"To avoid being mistaken for a sell-out, I chose my friends carefully." - Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father
As you well know, the election is nearly here. If you're like most people, you probably know a fair amount by now about Joe Plumber's background (he goes by his middle name! The horror!), and you may even have heard a bit about Palin's wardrobe, but you could likely tell me little to nothing about the background of Barack Obama, Presidential Hopeful. Well, that need no longer be the case! Before you, I lay an exhaustively researched probe of the various people who have been influenced him in his thinking and helped get him where he is today. At the risk of giving away the ending, it's not a pretty picture.
For reasons of space, I have had to omit a great deal. There are a number of ties I haven't even touched on in here. I have been careful to leave no claim unsourced, and have followed the data back to the most primary sources possible, so long as that didn't involve actually leaving the house.Reverend Wright
Let us suppose that you, like myself, are currently in the process of church shopping. Suppose further that in the course of time, you encounter a preacher who seems to have a real grudge against the US, or as he likes to call it "The US of KKK A." Responding to the 9/11 attacks, he declares that America essentially brought it on itself, and instead of "God bless America," we should say "God damn America. He makes some pretty outlandish accusations such as "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color," and that the government sells drugs to black people. He approvingly distributes press releases from Hamas as part of his Sunday Bulletin.
What would your reaction be? If you're Obama, you would apparently find such a man "deeply inspirational." Perhaps you'd even be inspired by such rhetoric to talk about the "Audacity of Hope." You'd bring your whole family to his church, have him marry you to your wife, and put your children under his tutelage. You'd keep this up for 20 years, without a peep of complaint.
You all know how the story ends. Once the spotlight got shown on Wright, he became terribly inconvenient for Obama, who was forced to pretend he was somehow unaware of the kinds of things Wright liked to say. And then, after Obama's stunning speech about how he could not disown Wright, the Reverend commited a grave sin: he declared that Obama was just acting like a politician. And so Obama dropped him, saying, "What angered me was his suggestion that my previous denunciations of his remarks were somehow political posturing." In other words, it is acceptable to blame the US for inventing AIDS, say 9/11 was our just desserts, and so on. But it is unacceptable to speak ill of Barack Obama.
On September 11, 2001, Osama Bin Laden used airplanes to bomb several targets, including the Pentagon. In fact, he was rather late to the party. Bill Ayers and the Weathermen had bombed the Pentagon 29 years earlier, a follow-up to their attacks on the Capital building, and the NY City Police Headquarters. To quote Ayers, "the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them." (Read this article for the perspective of one such "bastard," who was nine years old at the time.)
Ayers' biggest bombing, however, was targeted at Fort Dix, NJ. Ayers and his group constructed nail bombs to be set off in the middle of a dance being held for army soldiers. Multiple other mail bombs would be strategically located and timed to take out would-be rescuers as they hurried in. Had everything gone according to plan, the death toll could have been hundreds of soldiers, their girlfriends, and wives. Instead, a bomb detonated accidentally while being constructed, killing a few Weathermen, and putting Ayers on the run.
Thanks to a combination of prosecutorial misconduct, the statute of limitations, and being from a rich influential family, Ayers managed to evade conviction. Eventually, the Powers That Be did what I'm sure any one of us would do with an unrepentant terrorist: put him in charge of children's education. Ayers founded the Chicago Annenburg Challenge, ostensibly an "educational reform" group, but really a group dedicated to spreading his radical leftist views. Ayers saw something he liked in Obama, and so in 1995, Obama was chosen to head the board in the CAC's first year. By refusing to fund schools directly, and instead forcing them to partner with external groups, the CAC was able to fund numerous groups of leftist community organizers, including ACORN, currently at the center of a multi-state voter registration fraud scandal (more on that later). Groups doing work with unimportant subjects like math or science were turned down.
Obama stepped down from the board in 1999 to run for Congress. The CAC ran for another 3 years, running out the rest of its $140 million (1/3 of which was taxpayer money). In the end, the CAC's own analysis found that it had led to no improvement. If you've ever wondered why, when talking about education, Obama never mentions all his experience chairing an education board, this is probably why.
This was not their only collaboration. Obama also served on the Woods Fund from 1998 to 2001, where he served alongside Ayers once again (Ayers was part of the board of directors of this particular group). It was a profitable partnership for Ayers; Obama sent over $1 million Ayers' way while he was running the CAC, and got him another million during his time on the Woods Fund and Joyce Foundation.
The two continued to work together, appearing together at various speaking engagements, honoring Rashid Khalidi, and sharing the same floor of a smallish office building for several years. But all of this this really just icing on the cake.
You see, Ayers must have really liked Obama. So much so that he held a special get-together in his living room for Obama, and it was at this gathering that Obama launched his political career. That's right: a current candidate for president actually has a genuine terrorist as a one of his major political benefactors. It's so absurd you'd almost think it has to false; the only way it could be more absurd is if he were a genuine communist terrorist. Feel free to check the sources if you have doubts; this particular event has been corroborated by two attendees.
This section has grown ever-so-long, so let me just address one last issue. "Sure," you may be thinking, "Ayers did bad things back in the day, but Obama was only 8 then. Surely Ayers has since been rehabilitated." Alas, it is not so. You can find out as much from the man himself in a NY Times article published on, of all days, 9/11/2001. In his words, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." This was not a man who made a secret of his approval of violence and general hatred of the US (he even wrote a book about it, and we know that Obama was a fan of Ayers' books). So in the end, we not only have a known terrorist who saw his hopes in Obama, but we have Obama himself finding this man mainstream enough to work with and trade political favors with.
