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Monday, August 13, 2007

Illinois politics a smear on Obama resume

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Is America, nay, the world, ready for a U.S. president -- Barack Obama -- who bubbled up from the sordid politics of the Illinois legislature? From a political party whose stranglehold on Illinois government has brought the state to the brink of insolvency?

The rest of America should excuse many of us here if we blanch at the idea that someone, anyone, who just a few years ago occupied a seat in Illinois' laughable legislature might soon be president.

True, the first president to emerge from the Illinois legislature was Abraham Lincoln, but that's little comfort. Today's Illinois legislature is rock bottom, exceeded in incompetence only by the preening, useless Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And true, Obama can't be blamed for the current madness in Springfield and the Democratic Party's abject failure to govern. Yet, that's where Obama cut his political teeth.

At last, the national media are catching on, noting that Obama talks a good game about bringing a new day to Washington, but what he's really bringing are old ways from one of the nation's most corrupt political states. The Boston Globe noted that two-thirds of the money Obama raised for his state Senate campaign came from political-action committees, corporate contributions or unions -- all special interests. The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama has raised $1.4 million from members of law firms and consultants led by partners who are lobbyists. The Washington newspaper, The Hill, reported how he used lobbyists to help build his fundraising base.

But Obama has more going against him than being the spawn of political hacks and hypocrites. His recent statements raise troubling questions about his competence, such as his ham-handed declaration about invading a sovereign ally, Pakistan.

Supposedly an "agent of change," Obama's promise that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan sure has a familiar feel; anyone remember the Iraq war? Who would have thought that within Obama lurked a neocon?

The impact of Obama's threats were immediately apparent, in helping to destabilize Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 's shaky government and raising the specter of Islamic extremists running a nuclear-armed state. Obama has objected that his remarks have been taken out of context, so, fair enough, let's look at the speech in which he issued the warning.

The Bush White House could have written some of it: "It's time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action," he said. And: "As president, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

George W. Bush reborn? A reminder for Bush haters and Obama fawners: Bush also said he had actionable intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq.

Ironically, Obama's explanation resonated with the AFL-CIO presidential debate audience in Chicago last week, and, I suspect, a good part of the American public. Obama's handlers probably got the politics right. But, as policy, it was dangerous and hardly "nuanced." No surprise there, considering that Obama's foreign policy adviser is none other than Anthony Lake, President Bill Clinton's controversial former national security adviser. This is the same guy who allowed Iran to deliver weapons to the Muslim government in civil-war-torn Bosnia, in effect inviting Muslim extremists into Europe.

A new day in Obama's Washington? Spare us. Obama in the White House would be an old day, incorporating the worst of the Bush administration (according to his critics) and the worst of the Clinton administration. Not to mention the Illinois legislature.


Anonymous said...

Dennis said: "...Bush also said he had actionable intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq."

Bush lied - but he thought he was right! By his own accounting, he is never wrong!!

lake county democrat said...

Obama's Illinois roots wouldn't be a big deal had he not made such clearly against-the-public-interest endorsements such as John (and Todd) Stoger and Dorothy Tillman. And though Hillary endorsed Mayor Daley too, what exactly is the difference between running defense for John Birge (Daley) and for soldiers who torture in Iraq (Cheney)?

Anonymous said...


I only hope that RealClearPolitics picks this article up.

You should look into Obama's work (or lack of it) on the VA Committee and the shameful treatment of Vets in IL (Blago's circumventing the Veterans preference hiring laws and the $6.5 million grant that Obama secured for the Department of Employment Security), that would make a great article.

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

You clearly know nothing of the nuances of Illinois politics. The budget took so long to pass because of differences between the liberal and moderate wings of the Democratic Party. Disagreement on the issues is part of any legislative process.

Obama raised his money from the same sources everyone else must use. Until we swtich to government funded elections, private sources, most of which have an agenda, will be the only option (unless one is fabulously wealthy).

Finally, Obama did not say that he would invade Pakistan. He only said he would go after terrorists in that country. And Lake did not "allow" Iran to deliver weapons to Muslims in Bosnia. The international arms trade depends on smuggling, which no nation has been able to stop. After all, Iranian weapons are now showing up in Iraq.

Doug Gries said...

You're really stretching for dirt on Obama when you suggest that because he came from Illinois politics his resume is now smeared. I won't even spend time telling you how inappropriate this is - to imply that everyone who set foot in that system has now been tarnished and is not a qualified candidate for any higher governmental service. Right. If that's the best you can do to try to discredit a potential Democratic presidential candidate, then you and your neo-con cronnies are in trouble in Nov. 2008.