by Rick Moran
Obama's elitist remarks to a group of rich donors is only part of the disconnect between a man who inspires millions on the stump and the coldly calculating careerist whose ambition has led him to the brink of success.
Until today, Barack Obama was something of a cipher - a sphinx-like candidate who was so new to the national spotlight that the press, the pundits, and the voters had little to go on as far as the true nature of the man and his attitudes toward America, its traditions and history, as well as its citizens.
Obama assisted in keeping this mystery deliberately. His carefully crafted speeches were, at first, little more than "change and hope," pep talks delivered with the practiced care and calculated effect of a master propagandist. Never saying anything offensive about anyone, never going "off message" in an attempt to appeal directly to the anger and unease Democrats feel about the direction of the country, Obama's rhetoric soared and touched the deepest longings of the American soul for unity, community, and most of all, change.
The fact that he has never given more than a thumbnail's description of how he intends to achieve these miracles didn't matter to the press or his adoring supporters. It was a tonic to hear an American politician so optimistic about the future, so capable of arousing in even the most cynical of breasts feelings of hope and happiness. Obama had a gift that allowed people to believe in him despite scant evidence that he had the ability or even the temperament to battle the special interests and reform Washington, or ram national health insurance legislation through a reluctant Congress, or bring prosperity to all.
But the campaign season is long and a candidate is tested as for no other elective office in the world. Eventually - finally - there would be some kind of reckoning; a revelatory episode that would show the press and the voter the man behind the pretty words, silken voice, and bountiful charisma.
The realization that Obama is an elitist who lacks a basic understanding of how the majority of Americans live and what is important to them will no doubt have far reaching consequences for his candidacy. But beyond the immediate problem for Obama's disconnect from ordinary people is the seeming contradiction between his rhetoric on the campaign trail and how he has conducted himself throughout his career in seeking to achieve high office. Ultimately, it goes back to the fundamental question we ask of all candidates.
Who is Barack Obama? We have had hints of the man who resides within Obama - the inner voice that talks to him, shapes his thoughts, animates his view of the world. But these hints have been from those close to him, those the candidate himself has relied on for advice, friendship, and mentoring. His wife, whose comment about her husband's candidacy making her proud about America for the first time in her adult life as well as her contention that America is a profoundly "mean" country inhabited by "cynics, sloths, and complacents" was shocking because it opened up a line of questioning into Obama's own beliefs.
Michelle Obama's casual confession about lacking pride in America was the first time people paused in mid-jump on the Obama bandwagon to ask themselves some serious questions about the tangle of thoughts in the candidate's mind. Just what does this guy really believe? What is the core of his personal, most intimate thoughts about America and her people?
Then along came Reverend Jeremiah Wright and suddenly, the questions started to pile up. Along with revelations about his relationship with unrepentant domestic terrorists William Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn as well as a shady Chicago Machine fixer Tony Rezko, people were starting to ask "Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?" How could this bright, optimistic, sincere youngish politician be associated with these characters who represented the worst of America when the candidate himself was appealing to the best in all of us? It is a mystery until you examine the contours of Obama's life and see a man who for a very long time has had his eyes on high office. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - unless the ambition takes over and your principles are tossed out the window, your life becoming a slave to career advancement.
This is the seeming disconnect between Obama on the stump and Obama the careerist. Where the Obama on the stump preaches racial healing, the careerist Obama embraces a Reverend Wright whose church was one of the most visible in the African American community in Chicago and Wright himself a nationally renowned minister. For more than 20 years Obama sat in the pews of a church run by an admirer of Louis Farrakhan and believer in AIDS conspiracy theories. And yet, his attendance also brought him respect in the African American community - as it was fully intended to do.
The episode with Wright is instructive: the idea that the Obama we see on the stump could believe in anything the wild eyed, bigoted, America hating Wright believed in was so farfetched, that all it took to dispense with Wright as a campaign issue (temporarily anyway) were some soothing words about race delivered before a nation willing to forgive the initial falsehoods the candidate told about not knowing of Wright's bigotry. Other, more troubling questions about why anyone who loved this country continued to attend services at a church whose statement of beliefs was so at odds with what most of the rest of us believe were answered with the incredible notion that the candidate believed Wright was dispensing a message of hope.
