By Mona Charen
Barack Obama’s words are often attractive but oddly concealing. His speeches are all balm and mood. It’s all very well to seek, as Obama claims, to transcend old categories, to reject the “old politics.” But then what? This graceful rhetorician leaves you wondering: Who is he really? What does he want for himself and for his country?
In search of answers that go deeper than the Congressional Record, I read his first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.” Once you get past the happy surprise of finding a politician who can actually write, the book contains some disquieting elements.
Obama is the product of a union between a white Kansan and a black Kenyan who met in Hawaii. I had assumed, before reading his memoir, that Obama viewed himself as a natural bridge between the races and that his message of unity sprang in part from his biology. That was wrong. From his earliest years, Obama engaged in a preoccupying internal struggle to make himself a fully authentic black man.
Young Barack hardly knew his father because the elder Obama left when he was 2. One meeting when Barack was 10 and a few letters were all he had. Only much later would Obama discover that his father had many wives and many children — all of whom wound up disappointed in him. Barack’s mother, Ann, went on to marry another non-American, an Indonesian named Lolo, and took the young Barack to live in Jakarta. Perhaps she was hoping to live some sort of Third World idyll. Obama never reveals her political views nor her feelings about America. But we get one glimpse in this passage:
“Looking back, I’m not sure Lolo ever fully understood what my mother was going through … why the things he was working so hard to provide for her seemed only to increase the distance between them … He landed a job in the government relations department of an American oil company. … Sometimes I would overhear him and my mother arguing in their bedroom, usually about her refusal to attend his company dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.
‘They are not my people.'”
Grasping, insensitive Americans? Businesspeople? Or just Americans? Whom did she reject?
Whom does he reject — or what? Left-wing ideas are not so much articulated in this memoir as presumed. Obama has claimed that his experience living abroad gives him a valuable perspective for a chief executive. Yet his reflections on the effect Western capitalism has had on Jakarta and Chicago’s south side sound like warmed over Herbert Marcuse. “How could we go about stitching a culture back together after it was torn? How long might it take in this land of dollars? … The very existence of the factories, the timber interests, the plastics manufacturer, will have rendered their [Indonesian] culture obsolete; the values of hard work and individual initiative turn out to have depended on a system of belief that’s been scrambled by migration and urbanization and imported TV reruns.”
Obama’s self-portrait in this book is that of a searching, nonjudgmental young man attempting to find his rightful place after a confusing start in life. But he is attracted by the harshly ideological Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose church he joins. Wright peddles racial grievance religion. Following 9/11, he said, “[W]hite America got a wake-up call … White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”
Obama says he doesn’t agree with Wright about everything. Fine. And maybe he doesn’t agree with his wife when she (twice) said that she’d never been proud of her country until its people began to support her husband. But then, what did he mean when he said on March 4 that making a little girl proud to say she is an American is the “change we are calling for”?
One suspects that beneath the soothing talk, there is bitterness in the man that we’d best learn more about before voting.
While Debbie Stabenow’s endorsement isn’t new, she explains why she is supporting Hillary’s bid for the nomination. What’s always interesting is that so many of Hillary’s endorsements are from people whom have labored beside her and seen her in action.
Here’s the an excerpt of the piece:
…As colleagues in the U.S. Senate, I continue to be amazed by her commitment to the issues that matter most to middle-class Americans. She co-chairs the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, and understands the issues facing businesses and workers today who are struggling to compete in the global economy. Every day, Democrats in the Senate are fighting to protect our middle-class way of life in this country, and I am honored to have Hillary leading the charge.
She understands that health care is a right, not a privilege. In the greatest country in the world, something is wrong when hard-working families cannot afford health care for their children. Hillary understands the complex problems our health care system faces, and she has real solutions. When she’s President, I’m looking forward to working with her to pass universal health care.
I’ve watched Hillary on the Senate Armed Services Committee question Administration officials and hold them accountable. I know that on day one, she will be ready to serve as Commander-in-Chief.
And, as a fellow Great Lakes Senator, Hillary and I work closely together to protect the Great Lakes and our environment. We’ve worked together to ban oil and gas drilling in the Lakes, to stop the spread of invasive species, and to continue efforts to clean up pollution. She understands the importance of protecting our priceless natural resources for generations to come.
