,000."

Last weekend, the big campaign flap concerned whether Obama's remarks about "bitter" small-town Pennsylvanians were "elitist." On Wednesday, when the candidates described $200,000-a-year earners as middle class, no one batted an eye. Hello. I'm a Republican, and I think a family that earns more than $200,000 is rich. In the world of Democrats Clinton, Obama and Stephanopoulos, however, you have to be among the top 3 percent of wage earners to qualify for that club.

Some stats: In 2006, the median annual household income in America was $48,201. The median income for two-earner families was $78,994. When I asked Gerald Prante of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation if he thought $200,000 a year was a middle-class income, he noted, "It isn't even middle income in Manhattan," where 14.2 percent of households make more than $200,000. The median income in a household headed by someone with a master's degree is about $88,000. Ergo, it would take the income of 2 1/2 master's-degree-headed households or more than four median households for one family to transcend middle-class status chez Obama and at casa Clinton.

To the apparent glee of Clinton, ABC anchor Charlie Gibson assailed Obama for his proposal to raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes beyond $97,500 a year. (Actually, the cap is now $102,000.) "But that's a tax on people (earning) under $250,000," Gibson said. Like that's a bad thing in the formerly soak-the-rich Democratic Party. Obama replied that he would "look at potentially exempting those who are in-between." Huh?

Robert Bixby of the fiscal watchdog group the Concord Coalition figured that Obama is proposing a "doughnut hole" - wherein only earnings below $100,000 or above $250,000 would be taxed. And: "Campaign rhetoric and sensible budgeting are incompatible creatures."

Also nonsensical is Clinton's call for a special commission to deal with the pending Social Security and Medicare crises - to wit, $53 trillion in unfunded retirement and medical promises, which amount to $175,000 for every American. A commission would be a grand idea, if Clinton had not already knee-capped it with a no-new-taxes-except-on-the-very-very-rich pledge.

Republican John McCain's campaign rhetoric also has strayed from his fiscally conservative record, but today, I focus on the Democrats. Their soak-the-rich approach has always been a problem, because overtaxing productive people can hurt the job market. So what do Democrats do? Pander more. Both Clinton and Obama are promising big new programs, middle-class tax cuts and an end to deficit spending - paid for by raising a tax of "the highest volatility," as Prante put it. Which means that the minute the economy is in trouble, revenue will dry up. This is a formula for fiscal pain.

With a realistic view of affluence, there are not enough rich people to close the federal deficit or the pending entitlement crisis - even if a Democrat actually ends the war in Iraq. When Democrats redefine rich to cover only the really, really rich, they make their unrealistic promises all that much more unattainable.

Clinton and Obama keep telling Americans that they have these wonderful plans to create vital programs that will make this country a better place to live. Too bad their programs are never so important that Americans should have to pay for them. They are not even so important that well-heeled high-def flat-screen TV Democrats should have to pick up part of the tab. Call it the new American idealism. Ask not what you can do for your country. Make someone else pay for it.


For Obama, Chicago Days Honed Tactics

In his first run for public office in 1996, Barack Obama faced an unexpected obstacle. A liberal black incumbent had encouraged him to run for the Illinois state senate seat she intended to vacate. Then she changed her mind, deciding to run again. Mr. Obama hired a fellow Harvard Law School graduate, challenged the validity of signatures on her nominating petitions, and got her thrown off the ballot. He eventually ran unopposed, launching the career that has made him the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.

In his books and speeches, Mr. Obama has cast himself as an underdog and an unconventional politician -- a stance that has spawned criticism in advance of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary that he lacks the political skill and stamina to get elected. A look at his years in Chicago, based on interviews with friends, advisers, rivals and political strategists, reveals a shrewd combatant from one of the nation's toughest political arenas.

After he was criticized as arrogant by some fellow Illinois state legislators, he forged alliances with establishment Republicans and Democrats in meetings and at poker games. After he was trounced in a congressional race by a former Black Panther, he barnstormed black churches to build support for a Senate run. His subsequent victory was helped along by newspaper disclosures of embarrassing material from the divorce papers of a Democratic opponent. It was during his Chicago years, too, that Mr. Obama struck up friendships with a pastor and a real-estate developer that have since opened him to criticism. And back then, during his only losing campaign, he first faced the kind of criticism that has resurfaced in Pennsylvania: that he is an elitist who is out of touch with the working class and the poor.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, of course, has also come under political attack and has developed a reputation for toughness. In last week's debate in Philadelphia, she said she was "better able and better prepared" to defeat Sen. John McCain "in large measure because of what I've been through."

For many decades, Chicago has been one of the nation's most distinctive political landscapes. Under the longtime leadership of Mayor Richard J. Daley, it became synonymous with one-party rule. Loyal Democrats were rewarded with jobs and services. Neighborhoods seen as politically disloyal sometimes faced problems such as unplowed winter streets. Many blacks felt shut out of the system altogether.

