Another miracle: Obama Promises to 'End the Age of Oil in Our Time'
Talk about a hot-air merchant!
A day after saying the U.S. could produce enough renewable energy within 10 years to replace all U.S. imports of Middle East oil -- a goal even he admitted sounded "pie in the sky" -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said "for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time."
At the beginning of his town hall meeting focused on energy policy at the Austintown Fitch High School this morning, in this blue-collar burg in a pivotal swing state, Obama told the estimated crowd of 2,400 Ohioans, "I can tell this is a feisty group."
But the senator's feistiness was on display as well, as he mocked his Republican opponent's campaign tactics and energy plan, and pushed an aggressive "use it or lose it" strategy for offshore oil leases. Seeking to shift focus away from the debate over whether oil companies should be permitted to conduct more offshore drilling exploration, Obama said, "Right now, oil companies have access to 68 million acres where they aren't drilling. So we should start by giving them a choice: use it or lose it. Use the land you have, or give up your leases to someone who will."
After Obama noted local gas prices -- $3.70 a gallon, "two and a half times what it cost when President Bush took office" - a member of the audience yelled out: "They had a plan!" "They had a plan," agreed Obama. "Problem was it was the oil company plan. It was the gas company plan. We need a people plan! And that's why I'm running for president."
CBS hearts Obama
Is CBS showing bias toward Barack Obama? The "Late Show with David Letterman" has removed a spoof on Obama from website archives but opted to keep a "Top Ten" list ripping John McCain from the previous evening - and show representatives are denying any knowledge of the missing clip. "The Late Show" recently featured a countdown called "Top Ten Signs Obama is Overconfident About the Presidential Campaign" on July 29. Letterman listed the following signs:
10. Proposed bill to change Oklahoma to "Oklobama"
9. Offered Bush $20 for the "Mission Accomplished" banner
8. Asked guy at Staples, "Which chair will work best in an oval-shaped office?"
7. The affair with Barbara Walters
6. Having head measured for Mount Rushmore
5. Guy sits around eating soup all day
4. He's voting for Nader
3. Offered McCain a job in gift shop at Obama presidential library
2. Announced his running mate will be Andy Dick
1. Been cruising for chicks with John Edwards
But the clip is missing from CBS' July archives. Instead, it jumps from a July 28 "Top Ten" poking fun of McCain to a July 30 list about Jerry Lewis. The McCain spoof, "Top Ten Ways McCain Can Appear More Youthful," offers the following advice for the senator:
10. Campaign in a batsuit
9. Instead of Lincoln, pepper speech with quotes from Broday Jenner
8. Get his Miracle Ear pierced
7. Stop yelling at reporters to get off his lawn
6. Play breakdancing vice prinicpal in "High School Musical 3"
5.Take a page from Jason Giambi and grow a cool mustache
4. Wrestle a gator
3. Change name of "Straight Talk Express" to "J-Dawg's Booty Wagon"
2. Stop promising a Packard in every garage and a goose in every icebox
1. Never hurts to nail a few interns
When WND contacted a representative of "The Late Show with David Letterman," he denied any knowledge of the omitted Obama "Top Ten" list. "I don't know why it's gone," he said. "I have no idea why, to be honest with you."
Obama's Faith-Based Initiative Pledge Rings Hollow
Barack Obama's pledge to embrace President Bush's faith-based initiative is "hollow," Jim Towey, who headed the White House initiative from 2002 to 2006, tells Newsmax. The reason, Towey says, is that Obama undercut his claim to support the initiative by saying he would prevent any religious group that only hires people of the same religion from receiving federal funds. "It's a hollow pledge to embrace President Bush's faith-based initiative while abandoning one of its core principles," Towey says. "It's dead on arrival with evangelicals, with many African-American churches, with orthodox Jews, and I think it's a disappointment to a lot of Catholic charities out there that right now are forced to secularize their hiring to take federal money."