Pennsylvania isn’t a lock for HRC — yet
By: David Paul Kuhn
Mar 11, 2008 07:03 PM EST
Whether married or single, Clinton has an edge with white women voters.
With the support of the state’s political establishment and favorable demographic terrain, Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary is widely viewed as Hillary Clinton’s to lose.
But it’s hardly a lock, especially if Barack Obama can make inroads with a few key constituencies outside of his reliable base of affluent whites, liberals, African-Americans and the youth vote.
Here are the four blocs he’ll need to gain traction with if he expects to win Pennsylvania.
So far, senior citizens have been unwavering in their support for Hillary Clinton, usually delivering 3-to-1 and 2-to-1 margins for the former First Lady.
Obama must narrow that gap because Pennsylvania is especially senior—there are 2.2 million residents aged 62 or older, and its percentage of seniors is higher than the national average.
In the last three big primary contests —Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin—those 60 and older constituted between 22 and 29 percent of voters. By comparison, the youth vote— 29 and under—constituted just 16 percent of voters in the three states. Most recently, in winning Texas and Ohio, Clinton was able to win older voters by a larger margin than Obama was able to win young people.
When Obama runs more competitively among seniors — as in Wisconsin, where he kept his margin of defeat to around 10 percentage points — his strength among other groups is usually enough to power him to victory. His best bet will be among older men since older white women remain Clinton’s most ardent supporters.
Whether married or single, Clinton has an edge with white women voters. They have been the bedrock of her candidacy and proved critical to both her comebacks in New Hampshire and Ohio.
Most important, white women constitute the largest bloc of Democratic voters.
Obama will almost certainly not split this bloc. But in strategic terms, a good outcome would be to simply narrow Clinton’s advantage among white women. Under that scenario, due to the small Hispanic population in the state—another strong Clinton constituency—Obama could then surge to victory with the support of black voters and white men, provided he can win the latter.
Winning black voters will be the easy part for Obama. Judging from prior contests, at least 8 in 10 African Americans are likely to support Obama. They will be at least half the voters in Philadelphia, by far the state’s most populous city.
Should Clinton win these women by a 2-to-1 ratio, as she did in Ohio, Obama will almost certainly lose. But if he can accomplish what he did in Wisconsin, that is, narrow her lead to single digits and win the other key demographic groups, Obama will have a path to victory. At the moment, however, Quinnipiac shows Clinton holding a 2-to-1 advantage.
Obama’s best chance of making gains with white women is by appealing to younger women. His challenge is to frame himself as the candidate of change, and one concerned with pocket book issues, while respecting the symbolism of Clinton’s candidacy.
These are the culturally conservative Pennsylvania Democrats named for Robert Casey, the former governor who died in 2000. They are Pennsylvania’s species of Reagan Democrats, marked by their blue-collar backgrounds and a willingness to crossover for Republican candidates.
In 2006, these voters helped elect Bob Casey, the late governor’s son, to the Senate. Like his father, Casey is an opponent of abortion rights and gun control and strongly pro-labor.
Distributed across the state, though largely in the western half and in the northeast, they figure to be Clinton voters based on her past performance among similarly situated groups.
Clinton holds a double-digit lead among Pennsylvania voters without college degrees—generally a marker of the working class—while, according to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll of the state, Obama holds that same lead among voters with a college degree.
The problem for Obama is that those without college degrees are a larger share of the population in Pennsylvania, as they were in Wisconsin and Ohio. In Ohio, Clinton won these voters by about 20 percentage points. In Wisconsin, Obama won them by slightly more than double digits.
Many “Casey Democrats” are also white men and seniors. But white men, in particular, have been the swing vote in the 2008 Democratic primary race since Clinton has won Hispanics and white women in nearly every contest while Obama has never lost black voters.
To date, both Clinton and Obama have carried white males about a dozen times.
Clinton has depended on at least splitting the white male vote in Democratic primaries. When the white male vote splits between the two candidates, it tends to vault her to victory, as it did last week in Ohio.