When Mr. Obama arrived in 1985 at the age of 23, the city's political and racial landscape was changing. The city of Mayor Daley and his predominantly white Democratic machine was becoming the city of Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey. Harold Washington became the first black mayor in 1983 by reaching out to white voters. When Mayor Daley's son, Richard M. Daley, was elected mayor in 1989, he appointed numerous blacks to high positions, including Mr. Obama's girlfriend and future wife, Michelle. "Chicago was his Harvard of politics," says Don Rose, a longtime political strategist here. "Had he gone to Cleveland or New York or Atlanta, it might have been a different path."

Mr. Obama declined to be interviewed for this article. But he often points to his Chicago roots as proof that he can take the "sharp elbows" of politics. "I'm from Chicago. I know politics," he said at an outdoor rally in Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday night. "I'm skinny, but I'm tough."

When Mr. Obama arrived in Chicago a year after graduating from Columbia University, community organizer Gerald Kellman hired him to work in a poor and working-class black neighborhood. He was "very na‹ve politically," says Mr. Kellman. "He was looking for the civil-rights movement, but the civil-rights movement was over. He was trying to figure out what the equivalent would be."

While attending Harvard Law School, Mr. Obama decided on a Chicago political career. Returning to the city for a summer law-firm internship, he met his future wife, Michelle. She had grown up in a black neighborhood on the South Side. Her father had been a precinct captain for the first Mayor Daley's political machine, and she knew the families of many black politicians, including Jesse Jackson's.

When Mr. Obama moved back to Chicago in 1991, he settled in Hyde Park, which had a college-town ambience and a history of liberal political activism. The late Mayor Washington had lived in Hyde Park; so did Carol Moseley Braun, elected in 1992 as the first black woman U.S. senator. Many Chicago law firms courted Mr. Obama. He joined a boutique firm specializing in housing and civil rights. Judson Miner, who had been a close ally of Mayor Washington, headed the firm. Ms. Moseley Braun had worked there before her Senate run.

Mr. Obama next set his sights on the 2004 Senate race. Several white Democrats were planning to run. If Mr. Obama could win the black vote and attract liberal whites, he figured he could get 30% of the vote, enough to win in a crowded field, according to his aides on that campaign. Learning from his prior defeat, he visited three black churches every Sunday, delivering his stump speech in the cadence of black preachers. He raised money furiously.

Most importantly, Mr. Obama persuaded Mr. Axelrod, one of Chicago's most powerful political strategists, to run his campaign. Mr. Axelrod specialized in electing black candidates who could cross over and win white votes, emphasizing themes of unity and change. He also worked for Mayor Daley.

Mr. Obama was running third, behind two white candidates. Throughout the campaign, rumors swirled that Blair Hull, the Democratic front-runner, was involved in a messy divorce. The Chicago Tribune filed a lawsuit seeking to unseal Mr. Hull's divorce papers. Under pressure, Mr. Hull released the papers, which revealed that his ex-wife had alleged that he had physically and verbally abused her. No charges were ever filed, and Mr. Hull said at the time that voters should look at "my total reputation in my life." A spokesman for the Obama presidential campaign says that his senate campaign "was not responsible for the release of the records."

Mr. Axelrod, who had been holding money back, unleashed a flurry of Obama television ads. They made no mention of the Hull matter, but focused on Mr. Obama's biography. Mr. Obama won the primary with 53% of the vote. Mr. Obama's Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, then withdrew after his divorce papers revealed that his ex-wife had made an allegation connected to what she said were trips she took with Mr. Ryan to sex clubs. Mr. Ryan denied the allegation.

Mr. Obama sailed to victory. By the end of the campaign, his aides were sending workers into Iowa, the first Presidential caucus state, to begin developing contacts among Democrats there, according to Al Kindle, an Obama campaign aid at the time.

A few months later, Sen. Obama entered into a real-estate deal that would later come to haunt him. He and his wife bought a mansion in Hyde Park for $1.65 million, $300,000 below the asking price. The wife of a longtime friend and donor, real-estate developer Tony Rezko, paid full price for an adjacent lot that was listed at the same time by the seller. Six months later, the Rezkos sold Mr. Obama a strip of their land so he could have a bigger yard. At the time, newspapers were reporting that Mr. Rezko was under investigation for corruption and influence peddling involving the Illinois governor's office. He was subsequently indicted and is currently standing trial.

Sen. Obama, who hasn't been named in connection with that case, has since called his decision "boneheaded" because it gave the impression Mr. Rezko was trying to curry favor. Mr. Axelrod says Sen. Obama never discussed the house purchase with his political team. If he had, Mr. Axelrod says, they would have told him not to do it.

More here

Obama Coddles Evil

On Tuesday morning, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Iran was busily installing 6,000 new centrifuges for development of nuclear material. Further, Ahmadinejad stated, Iran would begin testing a new type of centrifuge that works five times faster than ordinary centrifuges.

On Tuesday afternoon, Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., declared that the U.S. should engage in a "diplomatic surge" in Iraq. In particular, he said, America should embrace talks with Iran. "I do not believe we are going to be able to stabilize the situation without that," Obama told Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. "I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder, that the two problems you pointed out -- al-Qaida in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region -- are a direct result of that original decision."

Never mind the unbelievable arrogance of a foreign policy boob like Barack Obama, lecturing the two most knowledgeable on-the-ground figures in Iraq on the best military strategy for Iraq.