More disconnect from the speechifying Obama came from the continuing revelations regarding his long time friend and political patron Tony Rezko. Obama on the stump talked of reforming politics, of being a champion against special interests. But Obama the careerist shunned the political reform movement in Chicago to lie down with the likes of Rezko, who not only raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for his campaigns but introduced him to other fat cat donors who would prove valuable when the time came to run for the US senate. How can someone spouting political reform on the stump be tied up with Rezko, Mayor Daley, and others while endorsing for office proven crooks like Cook County Commissioner the late John Stroger and other Chicago Machine politicians?
A similar "What was he thinking" question could be raised when discussing his association with perhaps the most grotesque of all the characters that have emerged this campaign season; former Weather Underground bombers William Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn. One can only shake the head in disbelief that the potential next president of the United States is on a first name basis with someone who is proud of bombing the Pentagon. Again, it isn't so much what Ayers stood for as much as what Ayers could do for an ambitious liberal seeking his first public office. Ayers was very well respected in the far left circles of the Senate district Obama was running in. An introduction to Ayers from the retiring incumbent was necessary if Obama were to win the seat. If the relationship had stopped there, no one would blame Obama for doing what was necessary to win. But over the years, Obama kept up with the association by appearing in forums with Ayers and even serving on the board of a left wing foundation with him.
Again, it seems impossible that the Obama of the stump could find anything about Mr. Ayers remotely appealing. But Ayers has a certain cachet with the far left in this country - the shock troops who promote and work for liberal causes and staff the campaigns of liberal Democrats. The careerist Obama found that Ayers name opened doors that may have been normally shut to a young African American politician positioning himself for a US senate run.
Obama has clearly been an opportunist in his political career. All good politicians are. And the best ones seize their opportunities without hesitation and run as far as luck and brains can take them. Obama has been lucky. He has also been as calculating a politician as we have seen since Lyndon Johnson ruled the senate. Both men proved to have towering ambition and enormous political gifts.
But Johnson also suffered from this apparent disconnect - a down home country politician who played hardball on the Hill as well as it can be played. Johnson had problematic associations and connections also, men that made one wonder what kind of a man was this whose friends wheeled and dealed their way through Washington while Johnson railed against their kind on the Senate floor.
In the end, the answer to the riddle is that both men set a goal early in their careers and never let anything get in the way of achieving it. This includes principles espoused in their public speeches which for both men had a nasty habit of contradicting what they were doing in the political trenches. We are just finding this out about Obama - as we are discovering that the candidate is also an elitist of the first order. Last Sunday in San Francisco, in off-the-cuff remarks before a group of rich donors, Obama let his true feelings about average Americans be known:
But - so the questions you're most likely to get about me, `Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is - so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing - close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that 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.
By trying to diagnose what is wrong with the Rust Belt middle class, Obama reveals a shockingly cartoonish understanding of white people - in its own way as ignorant as Reverend Wright's clownish demonizations of whites. This is an Obama out of touch with regular folks, speaking in disparaging tones about people who take their religion seriously or have an abiding love of the outdoors represented by their owning a firearm (hunting being a second religion in Pennsylvania). It was a dumbfounding moment, showing a candidate who views about half of America as victims of their own bitter frustrations. Obama later issued a "clarifying statement" after his campaign tried to plead ignorance about what he said:
"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities. And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent,"
Trying to shift the focus to McCain is a weak move. He did not address what has everyone up in arms - the disconnect between Obama on the stump who would never denigrate working people as he did, and the Obama talking to liberal elitists - apparently like himself - explaining his understanding of how the rubes live and what's wrong with them.
This revelation has a chance to do more damage to his candidacy than 10 Reverend Wrights. It is doubtful that Obama could find a venue to give a speech trying to explain the naked elitism he revealed in just a few sentences to a group of mega rich contributors. Even if he did give a speech, what could he say? Just about anything he came up with would sound even more condescending.
The more we learn about Obama, the wider the gap grows between the messianic character on the stump whose golden voice and pitch perfect rhetoric has inspired millions of people and the coldly calculating careerist politician whose elitism has blinded him to the struggles and hopes of ordinary people. The two Obamas are irreconcilable. And the confusion felt by many will almost certainly translate into a loss of support for the candidate in these final primaries that will determine the Democratic nominee for president.
