Barack Obama is easily winning the African American vote, but to woo Latinos, where he is running 3-to-1 behind rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he is taking a giant risk: spotlighting his support for the red-hot issue of granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. It's a huge issue for Latinos, who want them. It's also a huge issue for the general electorate, which most vehemently does not. Obama's stand could come back to haunt him not only in a general election, but with other voters in states such as California, where driver's licenses for illegal immigrants helped undo former Gov. Gray Davis.
Clinton stumbled into that minefield in a debate last fall and quickly backed off. First she suggested a New York proposal for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants might be reasonable. Then she denied endorsing the idea, and later came out against them. Asked directly about the issue now, her California campaign spokesman said Clinton "believes the solution is to pass comprehensive immigration reform."
"Barack Obama has not backed down" on driver's licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Pena, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. "I think when the Latino community hears Barack's position on such an important and controversial issue, they'll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community."
Obama's intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration. Both have adopted the standard Democratic approach of favoring tougher enforcement along with earned legalization.
The Illinois senator is differentiating himself in three key areas: driver's licenses, a promise to take up immigration reform his first year in office, and his background as the son of an immigrant (his father was Kenyan) and a community organizer in Chicago.
Obama made the promise to Latino leaders to take up immigration reform in his first year after Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic caucus, said his party might not raise the divisive issue again until the next president's second term, assuming a Democrat wins.
Latino leaders felt betrayed. For them, an immigration overhaul is a top priority in light of state and local crackdowns on illegal immigrants and federal raids in workplaces across the country. Clinton has not made such a promise, saying only that she would make her best efforts.
"Those issues are huge," said Obama supporter and state Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, vice chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus.
Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville issued a direct warning on the driver's license issue in an analysis last month designed to guide Democrats through the treacherous immigration quagmire. "The findings about driver's licenses are particularly notable," they said. Two-thirds of surveyed voters oppose them, the pollsters found, and the safety argument fails to dent the widespread conviction that granting a driver's license rewards illegal behavior.
But it will definitely work with Latinos, said John Trasviana, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "Clinton and (Sen. John) Edwards have said no driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants," Trasviana said. "Sen. Obama has said you get a driver's license if you know how to drive. And that message I think will resonate in the Latino community as we get closer to California."
Hillary Clinton's biggest asset is "El Presidente." Thanks to Bill Clinton's presidency, during which he lavished attention on Latinos, and her own eight years as first lady, Hillary Clinton enjoys enormous name recognition among Latinos. Hillary picked up early endorsements from leading Latinos such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and fabled farmworker organizer Dolores Huerta. Clinton opened her new East Lost Angeles campaign office Saturday with three Latina members of Congress: Hilda Solis, Grace Napolitano and Lucille Roybal-Allard.
Obama has lined up several lesser-known officials, including Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, who split from her sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Clinton backer from Garden Grove.
While Clinton has the backing of the United Farm Workers, Obama has picked up the endorsement of Unite Here, a heavily immigrant service workers union.
Both camps discount speculation of simmering racial hostility that might make some Latinos reluctant to vote for a black man. "The familiarity with President Clinton has given her a very, very big lead from the beginning," said Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor who is campaigning for Obama.
If there were racial animosity, "obviously we would have to address that very directly," Durazo said. But mostly the response Durazo gets when she asks Latinos about Obama is, "Who is he? I don't know who he is," whereas with Clinton, the answer comes back, "We know Presidente Bill Clinton."
Maria Echaveste, a UC Berkeley law lecturer advising the Clinton campaign, agreed. "Everyone is so quick to jump on" the racial angle, she said. "But, frankly, I think the explanation is a much greater number of people know her and love Bill Clinton."
Huerta, a longtime Latina activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, scoffed at Obama's credentials with Latinos. Clinton worked in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas as a young woman, she said, while Obama was missing in action during two major activist events in Chicago, once when Elvira Arellano sought church sanctuary to avoid deportation, and another time when two Latino men were falsely accused of murder. "He's now trying to build a relationship, but it's just not there," Huerta said. In Nevada, casino workers dubbed themselves "Hilarios," she said, meaning Hillary supporters. "This came from the people."
With Obama, she said, "A lot of them would say, 'Senator como se llama?' They didn't know Obama's name."
Latinos also trust Clinton, Huerta said. "Support for her is not just support; it's enthusiastic support. In fact, I haven't seen anything like this since the Bobby Kennedy campaign back in '68."
