Saturday, June 7, 2008

A letter to Obama

My name is Leon Weinstein. I am an American. I am also Jewish. I was born in the Soviet Union, was fortunate to get out in 1974 and lived in Israel until my second immigration to the US in 1986. I have family in Israel, including my brother, parents, and my bellowed nephews. As you see I have a stock in Israel, and wouldn't want this country to be bombed by nukes (or conventional rockets), annihilated or buldozered to the Mediterranean, all of the above being proposed by the esteemed leaders of practically all neighboring Israel nations. I am not a partial and neutral bystander. I am one very angry and concerned citizen and below I will try to explain to you why I am angry and concerned.

You might become our next President, Leader and Commander-in-Chief, but we the people know precious little about who you are, your ability to withstand pressure, your philosophy, sympathies and preferences, your experience and your judgment. During your recent campaigning we hear from you many wonderful words like "unification of America", "no more blue or red states", "help to humanity", "care for those that need care", and I applaud those words. If your words are supported by your past actions, then you might be the man for the job. If your words contradict or are unsupported by what you did before the Presidential race, then you are not what you say you are, right? In order to find that out I attempted to examine whom you hang out with, what words you and your friends were saying in private and in public and how all that can affect our lives.

First, I decided to look who is endorsing you (according to the information that can be found on Internet), who likes where you stand on issues. I found among others a scaring host of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli people and organizations:

- Louis Farrakhan (Nation of Islam Leader, racist, anti-Semite)

- Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Islamic Terror Organization)

- Raila Odinga (Fundamental Islamic Candidate, Kenya, some say he is your cousin)

- Daniel Ortega (Marxist Sandinista Leader, Nicaragua)

- Raul Castro (Hard-line Communist Leader, Cuba)

- Socialist Party USA (Marxist Political Party)

- The New Black Panther Party (Black Militant Organization)

- Hamas Terrorist Organization (Islamic Terrorist Organization).

I was really surprised to find so many American enemies routing for you (Hamas, Sandinistas, Cuban Marxists), but what really frightened me was that there is a well-organized effort on the Middle East to call American voters at random asking them to vote for Obama. Who pays them for the expensive phone calls to America? Who trained them what to say and who gave them names and phone numbers of the American voters? This was reported by Al Jazeera: "After studying Obama's campaign manifesto I thought this is a man that's capable of change inside of America." said one of pro-Obama Middle Eastern organizers.

"But may be" I was arguing with myself, "I can't blame you for that, since you didn't ask for their endorsements or their help? You may be even do not know about it, or do you? On the other hand if our enemies (Hamas, Sandinistas, Cuban Marxists) love you so much, may be it says something about your agenda?"

Enough about those that like you. Let's look at whom you like, whom you planning to bring to the White House to govern America. You invited Zbigniew Brzezinski to become your chief political advisor. Brzezinski signed a letter demanding dialogue with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction. He has also an interesting view on Communism that I am afraid you may share: "Communism has the intellectually tantalizing possibility that for the world at large. It was . a blessing in disguise". WOW! "Blessing in disguise?" Half of my family was murdered in Gulags. My beloved grandfather died after a stroke at the KGB headquarters.

Your advisor on nuclear policies Joseph Cirincione in response to reports that the site in Syria that Israel bombed was a potential nuclear facility being established with the help of North Korea, said that the reports were the product of two nefarious, agenda-driven groups: (1) Bush administration hardliners seeking to derail "the U.S.-North Korean agreement" and (2) Israelis who "want to thwart any dialogue between the U.S. and Syria." WOW again!

Your financial backer billionaire George Soros repeatedly says in his speeches: "The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States." How many times in one letter I can repeat WOW! Another obstacle he considers Israel. If you have an obstacle on your way, you remove it, right? Do you share the same ideology that Soros professes? As a matter of fact, looks like your wife does. Soros is the power behind, and this is he who puts money in your campaign coffins. In the old world we had a saying, "he who dines the girl, is dances her as well". What dance you promised Soros?

