Note on sources: You can follow the links here, as I’ve linked to sources for nearly all the factual assertions, and mark additional sources with an asterisk *. Where appropriate I’ve indicated sources whose credibility I was uncertain of, but have generally tried to avoid citing much in the way of rumor. Fairly late in the game in assembling this post, I picked up David Freddoso’s book The Case Against Barack Obama, which examines a lot of these same issues in more depth and with copious footnotes. I’m indebted to Freddoso’s book for pointing me to additional sources in a handful of places, and for stories I’d missed like the Stroger saga, although in most cases I’ve cited additional web-based sources besides the book. I’d recommend the book and I refer the reader where possible to stories Freddoso has written up at more length.
Barack Obama talks a good game about being a reformer, a good government, “new politics” guy. But somehow his priorities never extended to actually doing anything that would rock the boat in Chicago politics or get in the way of his climb up the greasy pole of the Chicago machine. Instead, his rise has depended on the exchange of favors with crooked patrons and extremist friends and on the forebearance of the machine.
You will often hear Obama’s defenders argue that his ties to this or that extremist or corrupt figure is an isolated aberration, an example of “guilt by association”; that the various favors he dispensed with public money and private charitable foundation funds are nothing unusual in politics. But when you look at Obama’s record and biography taken together, what you see is that the favors, the extremists and the machine ties are all inextricably intertwined, and that far from being isolated incidents, Obama’s modus operandi of mutual back-scratching with radicals and crooks extends to nearly every aspect of his life and career – his family, his faith, his home, his jobs and education, his significant election victories and legislative “accomplishments,” his closest advisors and most important mentors, the money and organization that made up his campaigns.A. Rootless Ambition
“He’s always wanted to be President,” Valerie Jarrett, who has been a family friend for years, ever since she hired Michelle Obama to work in Mayor Daley’s office, says [of Obama]….”He didn’t always admit it, but oh, absolutely. The first time he said it to me, he said, ‘I just think I have some special qualities and wouldn’t it be a shame to waste them.’ I think it was during the early part of his U.S. senatorial campaign. He said, ‘You know, I just think I have something.'”
Michelle’s brother… recounted one of the first times [in the early 1990s] Michelle brought Barack to a party… When Craig asked about his career plans, Barack replied, “I think I’d like to teach at some point in time, and maybe even run for public office.” Craig assumed Barack wanted to run for a post like city alderman, but Barack let him know that his sights were set higher. “He said no, at some point he’d like to run for the U.S. Senate,” Craig recalled. “And then he said, ‘Possibly even run for president at some point.’
In Part I, I noted that Sarah Palin’s integrity finds its foundation in her apolitical roots, her background, upbringing and family life as far outside of politics in general and national politics in particular as you can get. But with Barack Obama, the opposite is true: Obama really has no roots outside of politics and his political worldview, apparently few close friends outside of politics, no real hometown, and unlike John McCain (who was raised as a Navy brat) no real continuity as he moved from place to place. He had an itinerant upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia and a nomadic college career in Los Angeles and New York, and wrote – affectingly – in his 1995 memoir about his search for identity. “That whole first year seemed like one long lie,” he wrote of his freshman year at Occidental College.
“I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years,” he wrote. “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though.”…In the book, Sen Obama recalls that he had “been headed” to the status of “junkie” or “pothead”, which he describes as “the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man”. He recalls smoking “reefer” in the backs of his friends’ vans, dorm rooms and “on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school”.
A careful reading of Obama’s first memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” reveals that his childhood mentor up to the age of 18 – a man he refers to only as “Frank” – was none other than the late communist Frank Marshall Davis, who fled Chicago after the FBI and Congress opened investigations into his “subversive,” “un-American activities.”
[T]he Obama campaign’s attack on [Jerome] Corsi’s book … acknowledges on pages 9 and 10 of its report that the mysterious “Frank” in Obama’s 1995 book, Dreams From My Father, is in fact the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) member Frank Marshall Davis.