Obama Channels Marx on Masses' Reverence for Religion
Religion is the opiate of the masses. -- Karl Marx, 1843
It's not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to . . . religion . . . as a way to explain their frustrations. -- Barack Obama, 2008
Has anyone else pointed out the striking similarity between Barack Obama's recent statement about tough economic times driving people to religion and that of another person who preached change: Karl Marx?
Obama added guns and xenophobia to his list of proletarian elixirs for bitterness. But the fundamental point remains: Barack apparently doesn't take religion, his own or anyone else's, too seriously. It's not a search for truth or an attempt to live in accordance with God's word. It's just a way to get by, a stupefacient that helps proles endure the pain of living in an economy unfairly dominated by the "haves." Karl would concur.
Of course there was no suggestion at Today that Obama might have been channeling Marx. But is the notion outlandish? Consider what Ace of Spades has uncovered about Frank Marshall Davis, the mentor Obama almost surely describes in his book Dreams from My Father:
Barack Obama is very vague about his actual politics and few have bothered asking. Now comes a well-nigh conclusive case that the "Frank" referred to in Dreams From My Father is in fact Frank Marshall Davis, a noted member of the Communist Party USA.
Horne, a history professor at the University of Houston, noted that Davis, who moved to Honolulu from Kansas in 1948 "at the suggestion of his good friend Paul Robeson," came into contact with Barack Obama and his family and became the young man's mentor, influencing Obama's sense of identity and career moves. Robeson, of course, was the well-known black actor and singer who served as a member of the CPUSA and apologist for the old Soviet Union. Davis had known Robeson from his time in Chicago.
As Horne describes it, Davis "befriended" a "Euro-American family" that had "migrated to Honolulu from Kansas and a young woman from this family eventually had a child with a young student from Kenya East Africa who goes by the name of Barack Obama, who retracing the steps of Davis eventually decamped to Chicago." ...
Dr. Kathryn Takara, a professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who also confirms that Davis is the "Frank" in Obama's book, did her dissertation on Davis and spent much time with him between 1972 until he passed away in 1987.
If it's relevant that some Republicans have belonged to the Federalist Society -- or even done as little as show up for the debates they host -- how can it not be relevant that Barack Obama's political education, paternal, "spiritual," and now academic as well, is all straight out of Karl Marx?
Will the MSM get around to exploring Obama's radical roots and abiding ideology? A few more candid statements from the candidate along the lines of his "clinging to religion" remark, might just force the media's hand.
Obama: "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State"
-- As Mussolini said
Over at Powerline, there is an interesting post on how Barack Obama backtracked in his Indiana speech yesterday to counter "his elitist disparagement of `small town' voters" in an earlier speech in San Francisco. In San Francisco, Obama had said: "So it's not surprising then that [when voters] 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." In Indiana, he polished this, so that it came out:
People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them. So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington.
While Obama is indeed engaging in spin, there is a far more disturbing aspect to his interpretation. He misses the essential nature of modern culture. People don't end up focusing on issues like the right to bear arms, gay marriage, faith-based and family-based issues, and the like, because of bitterness against Washington or a sense that they can't effect change there. People focus on these issues because modern American political culture is, effectively, about subcultures, variety, pursuing parochial aims, and shaping one's identity and personal agendas independently of the state.
What Obama implicitly regards (in both his statements) as signs of disintegration, as reflections of popular frustration, are in fact examples of a thriving culture. Exceptions to this, of course, are anti-immigration sentiment and bigoted protectionism, both of which Obama conveniently dropped in his Indiana comments. Yet Obama's approach betrays a very suffocating vision of the state as the be-all and end-all of political-cultural behavior. Outside the confines of the state there is no salvation, only resentment. This is nonsense, but it also partly explains why Obama is so admired among educated liberals, who still view the state as the main medium of American providence.
I Was Born In A Small Town
A roundup below recycled from Just one minute. See the original for links
Jiminy, Obama unleashes his inner Michelle:
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
They will make a lovely First Couple.
A BIT MORE THAN A SOUPCON: The eerily prescient Bill Kristol, last Monday:
And an experienced Democratic operative e-mailed: "Finally, I think [McCain's] going to win. Obama isn't growing in stature. Once I thought he could be Jimmy Carter, but now he reminds me more of Michael Dukakis with the flag lapel thing and defending Wright. Plus he doesn't have a clue how to talk to the middle class. He's in the Stevenson reform mold out of Illinois, with a dash of Harvard disease thrown in." In a close race, that "dash of Harvard disease" could be the difference.