"The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast."- this is what President of Iran Ahmadinejad says of Israel. He consistently calls for destruction of Israel and the "Big Satan", the United States. Iran harbors and finances terrorists around the globe. At the same time your most senior military adviser retired Gen. Merrill McPeak says President Bush and Israel is to blame for Iran's bad behavior: "It was us that insulted them by including them in the 'axis of evil' and making sure they understood we didn't like them very much. That drove us apart," says McPeak and continues: "Obama's idea is, why not talk to them. Why not see if there isn't some common ground. Certainly, the fight against al Qaeda would be one of them."

Dear Senator, hate of Israel would also be a good common ground with Iran, Hesbollah and Hamas. I remember the overwhelming joy on the Iranian and Palestinian streets when they heard about 9/11. Same joy I recall when Hezbollah dragged on the streets of Gaza killed Israeli soldiers in front of TV cameras. The same joy they experienced when masked terrorists beheaded Americans and many other infidels they kidnap, torture and videotape their murders.

Simon Malley, another of your foreign policy advisors loathes Israel. The anti-Israel activism became a crusade for him. He spent countless hours with Yasser Arafat and became a close friend of Arafat. He was, according to Daniel Pipes, a sympathizer of the Palestinian Liberation Organization --- and this was when it was at the height of its terrorism wave against the West. His efforts were so damaging to France that President Valerie d'Estaing expelled him from the country. Now you want him to give you an advice regarding Middle East and relations with Israel.

I can go on and on. My big question to you is - usually we surround ourselves with like-minded people. Didn't you notice that all those people quite contradicting your public speeches? Or may be they express your hidden thoughts and agenda?

During an ABC interview Stephanopoulos asked you: "So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?" your answer was: "As I said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel, is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security, we consider paramount. And that would be an act of aggression that we would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable. And the United States would take appropriate action."

It is important to notice that you didn't say, "We will come after them and will respond in full force". Dear Senator - what is this "appropriate action" of yours? We already know that your mentors Reverend Wright and socialist billionaire Soros think that the US and Israel stand in a way to the "progress". May be the appropriate action, as you and your team understand it will be to tell Iranians "Good job, guys"?

Israel is an American alley that brings to the relations its fair share. I want you to read exerts from two articles written by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, who is an expert on U.S. Middle East policy:

Former secretary of state and NATO supreme commander Gen. (ret.) Alexander Haig refers to Israel as the largest, most cost-effective combat-experienced U.S. aircraft carrier - one that does not require American personnel, cannot be sunk and is located in a region critical to U.S. national security interests. In 1967, Israel defeated a pro-Soviet Egypt/Syria axis. In 1970, Israel forced the rollback of an invasion by pro-Soviet Syria of pro-U.S. Jordan, preventing a pro-Soviet Domino Effect in the Persian Gulf. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, enabling the U.S. to proceed with conventional military options in its wars against Saddam Hussein. In 1982, Israel destroyed Syrian-operated Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries, which were considered impregnable. Israeli-developed unmanned aerial vehicles have been employed by U.S. Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing otherwise unattainable intelligence and preempting terrorist strikes. The Israeli-developed Lightning Pod navigation guidance system eliminated Al-Zarqawi, the arch Al-Qaeda terrorist. Absent Israel and its contribution to U.S. national security, Washington would have to deploy, to the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of servicemen, costing scores of billions of dollars annually.

Dear Senator, we all would want to hear you saying words that in uncertain terms will tell our enemies that you are not their friend, that you stand and will stand for our country and for the principals of the founding fathers of our country. How about repeating the pledge that Professor Wichman of Mechanical Engineering at MSU wrote to a group of "outraged by Jewish behavior" Muslim students in his University:

I (Barack Hussein Obama) will stand firmly against beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called 'whores' in extreme Muslim culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France. This is what offends me, and many, many of my fellow Americans. This shall be stopped and stopped immediately. I will not tolerate it on my watch. As a US President I will stand firm to stop this aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized behavior. I will defend our allies including Israel, and will destroy any one who will try to destroy them. Amen!