Now, you can’t hold a man responsible for the family he was born into, or for his grandfather’s friends. Certainly it’s impressive by any measure how far Obama has come from where he started – part of his point in writing about his cocaine use, like George W. Bush’s drinking, is to show the road he chose to stop taking. But the best you can say about Obama’s roots and where they place him is that he arrived as a college student in Los Angeles and later Manhattan without the sort of support network and firm grounding that most Americans take for granted. Even after he started moving up the ladder of academia and community organizing, Obama remained an outsider wherever he went. For a decade between 1979 and 1989, he lived in four large, liberal cities, a single young man thousands of miles from his family with no faith and no real ties to the communities he lived in. At Columbia, for example, he lived with wealthy, drug-using Pakistanis and barely anyone remembers him. * As Charles Krauthammer has noted, Obama’s campaign has been decidedly short on personal testimonials from old friends.
Which raises the issue of what rushed in to fill the vaccum in Obama’s life in the years between 1979 and 1989. It wasn’t religion, it wasn’t family, it wasn’t community and it wasn’t even money – it was political activism.
(2) The Activist
“[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn’t want to be on one of those trains every day,” said Jerry Kellman, the community organizer who enticed Obama to Chicago from his Manhattan office job. “The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions… that was scary to him.”
Given that Barack Obama doesn’t have much in the way of accomplishments or biography – see the timeline of his career here – the tales told about him at the Democratic Convention focused heavily on his first real decision as an adult, to walk away from more lucrative job opportunities in the private sector to become a “community organizer” in Chicago for less money, followed by the same decision to forego life as a big-firm lawyer to work at a plaintiffs’ firm doing civil rights work after law school. Certainly the basics of this story speak well of Obama’s interest in things other than money, but the truth is more complicated, and reflects as much as anything the fact that Obama’s early career was driven by his political ambitions – the same ambitions that would lead him over and over again in his brief career to make accomodations with so many unsavory people and projects.
As you can see from the line about the New Rochelle train, Obama never wanted a job in the private sector. As even the New York Times notes of Obama’s time after graduating college, “In his memoir, he says he had decided to become a community organizer but could not persuade anyone to hire him. So he found ‘more conventional work for a year’ to pay off his student loans.”
[T]he man who hired Obama, Jerry Kellman, [is quoted] as saying that the $12,000 was Obama’s “training salary” for the first few months. “After three or four months, he was up to 20,000, and after three years he was probably making $35,000 or so.”In 1985, the year Obama began as a community organizer, that $20,000 would be the equivalent of $39,431.04 in 2007. His salary when he left Chicago to attend Harvard [L]aw School in 1988 would be the equivalent of $63,093.21 in 2007.
“I was introduced to him by a friend who was raising money for him and the friends name was Dr. Khalid al Mansour from Texas. He is the principle adviser to one of the world’s richest men. He told me about Obama. He wrote to me about him and his introduction was ‘there is a young man that has applied to Harvard and I know that you have a few friends left there becasue you used to go up there to speak, would you please write a letter in support of him?’…I wrote a letter in support of him to my friends at Harvard saying to them I thought there was a genius that was going to be available and I sure hoped they would treat him kindly.”
In their conversations, he described politics–and winning political office–as the most important step toward achieving change. And, instead of seeing Harold Washington as buffeted by forces beyond his control, he now aspired to be Washington. “He was fascinated by Mayor Washington,” says Kruglik. “Harold Washington inspired him to think about becoming a politician.” Kruglik says that Obama wanted to follow in the mayor’s footsteps: Washington had gone to law school, later becoming a state senator, then a congressman, and finally Chicago’s mayor. “He told me that he was thinking of running for mayor some day, ” Kruglik says.
Obama was part of a team of lawyers representing black voters and aldermen that forced Chicago to redraw ward boundaries that the City Council drew up after the 1990 census. They said the boundaries were discriminatory.After an appeals court ruled the map violated the federal Voting Rights Act, attorneys for both sides drew up a new set of ward boundaries.
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