Obama has begun airing campaign ads on Spanish-language TV and his supporters are working hard to promote Obama's activist Chicago roots, which Pelata declared forged "a personal connection with Latinos that no other candidate has had."
Added Durazo, "He's the son of an immigrant, he's the son of a single mother who sacrificed a lot to make sure he got his education. All of those issues resonate with a hotel housekeeper, a construction worker, a day laborer. ... I have great hope that we're going to break through that gap in a big way."
Obama as 'apostate'
Islam is a religion one can embrace but never leave. If one is born to a Muslim father, or becomes a Muslim by conversion, forced or otherwise, one is a Muslim for life; and should one convert to another faith, the crime is considered capital -- above all others in Islam -- and the punishment is severe. Thus, Barack Obama, who was born a Muslim to a Muslim father and later formally converted and was baptized as a Christian may be a Christian to all the rest of the "infidel" world -- but is a Muslim apostate to Muslims. As Edward Luttwak explains in an op-ed in today's New York Times:
His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is "irtidad" or "ridda," usually translated from the Arabic as "apostasy," but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder...
With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings....
It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim countries do not mandate execution for apostasy (although a law doing exactly that is pending before Iran's Parliament and in two Malaysian states). But as a practical matter, in very few Islamic countries do the governments have sufficient authority to resist demands for the punishment of apostates at the hands of religious authorities.
While assassination of Obama by Muslim fundamentalists here or abroad, should he accede to the presidency is not very likely for a variety of reasons, an American president who is regarded as a reviled criminal in much of the world and in many countries where it is both religiously and politically forbidden to guard his safety can cause considerable problems, as Luttwak further explains:
Because no government is likely to allow the prosecution of a President Obama - not even those of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the only two countries where Islamic religious courts dominate over secular law - another provision of Muslim law is perhaps more relevant: it prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing.
At the very least, that would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards. More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama's conversion to Christianity once it became widely known -- as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House.
Perhaps some Obamessiah cultists who care not for his empty record of expereince and accomplishment, not his ultra-liberal philosophy, nor his record of odious personal associations, would be well off to put his unbreakable bond to Islam into their hookahs and smoke it -- especially the mealy-mouths who are so worried about what other countries think of us and our leaders.
Obama: Israel a 'constant sore' that 'infects...foreign policy'
Prez Ahmadinejad of Iran says Israel is a "tumour" too
Obama's mask slips even further: Interviewed in The Atlantic, Barack Obama tells us that Israel is a "constant wound... a constant sore..." and an infection. Gateway Pundit caught Obama's latest inflammatory remarks.
Jeff Goldberg:--- Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?
Barack Obama:--- No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically.
Note: Obama partisans are claiming that he said that the Midle East conflict is a constant sore. But quite clearly the antecedent to "this constant wound, that this constant sore" in the question is "Israel." Perhaps the Harvard-trained lawyer who tells us that words are important wants us to believe he was just sloppy. Or maybe words don't matter when he doesn't want them to? David Frum at National Review Online adds some additional commentary
Obama: [S]ome of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically.I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on the peace process, then we're going to be stuck in the same status quo that we've been stuck in for decades now, and that won't lift that existential dread that David Grossman described in your article.
Notice what is embedded here:
(1) a condescending assumption that the so-called hawkish position on the Arab-Israeli dispute is "blind" and adopted by US politicians only because they seek political safety - there's no acknowledgement that the dovish position was ever tried or that it in fact produced a terrible war in 2000-2003;
(2) the attitude, common on the Democratic left, that real friendship to Israel consists in compelling Israeli governments to do things that most Israelis regard as dangerous;
(3) acceptance of the red herring that it is "settlements" that are the source of the Arab-Israeli dispute;
(4) enormous and unexplained confidence that he can solve a problem through his personal intervention.
Jennifer Rubin also comments at Commentary Contentions. He was asked if he was "flummoxed" by Hamas' endorsement. The answer is not likely to set your mind as ease:
I wasn't flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community. Look, we don't do nuance well in politics and especially don't do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. It's conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, "This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush," and that's something they're hopeful about. I think that's a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they're not confused about my unyielding support for Israel's security.
No one is right or wrong, it's all "gray" and he's just the guy to let everyone know. What is jaw-dropping, however, is his assumption that Hamas might be impressed with his "worldly" outlook. That's what Hamas has been searching for: someone who is worldly. And notice the evasion he employs ("talks with people") to escape stating the obvious: they are thrilled he's offered direct talks with their sponsor and Holocaust denier Ahmejinidad.