Looks like you are not going to do it. This will make your Far Left friends angry with you. You will hide behind words and smiles and half-truths. Exactly as you were hiding your controversial pastor in the basement of the building before you announced your bid for the US presidency.

Dear Senator, I received the below written text by email. I do not know the sender, but I agree with him/her hundred percent. And I want you and your sponsors, supporters and advisors to read it as well:
Any nation or culture that tried to mess around with the nation of Israel was destroyed -- while we Jews kept going! Egypt? Anyone knows where their empire disappeared to? Greeks? Alexander of Macedonia? The Romans? Does anyone today speak Latin? The Third Reich? Anyone heard any news about it lately? And look at us, the Nation from the Bible, from Slavery in Egypt. We are still here, speaking the same language! Do not even think about positioning the United States of America against Israel and Jews.


American Jews - equivalent of chickens voting for Shabbat?

by Melanie Philips

Are American Jews the equivalent of chickens voting for Shabbat? They have persuaded themselves that Barack Obama is a friend of the Jewish people, because Obama put his hand on his heart and swore undying friendship to the state of Israel. The fact that for 20 years he belonged to a "black power" church whose pastor - and his own personal spiritual mentor - was an acolyte of the Jew-hating demagogue Louis Farrakhan, and who also supported Hamas as a resistance movement, is a detail that need not trouble the Jews of Los Angeles, Boca Raton or the Upper West Side.

The fact that Obama has said "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people" needn't detain them. The fact that he says he would talk to the genocidal fanatics of Iran without preconditions (along with the dictators of North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela) needn't bother them at all. Because for them, there's only one thing that matters about Obama. He's not a Republican!

For the overwhelmingly Democrat-supporting American Jews, voting for a Republican is as unthinkable as eating a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur. Indeed, a number of them would rather eat a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur, because their conviction that religion is bunk and has nothing to do with being Jewish comes second only to their conviction that Republicans are the acme of evil.

That is because they think that to be Jewish is to be liberal in outlook. Therefore to be a Jew is to be a Democrat. End of story. Unlike their British counterparts, American Jews haven't become more conservative as their prosperity has increased over the generations. (This is not true of the growing minority of mainly younger American Jews, who are markedly more Orthodox and thus, since they are rather more in tune with authentic Jewish ethics such as truth, justice and the difference between right and wrong, are indeed voting Republican; but let that pass.)

Being Jewish, think liberal American Jews, means showing that you are not prejudiced against minorities. That means adopting the core presumption of "victim culture" that minorities are never at fault. That means in turn that if an ethnic or religious minority is prejudiced against you, you can't criticise it because to do so means you are prejudiced.

True, the fact that Obama belongs to a kooky church makes them uneasy. The fact that he associates with various mafia types and nut-jobs makes them twitch a bit. The fact that he would go cap in hand to Iran and Syria makes at least some of them suck their teeth. But they know that he must be their friend because he is a Democrat and he is black. They know that he cannot be their enemy because they know that President Bush is their enemy.

The fact that Bush is arguably the greatest friend the Jewish people has ever had in the White House cannot possibly be true because Bush is a Republican and therefore can do no right. Conversely, Obama can do no wrong. So American Jews ignore the fact that all Obama's foreign-policy advisers are veteran Israel-haters. They ignore his long-standing friendship with Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi.

Khalidi has written that Israel has carried out the "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians; that Israel should be replaced by a bi-national, cantonal system for Jews and Arabs; and that suicide bombings are a response to "Israeli aggression". Obama has said he merely had "conversations" with Khalidi. But reports say the Khalidi and Obama families are long-standing friends. In 2000, Khalidi raised funds for Obama's failed bid for a seat in the US House of Representatives. And according to the Los Angeles Times, Obama said his talks with the Khalidis served as "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table", but around "this entire world".