Before Bush hired him, Towey was Florida's secretary of health and social services under Gov. Lawton Chiles. For 12 years, Towey was legal counsel to Mother Teresa. In 1990, he lived as a volunteer in a home she ran in Washington for people addicted to drugs or alcohol, many of whom had AIDS. In 1996, Towey founded Aging with Dignity, a Tallahassee organization that promotes better healthcare for people with terminal illness. Because of President Bush's faith-based initiative, programs that help the needy and that are affiliated with religious groups now receive $2.2 billion a year in federal grants, according to White House spokesperson Rebecca Neale. Before Bush took office, many faith-based programs were discouraged from applying for them.
In recent remarks, Obama claimed that Bush's promise to "rally the armies of compassion" through the faith-based initiative had gone unfulfilled because of too little financing and too much partisanship. The presidential candidate said he would expand the program. But, describing himself "as someone who used to teach constitutional law," Obama enunciated "a few basic principles" so that such partnerships between religious groups and the government would not threaten separation of church and state. "If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help, and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion," Obama said.
While the initiative may seem like a way of mixing church and state, further examination reveals that it is simply a way to make sure that social service organizations are not deprived of federal funds simply because they are affiliated with the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim faith. Because the money is given to existing organizations often staffed by volunteers, it is channeled to help those who are hungry, addicted to drugs, or illiterate in the most efficient way possible. Thus, taxpayers do not have to pay for new layers of bureaucracy to distribute the aid. In effect, the faith-based initiative leverages the government's money. The faith-based initiative is an example of Bush's compassionate conservative approach - a practical way to attack social problems without massive federal spending.
"Obama gets points for talking about the faith-based initiative and embracing President Bush's foundation," says Towey, who is president of St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. "The problem is that you can't embrace the Bush faith-based initiative and abandon one of its core principles. I think he has succumbed to pressure from members of his own party who block charitable choice legislation at every turn."
That core principle is that "faith-based groups should not have to forfeit their civil rights when taking federal money," Towey says. "They should be able to hire on a religious basis. It's established law that faith-based groups are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring. After all, how can an orthodox Jewish group stay orthodox Jewish if they can't hire on a religious basis?"
Towey acknowledges that the courts have never ruled either way on the issue Obama raised: whether religious groups that discriminate may receive federal funds. He says Congress itself has passed legislation that both supports and undercuts the proposition that organizations that receive federal money may discriminate. "Some laws, like welfare-to-work legislation, expressly permit a faith-based charity to take federal money and to hire on a religious basis," he says. "But Congress also has laws such as the Workforce Investment Act, which is a job training program that expressly prohibits a faith-based group from receiving their money and hiring on a religious basis."
Ironically, Towey says, President Clinton signed into law the first legislation that allows such federal funding of groups that discriminate. "Obama is taking a position that's more radical than President Clinton took," Towey says.
While many faith-based charities do not discriminate, "Historically, evangelical groups have not taken any government money, because they want to hire on a religious basis. President Bush opened the doors, and some evangelical groups like rescue missions have walked through." For the same reason, many African-American churches have not taken government money. Because the faith-based initiative was never endorsed by Congress and is often confusing to organizations, many other religious groups shy away from taking federal money.
"When I first heard that Senator Obama was going to wade in and embrace the faith-based initiative, I said, `Fantastic,'" Towey says. "But when you look at the details of it, it looks like he's actually undercutting his message and taking us back to where we were before the faith-based initiative started." Towey sees Obama as aligning himself with congressional Democrats who have blocked any new legislation to allow federal funding of religious groups that want to hire members of their own religion. "They're pressured to do this by groups like the NAACP, ACLU, and Human Rights Watch, which have made it abundantly clear they would never, ever permit legislation to move forward that had religious hiring protections," Towey says.
"Never mind that Planned Parenthood receives over $300 million a year, and they discriminate in their hiring in broad daylight, by only hiring like-minded people," he notes. "If you're pro-life, try getting a job at Planned Parenthood. So why can't faith-based groups hire on the basis of their ideology and vision?"
Defining anti-Americanism downwards
It’s one thing to point out what our country could do to become superior to its former self, but quite another to preface such counsel with the implication that it’s inferior to every other nation.
