The Dumber Obama Complaints

The Trib piece on Obama was a silly piece that could have reported facts and instead decided to frame the discussion to pick at Obama not being pure enough.

One of the criticisms of Obama is that he is an institutionalist. I’m baffled by the complaint when we see what happens when a President treats democratic institutions as speed bumps.

I’ll go back to my favorite example–that of Hubert Humprey who was utterly useless as the firebrand speaking truth to power in the Senate until he became an institutionalist and abided by the norms of the Senate. He became far more effective and passed several civil rights bills.

Arguing Obama should have shouted louder says nothing about whether such a strategy would be effective. Given others were shouting loudly, I’m not sure how this would have been effective. Confusing loud for effective is a common mistake amongst many activists.

Steve at Beachwood Reporter responded to AM with a post that makes some good posts, but also makes serious mistakes.

He is campaigning as a change agent with no record of being one; as an anti-war candidate who kept his mouth shut when he had a national stage

And then a reference to Lieberman.  The problem here is that there is no argument as to what shouting louder would accomplish.  With less than a year in the US Senate he offered up a fairly detailed plan regarding reducing US troops and said the Iraq mission had failed.  That’s significant. He also was the guy who opposed the war when everyone said it was a bad idea to oppose it.  That’s not keeping one’s mouth shut, that’s people who weren’t paying attention claiming their lack of attention means he kept his mouth shut.  He’s one of the few US Senators to attend an anti-Iraq war rally for that matter.

It’s beyond me how anyone can honestly look at Obama and see his fictionalized memoir,

Which was written when no one was likely to read it and clearly states that people are fictionalized. Again, what’s the scandal other than adding a laundry list to convince people he’s done horrible things?

phone call to Tony Rezko to help him buy that house

Which is factually incorrect.  Every newspaper that has researched it has found that the properties were separately listed and that Obama had the highest bid on the house.  The facts suggest that the sale itself was very clean–the questions arise on the buying of the strip of land–even if Obama paid above market value.

not putting his stock in a blind trust while posing as the champion of ethics legislation,

It’s unclear what the complaint here is.  Is it that he created an ineffective blind trust in trying to create a new way of doing it or that he isn’t using a blind trust?  There is no requirement for a blind trust for the US Senate.  He ended the attempt at a different type of blind trust after it failed. What’s the scandal?

his mentors being Emil Jones, Rezko, and Joe Lieberman,

And Paul Simon asked for the elder Daley’s blessing.  Lieberman is overblown as there appears to be no affect on Obama’s policies and it was an institutional mentor.  I know it’s popular to jump on Jones for being a patronage pol–which he is–but he’s also a black man who is President of the Illinois Senate and on policy he’s progressive.  Rezko was a funder, not a mentor.  It’s simply throwing his name in again.

his embrace of Dorothy Tillman and Todd Stroger,

And you get this upset when Durbin backs Jerry Costello? Yeah. Thought not.

his reputation in Springfield for being lazy and aloof,

Aloof early on, yes. Lazy no.  He was considered uppity by many because he did try to much.  And he introduced key bills on the minimum wage, EITC, and public funding of judicial elections.

his lackluster record as a U.S. senator

This is just stupid:

One

Two

 Three

Such a lightweight taking on Nuclear Non-Proliferation.

, including keeping his mouth shut about the war,

Which Obama didn’t do.

voting for the Mexican fence

The fence is dumb, but less dumb than corn based ethanol.

and against the credit card interest cap,

Which was introduced by one of the laziest Senators in the last quarter century who never gathered any information about what the bill would impact.  Obama would vote for a bill that was actually researched.

I like Steve and I think he’s one of the better critics of Obama, but as I may not see all the faults, Steve tends to see more than there are.

11 thoughts on “The Dumber Obama Complaints

  1. I’ve resigned myself to this for Obama critics.

    Who ya going to vote for instead? It’s a much more fun way of watching them squirm.