Obama's Inability to Hire Good Help Rears Its Head . Again
We started covering Sen. Barack Obama's inability to hire good staffers in June 2007, when he blamed staffers for some opposition research trying to link Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, to outsourcing in India; for injecting some venom in the David Geffen/Hillary Clinton fight; and for missing an event with firefighters in New Hampshire.
In December, we noted again that Obama was blaming the answers on a 1996 questionnaire on a staffer; and was blaming his touring with "cured" ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin (which antagonized gays and lesbians) on bad vetting by his staff. Those five buck-passing incidents were apparently not enough.
Yesterday, in an interesting New York Times look at Obama's rise in Chicago politics, we learned that in 2004 some Jewish supporters became alarmed to learn that in a questionnaire Obama refrained from denouncing Yasir Arafat, or from expressing strong support for Israel's security fence. Reports the Times: "In an e-mail message, Mr. Obama blamed a staff member for the oversight, and expressed the hope that 'none of this has raised any questions on your part regarding my fundamental commitment to Israel's security.'"
In January, during MSNBC's presidential debate in Las Vegas, Obama was asked about a document put together by one of his South Carolina staffers that listed comments made by the Clinton campaign that some perceived to be attempting to stoke racial fires. "In hindsight, do you regret pushing this story?" asked Tim Russert. "Our supporters, our staff get overzealous," Obama said. "They start saying things that I would not say, and it is my responsibility to make sure that we're setting a clear tone in our campaign."
In February in a meeting with the Chicago Tribune, Obama was asked about an earmark that went to the University of Chicago while his wife Michelle Obama worked there. "I don't think that I was obligated to recuse myself from anything related to the university," Obama said, adding, "when it comes to earmarks because of those concerns, it's probably something that should have been passed on to [U.S. Sen.] Dick Durbin, and I think probably something that slipped through the cracks. It did not come through us, through me or Michelle, and Michelle has been very careful about staying separate and apart from any government work. But you could make a good argument that this is something that slipped through our cracks, through our screening system."
In a March 2008 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times to answer questions about Tony Rezko, Obama was asked about the fact that Obama had told the newspaper in November 2006 that he had never been asked to do anything to advance Rezko's business interests. But the Sun-Times had subsequently learned about a October 28, 1998 letter Obama wrote to city and state housing officials on behalf of a housing project for seniors that Rezko was working on. The letter, Obama said, "was essentially a form letter of the sort that I did all time. And that I wasn't, by the way, aware of." A reporter asked: You weren't aware that he was associated with the project?
Responded Obama: "I wasn't even aware that we wrote the letter. The answer that I gave at the time was accurate as far as I knew...This was one of many form letters, or letters of recommendation we would send out constantly for all sorts of projects. And my understanding is that our letter was just one of many. And I wasn't a decision maker in any of this process."
The Sun-Times also pointed out that in November 2006 Obama estimated that Rezko had raised somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 for him during his political career. But since that answer, Obama has given back almost $160,000 in Rezko-related contributions. "The original estimate was based on, I asked my staff to find what monies they attributed to Rezko, and this was the figure given to me," Obama said.
So, for those keeping track at home, that's ten instances of Obama publicly blaming his staff for various screw-ups. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! (You of course could also add Austan Goolsbee, Samantha Power, Gordon Fischer, and retired Gen. Tony McPeak.) That would be 14. We will continue to keep track.
And for the record, yet again, let me state that I find Sen. Obama's staff unfailingly competent and polite, courteous and efficient, and I once again express my regret that Sen. Obama does apparently not feel the same way.
Barack Obama has already been "Swift-Boated"
You know, one of the funny things about watching the Democrats is their alternation between fear and bravado about whether Republicans will "Swift Boat" their candidate this time around. Orwell once said that "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable.'" This is roughly the way the Democrats use the term "Swiftboating" to suggest a political attack of thoroughgoing fraudulence and impropriety concocted out of whole cloth. Never mind that each and every one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a combat veteran, including a number of highly decorated veterans; it's casually accepted that they were all liars, knaves and pawns.
But the irony of conducting this discussion in the future tense ignores the fact that, by any reasonable definition, Barack Obama has already been Swift-Boated. A true Swift-Boating proceeds in five predictable stages:
1. The Democrat makes some claim that forms the center of his appeal and convinces his followers on the left that he can reach out to voters in the middle.