I would be remiss if I did not balance this out at least a little, so here's the official Obama response: people who talk about this should be criminally prosecuted.
With the elevation of a Chicago politician to the national scene, it should come as no surprise that Chicago-style voting has followed suit. At the center of all of this has been ACORN, which has been implicated for voter fraud in about 13 states, a stunning 2/3 of the states in which they ran voter drives. In a bold new attempt to get out the vote, ACORN has even gone so far as to register Mickey Mouse (no word yet on whether he was a Republican or Democrat). And my former home of Indianapolis can now boast 105% voter registration.
Of course, while the recent example are more egregious and wide-spread, this is certainly not the first time Acorn has pulled such stunts. Last year, Washington state saw ACORN forced to settle in the "worst case of voter-registration fraud in state history." 2006 saw convictions of ACORN workers in Wisconsin and Colorado, indictments in Missouri, and investigations in Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. They hardly stayed away from shady practices in 2004, either.
As any political idealist knows, when you find a group involved in large-scale voter fraud, the important thing is to make sure that they're on your side. And so it comes as no surprise that this is another organization whose ties to Obama go way back. You can get the details straight from an ACORN leader named Toni Foulkes:
"Obama took the case, known as ACORN vs. Edgar (the name of the Republican governor at the time) and we won. Obama then went on to run a voter registration project with Project VOTE in 1992 that made it possible for Carol Moseley Braun to win the Senate that year. Project VOTE delivered 50,000 newly registered voters in that campaign (ACORN delivered about 5,000 of them).Since then, we have invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office. Thus it was natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for U.S. Congress in 1996. By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends."
For bonus points, compare and contrast that with Obama's own changing explanations of his relationship to the group. (For what it's worth, Foulkes' time line isn't perfect; the lawsuit in question occurred in 1995, and Obama's failed bid was in 2000).
Of course, all that was a long time ago, so let's turn to more recent times. This year, the Obama campaign gave more than $800,000 to an ACORN offshoot. They also misreported that payment, although whether that is an insidious omission or a clerical error probably depends on your political alignment. This is a hefty chunk of change; way exceeding the $190,000 he sent their way while on the Woods Fund. You can safely assume that, if elected, he will continue to work to funnel your money towards such upstanding organizations. On the bright side, we can at least be sure he takes allegations of voter fraud seriously, as he has taken the bold step of requesting an investigation into those who make allegations of voter fraud.
Shockingly, countrywide voter fraud is actually not the most damning thing about ACORN. You're quite aware of the current financial crisis, and how it is rooted in the practice of giving out risky loans. What you may not be aware is that ACORN has been very active in pressuring financial institutions to give out such loans. You can read the details here, but I'll sum it up briefly. To be allowed to expand or merge, a bank has to show that it has complied with the requirement to make loans to riskier customers. This process can be held up if a group like ACORN files a complaint against you. This was a sword that they wielded to great effect, not only in encouraging bad loans, but in garnering millions of dollars worth of "donations" from financial institutions. ACORN and associated groups then pushed Fannie Mae to buy those risky loans, giving banks a strong financial incentive to give out bad loans without worrying about whether the debt could be repaid. Eventually, we got the current melt-down.
These efforts occurred with Obama's funding and knowledge. We can hope they do not represent the kinds of economic policies Obama would pursue if he were elected, but his track record suggests otherwise.
Speaking of which, I had a friend comment that even if Obama was a bit inexperienced, you couldn't deny that he has very smart advisors. This is true enough, in the same sense that Fannie Mae had intelligent advisors. In exactly the same sense, even, since in some case they're the same people.
Jim Johnson was the chairman and chief executive officer of Fannie Mae from 1991 to 1998. Six years after he left it was discovered that he had engaged in fraudulent accounting practices to hide about $200 million worth of expenses, allowing him to pocket an extra $2 million bonus. And so, a few years later, Obama chose Johnson to "lead the process" of choosing his vice-president. It was a short-lived alliance; Johnson had to step down when another scandal surfaced regarding some $2 million worth of sweetheart loans he'd taken. It should also be noted that he served as a money bundler for Obama, netting him $200,000-$500,00.
For those interested, there is also the somewhat-disputed Franklin Raines connection Raines was Fannie Mae's CEO from 1998 to 2004. Like Johnson before him, he engaged in shady accounting practices to protect his bonus. The Washington Post reported (more than once) that he had taken calls from Obama's campaign seeking advice on economic matters. The connection was undisputed until McCain made an ad about it, which Obama's spokeman was quick to label a "flat-out lie from a dishonorable campaign that is increasingly incapable of telling the truth." The matter remains unresolved.
One thing we know for sure: Fannie Mae loves Obama. In fact, he is their second favorite lawmaker. The only one to receive more money from them over the past ten years has been Chris Dodd, who is in charge of the committee that is supposed to oversee Fannie Mae.
That's enough for now. While I'd love to post a follow-up to explore other Obuddies such as the New Party, Tony Rezko, Rashid Kalidi, etc, it's probably just not going to happen in time for the election.
So, who is the real Obama? Is he a radical leftist like many of his mentors? Is he just an opportunistic Chicago politician, willing to hitch his wagon to any cause that will advance his career? I suspect the answer is somewhere in between, but even some who have known him for years aren't sure. I think we can at least safely say that he is not the transformational messianic new politician that his campaign has painted him as.