Barack Obama's scariest characteristic isn't his ego, though its sheer size threatens to shift the globe out of orbit. Obama's scariest characteristic is his puerile belief that everything can be solved by talking with dictators. He seems to believe there's nothing to be lost by sitting across the table from murderers, thugs, Holocaust deniers and genocidal maniacs. "I will meet not just with our friends but with our enemies, not just with those we agree with but those we don't," he blustered in February.

Obama, more than any politician of the past fifty years, should understand the power of words and gestures -- his entire campaign is based on them. Yet, he doesn't seem to understand the simple truth that America's enemies see negotiation as a sign of weakness.

Evil leaders always see negotiations without preconditions as surrender. Neville Chamberlain's shilly-shallying at Munich emboldened Hitler. Yitzhak Rabin's agreement to the Oslo Accords encouraged Yasser Arafat. April Glaspie's statement to Saddam Hussein that "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait" gave Hussein the green light to touch off the first Gulf War.

Obama likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Reagan, Obama says, negotiated with the USSR. Naturally, Obama neglects to mention that Reagan only negotiated with the USSR after placing missiles in Europe, funding Star Wars, joking about bombing the Soviets and calling the USSR an "evil empire." Obama's meetings would be more like an Oprah interview than a Reagan negotiation.

It's not surprising Obama is willing to have coffee with those who hate America. After all, he allowed an America-hater to preside over his wedding. He sat in the pews while his spiritual mentor railed against Israel. He's used to Ahmadinejad-like rhetoric -- he went to a church full of it for two decades.

Obama has no problem chatting with the world's bloodiest butchers or sitting in racist churches because he "understands" everyone. Back in November, I wrote that Obama was running as "The Man Who (SET ITAL) Understands (END ITAL)."

"I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless," he writes in "Dreams From My Father." That understanding leads him to excuse Islamic terrorism as a function of poverty; it leads him to compare black teens on the South Side of Chicago to jihadis in Indonesia. It leads him to excuse scumbag preachers and to kowtow to sadistic tyrants.

There's clearly one thing Barack Obama doesn't understand: the nature of evil. That's why he continues to coddle evil men in both his personal life and his politics.


More on Obama and guns

Barack Obama's presidential campaign has worked to assure uneasy gun owners that he believes the Constitution protects their rights and that he doesn't want to take away their guns. But before he became a national political figure, he sat on the board of a Chicago-based foundation that doled out at least nine grants totaling nearly $2.7 million to groups that advocated the opposite positions.

The foundation funded legal scholarship advancing the theory that the Second Amendment does not protect individual gun owners' rights, as well as two groups that advocated handgun bans. And it paid to support a book called "Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns."

Obama's eight years on the board of the Joyce Foundation, which paid him more than $70,000 in directors fees, do not in any way conflict with his campaign-trail support for the rights of gun owners, Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, asserted in a statement issued to Politico this week. LaBolt stressed that the foundation, which has assets of about $935 million, doesn't take "detailed policy positions," but rather uses its grants to "fuel a dialogue about how to address public policy issues like reducing gun violence."

As with most foundations, Joyce did not record how individual board members voted on grants, but former Joyce officials told Politico that funding was typically approved unanimously. LaBolt said Obama, an Illinois senator, "does not remember each of the over 1,500 individual grant requests and his assessment of their merits, but he considered all requests in light of the foundation's goal of developing a robust public dialogue around reducing gun violence."

Obama joined the board in the summer of 1994 as a 32-year-old lawyer who had yet to run for public office, but he already had a reputation in Chicago as an up-and-comer, particularly on issues related to low-income communities - a key foundation focus. By the time he left the board in the winter of 2002, as he was gearing up for his 2004 U.S. Senate bid, Obama had served six years in the Illinois state Senate and had also considered leaving politics to become the group's full-time president, by his own acknowledgment.

Obama's service on the board of the Joyce Foundation and a few other Chicago-based nonprofits including the Woods Fund of Chicago remains one of the least scrutinized parts of his career. But it's one that could hamper his efforts to woo populations of rural pro-gun voters in Pennsylvania, which votes April 22, and in a general election match-up with the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

In his appeal to gun owners, Obama has not emphasized his own legislative record, which includes supporting a ban on semiautomatic weapons and concealed weapons, and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month. He has blamed his staff for indicating on a questionnaire filled out during his 1996 state Senate bid under his name that he supports banning "the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns." ....

Pressed to clarify his stance during a debate Wednesday evening in Philadelphia, Obama told ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, "I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns. What I think we can provide is common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets."

More here

Obama can run but he can't hide

Seems that Barack Obama has weighed the "time constraints and logistical issues" of answering simple questions that really have only a yes or no answer and chickened out of the North Carolina debate.

Fine. We all know he's got a REAL problem with answering questions now, even going to blame his inability to tackle questions on his waffles (What it about liberals and waffles anyway?)

But once he grabs the nomination all bets are off when he's running against McCain and then it will be either answer the questions or get back to writing books and going on Oprah, or smoking a bong.



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