Another update from Hawaii
When Barack Obama first showed up in a Hawaii classroom at the age of 10 in 1971, the white kids tittered at his dark skin and a red-haired girl tried to touch his curly black hair. On learning that his father was an African tribesman, one of his classmates asked him if he ate people. A very different reception awaited Obama when he returned to the islands of his birth on Friday to begin a week-long family holiday. It was the first time the Democratic presidential contender had returned to his childhood home since he declared himself a candidate for the White House; he has since become, by a wide margin, the most famous Hawaiian native in history.
In his memoir Dreams from My Father, he painted a lyrical portrait of his upbringing with Gramps and Toot, the white grandparents who raised him while his mother worked in Indonesia: "Even now, I can retrace the first steps I took as a child and be stunned by the beauty of the islands ... the trembling blue plane of the Pacific ... the moss-coloured cliffs ... the North Shore's thunderous waves." His wife, Michelle, has said you "can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii". His half-sister, Maya, whom he will be seeing in Honolulu this week, calls Hawaii "such a generally sweet place ... you can come back here from almost anywhere and refresh yourself mentally".
It sounds the perfect place to cure the affliction that is becoming known as "Obama fatigue". It's not just that the 47-year-old Illinois senator is weary after a year of campaigning; it's more that Americans seem to be wearying of too much news about him. Apart from an obligatory public meeting, a Democratic fundraising dinner and a string of photo opportunities, Obama hopes to spend his week swimming in the Pacific, practising basketball [Is it racist to mention that?], eating ice cream with his daughters, playing Scrabble with his family and avoiding all questions about awkward issues such as his vice-presidential choice, his relations with Hillary Clinton and his big speech to the Democratic convention, which will open in Denver on August 25.
His aides hope a low profile will help to reverse a disturbing trend in opinion polls and media reporting that has portrayed Obama as over-exposed and increasingly vulnerable to mocking attacks by his Republican opponent and late-night comedians. David Letterman joked last week that Obama had become so confident he was proposing to change the name of Oklahoma to "Oklabama". Jay Leno quipped that when Obama was asked about perceptions he was arrogant, "he said he was above having to answer that question". A survey from the Pew Research Centre last week found that 51 per cent of independent voters felt they had been "hearing too much" about Obama.
Republican rival John McCain revived his moribund campaign with a series of crude but effective videos comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and other celebrities, and has scored again with a web video that likens Obama to Moses and mocks him as "The One", which has had more than a million hits. McCain's hard-hitting advertising campaign has turned the 71-year-old Republican into an improbable success on YouTube, the video-sharing website, where Obama has long ruled as the US's most-watched politician. McCain's videos attracted more viewers than Obama's for seven days in a row last week, and on 11 of the previous 14 days. He attracted even more attention when Hilton weighed in with a video of her own about "that wrinkly white-haired guy ... the oldest celebrity in the world".
All this has sent a frisson of doubt through the Democratic ranks, where memories of senator John Kerry's implosion against George W. Bush four years ago are still raw. "Democrats are worried," said Tad Devine, a former Kerry strategist. "We've been through two very tough elections at the national level and it's easy to lose confidence."
Even though Obama edged back into a slim lead in the opinion polls last week, some Democrats remain concerned that by sticking to the high road and refusing to "go negative" on McCain, he is allowing a Kerry-like image of aloofness to stick. "I would answer back hard," said senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who is renowned for his street-fighting instincts. "What do you mean, Obama isn't one of us? It's John McCain who wears $500 Italian shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state. It's Barack Obama that climbed up the hard way."
Obama sent his wife to argue his case on television chatshows. "It's funny to have anybody characterise Barack as an elitist," she said. "You know, this kid who was raised by a single mother ... has walked away his entire life from lucrative careers to work in the community."
What worries many Democrats is that Obama's success in raising campaign funds directly from donors through the internet and elsewhere has in effect marginalised the independent groups who might instead have acted as surrogates in attacking McCain. The Republicans have long relied on surrogate supporters to do their dirty work -- notably the Swift Boat veteran group that smeared Kerry's Vietnam War record. But at least one Democratic group that formed with the intention of attacking McCain has disbanded for lack of funds.
Relaxing at his luxury hotel in Hawaii this week, Obama will survey a battlefield that has changed dramatically since he addressed 200,000 cheering Germans last month. Even that iconic moment has become grist to McCain's mill -- in one of his best lines in the campaign so far, the Arizona senator told a rally of all-American Harley-Davidson motorcycle fans in South Dakota: "As you may know, not long ago a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day."
The good news for Obama is that Hawaii seems to offer a blissful respite from the campaign grind. Not all his childhood memories were magical -- he was once derided as a "coon", and by his own admission, "dabbled in drugs and alcohol". He may also have some apologising to do to his 86-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whom he incautiously described earlier this year as "a typical white woman" who feared black crime.