    Arch, you are a dedicated soldier to the cause of stamping out stupidity about Barack, but you’re going to drive yourself insane trying to please the purists.

  2. A reply.

    1. Asking what “shouting louder” about the war would have accomplished is a neat way of avoiding the fact that while in the U.S. Senate, Obama has not been a leader of the anti-war movement. If his voice and strategic thinking could not have made an impact, then should all senators have just kept their mouths shut? That’s absurd. And now Obama seeks to exploit his original anti-war position, though the NYT has reported that he has also said that he doesn’t know how he would have voted had he been in the U.S. Senate at the time. He also could have helped put one more anti-war vote in the Senate instead of helping return Joe Lieberman to his seat. Then he campaigns on how they just need 16 votes to overcome the president on war funding. Could have been 15.

    2. The first installment of the Tribune’s Making of a Candidate series showed that Obama’s memoir had problems beyond the little-noticed disclaimer that he was using composites (and that he altered the chronology; why?).

    3. The house Obama bought and the lot bought in the name of Rita Rezko may have been listed separately, but the seller demanded that both sales be closed on the same day. Obama needed a partner in the deal. Obama, in fact, paid well under the asking price while the Rezkos paid full price.

    4. There may be no requirement for a blind trust for U.S. senators, yet many, including Hillary Clinton, use them to put themselves above reproach. Obama is campaigning on the ethics legislations friendly chamber leaders have put him in front of both in the Statehouse and U.S. Congress, yet he constructed a “quasi-blind trust” still not fully explained that got him into esoteric stocks on which he was simultaneously making policy on.

    5.Obama is the one who called Rezko a political mentor.

    6. In fact, I am upset about Durbin’s backing of Jerry Costello. Thanks for asking. You can’t say you represent a new kind of politics and then embrace every old kind of politician that comes down the pike. You can’t say everybody does it when you are campaigning on the fact that you aren’t everybody.

    7. I am basing my representation of Obama’s work in Springfield mostly on my own reporting – actually talking to people there at the time. But it has been reported elsewhere as well. Emil Jones himself has described how he made Obama a sponsor to legislation that would help him build a record he could campaign on, and kept him away from dangerous, controversial votes.

    8. Giving speeches on a variety of issues does not consitute a record, nor does politically-motivated bill sponsorship engineered by party leaders. Look at other Senate freshmen for comparison – say, Klobuchar and Tester. Obama has done nothing special in the Senate – he had only been there two years when he began running for president – than any other newbie.

    9. The NYT reported that Obama was in favor of the credit card interest cap until deferring to Paul Sarbanes just before voting.

    10. I am not a purist. I am also not a Democrat (nor Republican). If you are making a political calculation based on your ideological motives, fine. Ironically, that is what Obama is also campaigning against. I am looking at the facts. You can soft-pedal them all the way, and attack them and those who deliver them, or you can be honest about them. Personally, I wish Obama would have had the gumption to run for mayor of Chicago and built a reform record there; even governor. As it stands now, his political profile is exactly that of an Illinois hack. With a prettier face and better vocabulary.

  3. ====1. Asking what “shouting louder” about the war would have accomplished is a neat way of avoiding the fact that while in the U.S. Senate, Obama has not been a leader of the anti-war movement. If his voice and strategic thinking could not have made an impact, then should all senators have just kept their mouths shut? That’s absurd. And now Obama seeks to exploit his original anti-war position, though the NYT has reported that he has also said that he doesn’t know how he would have voted had he been in the U.S. Senate at the time. He also could have helped put one more anti-war vote in the Senate instead of helping return Joe Lieberman to his seat. Then he campaigns on how they just need 16 votes to overcome the president on war funding. Could have been 15.

    He didn’t say he wouldn’t know how he would have voted.

    “”I think what people might point to is our different assessments of the war in Iraq,” Obama said at the time, “although I’m always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence.””