No matter. All of this is simply erased from the gaze of America's Jews in their own collective blind spot. As a result, as pro-Palestinian blogger Ali Abunimah let slip at The Electronic Intifada, Obama is playing them for suckers. Abunimah wrote that during his campaign for the US Senate, Obama told him: "`Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more upfront.' He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, `Keep up the good work!'"

So if, as is expected, Obama wins the Democratic presidential nomination, American Jews will vote for him and maintain their purity of soul. Cluck cluck!


Obama vs. McCain on the Middle East

by Daniel Pipes

With the Democratic Party primaries over, American voters can focus on issues of political substance. For instance: How do the two leading candidates for U.S. president differ in their approach to Israel and related topics? Parallel interviews with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, who spoke in early May with Democrat Barack Obama and in late May with Republican John McCain, offer some important insights.

Asked roughly the same set of questions, they went off in opposite directions. Obama used the interview to convince readers of his pro-Israel and pro-Jewish bona fides. He thrice reiterated his support for Israel: "the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea"; "the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is . a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world"; and "You will not see, under my presidency, any slackening in commitment to Israel's security." Obama then detailed his support within four specifically Jewish contexts.

* Personal development: "when I think about the Zionist idea, I think about how my feelings about Israel were shaped as a young man-as a child, in fact. I had a camp counselor when I was in sixth grade who was Jewish-American but who had spent time in Israel."

* Political career: "When I started organizing, the two fellow organizers in Chicago were Jews, and I was attacked for associating with them. So I've been in the foxhole with my Jewish friends."

* Ideas: "I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn't know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris."

* Philosophy: "My staff teases me sometimes about anguishing over moral questions. I think I learned that partly from Jewish thought, that your actions have consequences and that they matter and that we have moral imperatives."

In contrast, McCain felt no need to establish his Zionism nor his pro-Jewish credentials. Taking them as a given, he used his interview to raise practical policy issues, particularly the threat from Iran. For example, asked about the justness of Zionism, he replied that "it's remarkable that Zionism has been in the middle of wars and great trials and it has held fast to the ideals of democracy and social justice and human rights," then went on: "I think that the State of Israel remains under significant threat from terrorist organizations as well as the continued advocacy of the Iranians to wipe Israel off the map." Again referring to Iran, McCain committed himself "to never allowing another Holocaust." He referred to the threatened destruction of Israel as having "profound national security consequences" for the United States and he stressed that Tehran sponsors terrorist organizations intent "on the destruction of the United States of America."

A second difference concerns the importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Obama presented it as an "open wound" and an "open sore" that infects "all of our foreign policy." In particular, he said, its lack of resolution "provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions." Asked about Obama's statement, McCain slammed the idea that radical Islam results mainly from the Arab-Israeli confrontation: "I don't think the conflict is a sore. I think it's a national security challenge." Were the Israeli-Palestinian issue resolved tomorrow, he pointedly continued, "we would still face the enormous threat of radical Islamic extremism."

Finally, the two disagree on the import of Israelis continuing to live on the West Bank. Obama placed great emphasis on the topic, commenting that if their numbers continue to grow, "we're going to be stuck in the same status quo that we've been stuck in for decades now." McCain acknowledged this as a major issue but quickly changed the topic to the Hamas campaign of shelling Sderot, the besieged Israeli town that he personally visited in March, and whose predicament he explicitly compares to the mainland United States coming under attack from one of its borders.

Goldberg's twin interviews underscore two facts. First, major-party candidates for the U.S. presidency must still pay homage to warm American ties to Israel, no matter how, as in Obama's case, dramatically this may contradict their previously-held views. Second, whereas McCain is secure on the topic, Obama worries about winning the pro-Israel vote.


Corruption scandal threatens to cast shadow over presidential race; Obama fundraiser convicted

A day after Barack Obama sealed the Democratic nomination for president, a corruption scandal involving a fundraiser who once bankrolled his campaign resurfaced to slightly dampen the festivities. Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko, 52, was convicted Wednesday of fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery in a plot to squeeze illegal payoffs out of firms hoping to do business with the state.