If Barack Obama sought to win the votes of Germans, he need seek no more. Of course, his new image was all the rage in the Old World long before he gave his July 24 speech in Berlin. Along with the mainstream media and murderer Dale Leo Bishop, Senator Sweetness and Light is the man the Europeans want as our leader.
Although Obama certainly has a stateside cult following as well, one reason Americans’ enthusiasm pales in comparison may be that we – at least some of us, anyway – can decipher his words better than foreign-language speakers. As to this, there is a certain segment of the Berlin speech I’d call your attention to:
I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
It might be pointed out to Senator Obama that if he finds a perfect country, he should be sure not to go there. For then it will cease to be so. But allow me to lend further perspective. Imagine that you gave a speech in which you “honored” your mother and said:
I know my mother has not perfected herself. At times, she has struggled to keep the promise of fairness for all of her children. She has made her share of mistakes, and there are times when her actions around the town have not lived up to her best intentions.
Wouldn’t this strike you as odd? My first thought would be, wow, you really must not think very highly of your mother. After all, since we’re all sinners, it goes without saying that no one is perfect. So why would you feel compelled to state the obvious about her? It could only be because you consider her unusually flawed, so much so that she falls outside the boundaries of normal human frailty; thus, a disclaimer is necessary before homage can be paid. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re embarrassed by someone – or something – you’re obligated to praise, when you feel the object of the compliments is, relative to others, unworthy of unqualified laudation and that rendering such would tarnish you. It’s kind of like if you needed to defend a brother on death row or who had been convicted of rape; since he was guilty of heinous acts, you’d feel compelled to issue an “I know he has fallen from grace, but . . .” statement. It is the most a good person can muster when talking about a bad one. And Obama’s “but” came right after his disclaimer, as he said:
But I also know how much I love America.
Note that he didn’t actually reveal how much.
Lest I be thought a hypocrite, I agree with G.K. Chesterton’s sentiment, “‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’” I’ve often lamented America’s intoxication with sin, issuing indictments of various aspects of our declining culture. Yet the difference is context. It’s one thing to point out what our country could do to become superior to its former self, but quite another to preface such counsel with the implication that it’s inferior to every other nation. In the first instance you’re talking about making a relatively good thing better; in the second you’re talking about why a relatively bad thing might at least deserve some scraps from the table of man.
Of course, honesty is a virtue. So if Obama really believes America is that bad, shouldn’t his words reflect that? Yes, without a doubt, but being honestly wrong is not a virtue. Remember that Obama was speaking in the nation that birthed the Holocaust, a Maginot-line away from that which spawned the Napoleonic Wars, not too far from the land of the Stalinist purges, and just across the North Sea from an empire that colonized much of the Earth. In this drunk-on-power world, Senator Obama, do you really believe your motherland is an embarrassment?
Getting back to mothers, mine often instructed, “Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.” I mention this because Obama also rendered more explicit criticism of his beloved nation, asking:
Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law?
This is, of course, an allusion to our military’s use of waterboarding during coerced interrogation. And, to be fair, I don’t say good people cannot oppose it. Journalist Christopher Hitchens actually volunteered to undergo the procedure and emerged firm in the conviction that it is, in fact, torture. This warrants consideration as Hitchens, for all his militant-atheist zealotry and faults, has been nothing but honest regarding the war against Islamism.
Yet, as per my mother’s injunction, there is a time and a place for criticizing family – this includes national family. Obama can argue against waterboarding, but it should be done in-house, not overseas in front of a throng of screaming, anti-American foreigners.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Obama’s implication that America is uniquely damnable is that he was oblivious to it. Sure, you may say that few would connect those dots, but that is what makes the remark so telling. It’s one of those unthinking comments that give you deeper insight into a person’s heart and mind.
To fully grasp this, understand where Obama is coming from. This is an individual who sat in pews for 20 years and imbibed the preaching of a man who disgorges sentiments such as “G*****n America!” and calls her the “US of KKKA!” Wouldn’t it strain credulity to say that such a politician doesn’t have a negative view of his country? Even Oprah Winfrey, not a woman known to wrap herself in the flag and belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner,” left Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ after being assailed with such vitriol.
