Out to dinner with my wife and daughter in Richardson (Dallas) Texas tonight, and my wife grabs a copy of the local alternative weekly (Dallas Observer) with a big picture of Obama on the cover (actually she grabbed two - nice cover). As I ate I happened to catch the title of the cover story - Obama and Me - by Todd Spivak.
Uh oh. I had just read the piece online after seeing it posted at MyDD, apparently it is making the rounds of the Obama haters.
The story is linked here Obama and Me
Folks on the ground in Dallas and Houston should have ready answers to some of the charges cause this is liable to come up. Yuck.
Wouldn't hurt if a few thousand Texans tell the Dallas Observer and Houston Press that they shouldn't have this sort of crap in their paper. In Dallas bringing it to the attention of Jim Schutze who actually has a reputation to maintain might not be a bad idea.
More below the fold:
This was a crummy hack job in 2004 when Spivak traded on his "relationship" with Obama and scrounged a few grumbles from Chicago hacks who felt Obama had jumped ahead of the line. Heck he even describes in the article how the original 2004 article was the result of a decision to rough Obama up a bit cause he was getting too easy a ride. In the current version he has punched it up some by taking out some of the original context and adding some personal flavor so Spivak can grab a bit of Obama's glory while taking him down a notch. The result is a self aggrandizing slimeball aimed at Obama's head and getting wide distribution in a medium that will actually reach a lot of the young voters that make up Obama's base.
The key claims in Spivak's diatribe are that Obama was an empty suit whose only accomplishments in the Illinois Senate were gifts from Senate Majority leader Emil Jones in 2003 after Obama decided to run for US Senate, and that Obama got his first elected position in the Illinois Senate by sticking a shiv in his political mentor Alice Palmer.
A few things the Mr. Spivak evidently forgot to mention:
Obama's signature ethics reform bill was passed in 1998 and the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2000, under Republican controlled legislatures.
Obama chaired the Health and Human services committee in 2003-2004 which accounts for his sponsorship of most of his legislation passed in those years.
The work that Obama did to secure the video interrogation bill against vehement opposition is well documented. Hendon's claim that he took the ball to the 1 yard line is risible.
The story about Obama gaining his senate seat by legal technicality, challenging nominating petitions and so betraying his mentor Alice Palmer completely distorts the story. Obama was encouraged to run by Palmer who was herself running in a special election for US Congress. Before he decided to run, he demanded an assurance that she would not come back after the seat if her Congressional bid failed, which she gave. Days before the filing deadline (in December) and just a few months before the primary which would surely be determinative in his Democratic district, she lost the special and decided to reclaim her state senate seat. Obama refused to step aside and she was unable to gather sufficient valid signatures to get on the ballot. Challenging nominating petitions is standard procedure in Illinois politics and while Obama has indicated he regrets having displaced a distinguished progressive politician, he was certainly entitled to pursue a race he had invested so much in already just as he had said he would in light of her promise not to contest the seat.
See the Tribune story here
Finally when Spivak gathered all those nasty comments about Obama he was the dark horse in a three way race for the US Senate nomination, and most of the Illinois machine was working for his opponents (namely Dan Hynes son of long time Chicago alderman and self funding millionaire Hull). Nearly all of the folks named are now outspoken advocates and supporters (but they're still hacks).
I was active in Chicago politics throughout this period. Obama was the darling of young Chicago progressives that got together through the DL21C (Democratic leadership for the 21st century). I think the notion that he was "made" by the Democratic machine is pretty much backward. Generally the machine promoted black politicians of really limited ability (see Stroger, John) as a way of keeping real political power in white ethnic hands (see Daley, Ritchey). Obama was universally viewed as a threat to nearly everyone, but was sufficiently able that just burying him wasn't feasible. Moving him on to Washington as quickly as possible was the next best thing. Similarly, the stories about how he got a free ride in his Senate race because the Republicans put up Alan Keyes again misses the point. His original opponent (Ryan) was the golden boy of Illinois Republican politics, rich, good looking, with a resume that included teaching at inner city schools. The allegations that ended his campaign weren't really disqualifying, so much as it almost instantly became clear that he wasn't gonna beat Obama with anything that undermined his standing with conservatives (and probably wouldn't have beat Obama anyway partially because he shared the last name of the scandal ridden Governor who more or less destroyed the Republican party in Illinois in that very election). Once Ryan was gone the Republicans simply couldn't find anyone that wanted any part of Obama.
Anyway, forewarned is forearmed. Hopefully this will get little attention and do little damage, but if not we should make clear to the Dallas Observer, the Houston Press and any impressionable readers that Obama really does have a great record of accomplishment in Illinois, that he conducted himself honorably there. There are lots of folks who have bought into the excitement over Obama without really knowing much about him, and so he is awfully vulnerable to this sort of "insider" slime. Since these papers won't run again until after the primary a retraction doesn't do much good but at least we can be prepared to respond.