Republicans are already capitalizing on Rezko's ties to Obama, even though the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is accused of no wrongdoing and his name was barely mentioned at trial. "Today's verdict and Obama's friendship with Rezko raises serious questions about whether he has the judgment to serve as president," Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.

Rezko's $8 million bond was revoked and he was taken into federal custody after the verdict in the nine-week trial that exposed a corrupt culture of payoffs and campaign finance abuses plaguing Illinois politics. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said the verdict represented "an antidote to the poison of corruption" that trial testimony alleged included the fixing of state boards that controlled a $40 billion pension fund and made major decisions about million-dollar hospital construction. The trial included explosive testimony about all-night drug parties involving the government's star witness and allegations that Gov. Rod Blagojevich personally discussed a state job for a campaign contributor.

Rezko has known Obama since he entered politics, raised money for his Illinois campaigns and was involved in a 2005 real estate deal with him. Obama has donated $150,000 in Rezko-related contributions to charity. He issued a statement saying he was "saddened" by the verdict. "But now he has been convicted by a jury on multiple charges that once again shine a spotlight on the need for reform." Obama said.

Rezko's conviction also intensifies the spotlight on his relationship with Blagojevich. Though also not accused of wrongdoing, his reputation received a serious battering by the testimony. State lawmakers are already talking about impeachment and a primary fight is likely in 2010. One witness said the governor - a Democrat in his second term - discussed a state payroll job for a campaign contributor with a $25,000 donation lying on the table. Another said Blagojevich spoke of big-money state contracts for those who helped him advance his political career - possibly as a presidential candidate.

A money management executive who wanted to invest state pension assets said he was told to sign a contract promising to pay a $800,000 fee to a consultant he had never heard of based in the Turks & Caicos Islands. "That's the way the governor handles patronage here," he quoted a Chicago attorney who pressed him to sign the contract as saying

Blagojevich has repeatedly denied taking part in any of the shadowy political dealings that witnesses described. On Wednesday, he read a statement to reporters in which he called Rezko a friend who had been his supporter. "On a personal level I am deeply sad for what's happened to Tony," Blagojevich said. "The jury's decision is yet another reminder that ours is a system of government that is ruled by laws and not by men. I respect the decision of the jury."

Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer and fast-food entrepreneur, was convicted of six counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of aiding and abetting bribery and two counts of money laundering. The jury acquitted him of three counts of wire fraud, four counts of aiding and abetting bribery and one count of attempted extortion. Rezko's sentencing was set for Sept. 3. Defense attorney Joseph Duffy said he would pursue an appeal. "Mr. Rezko, on his own, decided that if he was convicted he wanted to immediately start serving his sentence," Duffy said.


It's Time for Another Obama Race Speech

Now what? How does Barack Obama, fresh from claiming the Democratic nomination, put Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger behind him, before they ignite yet again and blow up his general election campaign? How does he pre-empt advertising images, sure to be circulated by his opponents, that link him to outrageous racial rhetoric and fears that he is open to the most radical left-wing ideas - including using the power of the White House to exact racial vengeance?

There is no doubt that Rev. Wright's inflammatory racial rants hurt Sen. Obama badly during the primaries. His once-ascendant popularity with white men faded in a flash after Rev. Wright emerged as a walking contradiction to the candidate's claim to be above the old racial divides. Even this week, at Mr. Obama's moment of historic triumph, a quarter of voters in Montana and a third of voters in South Dakota said the senator's 20 years of membership at Trinity United Church - the scene of racial rants by Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger - was an important issue for them. In both states, more than half of these voters voted against him.

Since Rev. Wright became an issue in March, the senator's favorability rating, according to a Pew poll last week, has dropped eight percentage points. The sharpest slippage was among white women who explained that their problem with Mr. Obama has to do with "personal attributes," more so than his race. The major personal attribute unveiled during that time was the senator's close relationship to Rev. Wright and the likes of Father Pfleger. Now, with the general election contest beginning, there will be more white voters, including the all-important swing voters. They'll have to decide whether they are willing to see beyond race and invest their trust in the young, biracial senator who seeks to be their president.