They say that how a son treats his mother speaks volumes about his character. We should bear this in mind when evaluating Barack Obama, this son of America who is lauded by Europeans. There are people who just wouldn’t issue the “my country has not perfected itself” disclaimer, and then there are those who would. In the cases of those who utter it instinctively – the son of America and his brethren – it’s an example of a very common phenomenon: Defining anti-Americanism downwards.
To the Left, America is the black sheep of the world, that brother who raped the Earth and only escapes death row because he is also the law. To leftists, a statement like Obama’s is patriotic – thoughtful, honest, introspective patriotism. Self-flagellation is a sign of enlightenment (although, leftists never actually whip themselves, only the “country,” which is the bane of humanity because of regrettably-live conservatives and thankfully-dead white males). It is the “Of course, we’re not perfect” meme. It has become Bolshevik boilerplate.
In other words, leftists have lowered the bar for patriotism and raised it for anti-Americanism. The bile of a Reverend Wright, well, it is anti-American (but understandable and excusable); it is a bridge too far. But their confession-of-sin disclaimers are no-brainers because the United States really is a bad country, and they’re positively charitable when they follow-up with mention of her few redeeming qualities. It’s the most a good person can muster when talking about a bad homeland.
The question is whether any of this will hurt a candidate who racks up style points like Yves Saint Laurent. Many citizens don’t even care what Obama actually says, never mind what must be inferred. Even pollster Frank Luntz asserted that we have to give him credit for capturing the imaginations of “250,000 people” in Berlin. Perhaps, but it occurs to me that he isn’t the first ambitious orator to capture the imaginations of a quarter-million Berliners.
Style can be blinding, but I suspect that Americans who actually pay attention to substance won’t be quite as taken with Obama’s rhetoric as Otto the Old Worlder.
Deconstruction, I'm told, is still all the rage on college campuses throughout the Land. Part of the broader movement of postmodernism which has attempted to tear down the old certainties upon which Western Culture is founded
Perhaps nowhere outside academia itself have the deconstructionists had more powerful sway than within the once-august body that calls itself the Democratic Party. I have, myself, for years now refused to bestow the adjective, democratic, upon the Democrat Party. It has been so thoroughly infiltrated since the early 70s by leftist deconstructionists that it has become a thoroughly undemocratic institution, giving heaps of advantage to everyone other than white males, and has thusly reduced itself to a committee dictatorially run by a rainbow proletariat. The dictatorship of the minorities. How democratic is that?
Because the deconstructionists have thoroughly taken over the Democratic Party in America, it is now incumbent upon us, the citizenry, to deconstruct the candidate they are promoting for President, the not-even-through-his-first-term Senator, Barack Obama.
Deconstructing the Democratic Party Brand
Sadly, we can no longer assume that anyone promoted by the Democratic Party has been properly vetted for disqualifying scandalous behavior, or even on the most fundamental level of actually possessing barely minimal qualifications for public office.
As many have noted during this protracted Democrat primary race, the rules for nominating a Presidential candidate under this Party's label are mystifying in their complexity. Prior to 1968, the Democrats used, by and large, the same winner-take-all formula for primaries that the Republican Party still uses.
This formula is not unlike the wisdom of our Electoral College, which ingeniously allows for majority votes to count by localities and states. It's simple, uncomplicated, clean-cut. Under this old, tried-and-true system the majority rules and life goes on without a whole heap of fuss, which has allowed this Republic of ours to transfer power without bloodshed, uninterrupted for going on three centuries.
Of course, as anyone with a lick of political, historical knowledge already knows, the Democratic Party's system had for the last few decades taken a low-road, backroom approach to party politics that favored insiders and machine bosses over the will of ordinary voters. Their system was already primed for the comeuppance it got in 1968.