Stars & Stripes Dumped for Obama Symbol
Presumptive Democrat candidate Barack Obama recently remodeled his campaign airplane at a cost of $500,000. Changes included new paint and removal of the Stars and Stripes from the tail. In place of the American flag, his personal crest/icon, the Obama symbol, is now displayed.
Before and after above
I believe it would be hard to dispute the contention that Barack Obama is displaying a high, arguably outlandish, degree of arrogance. He has replaced a revered symbol of the United States of America with his personal icon while in the middle of an election campaign for the job of President of the United States of America.
Previously, Obama arrogantly refused to put his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem and he also scoffed at the practice of wearing an American flag lapel pin. Now, he replaces the Stars and Stripes with his personal symbol.
I'm certain that Obama wants to be the leader of the free world, however, I'm not at all certain about whether Obama has an innate love and reverence for the United States as a nation.
In contrast to Obama, I personally could never nonchalantly disrespect the symbols of freedom and democracy and I'm not running for public office.
The generally Left-leaning Snopes site does its best to downplay the change.
A small rant about Snopes: Moral tales that reinforce conservative thinking are described by Snopes using a specially invented derogatory term -- as a "glurge". Note also here where Snopes did their best to cast aspersions on a wonderful true story about President Bush. Their description of the story as "multiple" (meaning "partly true") is a disgrace. See also here for another demolition of Snopes
Obama's Dual Citizenship Disaster: an Overview
Since the story broke late Saturday that Barack Obama's real Birth Certificate, now in Republican hands, has the name Barry Soetoro and not Barack Obama, as we predicted a couple of weeks ago, I notice that many people are still confused about the implications of dual citizenship for Obama. The matter is somewhat complex, so I've decided to try to provide a summary, with the help of resident expert "Judah Benjamin."
Soetoro is the name on Obama's Birth Certificate (BC) because a new BC was issued when he was adopted by Lolo Soetoro, his step-father. His original BC, which we assume was issued for Barack Hussein Obama at birth, would have been sealed at the time of the adoption.
Barry Soetoro probably acquired Indonesian citizenship in approximately 1965-1966, and may still hold it. He possibly changed his legal name back to Barack Hussein Obama as an older child, teenager, or adult, possibly never did - but even if he did, this procedure would not result in a change to the BC. (If he never legally changed his name back, I imagine his current name on the Presidential ballot would be invalid.)
The Birth Certificate published by Obama on his campaign website (still there, by the way) and distributed to the media was forged because the real BC on file is in the name Soetoro, an identity he apparently wanted to hide from the American people. I am getting reports from different sources that Obama traveled to Pakistan in `81 with an Indonesian passport.
Prior to 2007 (and possibly earlier), Indonesian law did not permit dual citizenship. Thus, if Obama actively kept his Indonesian citizenship, his US citizenship could be challenged. I suspect that Obama may have dumped his Indonesian citizenship at some point along the way, to advance his political career. But I would not be shocked if he still holds it. This question, however, should not overshadow the serious problem of hiding his Indonesian identity from the electorate.
I personally doubt that Obama holds Kenyan citizenship. If he did, he could be stripped of his US citizenship under US law. Barack Hussein Obama probably was a citizen of the British Crown (first two years of his life) and, effective 1963, a citizen of Kenya by virtue of his father's nationality.
Under the Constitution of Kenya, he would have automatically forfeited his citizenship at the age of 21 unless he affirmatively "claimed" it. If he took some action to keep his citizenship, that's a big problem because 1) Kenya prohibits dual citizenship and 2) the US does not recognize dual citizenship with Kenya. Further under the Kenyan Constitution, given his circumstances, he could only have kept Kenyan Citizenship, if he had it, by means of a Ministerial, Prime Ministerial, or Presidential Decree. (Of course, Raila Odinga is Prime Minister of Kenya and Odinga's father, Oginga Odinga, was Vice President of Kenya and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr, was a close ally of the older Odinga.)
If Obama retained his Kenyan citizenship and helped campaign for his cousin Odinga, that is especially problematic under Title 8 of the U.S. Code, the relevant language of which is:
a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality-
(2) taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after having attained the age of eighteen years.
Again, I don't think that Obama has Kenyan citizenship. I think that the Rocky Mountain report and Andy Martin's work are poorly sourced on this point. I sometimes get the impression that Kenya serves as a diversion from the REAL PROBLEM, which is his Indonesian connection. It would be shocking to get actual confirmation of current Kenyan citizenship.
Electability & Eligibility Issues
These revelations raise several troubling issues for Obama's electability and eligibility. Foremost, there is the concerted attempt to cover up his Indonesian background and dual citizenship/identity from the electorate. Secondly, there is a potential Constitutional problem with a POTUS having held dual citizenship, and Obama knows it; thus, the deception.
