Swiftboating Obama

by David E. McClean

(Jan. 22, 2008) In last night’s presidential debate in South Carolina we got to see a dredging operation par excellence against Barack Obama, and a lot of deep river mud was hurled between podiums. But the mud slung by both Clinton and Edwards against Obama should not be permitted to go unchallenged by fair-minded observers in an age in which we all have the power to check the facts for ourselves, and weigh in.

As for myself, I cannot sit by and watch a brilliant, prepared and historic candidate like Barack Obama get tossed into the cotton gin of the Democratic party machine, which is fighting to preserve a Democratic Leadership Council status quo – especially given the possible positive sea change that can follow on an Obama administration, not only with respect to domestic policy but in foreign relations as well. So here goes.

“Present” Votes in Illinois a Dodge?

“Present” votes are not what Hillary makes them out to be, and she either shows a lack of understanding of the legislative process in Illinois or engaged in a deliberate distortion of Obama’s record (ironically, similar to the way Kerry’s record was distorted by Karl Rove in 2004). This was an unfortunate attempt to discredit Obama at all costs, as Obama himself pointed out. The following link leads to the Obama campaign site, but it lists sources to support Obama’s claims about the nature of “Present” votes, and how they are used to position legislation in the Illinois legislature. You can check the cites and judge for yourself.

Clinton’s claim that Obama was voting “Present” for political reasons is a curious one for any politician to make. It is widely assumed that her votes in the United States Senate over the past several years have been more about positioning herself for a presidential campaign than about core commitments to progressive values, which is why so many still question where Hillary Clinton actually will stand when it comes time to face down Republicans, should she be elected President. Was not her vote to give President Bush the authority to go into Iraq not largely a political vote, and the worst kind of political vote – one that would cost many thousands of lives and lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in squandered treasure? And what was her vote to brand a subset of an actual standing military (the Iranian military) “terrorists” if not simple pandering to hawkish and xenophobic elements in the country?

John Edwards on His Criticism of Barack “Present” Votes

Edwards is on thin ice here. While it was unfair to suggest, as the Republicans did in 2004, that Edwards had the worst voting record in the Senate, his complete voting record still shows far more absences from Senate votes than Obama voted “Present” as part of a normal and reasonable legislative strategy, and Edwards’s 2003 and 2004 attendance records were far from perfect. In order to vote on bills, whether hard or soft ones, one needs to actually show up. Often, Edwards did not show up. In fairness, many Senators can’t make all votes, for a variety of legitimate reasons. But Edwards cannot talk about dodging votes when he has a less than stellar attendance record during his tenure as a United States Senator.

Rezko

Obama was a junior lawyer at the Davis Miner law firm, in Chicago. The law firm stated that Obama spent very little billable time on the Rezko account. Junior lawyers don’t get to tell law firm partners “No” when they are asked to work on client projects. As far as anyone can tell, there was no legal or compelling ethical reason for Davis Miner not to take on Rezko as a client. Many law firms have impolitic clients. There’s nothing new about that. Whether or not Obama’s affiliation with Rezko casts a cloud over him (and it may continue to do so – that’s life), the notion that Obama was somehow in league with “slum lords” who were seeking to exploit the poor goes against the record of his life’s work, and is even a bit of a slur.

The full Chicago Sun Times story is linked here, and one can judge for one’s self. Further, the financial difficulties of Rezko, for whom Obama did not work as an officer or employee, cannot be laid at the feet of Obama, however friendly he was with Rezko principals. After Whitewater, Clinton should know better than to lob bombs like this – unless, of course, as Obama says, she will “say anything to get elected.” And if she (and Bill, whom I greatly admire) will now say anything to get elected, then we should take that into account.

Further, getting contributions from controversial donors (as Obama did from Rezko) is the bane of all campaigns. Hillary Clinton had a similar problem a few months ago. Or has she forgotten? This is from NPR (September 11, 2007): “Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton will return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from an embattled fundraiser. Norman Hsu, who picked up $850,000 in campaign contributions for Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., was arrested last week after tying to escape sentencing on a decade-old criminal charge.”

Further, Obama determined to purge his campaign coffers of Rezko donations.

Is Obama a Right Wing Reaganite?

If he is, he has hidden it well. It is utterly absurd to think that Obama was “praising” Ronald Reagan or that he “preferred” Reagan to Bill Clinton. His whole public record demonstrates a fight against Reagan and Republican policies. His claim that Reagan was in fact a change agent (in contrast to both Nixon and Clinton) who took the country on a new “trajectory” can be called, reasonably, a fact – and a fact that has never been called into question by serious historians and pundits, even ones who hated Reagan’s policies and all that came along with the “Reagan Revolution.”

Of course, it was called the “Reagan Revolution” for a good reason. What Obama was engaged in when he gave the interview to the Reno RJ Editorial Board was political analysis, not praise. Judge for yourself by viewing the clip of the interview and reading a transcript of the exchange. When doing both in the context of Obama’s politics and record, it is impossible to conclude anything along the lines of what HIllary and Bill Clinton have asserted.

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