The Democratic National Convention of 1968 was a quite raucous and bloody affair, with mobs of young leftist agitators rioting in the streets of Chicago, demanding their way. These home-grown Marxist revolutionaries, many of whom went on to become domestic terrorists and bombers and universal nihilists of all variety, didn't get their way that year. But they did make enough of a dent in the bastions of Democratic Party authority to rewrite the nominating rules around what they considered more egalitarian principles. What resulted from the radical changes to the nominating process is the convoluted mess that formed the basis for this year's slugfest between two affirmative-action candidates.
To be sure, a great many journalists have already tiptoed through this affirmative-action mine field upon which I am about to brazenly march, but so far their dainty ruminations have had scanty effect upon polling numbers.
Actually, that may be a bit understated, since it seems nearly miraculous that the Republican candidate, John McCain, is within shouting distance of the Democrat after a full eight years of leftist press bombardment aimed at the Republican brand, effectively polarizing a sitting Republican President. I personally believe McCain's strong showing so far is owed not to racism, as has been suggested, but due to the obvious affirmative-action nature of the Democrats' candidate, Barack Obama.
The truth is that neither of the Democrat front-runners for the nomination this year would have ever been considered for the highest office in the Land had they not received the benefit of 30 years' worth of postmodernist/deconstructionist machinations that gave them undue advantage owing to their presumed mantle of past grievances on account of race and gender.
One woman who unabashedly leapfrogged her way into the Senate on the back of a still-sitting President, her husband. And the other frontrunner, Obama, has absolutely nothing on his resume but stints in academia, political organizing, a do-nothing state senate gig, and the office of a Senator, which he has shamefully used as nothing more than a launch pad for his audacious attempted catapult into the White House.
By offering us two nominees and a presumed candidate whose demographic background outweighs considerations of experience and merit, the Democratic Party is undermining, deconstructing really, its own brand, traditionally built on the pose of championing the little guy.
We, the citizenry, are being asked at this juncture to literally turn our time-tested demand for a presidential resume check completely on its ear. We are asked to give advantages to Barack Obama on account of his racial mix that we would never give to a white male, and as some have surmised even to a white female, in the same position. We are being asked to deconstruct the most powerful political position in the world.
One of the pet "methods" of deconstruction, I'm told, is the critique of binary oppositions. It's proposed by deconstructionists that there are classic dualities in Western thought, which give privileged position to one term over the other, the favored position always going to the meaning most associated with the phallus. Puh-lease. But, okay, let's play along. A few of the most oft noted binary oppositions in Western thought are: fullness over emptiness, meaning over meaninglessness, identity over difference and life over death.
And, yes, as a mere product of my wholly Western thought, I do tend quite naturally to give a positive weight to fullness over emptiness, meaning over meaninglessness, identity over difference and life over death. Mere common sense would seem to dictate these positive connotations, in my own mind, whether one is Western, Eastern or anything else.
But according to the deconstructionists, if I want to throw my full support to candidate Obama, then I must literally force myself to go completely athwart these Western tendencies, and opt to reverse them.
I must accept that Obama's nearly empty resume for the Presidency is actually better than McCain's full resume.
I must accept that Obama's meaningless, non-defined rhetoric is actually better than McCain's meaningful, painstakingly defined rhetoric and plans.
I must accept that Obama's difference, in terms of his racial makeup is actually better than McCain's common identity with my own. Whatever happened to Martin Luther King's insistence on a colorblind society?
So far, Obama's only plans worth noting are to disarm America and turn over vast amounts of our wealth to refortify failing dictatorships in third-world countries. If accomplished, this will amount to nothing less than handing over our sovereignty and liberty in favor of bondage to international consensus.
I must accept that Obama's death plan for America, the Land that I love, is actually better than McCain's life plan to preserve and protect our liberty.
I might as well go a bit further with the deconstructionists and throw in another purely Western assumption. Liberty over bondage. Yes, it's true. Color me prejudiced to the core of my being.
I actually will prefer to my dying day, with the last breath I draw, as God is my witness, liberty over bondage.
I'm hopelessly, irretrievably, to the marrow of my bones, an American. And I will not give my one vote, earned by the precious sacrifice of millions before me, to a deconstructionist, affirmative-action candidate. The Presidency of the United States of America is not now, nor should it ever be, an entitlement.