    This is his way of slapping rivals around. He did it constantly to Hynes and he did it to Ryan and he did it to an admittedly easy target in Keyes. He offers up something that sounds like he isn’t attacking them, but then points out that with less information, he had better judgment.

    You keep saying he kept his mouth shut. That’s only true in the sense of the first few months of being in office–by November of 2005 he called for a significant drawdown of US troops. Everyone wants to say he can snap his fingers and change the debate, but when he gave a very serious policy speech, he got some headlines, but he wasn’t able to change the debate. I don’t think that proposal went far enough, but even at that he couldn’t drag everyone with him–at the same time the Trib’s series didn’t accurately describe the speech either.

    In terms of the book, how many things do you misremember from others in your life? This isn’t just an excuse, but remember when Bill Clinton tells the story of his life and he recounts threatening his stepfather for beating his mother? Several people don’t remember it being that dramatic. Does that mean Bill Clinton was lying or does it mean that in his adolescent mind it was a far more powerful of a memory? Did Obama struggle more about racial identity than he seemed to on the outside?

    ==2. The first installment of the Tribune’s Making of a Candidate series showed that Obama’s memoir had problems beyond the little-noticed disclaimer that he was using composites (and that he altered the chronology; why?).

  4. ====3. The house Obama bought and the lot bought in the name of Rita Rezko may have been listed separately, but the seller demanded that both sales be closed on the same day. Obama needed a partner in the deal. Obama, in fact, paid well under the asking price while the Rezkos paid full price.

    It wasn’t a partner in the deal. Here’s his description of the deal–something I understand the Sun-Times found to be accurate:

    “A: Our agent negotiated only with the seller’s agent. As we understood it, the house had been listed for some time, for months, and our offer was one of two and, as we understood it, it was the best offer. The original listed price was too high for the market at the time, and we understood that the sellers, who were anxious to move, were prepared to sell the house for what they paid for it, which is what they did.

    We were not involved in the Rezko negotiation of the price for the adjacent lot. It was our understanding that the owners had received, from another buyer, an offer for $625,000 and that therefore the Rezkos could not have offered or purchased that lot for less. ”

    That’s a very different situation than someone being a partner in the deal and in fact, someone else would have bought it regardless of whether Rezko had.

    ===4. There may be no requirement for a blind trust for U.S. senators, yet many, including Hillary Clinton, use them to put themselves above reproach. Obama is campaigning on the ethics legislations friendly chamber leaders have put him in front of both in the Statehouse and U.S. Congress, yet he constructed a “quasi-blind trust” still not fully explained that got him into esoteric stocks on which he was simultaneously making policy on.

    He learned how poorly the laws are written in this area

    So the laws provide for the creation of special “qualified blind trusts” like Frist’s, which are exempt from public disclosure. The laws strictly limit communications between the trustee and the beneficiary, but they also mandate disclosure of the original holdings and notification to the beneficiary whenever an original asset is sold.

    And the rules give beneficiaries like Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, the power to order the sale of all of a stock or other asset at any time in the name of eliminating a potential conflict.

    “That doesn’t really sound very ‘blind,’ does it?” said Celia Viggo-Wexler, vice president for advocacy of the group Common Cause.

    The trusts have become especially popular among the growing number of millionaires in the U.S. Senate. There are at least 45, according to the last count by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

    In addition to Frist, other senators with blind trusts of one kind or another include Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Barbara Boxer of California, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, all Democrats; and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Michael Enzi of Wyoming, both Republicans.

    Elected officials cite the creation of blind trusts as insulation against conflicts of interest. When asked about the influence of his multimillion-dollar stake in HCA, the hospital company his family founded, Frist often said that his blind trust kept him ignorant of how many shares he owned. Occasionally, he even said, “I don’t know if I own HCA,” as he told The National Journal in an interview two years ago.

    Though choosing to create a blind trust might help answer allegations of conflict of interest, ethics rules do not require such a trust.