Mr. Obama's strategies for dealing with the racial demagogues in his past have failed. The first strategy for dealing with Rev. Wright's proclamations - including damning America and offering baseless charges that the government was spreading AIDS among black people - was to say he was absent from church. Then Mr. Obama equated Rev. Wright with a crazy uncle to be found in every family. Then he asked for a pass, saying that everyone has heard their pastor, priest or rabbi make statements they don't agree with.

When this didn't work, the senator made a major political speech on race relations - a subject he'd avoided, to prevent being boxed in as the "black" candidate. The Philadelphia speech in March was most notable for what it did not do. Mr. Obama did not condemn Rev. Wright as a racial provocateur. Instead, he made it a point of virtue to stand by his minister of 20 years. He said Rev. Wright was a member of an older generation of black people still stung by their years of humiliation under segregation.

Incredibly, the speech was celebrated by supporters and most of the press. Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, said it would "go down as one of the great, magnificent and moving speeches in the American political tradition." The New York Times editorialized that "Mr. Obama's eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government."

Well, that speech didn't end the controversy, either - because Mr. Obama never spoke honestly about Rev. Wright's sermons as destructive and racist. Instead he offered soaring talk about the nation, as a matter of faith in God and one another, needing to "move beyond old racial wounds." His only criticism of Rev. Wright was to chide him for a "profound mistake," of speaking "as if no progress had been made" on race.

And his poor judgment in remaining a member of Rev. Wright's church? Mr. Obama skated by with appeals for other people to have serious conversations about race. Instead of turning his fire on racial pandering in his own church, he criticized those who would "make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with [Rev. Wright's] most offensive words."

Allies rallied to the senator's side, arguing that the controversy was really all the fault of TV news programs that played the reverend's bellicose "sound bites" too often and out of context. But in a matter of weeks, Rev. Wright went on another rant, this time at the National Press Club in Washington. Only then did Mr. Obama condemn him for racially offensive jeremiads. And last week, Father Pfleger - with his mocking of Sen. Clinton and claims that whites all over America are crying because they feel a black man has stolen the nomination - has renewed the bitterness. His rant has also called a new round of attention to Mr. Obama's long ties to unsavory racial characters both inside and outside the church. In response, the senator has resigned from the church.

He has to do more. The heart of Mr. Obama's problem is that he risks being defined by Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger. Most American voters know him only as a fresh face with an Ivy League education, an outstanding credential - editor of the Harvard Law Review - an exciting speaker, and a man who stands for much-desired change. Beyond that he is a political mystery with a thin legislative record. But when voters look at his past for clues to the core of his character, they find religious leaders calling for God to damn America and concluding that America is the greatest sin against God.

To deal with this controversy effectively, Mr. Obama needs to give another speech. This time he has to admit to sins of using race for political expediency - by knowingly buying into divisive, mean messages being delivered from the pulpit. He has to say that, as a biracial young man with no community roots, attaching himself to Rev. Wright and the Trinity congregation was a shortcut to move up the ladder in the Chicago political scene. He has to call race-baiting what it is, whether it comes from a pulpit or calls itself progressive politics. And he has to challenge his supporters, especially his black base, to be honest about real problems at the heart of today's racial divide - including out-of-wedlock births, crime, drugs and a culture that devalues education while glorifying the gangster life.

Mr. Obama also has to raise the bar for how political criticism is handled in his camp. Step one is to acknowledge that not every critic is a racist. His very liberal record and his limited experience, like his association with Rev. Wright, is a fact, not the work of white racists. Just as he calls for the GOP not to engage in the politics of fear over terrorism, Mr. Obama needs to declare that he will refrain from playing the racial victim, because he understands such tactics will paralyze political debate and damage race relations.

Only by admitting to his own sins can Mr. Obama credibly claim that he has seen the promise of our country, in which Americans of all colors work together. Only then can he convince dubious white voters that he is ready to move beyond racial antagonism and be their president.