Whatever precautions you take so the photograph will look like this or that, there comes a moment when the photograph surprises you. It is the other's gaze that wins out and decides. - Jacques Derrida, Father of Deconstructionist Theory
Soon enough, the voters' gaze will be on Barack Obama -- the unblinking eye of a people choosing their leader in perilous times.
Barack Obama's Lost Years
The senator's tenure as a state legislator reveals him to be an old-fashioned, big government, race-conscious liberal.
Barack Obama's neighborhood newspaper, the Hyde Park Herald, has a longstanding tradition of opening its pages to elected officials-from Chicago aldermen to state legislators to U.S. senators. Obama himself, as a state senator, wrote more than 40 columns for the Herald, under the title "Springfield Report," between 1996 and 2004. Read in isolation, Obama's columns from the state capital tell us little. Placed in the context of political and policy battles then raging in Illinois, however, the young legislator's dispatches powerfully illuminate his political beliefs. Even more revealing are hundreds of articles chronicling Obama's early political and legislative activities in the pages not only of the Hyde Park Herald, but also of another South Side fixture, the Chicago Defender.
Obama moved to Chicago in order to place himself in what he understood to be the de facto "capital" of black America. For well over 100 years, the Chicago Defender has been the voice of that capital, and therefore a paper of national significance for African Americans. Early on in his political career, Obama complained of being slighted by major media, like the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Yet extensive and continuous coverage in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald presents a remarkable resource for understanding who Obama is. Reportage in these two papers is particularly significant because Obama's early political career-the time between his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and his race for U.S. Senate in 2004-can fairly be called the "lost years," the period Obama seems least eager to talk about, in contrast to his formative years in Hawaii, California, and New York or his days as a community organizer, both of which are recounted in his memoir, Dreams from My Father. The pages of the Hyde Park Herald and the Chicago Defender thus offer entr,e into Obama's heretofore hidden world.
What they portray is a Barack Obama sharply at variance with the image of the post-racial, post-ideological, bipartisan, culture-war-shunning politician familiar from current media coverage and purveyed by the Obama campaign. As details of Obama's early political career emerge into the light, his associations with such radical figures as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Reverend James Meeks, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn look less like peculiar instances of personal misjudgment and more like intentional political partnerships. At his core, in other words, the politician chronicled here is profoundly race-conscious, exceedingly liberal, free-spending even in the face of looming state budget deficits, and partisan. Elected president, this man would presumably shift the country sharply to the left on all the key issues of the day-culture-war issues included. It's no wonder Obama has passed over his Springfield years in relative silence.
THE CENTRALITY OF RACE
Any rounded treatment of Obama's early political career has got to give prominence to the issue of race. Obama has recently made efforts to preemptively blunt discussion of the race issue, warning that his critics will highlight the fact that he is African American. Yet the question of race plays so large a role in Obama's own thought and action that it is all but impossible to discuss his political trajectory without acknowledging the extent to which it engrosses him. Obama settled in Chicago with the declared intention of "organizing black folks." His first book is subtitled "A Story of Race and Inheritance," and his second book contains an important chapter on race. On his return to Chicago in 1991, Obama practiced civil rights law and for many years taught a seminar on racism and law at the University of Chicago. When he entered the Illinois senate, it was to represent the heavily (although not exclusively) minority 13th district on the South Side of Chicago. Indeed, race functions for Obama as a kind of master-category, pervading and organizing a wide array of issues that many Americans may not think of as racial at all. Understanding Obama's thinking on race, for example, is a prerequisite to grasping his views on spending and taxation. Thus, we have no alternative but to puzzle out the place of race in Obama's broader political outlook as well as in his legislative career.
When it comes to issues like affirmative action and set-asides, Obama is anything but the post-racial politician he's sometimes made out to be. Take set-asides. In 1998, Obama endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Schmidt, stressing to the Defender Schmidt's past support for affirmative action and set-asides. Although Obama was generally pleased by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 acceptance of racial preferences at the University of Michigan, he underscored the danger that Republican-appointed justices might someday overturn the ruling. The day after the Michigan decision, Obama honored the passing of former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson Jr., eulogizing Jackson for creating model affirmative action and set-aside programs that spread across the nation.