    Many other government officials, both in and out of Congress, own or even trade stocks directly. In the highly regulated health care industry, for example, 32 senators have disclosed stakes in pharmaceutical or medical device companies, 24 in companies that sell malpractice insurance and 27 in hospital companies or health care providers, according to a survey by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

    In the case of Frist, the Senate majority leader, the federal investigations center on the timing of his decision to sell his HCA stake in June, just as the shares hit a peak and right before the company announced disappointing earnings that caused a sell-off. At issue is whether Frist, whose brother is the company’s chairman emeritus, received nonpublic information before ordering the sale.

    A spokesman for Frist has said he had no such information. The spokesman, Bob Stevenson, said Frist ordered the sale to minimize allegations that the shares created a potential conflict of interest, the same reason he created the blind trusts in the first place.

    http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:ilOj6iB1aboJ:www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/26/news/frist.php+blind+trust+senators&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=14&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    WASHINGTON Federal investigations into a well-timed stock sale by Senator Bill Frist are calling new attention to the “blind trusts” that he and many other government officials use to deal with potential conflicts of interest.

    Federal ethics laws make it virtually impossible for members of Congress or top White House officials to set up trusts fully beyond their knowledge or control. While officials may choose to set up a conventional blind trust under the control of an independent administrator, ethics laws require the annual public disclosure of its contents.

    So the laws provide for the creation of special “qualified blind trusts” like Frist’s, which are exempt from public disclosure. The laws strictly limit communications between the trustee and the beneficiary, but they also mandate disclosure of the original holdings and notification to the beneficiary whenever an original asset is sold.

    And the rules give beneficiaries like Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, the power to order the sale of all of a stock or other asset at any time in the name of eliminating a potential conflict.

    “That doesn’t really sound very ‘blind,’ does it?” said Celia Viggo-Wexler, vice president for advocacy of the group Common Cause.

    The trusts have become especially popular among the growing number of millionaires in the U.S. Senate. There are at least 45, according to the last count by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

    >>>If you follow what Obama tried to do, he tried to limit his knowledge further than most of the supposedly blind trusts do. It didn’t work and that seems obvious from this end, but it’s hardly a scandal given most of the people with blind trusts know exactly what is in them.

    ===7. I am basing my representation of Obama’s work in Springfield mostly on my own reporting – actually talking to people there at the time. But it has been reported elsewhere as well. Emil Jones himself has described how he made Obama a sponsor to legislation that would help him build a record he could campaign on, and kept him away from dangerous, controversial votes.

    Except how many times he killed late term abortion bills? Or his votes to severely limit the death penalty and to introduce videotaping in interrogations? Or being a sponsor of SB 101. He took many controversial stands and while I’m sure Jones did help him in some cases, especially towards 2004, he hasn’t taken the most risk averse course. He did come out and speak at an anti-war rally on the eve of the invasion. He’s not the only now Senator to do that, but not many did.

    ===8. Giving speeches on a variety of issues does not consitute a record, nor does politically-motivated bill sponsorship engineered by party leaders. Look at other Senate freshmen for comparison – say, Klobuchar and Tester. Obama has done nothing special in the Senate – he had only been there two years when he began running for president – than any other newbie.

    They weren’t only speeches and a nuclear non-proliferation bill isn’t a politically motivated bill sponsorship by party leaders. Non-prolif bills get you almost no public credit because people fall asleep before the word is even finished. Neither Tester nor Klobuchar have that sort of record. Tester has been good on veterans issues, but not as leading as Obama did with Durbin. He’s offered up a CAFE bill that is one of the most innovative in years and may actually get somewhere if the House can shoot down Dingell. One of his first votes was shooting down Clear Skies.

    If you go through the third link you see action on a series of non-sexy issues that are vitally important. Those aren’t the record of your typical Freshman who focus on building on local legislation and pork to take back home–he did that too (corn based ethanol), but it’s a very good record.

    ==9. The NYT reported that Obama was in favor of the credit card interest cap until deferring to Paul Sarbanes just before voting.

    And I covered it at the time:
    http://archpundit.com/index.php?s=credit+card+rate+cap

    His office was unequivocal that he would support a cap given it was properly vetted. BTW, Sarbanes is one of the 5 people who have more liberal voting records during that session. Of those five, Sarbanes and Durbin voted the same as Obama. Talk about legislators with lazy work habits, Mark Dayton is the poster child and he didn’t do the work to satisfy people on what should have been a no-brainer.

  5. ====I am looking at the facts. You can soft-pedal them all the way, and attack them and those who deliver them, or you can be honest about them

    But you don’t have all of the facts. First, let me say I do respect you and like your work, but I think you have taken it too far on Obama.

    The Rezko stories are legitimate, but it’s also telling that the least entangled guy–and one who can document it, is Obama of those connected to him and Obama hasn’t done anything for the guy that isn’t a form letter for a project (I’ve written them for politicians on housing projects–it’ s a form, trust me)

    You can pick apart any candidate with the kind of review of everything they have ever done. The thing is that Obama has a different record than most of the hacks who are in Illinois. He didn’t trade in favors for lucrative off session pay. He took hard votes on reproductive rights, poverty and especially criminal law that most of the hacks avoid.

    Much of the complaints seem to come from a level of access that isn’t generally there for many candidates. The trust is a perfect example of something he tried to improve on a fairly mediocre system and then found it didn’t work. Yes, it should be reported on, but what facts point to an actual problem there?

    He’s not one of the people who cower from Mike Madigan or the Mayor. Sure he gets along with them, but he’s one of the few to ever piss off Madigan and get off the shit list without begging for forgiveness. He’s run as an unapologetic progressive in a time that says it’s a loser and he wins handier than anyone could expect.

    Your expectation is that he has to be purer than Paul Simon–when he’s about the same and that’s pretty damn good. The list of complaints read like the list of complaints by the David Broders of the world in the 1990s claiming Bill Clinton was this horrible person degrading the office–all the while they are silent now. No one is perfect, but I’d far rather have a Barack Obama than any other politician in Illinois and than most of the potential Presidential Candidates.

  6. I appreciate your arguments but respectfully stand by mine. I find that Obama’s supporters, like those of other candidates, will twist and turn to no end to defend their guy, and when he is caught acting like a pol, will say that everybody does it even while proclaiming that he is a new kind of politician. He endorsed Daley, Stroger, Tillman, Lieberman, and his self-proclaimed political mentors are Emil Jones and Tony Rezko. What more do you need to know? The rest are details, though interesting ones. He called Rezko for help on that house, in his own words. The deals had to close on the same day. And then he dodged and weaved, only answering the tough questions in writing. As usual. If this reporting had been done long ago, his campaign would already be sunk. (Being the ‘least entangled’ with Rezko, which I do not believe is true anyway, is hardly a strong endorsement. Ironically, Peter Fitzgerald was an independent, reform-minded, corruption-fighter who took courageous stands!) Obama’s record and style is commonly described as “cautious.” I don’t find anything in his record that shows leadership, courage, agent of change. His bills were going to pass with or without him; the time was ripe. Also, I’m not demanding any standard of purity. I’m demanding honesty, transparency, and accountability. Finally, as you note, if anyone has gotten a raw deal from the media it is the Clintons. I’m not supporting Hillary – I’m not supporting anyone – but her press has been far worse, unjustifiably so. Best . . . I’ll leave the last word to you if you wish!