What We've Learned About Barack

Barack Obama has finally secured the Democratic Party's nomination. The question now for voters, and for Republican John McCain, is what have we learned over the past 16 months? We've learned Mr. Obama is a gifted politician, with a knack for reading the public mood. His success came from tapping in, early, to the country's deep dissatisfaction with the political status quo, and orienting his campaign around a "change" message. Other presidential aspirants - Republican and Democrat - ultimately adopted a version of this tune. But they couldn't match what was by then a well-rehearsed Obama number.

To GOP strategists' frustration, focus groups still show that many people don't know what Mr. Obama proposes policy-wise - and don't care. They are drawn to his promise to move past political business as usual. John "My Friends" McCain won't be able to match his rival's verbal mojo. He's instead going to have to counter with a compelling theme of his own. First, he'll have to find one.

We've learned Mr. Obama's political skills include an ability to adapt. When the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright broke, Mr. Obama hemmed and hawed and guaranteed a long discussion. Last week, when another controversy burbled over another spiritual mentor, Father Michael Pfleger, the Democrat quickly condemned the priest, and for good measure quit his Chicago church.

We've learned Mr. Obama has crafted a new form of organization and fund raising, allowing him to outmaneuver and outspend Hillary Clinton. It's unclear how this machinery, which helped him particularly in grassroots caucuses, will translate into a general election. But he's already building on his infrastructure in key states as Mr. McCain ramps up his campaign. This ought to have the GOP worried. Yet consider what else we've discovered.

We've learned Mr. Obama was so good at his message that we still don't know much about the man. It was March before the press excavated his longtime pastor, and only last week when it dug up Father Pfleger. Their ugly black-vs.-white preaching, deeply at odds with the candidate's transracial message, has left some voters wondering if Mr. Obama shares these views. It's left others suspicious he allied himself to these powerbrokers for Chicago political gain, but has now cynically thrown them over. Mr. Obama created these question marks for himself, and they're not going away before November. Mr. McCain need only watch.

We've learned that the Obama campaign's main message still has no clothes. The senator has had nearly a year-and-a-half to explain how his new brand of politics and bipartisanship would work; the optimists among us are still waiting. Quizzed on how he'd reach across the aisle, Mr. Obama likes to mention that he might, maybe, perhaps, possibly, if caught on a good day, negotiate on "merit pay" for teachers. That ought to soothe a fractured American soul. The Clinton campaign never hit him on this, since Mrs. Clinton herself had no pretenses toward bipartisanship. But if Republicans can't figure out a way to capitalize on this gap between the spin and substance, they'll deserve backrow seats at his inauguration.

We've learned Mr. Obama has a shifting definition of reform. He deplored big money in elections, but is now sitting on big money and backing out of a pledge to accept public financing. He rails against special interests, but supports bloated farm bills while he does union bidding on trade. One of Mr. McCain's strengths is his reputation for bucking interest groups; this is an opening.

We've learned that on domestic policy, Mr. Obama is as liberal as any Democratic nominee. But he's also a decent populist. He'll raise taxes, but promises to give back to middle-class voters. He'd like government-run health-care, but for now promises simply to help pay soaring private doctor's bills. He'll punish companies that take part in the global economy, but reward those who stay at home. These "buts" make it harder for the GOP to pigeonhole Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain will also have a tough job explaining why his more purist conservative views - lower taxes for all, lower health-care costs for all, more trade - are better.

We've learned Mr. Obama's weak spot is, as expected, national security. His backpedaling on which dictators he'd engage is one example. His attacks on Mr. McCain for being inflexible on diplomacy, even as he inflexibly calls for troop withdrawals - no matter how great the Iraq success - is becoming another.

There is still one thing we don't know: whether Mr. Obama can take a hit. For all the primary bitterness, Mrs. Clinton worried (at least a little) that she'd offend Obama voters and so kept the gloves on. The Republicans will show no such restraint. Explosive as this primary has been, the summer will bring the real fireworks.



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