In 2004, a U.S. District Court disallowed the ordinance under which Chicago required the use of at least 25 percent minority business enterprises and 5 percent women's business enterprises on city-funded projects. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Obama and Jesse Jackson were among the prominent voices calling for a black leadership summit to plot strategy for a restoration of Chicago's construction quotas. Obama and his allies succeeded in bringing back race-based contracting.
Prominent among those allies were two of Obama's earliest and strongest political supporters, Hyde Park aldermen Toni Preckwinkle and Leslie Hairston. These two are known as fierce advocates of set-asides and key orchestrators of demonstrations and public-relations campaigns against businesses that question race-based contracting. When, in 2001, construction work was planned for South Lake Shore Drive, a major artery that connects Hyde Park to the rest of Chicago, Preckwinkle and Hairston seized the occasion to call for an extraordinary 70 percent minority quota on contracts for the project. They even demanded that, for the sake of race-based hiring, normal contractor eligibility requirements be waived. Then when work on South Lake Shore Drive was not awarded to minority contractors, a group consisting of Preckwinkle, Hairston, two neighboring aldermen, and numerous activists staged a surprise raid on the construction site, shutting it down and forcing the contractor to hire more blacks. A raid on a second construction site collapsed when several blacks were found already at work on the project. (The aldermen said these African-American laborers had been hired at the last minute to stymie their protest.)
Biographical treatments of Obama tend to stress the tenuous nature of his black identity-his upbringing by whites, his elite education, his home in Chicago's highly integrated Hyde Park, personal tensions with black legislators, and questions about whether Obama is "black enough" to represent African Americans. These concerns over Obama's racial identity are overblown. On race-related issues Obama has stood shoulder to shoulder with Chicago's African-American politicians for years.
Occasionally, Obama has even gotten out in front of them. In 1999, for example, he made news by calling on the governor to appoint a minority to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), a body that had previously attracted little notice among Chicago's blacks. In 2000, the Chicago Defender named Obama one of a number of "Vanguards for Change," citing him for "focusing on legislation in areas previously unexplored by the African-American community including his call that a person of color be appointed to the ICC." Obama did bring a somewhat different background and set of interests to the table. Yet the upshot was to expand the frontiers of race-based politics.
And the story doesn't end with Obama's support for set-asides. A Chicago Defender story of 1999 features a front-page picture of Obama beside the headline, "Obama: Illinois Black Caucus is broken." In the accompanying article, although Obama denies demanding that black legislators march in perfect lockstep, he expresses anger that black state senators have failed to unite for the purpose of placing a newly approved riverboat casino in a minority neighborhood. The failed casino vote, Obama argues, means that the black caucus "is broken and needs to unite for the common good of the African-American community." Obama continues, "The problem right now is that we don't have a unified agenda that's enforced back in the community and is clearly articulated. Everybody tends to be lone agents in these situations."
Speaking in reply to Obama was Mary E. Flowers, an African-American state senator who apparently broke black caucus discipline and voted to approve the casino's location in a nonminority area. Said Flowers: "The Black Caucus is from different tribes, different walks of life. I don't expect all of the whites to vote alike. Why is it that all of us should walk alike, talk alike and vote alike? I was chosen by my constituents to represent them, and that is what I try to do." Given Obama's supposedly post-racial politics, it is notable that he should be the one demanding enforcement of a black political agenda against "lone agents," while another black legislator appeals to Obama to leave her free to represent her constituents, black or white, as she sees fit.
Obama's fight to unify the black caucus on the casino vote was undertaken in partnership with state senator Donne Trotter. Yet nearly every biographical account of Obama lavishes attention on Trotter's claim that Obama was just a "white man in black face." The significance of that bit of campaign hype, offered while Trotter was running against Obama for Congress, has been exaggerated, perhaps because Trotter's epithet helps to defuse the notion that Obama himself practices race-based politics. Yet Obama does exactly that. His public legislative cooperation with Trotter, and with other black Illinois politicians, yields more insight into Obama's political plans than any electoral rhetoric or private intra-black-caucus backbiting. To the extent that Obama can be accused of having shaky "black credentials," that very accusation pushes him to practice race-conscious politics all the more energetically.