The "natural-born" clause of Article II is commonly understood to relate to the place of birth, but more accurately relates to loyalty to country as Commander in Chief. That was the original intent of the founding fathers. In McCain's case, there is no question because of his circumstances (born on military base to 2 US citizens, later joined the military, never had anything to do with Panama, etc.). In Obama's case, it's not nearly so clear, especially given his travels, relatives, and associations in some of these other countries.
In my mind, however, the biggest problem is that Sen. Obama has intentionally concealed his background, Indonesian identity, citizenship, and the fact that he was at one time Muslim. What else is he hiding?
Inflated Tires Are Not a National Energy Policy
Now that John McCain has ever so slyly maneuvered Paris Hilton into the Presidential race to drain feminist votes from Barack Obama, we can only hope her stunning announcement video - delivered pool side in a stylin' leopard print swimsuit - will elevate the debate. It certainly cannot get much sillier. Who knew when the McCain campaign made that commercial featuring Barack Obama, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Obama would turn out to be the more vacuous celebrity?
Britney has seemingly declined public service in favor of making a lesbian killer stripper movie with Quentin Tarantino. But Paris struck immediately with her energy policy statement: "We can do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars..Energy crisis solved, I'll see you at the debates."
The McCain campaign was quick to commend her for supporting drilling, putting Obama in the same lunch meat sandwich that McCain and Mrs. Clinton used, reasonably effectively back during the primaries.
It must be remembered that Obama's first response to $4.00 a gallon gasoline was to propose no solution at all but merely to remark on the disruption of the abrupt rise to that point. Back then, he opposed just about everything except some weird concept of a "green economy" based on "green jobs" etcetera. He hadn't even thought about buying votes with oil company money at $1000 a pop. Back then, though, 70% of the people weren't getting all grumpy and unruly over energy policy.
Only when electoral handwriting was covering the wall did Obama come forth with his plan that Americans should stop whining about more production of American energy resources and just properly inflate our tires. In the beginning, we thought that was just some Obama throwaway line, used to dodge the hard issue. But the guy seems serious and keeps on harping on it.
It is far too boring to no good end to elucidate the specific flaws in Obama's energy policy brainstorm, ever so reminiscent of President Jimmy Carter's turn-out-the-lights absurdity. Let's accept that it is a good idea to keep our tires properly inflated, as most Americans do, for numerous reasons. But that, friends, is a matter of individual conservation. It is not a national government energy policy, which impacts far more than how you drive and care for your vehicle of choice or necessity, far more than temporal energy prices, whatever they are.
Whatever Obama says about energy policy, remember this. He is joined at the political hips to Nancy Pelosi, who will allow no vote on oil drilling in the House, and Harry Reid, who believes that "oil makes us sick." That is the troika who will rule the federal government if Obama is elected. Obama is joined by philosophy and political necessity to every radical environmental group that can be named - those that have prevented reasonable national energy policies for decades.
Are John McCain's currently enunciated energy positions better than Obama's? Yes, but he's not yet near where he should be either. Arguing to drill offshore but not in a tiny desolate sliver of ANWR, for example, is both strange and incongruent. A true national energy policy is that which encourages and allows development of each and every form of U.S. energy production that is feasible, cost effective and safe in the least amount of time. National security and national economic sustenance are far more important than any other factors.
Is conservation an element of a reasonable policy? Of course it is. Should legitimate environmental concerns be factored in? Of course they should. But the former won't get us near the end zone and the latter should not be used as a blunderbuss to stop even a first down.
In her announcement video, Paris Hilton said, "I want America to know I'm, like, totally ready to lead." How's that different from what the major candidates are saying, with only marginally more substance?
Obama's No. 1 Media Problem
MarketWatch Media Columnist Jon Friedman Says Democrat Better Get Used To Probing, Critical Coverage
I'm starting to worry about Barack Obama. From a journalistic perspective, he seemed like such a refreshing departure from the oft-paranoid media relations practiced by Bill and Hillary Clinton and the two George Bushes. Now I'm not so sure.
Too often, Obama and his handlers have overreacted to what we've come to accept as frivolous, basically harmless "coverage" by the celebrity-obsessed mainstream media. Two examples of him getting his back up: Obama made a federal case of the appearance by his daughters on "Access Hollywood" and he was snippy with reporters when he was pressed about his unexpected email friendship with actress Scarlett Johansson. Sure, these are minor events. But if he is going to be anal about the small stuff, it may get ugly if he loses his composure about something important.