Kerry: I served with honor. Thus, you can trust me on national security. Bring it on. That dog won't hunt. Go read Doug Brinkley's book.
Obama: I am a post-racial candidate. I will lead us beyond the age of race-baiting preachers and grievance-mongers. I'm also a religious man who will end the Democrats' secular fixation. Go read The Audacity of Hope.
2. The Democrat's own words are accurately quoted against him, his own actions and associations are turned back on him.
Kerry: The video of his Senate testimony. The Winter Soldier hoaxes he peddled. The Christmas in Cambodia nonsense.
Obama: Rev. Wright, the main who coined "Audacity of Hope," turns out to be just another race-baiting preacher. Obama sneers at other people's faith and has to flee from his own church one step ahead of a bitter gun-toting mob.
3. The Democrat stops answering questions and hopes the media will drop the story.
Kerry: Six weeks where his only interview or press conference was with Jon Stewart.
Obama: Hey, I answered eight questions. Let me eat my waffle. No more debates.
4. The Democrat and his supporters whine and screech about the unfairness of the thing.
Kerry: They questioned my patriotism!
Obama: Racists! Distractions from the Real Issue, which is not my words or my judgment but my...uh....
Kerry: I'm a strong closer.
Obama: Hey, that was the primaries. Did I mention that John McCain was old?
Wright's weird Trumpet
To the question of the moment--What did Barack Obama know and when did he know it?--I answer, Obama knew everything, and he's known it for ages. Far from succumbing to surprise and shock after Jeremiah Wright's disastrous performance at the National Press Club, Barack Obama must have long been aware of his pastor's political radicalism. A careful reading of nearly a year's worth of Trumpet Newsmagazine, Wright's glossy national "lifestyle magazine for the socially conscious," makes it next to impossible to conclude otherwise.
Wright founded Trumpet Newsmagazine in 1982 as a "church newspaper"--primarily for his own congregation, one gathers--to "preach a message of social justice to those who might not hear it in worship service." So Obama's presence at sermons is not the only measure of his knowledge of Wright's views. Glance through even a single issue of Trumpet, and Wright's radical politics are everywhere--in the pictures, the headlines, the highlighted quotations, and above all in the articles themselves. It seems inconceivable that, in 20 years, Obama would never have picked up a copy of Trumpet. In fact, Obama himself graced the cover at least once (although efforts to obtain that issue from the publisher or Obama's interview with the magazine from his campaign were unsuccessful).....
I obtained the 2006 run of Trumpet, from the first nationally distributed issue in March to the November/December double issue. To read it is to come away impressed by Wright's thoroughgoing political radicalism. There are plenty of arresting sound bites, of course, but the larger context is more illuminating--and more disturbing--than any single shock-quotation. Trumpet provides a rounded picture of Wright's views, and what it shows unmistakably is that the now-infamous YouTube snippets from Wright's sermons are authentic reflections of his core political and theological beliefs. It leaves no doubt that his religion is political, his attitude toward America is bitterly hostile, and he has fundamental problems with capitalism, white people, and "assimilationist" blacks. Even some of Wright's famed "good works," and his moving "Audacity to Hope" sermon, are placed in a disturbing new light by a reading of Trumpet.
What about patriotism? While many consider Wright's call for God to damn America irredeemable, others might argue that "in context," Wright's prophetic denunciations actually prove his love of country. Unfortunately, neither Wright nor any of the other regular Trumpet columnists displays a trace of this "I'm denouncing you because I love you" stance. On the contrary, the pages of Trumpet resonate with enraged criticism of the United States. Indeed, they feature explicit repudiations of even the most basic expressions of American patriotism, supporting instead an "African-centered" perspective that treats black Americans as virtual strangers in a foreign land.
Although the expression "African American" appears in Trumpet, the magazine more typically refers to American blacks as "Africans living in the Western Diaspora." Wright and the other columnists at Trumpet seem to think of blacks as in, but not of, America. The deeper connection is to Africans on the continent, and to the worldwide diaspora of African-originated peoples. In an image that captures the spirit of Wright's relationship to the United States, he speaks of blacks as "songbirds" locked in "this cage called America." ...
The man's hatred for America is clear. The question is how could Obama have missed it? If he wan not paying attention to what those closest to him were saying, what does that say about his ability to pay attention to the details of the office of the President? Either he knew and accepted this message for 20 years, or he was not paying attention to what his closest associates were saying. Neither makes him a good candidate to lead this country.
(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)