When the 2000 census revealed dramatic growth in Chicago's Hispanic and Asian populations alongside a decline in the number of African Americans, the Illinois black caucus was alarmed at the prospect that the number of blacks in the Illinois General Assembly might decline. At that point, Obama stepped to the forefront of the effort to preserve as many black seats as possible. The Defender quotes Obama as saying that, "while everyone agrees that the Hispanic population has grown, they cannot expand by taking African-American seats." As in the casino dispute, Obama stressed black unity, pushing a plan that would modestly increase the white, Hispanic, and Asian population in what would continue to be the same number of safe black districts. As Obama put it: "An incumbent African-American legislator with a 90 percent district may feel good about his reelection chances, but we as a community would probably be better off if we had two African-American legislators with 60 percent each."
Obama's intensely race-conscious approach may surprise Americans who know him primarily through his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention of 2004. When Obama so famously said, "There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America-there's the United States of America," most Americans took him to be advocating a color-blind consciousness of the kind expressed in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that his children would one day be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Anyone who understood Obama's words that way should know that this is not the whole story. In an essay published in 1988 entitled "Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City," Obama tried to make room for both "accommodation and militancy" in black political engagement. He wrote,
The debate as to how black and other dispossessed people can forward their lot in America is not new. From W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and board-room negotiations. The lines between these strategies have never been simply drawn, and the most successful black leadership has recognized the need to bridge these seemingly divergent approaches.
However his views may have evolved in the ensuing 20 years, Obama surely knew that the King-like rhetoric of his keynote address would be taken by most Americans as a repudiation of the kind of race-based politics he and his closest allies have consistently practiced throughout his electoral career. It's difficult to gauge the extent to which Obama may have consciously permitted this misunderstanding to take hold, or the extent to which he still believes that the opposition between "integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy" is a false one. Neither alternative is particularly encouraging.
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Obama has made a point of refusing the liberal label. While running for Congress against Bobby Rush in late 1999 and early 2000, however, Obama showed no such compunction. At a November 1999 candidate forum, the Hyde Park Herald reported that "there was little to distinguish" the candidates, who "struggled to differentiate themselves" ideologically. Acknowledged Obama, "[W]e're all on the liberal wing of the Democratic party." Indeed, the common political ideology of the candidates was a theme in Herald coverage throughout the race. Rush's background suggests what that ideology was: A Chicago icon and former Black Panther, Rush received a 90 percent rating in 2000, and a 100 percent rating in 1999, from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Both years the American Conservative Union rated him at zero percent.
So how exactly did these two liberal candidates "struggle to differentiate" themselves in debate? During a candidate forum, for example, when Rush bragged that since entering Congress, he hadn't voted to approve a single defense budget, Obama pounced, accusing Rush of having voted for the Star Wars missile defense system the previous year. Since that contest, Obama's liberalism hasn't exactly been a secret to the folks back home. In 2002, Obama himself could speak hopefully of plans "to move a progressive agenda" through the state legislature, and local observers commonly identified Obama as a "progressive." When it endorsed him for the U.S. Senate in 2004, the Chicago Defender proclaimed Obama "represents renewal of the liberal, humanitarian cause." The Defender went on to assure readers that Obama would support "progressive action" in Washington.
The most interesting characterization came from Obama himself, who laid out his U.S. Senate campaign strategy for the Defender in 2003: "[A]s you combine a strong African-American base with progressive white and Latino voters, I think it is a recipe for success in the primary and in the general election." Putting the point slightly differently, Obama added, "When you combine an energized African-American voter base and effective coalition-building with other progressive sectors of the population, we think we have a recipe for victory." Obama consciously constructed his election strategy on a foundation of leftist ideology and racial bloc voting.
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