Uhh, "dash" of Harvard disease? Obama just emptied the dump truck.
HALP US BROK O'BOMBA-- WE R STUCK HEAR N ALTOONA.
TRYING TO HELP: Where are those laminated cards Mickey suggested during the Wright debacle?
"All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn."
Maybe Barack can just pretend he didn't hear his controversial comments. Wait, I was kidding...
WORK THAT SHOVEL: Barack keeps digging in this video from Hot Air. Slightly scary but mostly funny bit - his big applause line, twice, is (roughly) "People are bitter, and they ought to be." Yeah, let's hear it for bitter! Sounds like a winning platform - Mourning in America. That'll nail down the Nutroots, as if they weren't already nailed down... now if only the rest of the country could get on board the Bitterness Express.
IT'S ABOUT JUDGMENT: Barack routinely lauds his good judgment in wanting to stay out of Iraq. Now let's see if he stays out of Pennsylvania.
HELPFUL, BUT NOT: Marc Ambinder psychoanalyzes Obama and tells us what he really meant. Well, fine, but no matter how well-intentioned and sincere Obama may have been, when a big government Harvard lib explains to working class people that they are bitter because government has failed them and consequently they have taken refuge in guns, religion, and racism, it sounds condescending. Mainly because it is.
ANOTHER EGGHEAD HEARD FROM: Mickey Kaus:
I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...
P.S.: Because Obama's comments are clearly a Category II Kinsley Gaffe--in which the candidate accidentally says what he really thinks--it will be hard for Obama to explain away. [He could say he was tired and it was late at night?--ed But he was similarly condescending in his big, heartfelt, well-prepared "race speech." Better to embrace them. Let's have a national dialogue about egghead condescension!]
We have a choice in this country. We can tackle egghead condescension only as spectacle - as we do with Paul Krugman's columns - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of the Kerry campaign - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
ON THE GROUND IN PA: The man in the street (that would be a mud-splattered, litter strewn working class street) reacts to Obama's insight:
"By cracky, it's like the man sees into my soul! "Thirty years ago, I had a good job in the mill in Pittsburgh. I was bringing in a good income, going to jazz clubs, discussing Proust over white wine and brie, with my gay friends of all colors. I was all for free trade, so that we could sell the steel overseas, and I never bothered to go to church, let alone actually believe in God.
"But then, the plant closed down, and I couldn't get another job. I went on unemployment, and found odd jobs here and there, but they barely paid the rent in the loft, and the payment on the Bimmer. I couldn't afford the wine and brie any more, and had to shift over to beer and brats. "Of course, as a result, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd--the beer drinkers.
The downward spiral continues...
DEAD MAN RUNNING: John of Powerline thinks this ends Obama's Presidential chances, as does the Captain, who also opines that it will not resurrect Hillary. My view? This ices the Wright cake - I don't think Hillary can stop him, but Obama is not electable. Well, listening to six months of lefties defending Barry and patiently explaining that rural whites really are bigoted gun nuts and religious fanatics should be amusing. Too soon to credit Karl Rove?
MORE: Some excerpts from the New Yorker profile of Michelle Obama:
Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we're a divided country, we're a country that is "just downright mean," we are "guided by fear," we're a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. "We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day," she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. "Folks are just jammed up, and it's gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I'm young. Forty-four!"
From these bleak generalities, Obama moves into specific complaints. Used to be, she will say, that you could count on a decent education in the neighborhood. But now there are all these charter schools and magnet schools that you have to "finagle" to get into. (Obama herself attended a magnet school, but never mind.) Health care is out of reach ("Let me tell you, don't get sick in America"), pensions are disappearing, college is too expensive, and even if you can figure out a way to go to college you won't be able to recoup the cost of the degree in many of the professions for which you needed it in the first place. "You're looking at a young couple that's just a few years out of debt," Obama said. "See, because, we went to those good schools, and we didn't have trust funds. I'm still waiting for Barack's trust fund. Especially after I heard that Dick Cheney was s'posed to be a relative or something. Give us something here!"
Dick Cheney's dad worked for the USDA; Cheney himself flunked out of Yale before getting a degree at the University of Wyoming.
