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Confessions From The Obama Campaign Trail: Reporter Finds Empty Suit

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Covering Obama 18 hours a day — in and out of the limelight — offers few glimpses of his true self. When in robo-candidate mode, he can be sort of dull, a Los Angles Times reporter finds.

By Peter Nicholas
October 28, 2008

One of the things we in the press try to do is tell politicians how they’ve screwed up. So it was a rare instance when I told Barack Obama to his face that I was the one who’d made the mistake.

Let me explain. For the last year and a half I’ve covered the presidential race, focusing first on Hillary Clinton, then moving over to Obama.

After Clinton’s defeat in the Iowa caucuses, she decided she needed an emergency reinvention. She began mixing with reporters, sipping a glass of wine late at night in the aisle of her campaign plane and unburdening herself about the state of the race. As her prospects dimmed, her accessibility grew. Sometimes she was off the record, but you can’t say she wasn’t fun.

Not so with Obama. One of the striking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, can be sort of a bore.

Discipline is essential for candidates who want to drive home a consistent message, or avoid the self-sabotage that comes with a careless answer. A steely perseverance helps explain why Obama at this point stands a better than even chance of becoming the 44th president. But when you’re exposed to the guy 18 hours a day, it’s a bit maddening. You want him to loosen up.

I’ve watched Obama demonstrate a soccer kick to his daughter in Chicago; devour a cheesesteak in Philly; navigate a roller rink in Indiana; drive a bumper car; and catapult 125 feet in the air on an amusement-park ride called “Big Ben.” He’s done it all with dogged professionalism, but with little show of spontaneity. After all this time with him, I still can’t say with certainty who he is.

A couple of images from the long campaign stay with me.

One was watching Obama enter an apartment building near his Chicago home for a morning workout. He wore dark sweats, a gray T-shirt and a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead. In those few seconds it took him to walk from the car to the building, with his head down, thin and solitary, he looked nothing like the adored politician presiding over rallies. It was a reminder that behind the hype and the TV ads is this one rather vulnerable-looking guy. And in that moment came the question: Is he really ready to take over the toughest job on the planet?

The other was a hot summer afternoon in Iowa. Obama was flipping burgers at a backyard barbecue, in what the campaign hoped would be an exquisite photo opportunity. A fly began circling his head. Then more flies. Pretty soon flies were swarming him, the burgers — everything. It was awful to watch. But in rhythmic fashion he began waving them off with his hand. He scooped up the burgers and headed back to the picnic table, as if nothing had gone wrong. That small episode told me something about Obama’s temperament. I would have wanted to fling the grill over the fence in frustration.

Both impressions came from a distance. A cordon of aides ensures nothing more intimate is available to the traveling press.

Once I stood a few feet from him as he fielded questions in the center aisle of his plane. Press aide Linda Douglass stood directly behind him, monitoring the Q&A. After a bit, Douglass discreetly put her hand on his lower back. He ignored it. She did it again, pressing harder. This time, Obama said he had to go.

Of course, at Obama’s level, there’s no such thing as harmless chatter. There’s a pattern to these moments. Obama comes to the back of the plane. Light banter ensues, usually about Obama’s favorite baseball team, the White Sox. Then a reporter slowly pulls out a tape recorder and turns it on. Obama notices. Now he’s more cautious. More tape recorders pop up, and pretty soon we’re back to a recitation of his stump speech.

The chances to gain insights into his character were like rare mutations in the evolution of his campaign.

One day in July, I was the pool reporter at an event in Zanesville, Ohio, meaning I was responsible for writing up for the rest of the press corps Obama’s visit to a ministry that was tutoring young students. Again kept at a distance, I watched as Obama chatted with the kids. One boy approached him and held out his fist. Obama drew back. “If I start that . . .” he said. From where I stood, it looked like he was refusing a request for a fist bump — a gesture that had gotten a lot of attention after Obama fist-bumped his wife at a campaign event the month before. A Fox News host had even suggested that it was a “terrorist fist jab.” If Obama was rolling out a no-fist-bump policy, that seemed worth mentioning.

The pool report quickly got around.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times cited the episode in her column. Obama complained to an aide that it hadn’t happened that way. He was right. A videotape of the conversation would later show the boy was merely asking Obama to autograph his hand.

We heard Obama was steamed. On the plane later, Obama was working his way up the aisle, past reporters. He got to me.

It was no one’s fault but mine, so I told him: “Senator, I was the one who wrote the flawed pool report.” I wanted him to know that, but I was also curious to see how he would react. He looked at me and said he appreciated that I had ‘fessed up. Changing the subject, he asked me about my hat. I wear a big floppy hat on sunny days, and he had seen it at an outdoor news conference.

“I use it to block the sun,” I said.

Does the brim cover your ears? Obama asked.

“Well, my ears,” I said.

He drew back and laughed. You’re making fun of my ears?! he said.

I told him our family has had medical issues with the sun. He quietly took that in. I wasn’t expecting any empathy — and didn’t need any — but I felt surprised nonetheless that he evinced little or no interest. It seemed like a chance to make a human connection, if he wanted one.