  7. I am enjoying what is truly a civil and interesting debate between a pair of prominent Illinois “progressives.” I read both of your writings and though I often disagree, particularly on matters of national security, I appreciate the emphasis on clean government. For the record, I side a little more with Steve on the Rezko/Obama property matters. What happened there effectively was a huge gift from Tony to Barack. My opinion is Barack and Tony agreed that Tony would buy the property and Barack would buy it back when he could afford it. In the meantime, Tony would agree to keep it undeveloped. That had great value to Barack. When I worked in the Senate there were occasions I called the Senate ethics office and asked whether I could do something. People in that office were very clear about the lines of conduct. I guarantee if Barack had called there before undertaking this transaction, people in that office would have advised him to not construct the transactions the way he did. However, on Steve’s contention that Hillary gets screwed by the press, I disagree. Hillary has taken more than $150K from Buffalo Grove-based International Profit Associates, a beleaguered company being sued by the feds in a massive sexual harassment scheme and under investigation by the IL. AG’s office, among other problems. Barack Obama took a few thousand from IPA and returned the money. My God, even Rod returned IPA money. Hillary won’t return anything and takes rides on IPA’s corporate jet and has put IPA’s lawyer, Individual H in the Rezko indictment, on her host committee for Monday’s upcoming fundraiser in Chicago. Where’s the coverage?

  8. Hey guys?

    I got nothing against you boy Obama… in a perfect world we’d have an election with Obama and Thompson… and let the people decide.

    But…

    What are you going to do when the “stuff” really hits the fan? Hillary’s crew will leave no rock unturned and do you REALLY think they will be “fair”? Please…

    Being from Chicago, they will blame every piece of bad politics on him from the fire foreward.

    This story is NOTHING compared to what he’ll be hit with later…better get your cup on…

  9. —Peter Fitzgerald was an independent, reform-minded, corruption-fighter who took courageous stands!)

    And while I don’t mean to taunt Dan here (Dan worked for him) he wasn’t very damn effective. I’m probably a bit different from the typical Obama supporter in I won’t argue he’s pure, but that lack of purity is also why he can accomplish something. I’ve often said there are things about Peter Fitzgerald I admire, but also understand some of that makes him terribly ineffective.

    In the US Senate you can be Hubert Humphrey of 1949 or you can be the Hubert Humphrey of 1962. One is morally righteous and independent. The other passed a lot of good bills and worked with two of the vainest bastards to ever be in the Senate in Johnson and Dirksen. Which do you want? Which is more likely to actually accomplish your goals?

    I don’t know where Obama ever called Rezko a mentor, but the sale of the house hard to follow. The sellers took the high prices on both pieces of land. I haven’t seen anyone dispute this.

    When Dan says this:
    ====People in that office were very clear about the lines of conduct. I guarantee if Barack had called there before undertaking this transaction, people in that office would have advised him to not construct the transactions the way he did.

    But how would they have critiqued the transaction? The buying of the strip of land was stupid politically, but he payed more than assessed valuation. A strip of land isn’t nearly as valuable since it cannot be used independently. Obama’s assessment method was common practice based on pretty clear assessment rules from everyone I’ve talked to about it. He then payed more as if it wasn’t only a strip of land, but had independent value. When this was coming through, I was working on an assessment ratio study and everything said in the stories are consistent with how one assesses residential property.

    Now, I have no doubt Rezko was willing to give him a big gift as he did Guitierrez, but I’m not willing to say because someone was willing to corrupt someone the person attempting to be corrupted is a bad person.

    A very comparable case to me is MSI. Clearly Edgar let the foxes watch the chicken house and that was dumb, but I don’t believe he was corrupt.

  10. ===What are you going to do when the “stuff” really hits the fan? Hillary’s crew will leave no rock unturned and do you REALLY think they will be “fair”? Please…

    Yeah, I remember people saying this about Hull and Hynes too.

    Obama’s campaign laid out tough punches in 2004, they just didn’t do it loudly. The Punjab offensive bullshit is them at their clumsiest, but he and Axelrod can run a tough campaign.

  11. See what I mean Larry? Hours of time spent on a discussion (great as it is) that will do nothing to change Steve’s mind. He, like Stoller and Sirota, just have a thing against Barack.

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