Obama has staked his claim by offering American voters a fresh voice and a strong sense of optimism about the future. When he was on the way up, he was the favorite son of the media, who heaped almost unprecedented praise on him. Now that he has all but secured the Democratic nomination, Obama has shown little patience for standard media practices, which can range from silly to stupid.
The Obama team may still think the "old" rules apply. By old, I'm referring to the kid-gloves treatment the media gave him when he was an up and comer and Hillary Clinton was heavily favored to secure the Democratic nomination. Even before Obama stunned Clinton by winning the Iowa caucus, the first high-profile showdown between the rivals last fall, the media had all but decreed that Obama would be their darling, the one who could do no wrong. If Obama was designated "hero," the media had to find a "villain" to complete the convenient story line and, of course, Hillary Clinton was consigned to wear the black hat.
That was then. Now, Obama and his staff must accept the reality that the game has changed as he prepares to battle John McCain. As PBS anchor Jim Lehrer told me a few weeks ago, it wasn't so long ago that McCain was the media's darling. The story line the media love best is to hail the candidate who was down, but not out, and somehow rallied to achieve a stirring victory. This is McCain's saga over the past year.
Obama has to realize that he will be subject to increasing scrutiny as the campaign really heats up. What we've seen so far is the orchestra tuning up. The real show begins after Labor Day, as the Obama-McCain debate season begins to take shape.
The mainstream media, as well as bloggers who have a point of view, will seek to exploit any situation as a way to create news. Don't forget that all hell broke loose when the New Yorker, which you'd think was solidly behind Obama in his fight against McCain, published (I thought) a biting and witty look at the stereotypical way many Americans view Barack and Michelle Obama. Still, some accused the magazine of exploiting Obama and his wife. Others said it was a racially insensitive cover. These critics completely missed the point that the New Yorker was mocking bigots in the strongest fashion. Or, perhaps, they wanted to miss the point as a way to advance their arguments.
Members of Barack Obama's campaign thought he got a raw deal from the media during his battle with Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. Perhaps they were just trying to stir an argument because any fair-minded observer could see that Clinton was the one should have felt mistreated by the press. Obama had better toughen up -- fast. The media spotlight -- or is it a glare? -- will only get brighter in the months leading up to Election Day. Expect the incessant charges that Obama is too inexperienced and unprepared to be president and a Pollyanna cockeyed optimist to get more shrill, too.
Obama has resented the media for treating him like a presidential candidate -- someone with a personal life, a family and a past. He had better get used to it. The pace is sure to quicken between now and Election Day. And if you win, Mr. President-Elect, look out. Things can only get worse.
Barack Obama, Movie Star
The Los Angeles Times has a doozy of an op-ed today by Neal Gabler - "Obama: star of his own movie" which makes the case Obama's "'celebrity' comes from an emotional identity with voters, not from 'rock star' hysteria." I suppose it's possible that sometime between now and November I'll read a more shallow op-ed preening with self-satisfaction over its lofty conceit. But I'm thinking that's unlikely:
Critics, not least of all John McCain, have complained that this is merely windy rhetoric - high-blown but ultimately empty. Eventually, they say, Obama will come back to Earth the way rock stars do when the concert ends. But this misses the point of what Obama has tapped into, as well as the point of movie stardom itself. Yes, politicians can declaim themes, and Obama is doing that. Yet Obama is not just declaiming his theme the way most politicians have. He has lived it, which is why it has been so effective.
Of course McCain is a hero in his own right, but his narrative is familiar - it's a war movie after all - and his feat is that of having survived, which in a Hollywood film is not the same thing as having led the rescue.
Now the writer is correct - the criticism of Obama is that he's just declaiming themes, but what pray tell is the evidence that Obama has lived such "high-blown" themes as change and hope, much less led the rescue of anything? Is he referring to his accomplishments in the Senate, of which there really are none? Is it how he spent years valiantly railing against the corrupt Chicago political establishment, which never happened?
As for the inane movie star conceit, is Gabler really dissmissing John McCain's narrative as a P.O.W. as familiar and a pedestrian tale of "survival"? Because the stories of courageous P.O.W.'s have never been fodder for classic movies. Or is Gabler just unaware that McCain's life story is more compelling than most, such that they've already made a movie out of it?
I presume Gabler thinks what we really need is a movie about a sensitive young man who, despite being raised in relative affluence, overcomes a negative self-image brought on by his racist grandmother before going on to a triumphal and dynamic episode as editor of the Harvard Law Review, eventually rising through the ranks of the Illinois legislature where he succeeds by mastering the art of voting "present," before dipping his toe in the Senate so he can be crowned leader of free world. For my money, that sounds about as exciting as Phonebook: The Movie.
Or more likely, McCain pegged Obama yesterday when he said, "Taking in my opponent's performances is a little like watching a big summer blockbuster, and an hour in realizing that all the best scenes were in the trailer you saw last fall."
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