In any case, I held out my fist. He looked quizzically at it for a second, then realized what I was doing.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” he said. We fist-bumped, and he moved on. The animation he showed in that instant surprised me; it doesn’t seem that he lets himself laugh much.

There was another moment not long ago when I tried to wrest from Obama some display of personality.

Amy Chozick, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was wearing a new engagement ring. I told Obama’s staff members they should send him back to take a look. A few minutes before takeoff my seatmate, Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, nudged me: “He’s coming back.” I looked up and there he was, hovering over Chozick, clucking about her “rock.”

He turned to our row. Just for fun and to see what he might say, I held out the $200 wedding ring I’d purchased four years ago at a chain jewelry store in a Sacramento mall.

What do you think of this ring, Senator? I asked.

He looked at it for a few beats. No reaction. He was back in robo-candidate mode.

Zeleny then asked him about a recent debate. Obama chided him for asking the question, then eased back to his seat at the front of the plane without answering. I later asked Douglass if Obama understood I was joking. She assured me he did.

First Clinton, then John McCain made the argument that Obama is someone we don’t really know. Obama’s supporters counter that we have his record in the U.S. and Illinois senates (but of course the Illinois Senate records are now missing, or don’t exist), two memoirs that reveal his inner thinking and a vast trove of staged, controlled public speaking.

Ironically, those of us who were sent out to take his measure in person can’t offer much help in answering who he is, or if he is ready. The barriers set in place between us and him were just too great.

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Obama Affinity to Marxists Dates Back to College Days

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Barack Obama shrugs off charges of socialism, but noted in his own memoir that he carefully chose Marxist professors as friends in college.

Barack Obama laughs off charges of socialism. Joe Biden scoffs at references to Marxism. Both men shrug off accusations of liberalism.

But Obama himself acknowledges that he was drawn to socialists and even Marxists as a college student. He continued to associate with Marxists later in life, even choosing to launch his political career in the living room of a self-described Marxist, William Ayers, in 1995, when Obama was 34.

By Bill Sammon

.Obama’s affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles.

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully,” the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in his memoir, Dreams From My Father. “The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.”

Obama’s interest in leftist politics continued after he transferred to Columbia University in New York. He lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, venturing to the East Village for what he called “the socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union.”

After graduating from Columbia in 1983, Obama spent a year working for a consulting firm and then went to work for what he described as “a Ralph Nader offshoot” in Harlem.

In search of some inspiration, I went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of Black Panther fame, speak at Columbia,” Obama wrote in “Dreams,” which he published in 1995. “At the entrance to the auditorium, two women, one black, one Asian, were selling Marxist literature.”

Obama supporters point out that plenty of Americans flirt with radical ideologies in college, only to join the political mainstream later in life. But Obama, who made a point of noting how “carefully” he chose his friends in college, also chose to launch his political career in the Chicago living room of Ayers, a domestic terrorist who in 2002 proclaimed: “I am a Marxist.”

German philosopher Karl Marx, author of "The Communist Manifesto," advocated redistributing wealth in order to achieve a classless society.

Obama has been widely criticized for choosing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an anti-American firebrand, as his pastor. Wright is a purveyor of black liberation theology, which analysts say is based in part on Marxist ideas.

Few political observers go so far as to accuse Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, of being a Marxist. But Republican John McCain has been accusing Obama of espousing socialism ever since the Democrat told an Ohio plumber named Joe earlier this month that he wanted to “spread the wealth around.”

Obama’s running mate, Biden, recently contradicted his boss, saying: “He is not spreading the wealth around.” The remark came as Biden was answering a question from a TV anchor who asked: “How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?”

“Are you joking? Is this a joke? Or is that a real question?” an incredulous Biden shot back. “It’s a ridiculous comparison.”

But the debate intensified Monday with the surfacing of a 2001 radio interview in which Obama lamented the Supreme Court’s inability to enact “redistribution of wealth” — a key tenet of socialism. On Tuesday, McCain said Obama aspires to become “Redistributionist-in-Chief.”

Obama has managed to cultivate the image of a political moderate in spite of his consistently liberal voting record. In 2006, he published a second memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” that leaves little doubt about his adherence to the left.

The arguments of liberals are more often grounded in reason and fact,” Obama wrote in “Audacity.” “Much of what I absorbed from the sixties was filtered through my mother, who to the end of her life would proudly proclaim herself an unreconstructed liberal.”


A more accurate Obama logo

A more accurate Obama logo

National Journal magazine ranked Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate. The publication is far from conservative, employing such journalists as Linda Douglass, who resigned in May to become Obama’s traveling press secretary.

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Bill Sammon is the Washington deputy managing editor for FOX News Channel.

Obama Bombshell – ‘Redistribution of Wealth’ Audio Uncovered!

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A radio interview in which Barack Obama discussed the failure of the Supreme Court to rule on redistributing wealth in its civil rights rulings has given fresh ammunition to critics who say the Democratic presidential candidate has a socialist agenda, and is indeed a closet socialist.

