Politics

Obama Speech Obscures Left-Wing Record

Barack Obama cemented his position as a rising Democrat star with his keynote convention address July 27. He delivered his well-crafted speech with a perfect mixture of frankness and passion, deftly stirring the crowd from rapt silence to raucus enthusiasm–a home run. There was only one problem: change a few sentences here and there, and the young black Senate candidate from Illinois could have given the same speech at the Republican National Convention. In his speech, Obama said things like “government alone can’t teach kids to learn,” and noted that inner-city parents know they must “turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.” He all but preemptively refuted the class warfare-promoting “Two Americas” stump speech that vice presidential candidate John Edwards would give the following night when he said of his family’s humble origins: “I stand here knowing that . . . in no other country on earth is my story even possible.” Porn Near Schools Obama even cited the Declaration of Independence and its reference to the unalienable right to life in a convention hall packed with avid proponents of abortion on demand. None of this dimmed the excitement of the mostly left-wing delegates, who knew they were not supposed to believe what they were hearing. Obama may talk like Bill Cosby or even J.C. Watts at times, but when he reaches the Senate next year–a near certainty after the failure of the hapless Illinois GOP to find a credible opponent–he will probably vote like Cynthia McKinney, albeit without sharing her shrill style. As a state senator, Obama has been no defender of the unalienable right to life. He twice voted against bills prohibiting tax funding of abortions. In April 2002, he voted against a bill to protect babies born alive after a failed abortion procedure. A similar federal law passed later that year. In 1997, Obama twice voted “present” on an Illinois partial-birth abortion ban. He absented himself from a third vote on the measure. In 2001, he voted “present” on a bill to notify parents when their minor children seek an abortion. He also voted against a cloning ban in 2000, although he voted for it in 2001. In 1999, Obama voted against requiring school boards to put Internet pornography filters on school computers meant for students’ use. In 2001, he voted “present” on a bill to keep pornographic book and video stores and strip clubs from setting up within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. In 2003, he voted in the Health and Human Services Committee for a bill requiring “age appropriate” sex-education for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Despite his talk of promoting reading among inner-city youth, Obama has repeatedly opposed bills designed to promote discipline in public schools. In 2001, he twice voted “no” on a bill to let school districts require unruly students to complete suspensions before they can be shuffled into a new school district. He voted “present” on an almost unanimously passed bill requiring adult prosecution for students who fire guns on school grounds. Obama has been markedly soft on crime. In 2001, he voted against a bill that added extra penalties for crimes committed in furtherance of gang activities. He also voted against a bill making it a criminal offense for accused gang members, free on bond or on probation, to associate with known gang members. In 1999, he was the only state senator to vote against a bill prohibiting early prison release for criminal sexual abusers. Obama has a long record of supporting tax increases as well, although he rarely had the opportunity before Democrats took over the Illinois Senate in 2002. Despite Democratic rhetoric on the high cost of health care, Obama voted last May to hike the tax on insurance premiums. Although this tax is levied on corporations, it effectively raises rates for consumers. The same day, Obama voted to preserve Illinois’ death tax, increase taxes on casino visitors, and charge new sales taxes on businesses. Given his record, it is not surprising that Obama has the support of leading left-wingers. Political action committees (PACs) that have contributed to his U.S. Senate campaign include: Progressive Choices ($5,000), Planned Parenthood ($5,000), the National Education Association ($5,000) and People for the American Way ($1,000), the leading group helping Democrats to block President Bush’s judicial appointees. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D.-N.Y.) leadership PAC gave him the maximum contribution ($10,000), as did the American Federation of Teachers and the National Abortion Rights Action League. Also, Bush-hating billionaire George Soros threw a fundraiser for Obama’s campaign in New York on June 7. Soros and four of his family members had earlier contributed a total of $60,000 to Obama’s primary campaign. (They could legally give such large amounts because one of the other candidates was a self-funding millionaire.) Although generally careful to avoid rash statements, Obama has at times slipped. NBC’s Tim Russert confronted him July 25 with an October 2002 speech in which he had accused the Bush administration of going to war in Iraq for domestic political reasons: “What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like [Bush political advisor] Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression,” Obama said in 2002. “That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” Explaining his earlier statement to Russert, Obama backpedaled into an illogical explanation before finally repudiating his earlier statement. “What I think is that it was an ideologically driven war,” said Obama, who, pressed again on whether he was “charging that President Bush sent men and women to die for political reasons,” replied sheepishly, “No, I don’t think that’s the case.”


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