'Terrorist' link puts Barack Obama under fire
Another dubious contact is dogging the Democrat hopeful
A PAST association with a former terrorist has returned to haunt Barack Obama as the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination nears its end game. Republicans are turning on Obama for his connection with William Ayers, once a member of the Weather Underground, a terrorist group that bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon and the State Department in the 1970s.
Ayers was loosely involved in Obama's election as an Illinois state senator in the late 1990s, when he was introduced to local activists at a meeting in his house. He also donated $200 to Obama's reelection campaign in 2001. Obama served with Ayers on the board of the Woods Fund, a philanthropic foundation, for three years and shared a platform with him at two academic conferences.
Republicans believe they have found new evidence that Obama lacks judgment and patriotism just as the controversy over the Rev Jeremiah Wright, his pastor, who said, "God damn America", is dying down.
The Weathermen, a small band of extreme leftists who got their name from lines in a Bob Dylan song - "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - conducted a bombing campaign against targets such as police headquarters, prisons and courthouses for three years to "bring the [Viet-nam] war home". Two police officers were killed in 1981, when members of the Weathermen and Black Liberation Army stole $1m from an armoured car. It was their last action. Ayers, 63, turned himself in to police that year, when charges against him were dropped because of mishandled FBI surveillance. He is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago and is admired in progressive political and educational circles.
He wisely remained silent as stories about his connection with the 46-year-old presidential candidate began to circulate - until he was goaded into the open last week by repeated taunts from Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News television host, who described him as an "unrepentant terrorist".
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, joined in the controversy on Hannity's show. "It's part of a general pattern in which Senator Obama is very comfortable with the hard left and the people who are in many ways fundamentally antiAmerican and certainly anti-American-government," he said. Karl Rove, President George W Bush's former election guru, said the connection with Ayers was troubling. "There's been talk in the past about friendship," he said. "They made speeches together. He was a supporter of him in his race for the state senate. It would be interesting to know how close the links are." John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, was asked what he thought about Ayers and declined to offer an opinion. It was Hannity's questioning of McCain, though, that provoked Ayers to respond.
In a lecture to college students in North Dakota last week, Ayers said: "I was trying to go to sleep, flipping through the channels real quick, and Hannity said, `Stay tuned. John McCain and I will talk about William Ayers.' And I said, damn, I will have to stay tuned for an hour." Ayers went on to tell the students: "People ask, `Do you regret anything you did against the government in those days?' And my answer is: no, I don't."
In an interview in The New York Times on the day of the September 11 attacks, when he was promoting Fugitive Days, his book on the Weathermen, Ayers said: "I don't regret setting bombs," and added: "I feel we didn't do enough." He defended the comments on his blog www.billayers.org last week by claiming: "I'm sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Vietnam and I say: no, I don't regret anything I did to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government. "Sometimes I add: I don't think I did enough. This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings."
The Obama campaign believes a very slender connection with Ayers is being used to smear their candidate. Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, said: "Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of criminal violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect him with events of almost 40 years ago is patently ridiculous."
Sam Ackerman, a Chicago political activist and neighbour of Ayers, said: "The whole thing is preposterous. I held the first fundraiser for Obama, when he ran for the state senate, in my house. A lot of people held little coffee meetings. It wasn't a big deal." He added: "In the past 20 years Bill Ayers has become a nationally renowned educator and is a highly respected professor at the University of Illinois. I think Barack Obama should tell people, `I'm not in the renouncing business'."
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Obama. Joe Klein, writing in Time magazine, described patriotism as "sadly, a crucial challenge for Obama now" and advised him to be "corny" about America.
Obama has just finished a four-day swing through Indiana, a conservative-leaning state, which will hold its primary on May 6. Prayers and the pledge of allegiance were said. As the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, Obama has emphasised: "I owe what I can to this country, this country that I love, and I will never forget it."
Larry Johnson, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA said: "They're going to kill him with this. The guy is an unrepentant terrorist, so please, Barack Obama, explain why you aligned yourself with him. It is a fundamental question of judgment. By the time he [Obama] was hanging around with Ayers, his position was well known. He [Ayers] was not a freedom fighter; he belonged to a violent terrorist group."
David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, said earlier this year that the two were "friendly" but in the sense that "their kids attend the same school", but Ayers' children left long ago. A campaign aide later clarified that the connection was with Bernadine Dohrn, Ayers's wife, who was still involved with the school. Dohrn is another former leader of the Weather Underground, who also went on the run in the 1970s and served just under a year in jail.
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