The interview — conducted by Chicago Public Radio in 2001, while Obama was an Illinois state senator and a law professor at the University of Chicago — delves into whether the civil rights movement should have gone further than it did, so that when “dispossessed peoples” appealed to the high court on the right to sit at the lunch counter, they should have also appealed for the right to have someone else pay for the meal.

In the interview, Obama said the civil rights movement was victorious in some regards, but failed to create a “redistributive change” in its appeals to the Supreme Court, led at the time by Chief Justice Earl Warren. He suggested that such change should occur at the state legislature level, since the courts did not interpret the U.S. Constitution to permit such change. “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society, and to that extent as radical as people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical,” Obama said in the interview, a recording of which surfaced on the Internet over the weekend. “It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted.

A more accurate Obama logo

A more accurate Obama logo

Wait! Obama views the constraints that the Founding Fathers put on government power over each of us, as something we need to “break free” of? Everyone reading this had better think again if they are leaning toward Obama! Listen to Obama’s interview…..

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Obama Camapaign Staff Withdraw Their Illegal Ballots | Palestra.net ~

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Palestra.net’s Tiffany Wilson and Shelby Holliday appeared “On The Record With Greta Van Susteren” to discuss Obama campaign staffers withdrawing their votes in Ohio, as well as the resolution of the “Vote From Home” case.

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National Review’s Byron York On CNN “Misquote”

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CNN, most distrusted name in news?

Greta discusses the CNN deceitful interview with Palin.

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Pew Research: Most Voters Say Media Wants Obama to Win

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Voters overwhelmingly believe that the media wants Barack Obama to win the presidential election. By a margin of 70%-9%, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on Nov. 4. Another 8% say journalists don’t favor either candidate, and 13% say they don’t know which candidate most reporters support.

In recent presidential campaigns, voters repeatedly have said they thought journalists favored the Democratic candidate over the Republican. But this year’s margin is particularly wide.

At this stage of the 2004 campaign, 50% of voters said most journalists wanted to see John Kerry win the election, while 22% said most journalists favored George Bush. In October 2000, 47% of voters said journalists wanted to see Al Gore win and 23% said most journalists wanted Bush to win. In 1996, 59% said journalists were pulling for Bill Clinton.

In the current campaign, Republicans, Democrats and independents all feel that the media wants to see Obama win the election. Republicans are almost unanimous in their opinion: 90% of GOP voters say most journalists are pulling for Obama. More than six-in-ten Democratic and independent voters (62% each) say the same.

The media coverage of the race for president has not so much cast Barack Obama in a favorable light as it has portrayed John McCain in a substantially negative one, according to a new study of the media since the two national political conventions ended.

Coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable — and has become more so over time. In the six weeks following the conventions through the final debate, unfavorable stories about McCain outweighed favorable ones by a factor of more than three-to-one — the most unfavorable of all four candidates — according to the study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

For Obama during this period, just over a third of the stories were clearly positive in tone (36%), while a similar number (35%) were neutral or mixed. A smaller number (29%) were negative.

For McCain, by comparison, nearly six-in-ten stories studied were decidedly negative in nature (57%), while fewer than two-in-ten (14%) were positive.

Read the full report at journalism.org

Newspapers Show Obama Lied — He Did Belong To Socialist Party!

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Evidence has emerged that Sen. Barack Obama belonged to a socialist political party that sought to elect members to public office with the aim of moving the Democratic Party far leftward to ultimately form a new political party with a socialist agenda.

UPDATE! Also see this post.

Several blogs, including Powerline, previously documented that while running for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 as a Democrat, Obama actively sought and received the endorsement of the socialist-oriented New Party, with some blogs claiming Obama was a member of the controversial party.

The New Party, formed by members of the Democratic Socialists for America and leaders of an offshoot of the Community Party USA, was an electoral alliance that worked alongside the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. The New Party’s aim was to help elect politicians to office who espouse its policies.

Among New Party members was linguist and radical leftist activist Noam Chomsky.

Obama’s campaign has responded to the allegations, denying the presidential candidate was ever a member of the New Party, this before the damning evidence was disclosed.

But the New Zeal blog dug up print copies of the New Party News, the party’s official newspaper, which show Obama posing with New Party leaders, list him as a New Party member and include quotes from him.

Note that the text refers to Barack Obama as a New Party member, while Willie Delgado is only "NP endorsed"

The party’s Spring 1996 newspaper boasted: “New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary). The paper quoted Obama saying “these victories prove that small ‘d’ democracy can work.”

The newspaper lists other politicians it endorsed who were not members but specifies Obama as a New Party member.

Click To Enlarge Image

Click To Enlarge Image

New Ground, the newsletter of Chicago’s Democratic Socialists for America, reported in its July/August 1996 edition that Obama attended a New Party membership meeting April 11, 1996, in which he expressed his gratitude for the group’s support and “encouraged NPers (New Party members) to join in his task forces on Voter Education and Voter Registration.”

Becoming a New Party member requires some effort on behalf of the politician. