He knows nothing outside his Chicago milieu
ABC News' David Wright and Sunlen Miller Report: Sporting a shiny new American flag pin at an appearance in Rush Limbaugh's hometown, Sen. Barack Obama came up with some novel reasons why the U.S. may be struggling in the war in Afghanistan.
"We don't have enough capacity right now to deal with it -- and it's not just the troops," Obama, D-Ill., told a crowd in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Obama posited -- incorrectly -- that Arabic translators deployed in Iraq are needed in Afghanistan -- forgetting, momentarily, that Afghans don't speak Arabic. "We only have a certain number of them and if they are all in Iraq, then its harder for us to use them in Afghanistan," Obama said.
The vast majority of military translators in both war zones are drawn from the local population. Naturally they speak the local language. In Iraq, that's Arabic or Kurdish. In Afghanistan, it's any of a half dozen other languages -- including Pashtu, Dari, and Farsi.
No sooner did Obama realize his mistake -- and correct himself -- but he immediately made another. "We need agricultural specialists in Afghanistan, people who can help them develop other crops than heroin poppies, because the drug trade in Afghanistan is what is driving and financing these terrorist networks. So we need agricultural specialists," he said.
So far, so good. "But if we are sending them to Baghdad, they're not in Afghanistan," Obama said.
Iraq has many problems, but encouraging farmers to grow food instead of opium poppies isn't one of them. In Iraq, oil fields not poppy fields are a major source of U.S. technical assistance.
After seeing the report team Obama doubled down on ignorance.
Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesperson, disputes this report, writing in to say, "This poorly researched and written piece is inaccurate in that it just completely ignores the need for Arabic translators in Afghanistan, and the need for agricultural specialists in Iraq. It is irresponsible to report such issues so matter-of-factly without checking out the actual facts. Please reference these very simple and easy to find websites to learn more about these issues: on the need for agricultural specialists in Iraq; and on the foreign fighters in Afghanistan.To which, ABC News' David Wright responds:
Interesting pushback from the Obama campaign on this story. It begs a response. They point out that the U.S. has indeed deployed agricultural experts to Iraq, in an effort to work with aid organizations to rebuild Iraq's food infrastructure. Other technical experts were deployed early on to southern Iraq to help rebuild the ravaged ecosystem of the Marsh Arabs, whom Saddam Hussein sought to exterminate. The U.S. and its allies sent much and varied assistance to the Iraqi people, including agricultural aid. My bad.
However, Obama's point seemed to be that the Iraq effort constituted a brain drain in the Afghanistan agricultural problems, that the experts deployed to Iraq would otherwise have gone to Afghanistan to encourage Afghan farmers to grow food not poppies. That strikes me -- as someone who has covered the conflicts in both countries extensively -- as doubtful. The main problem now in both Iraq and Afghanistan is the lack of security, which makes it too dangerous for the experts to do their work.
Actually some of the best farm help in Afghanistan are displaced farmers from Zimbabwe. They are having an impact as has the increasing prices for food. Because of the nature of the drug trade the farmers get a small fraction of the street value of the drugs. Food has become a completive commodity to poppies for the farmers. Another plus to food is that they are dealing with a higher quality purchaser.
There reassertion that Arabic translators are needed in Afghanistan still seems strained even if al Qaeda fighters make up part of the fighting force. The main function of the translators is to work with the locals to help find the bad guys. There are no Arab farmers in Afghanistan. Like his previous gaffe on the Anbar Awakening, whenever Obama drifts from "hope" and "unity" into specifics he is in trouble.
Obama '08 "All the Way With DSA"
If Barack Obama's campaign for the US presidency has an unofficial slogan, it should be "All the way with DSA". The Marxists of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America helped launch Obama's political career and have supported him ever since. DSA linked unions have endorsed Obama's campaign for the Deocratic nomination and DSA linked figures such as Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky and Barbara Lee have come out strongly for the Senator.
While the iron disciplined Communist Party USA has committed itself totally to the Obama cause, the looser DSA is less obvious about its support. Traditionally DSA allows its members more freedom to back candidates of their choice, but several prominent DSA members have stood up for Obama in recent times. These range from senior union officials, to street level supporters, to well known academics.
An interesting example of Obama/union/political solidarity occurred in Chicago on March 3rd 2007. I quote from blog Public Affairs
Speaking in a vernacular and cadence that showed the Harvard Law School and Columbia University trained Barack Obama can connect with working class people, the third year U. S. Senator wowed and energized a mostly labor union crowd of about 1600supporters this morning...
The event attracted some of Labor's big hitters to join Obama on the dais and speak, including John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO and Gerald McEntee, President of AFSCME. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD], an early and big-time supporter of Obama's in the 2004 Senate Primary and Senator Dick Durbin [D-IL] also spoke...
Eight other individuals spoke at the rally, including local labor leaders and health care workers, as well as a local favorite for liberals, Dr. Quentin Young.
Cong. Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD]: . Employers can intimidate, fire, threaten to move people from the day shift to the graveyard...it is a new day in our nation's capital, it's a new day for Resurrection workers and their friends, it's a new day for immigrant workers, it's a new day for all our working Americans who dream of the justice that ONLY the Union Movement can deliver. And, to the doubters I say, you ain't seen nothing yet. Just wait until we have a Labor Department under President Barack Obama.
Its a safe bet that Jan Schakowsky is angling to head the US Labor Department under President Obama. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO is the USA's most powerful labour leader. he is also a long time DSA member. Gerald McEntee, the nation's top public sector unionist is a strong Sweeney ally. He is also allegedly a DSA member. According to San Francisco DSA member Michael Pugliese;
BTW, for what it's worth McEntee, is one of the DSA notables in the labor bureaucrat column. As is John Sweeney.
Quentin Young is a well known Chicago DSA member and early Obama backer, who seems to have come back to the cause, after a period of disillusionment with his friend and neighbour. Jan Schakowsky has close ties to DSA. Dick Durbin is a strong Obama backer and is regarded as one of the most far left members of the US Senate.
Obama and the Cross
I have been telling Brody File readers for months that if Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee he will make a pitch to win over independent/moderate Evangelicals. Well, we now have evidence. Look at the flyer below:
In Kentucky, he is making a direct appeal to Evangelicals with flyers that mention his conversion experience and they highlight a big old cross. Remember Mike Huckabee's supposed subliminal cross in his Christmas campaign ad? Well, the Obama campaign ditches the subliminal and goes for the in your face cross. Look at the flyer here.
The Obama campaign has consistently believed that their candidate can compete for the "religious vote". A lot has been made about how Obama hasn't done as well with Catholics compared to Clinton. But let's remember one thing: Obama has a story to tell about how Jesus came into his life. You can bet we will be hearing more details about it on the stump in the fall. (if Obama is the nominee)
Meanwhile, John McCain won't be partaking in the "Evangelical speak" or handing out these types of flyers in the south which makes you wonder if Huckabee could help McCain shore up the Evangelical base and at the same time play to the Independent middle with his populist streak.
I know the conservative policy purists will say that Obama is liberal and therefore Evangelicals won't buy his "Evangelical speak". Not so fast. Remember, many people vote based on an emotional connection to a candidate or if they can relate to that person. Obama may need to work on this perception that he is "elite" but when he talks about Jesus and the Bible and the fact that he's a sinner, it makes him more real and in the process, more electable too.
Obama and crime
With Illinois Senator Barack Obama almost certain to be the Democratic nominee, Republican groups are focusing on his vulnerabilities. They are highlighting some of his positions during his eight years in the Illinois state legislature, from opposing extending the death penalty for gang members to supporting the ``decriminalization'' of marijuana and refusing to back restrictions on porn shops. ``I would be amazed if crime was not used extensively to show how out of step this guy is with the mainstream of America,'' said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican strategist unaffiliated with the campaign of the party's presumptive nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain. Fabrizio said the crime votes, in particular, were ``something visceral.'' ``If McCain's people and Republicans run the right campaign against Barack Obama, John McCain can win in a landslide,'' Fabrizio said.
The Obama campaign said the charges are unfounded and the candidate has been consistently tough on crime. As a state senator, Obama's campaign said, the candidate sponsored laws to remove the statute of limitations for first- degree murder and to extend it for sexual assault; to protect victims of domestic violence; to increase penalties on drunk drivers and white-collar crime, and to protect victims' rights. Obama, 46, also worked on legislation to crack down on sex offenders and drug dealers and repeatedly voted to lengthen sentences for criminals, the campaign said. He also supported measures to address gang violence.
Republicans are trying to ``distract, deflect and distort the record,'' said David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, and the effort is ``destined to fail.'' ``It's not going to deflect attention from the fact that Senator McCain is carrying the tattered banner of the Bush administration on economic matters and foreign policy,'' Axelrod said.
McCain, 71, has yet to raise the crime issue, though Tucker Bounds, a campaign spokesman, said his ``record will stand in stark contrast to either of the potential Democratic nominees for president.''
Meanwhile, Republican surrogates, mainly independent groups, are resurrecting the strategy that sunk former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential bid. Floyd Brown, creator of ads that played to racial fears and portrayed Dukakis as soft on crime, recently produced an ad that attacks Obama's 2001 vote against a bill that would have made gang members eligible for the death penalty. Brown's 1988 ad against Dukakis, who lost to Republican George H.W. Bush after failing to quell concerns that he was weak on crime, focused on a Massachusetts parolee, Willie Horton, who committed armed robbery and rape. The current spot recounts the stories of three Chicago residents murdered by gangs.
``They're trying to use the old Republican trick of law and order and crime as code words for race,'' said Leonard Steinhorn, a political communications expert at American University in Washington who was a volunteer speechwriter for Dukakis. ``If it's going to succeed with any cohort, it's the cohort of older Americans because they're the ones who have the most outdated racial attitudes.'' Depending on how far the activists take the issue, McCain may have to distance himself, Steinhorn said.
Even some Republicans said the strategy has its limits. ``Those issues won't work in this election,'' said John Weaver, a former senior adviser to McCain. ``In a change election in a country that's in a recession and in a war, issues like that tend to be not as important.''
Much of the crime material comes from research compiled for former Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan, whose 2004 campaign against Obama collapsed after lurid details about his marriage were unsealed in divorce court. The research cites Obama's 2001 vote against a bill restricting ``adult-use'' establishments near schools, churches and homes; and his failure to support tougher laws against sex offenders. Obama said at the time the adult-use issue was a local zoning matter and that the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act would deny due process.
In 2004, Obama said the U.S. should ``re-think and decriminalize our marijuana laws'' though he didn't support legalization. The campaign has since said that he believes too many first-time, non-violent drug offenders are being sent to prison. Other items include Obama's 2001 vote against extending the death penalty to murders committed by gang members. The state's Republican governor vetoed the bill, calling it ``misdirected,'' and Obama said Illinois already had ``sufficient laws on the books.''
Limey Nargelenas, deputy director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said Obama isn't weak on crime. The candidate, he said, broke with the majority of Democrats in the state Senate by supporting legislation allowing retired police officers to carry firearms. ``Democrats tend to be more liberal,'' said Nargelenas, a Republican. ``But with Senator Obama, we found he takes a look at the issue and looks at both sides.''
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