In Pennsylvania, Obama will need to win white men by a double-digit margin to take the state—as he did in Wisconsin, where he won white men 63 percent to 37 percent.
For now, Quinnipiac shows this bloc splitting between the two – an ideal scenario for Clinton.
Obama’s burden in the state is especially difficult because Pennsylvania is a closed primary state.
That presents a problem for him since white men are overrepresented among independents. Those white male independents who have participated in prior open Democratic primary contests are right in Obama’s wheelhouse. But he is without them here.
Fire former Democratic VP candidate and Hillary Clinton advisor Geraldine Ferraro? She ought to get a merit badge pinned on her for having the guts to tell the truth. Ferraro got it right on both counts when she said that race has made a difference with Barack Obama. He has gotten a virtual free ride from much of the media. His paper thin voting record, lack of experience, zig zag stances on foreign policy issues, Republican lite positions on health care and the sub prime housing crisis, repeated subtle going negative against Hillary Clinton while giving himself a plausible deniability out and insuring that Clinton gets dumped on when she hits back has been blatantly obvious. The media and much of the public have kept hands off him in part out of sheer terror of being branded racist and in part out of hatred for Clinton. And that’s the other thing that Ferraro got right. She flatly called the media sexist and said that many Americans, she really said America, has a huge problem with a woman running for president.
Republicans have signaled that they have the Reagan Democrats at the top of their target list. Ken Mehlman, a former GOP national chairman who is informally advising McCain, said the campaign’s blue-collar outreach would attract Reagan Democrats for the same reason the former president did: McCain is seen as frank, a good leader, strong on defense and opposed to tax increases.
Some analysts say the threat of defections to McCain will be particularly acute if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. In many of this year’s caucuses and primaries, Obama has lost working-class white voters to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding on to those voters in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania will be one key to the party’s efforts in November against McCain, the presumed GOP nominee.
“The Obama campaign has not been very successful in connecting with middle-aged, older, white working-class voters,” said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster who has done work for the AFL-CIO and is not affiliated with any candidate. “It is very important for them to understand why that is so because those are the kinds of voters who have been swing voters in the last two general elections.”
Democratic voters have shown fairly consistent demographic patterns during the primary-season balloting: Clinton’s strongest support has come from a coalition of lower-income and older voters, while Obama in most states has been strongest among blacks, upscale voters and the young.
The Latino population in Ohio is between 4-6%, much smaller than in other states where the Latino population has made a big difference for Clinton. However, the Latino population is strong in the cities of Allentown and Harrisburg. Latino outreach to these targeted areas could make a real difference.
This might seem a little meta, but Obama’s win in Mississippi is also a big picture loss for his campaign. Huh?
This morning, HillBuzz was asked if we were disappointed Clinton lost Mississippi last night and we truthfully said we expected to lose Mississippi, as Obama’s demographics were stronger in that state. However, HillBuzz found the exit poll results coming out of Mississippi very interesting, with grave implications for Obama if he’s to be the Democratic nominee.
(1) Race bloc voting is indeed happening: 90% of African Americans voted for Obama in Mississippi. This mirrors what has happened in states since South Carolina. The African American community has rallied behind Obama and he will continue to do very well in areas with high African American population from here on out. He should do very well in North Carolina and in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania as a result.
(2) With the increase in bloc voting, Obama has lost support amongst white voters. In Mississippi, he scored only 30% of the white vote. His claim coming into Mississpi was that he would put Southern states into play in the general election. Mississippi is one of the 11 most-reliably Republican states: states the Democratic party will not win under any circumstances in the fall. Obama has now won all 11 of these most-reliably Republican states, in mostly caucuses. His campaign has tried to spin this in terms of “being able to change the nature of the electoral map”, but that’s just not the case. In Mississippi, Obama needed to win between 35-40% of the white vote to have a chance at taking the state from the Republicans in the fall. He didn’t come close. The rise in African American turnout corresponded to an equal loss amongst white voters, meaning the excitement he generated in one demographic was offset by his losses amongst another. So, it was a wash for him, in terms of “changing the electoral map”. Even with 100% African American turnout in the fall, Obama would not even come close to making Mississippi, or other Deep South staes like it, playable in the general election.
(3) Obama lost the most conservative areas of Mississippi. For his claim to reach across party lines and redraw the electoral map to be true, he had to do well in the most conservative areas of Mississippi. He didn’t. So, his game-changing claims are false hopes.
(4) Obama’s best support group outside of African Americans remains young voters. While he attracts large crowds at his rallies, only 19% of eligible young voters (on average) actually turn out to vote. In upcoming states, the population 50 and over greatly outweighs the youth vote. Obama has thus far done no better than Kerry or Gore in actually getting young voters to the polls. He might be able to get them to a rally, but he doesn’t get them to a polling place. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be anything he can do to change that.
(5) By losing Ohio, Obama proved he cannot win a big-state primary where demographics work against him. If the same holds true in Pennsylvania next month, Obama will have a hard time arguing any ability on his part to “change the electoral map”. He has a delegate lead now, largely thanks to successes in caucus states, where his supporters are much more likely to be able to attend a two hour caucus (because they are either students or are well-off enough to be able to take that time off work). When everyone in a state has the opportunity to vote, and the demographics are more or less equal, Obama loses the primaries. Without the large African American vote in Mississippi, Obama would have lost the state. He lost independents and Republicans, and also lost the white core Democratic voters. This does not bode well for Obama in a general election matchup with McCain.
Obama’s only hope is to pull a huge upset in Pennsylvania. Realistically, he lost the nomination on March 4th when he lost Ohio. The talking heads and pundits who support Obama claim he has “the math” in his favor, but should the Democratic nominee be the person ahead in delegates, thanks to wins in unrepresentative caucuses and wins in states the Democrats have no chance of carrying in the fall? Should states the Democrats have no chance of winning decide who should be the party’s nominee? That sounds like a recipe for disaster, and a sure coronation of President McCain.
There are a lot of interesting questions about Obama’s viability as a national candidate coming out of Mississippi and, it seems, Pennsylvania will provide some equally interesting answers.
Where Were You in ’02? Bush’s War and the Prince of Darkness
Posted March 11, 2008 | 11:51 AM (EST)
Back in September 04, I had a meeting in the Senate Intelligence Committee offices. I was there to discuss 9/11 issues. The war in Iraq came up in our discussions. I clarified and said, “Oh, you mean Bush’s war?” The republican staffer said, “The president? The president isn’t responsible for this war. Congress voted for this war. It is Congress’ war.”
The staffer’s wry, spooky smile (I actually call him the Prince of Darkness) oozed with absolute pride over his new Rovian spin of who to blame for the Iraq war.
I bluntly looked at him and said, “Congress’ war? Are you kidding me? Do you mean to tell me you guys are going to try and sell that line of garbage to the American people? That is was Congress who created and took us to this war? That it was Congress who started this mess? Do you really think you are going to get away with that? You will get destroyed. Everyone knows that Bush is responsible for this war! He started it! He owns it! It is his war! And nobody will ever forget that!”
And yet in 2008 we Democrats seem to have forgotten that it was George Bush (along with the Republican war machine) that brought us first and foremost to the war in Iraq.
I wonder if the Republicans ever imagined the success of their spin.
Remember back in 2002. There was a drumbeat for war with Iraq. First it was a link between Iraq and 9/11. Then it was WMD. Then it was Saddam was a bad man and needed to be eliminated. And remember how the vast majority of the country fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Indeed, more than 75% of our Senate voted for the authorization to go to war — including Senators Daschle, Dodd, Kerry, and Rockefeller I might add — all of whom work as advisors on Barack Obama’s campaign. And yes, so did Senator Hillary Clinton.
So where did you stand back in 2002, 2003 and 2004? Do you remember the fever? The frenzy? The momentum? Do you remember the call to speak with one united voice? That was Senate Majority Leader Daschle’s plea to the American public back in 2002. Yeah, the same Tom Daschle whose advice and judgment Barack Obama seeks out daily on the campaign trail.
I remember it all. And, I know where I stood. I was down in Washington fighting for a 9/11 Commission and I was steadfast against the war in Iraq.
But back in ’02, for those of us who dared to speak out against President Bush and his war in Iraq, we stood virtually alone. There was no resounding chorus of people calling “bullshit” on Bush’s folly. No, back in 2002 you were called unpatriotic if you dared to question the president; labeled as helping the terrorists if you raised doubt about his divine call to action.
Now forgive me, but I do not recall the help (or the voice) of any Barack Obama from Illinois. Indeed, I cannot recall hearing or feeling the impact of any one speech from the Illinois Senator. Did he attend the rally on the mall in Washington? The marches and protests in NYC? Did he conduct national press interviews? Did he write any editorials? Organize any protest rallies? Mobilize the people? Did he write any petitions? If he did, I never saw any of them.
Yet according to Barack Obama, because he spoke out in 2002 against the war in Iraq, he is better qualified to be president.
And according to Barack Obama, since Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq, she is unfit to be President.
As Democrats we need to remember exactly who took us to war in Iraq. We need to remind ourselves exactly who is to blame for the huge price tag our soldiers and their families have paid. We need to never forget that it was George Bush who created this debacle. Costing us billions in dollars and worldwide respect.
Maybe that’s what bothers me most about Barack Obama. He keeps talking about working with the Republicans. Reaching across the aisle. Compromise. Well, I’ve been to Washington. I have fought battles in Washington — most of them against the Republicans — to get 9/11 legislation passed into meaningful law.
And if there is one thing I know for sure right now, I do not feel like reaching across the aisle and finding compromise with Republicans particularly on any of the following issues: Roe v. Wade; torture; FISA surveillance and illegal wiretapping; unfounded wars with Iran, Syria, or any place else; stem cell research; the erosion of our constitution; alternative energy and global warming; and/or healthcare reforms.
So why does Barack Obama want to compromise on such issues? Doesn’t he get it?
To me, those issues are non-negotiable. To me, after 8 long destructive years of Republican rule, there is no wiggle-room left for Republican taint and ruin. I remember all too well that it is the Republicans who are to blame for our nation’s current precarious state.
That’s why the Democrats must win the WH back in ’08. We cannot afford another term of Republican ruin. That’s why the only place I am willing to compromise is when it comes to figuring out the best way–the surest way–to get the Democrats in the WH.
So would somebody please tell Barack Obama to stop talking about shaking hands with Republicans and start talking about shaking hands with Hillary Clinton and her half of the Democratic party so we can all start working together to beat the Republicans.
Unity Ticket ’08.
How out of touch with reality is she? When speaking to people in Pittsburgh making less than $21,000 a year, she has the audacity to lecture them on career paths in the “Helping Industry” without disclosing the almost $400,000 salary she brings in at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Incidentally, HillBuzz wonders why she’s still collecting that salary while on the campaign trail, and also wonders why she received close to a $200,000 raise when her husband became Senator.
Complaining to people in working-class, blue-collar Pittsburgh about how expensive her daughters’ piano and dance lessons are (nearly $10,000 a year!) doesn’t seem like the best strategy to win Pennsylvania, either in the primary, or in the fall (where John McCain would seem much more in touch with Pennsylvania than the Obamas).
What’s next from this woman: cake for everyone!
HillBuzz is confused, which is understandable, since most of us at HillBuzz are old enough to remember seeing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in an actual cinema, when tickets were something like a dollar. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? Hey, pass the milk duds, and don’t bogart those razzles.
For some reason, a story about a perpetually truant razzle-dazzler rings especially true these days. Can’t imagine why.
And let’s get this straight, just so HillBuzz understands: if Obama was too busy running for president, according to his own aides, to hold Senate subcommittee hearings on the war in Afghanistan, then how could he find time to dance with Ellen DeGeneres on her TV show?
Nothing against Ellen, mind you, whom we’re sure is a mighty fine dance partner, but HillBuzz thinks Obama’s time would have been better spent, oh we don’t know, working for the American people and holding subcommittee hearings on the war in Afghanistan.
Like he was supposed to do.
Bueller? Bueller? Obama?
That’s kind of what being elected to the United States Senate involves. The other 99 women and men in those chambers don’t cut out to go dancing, so why does Obama?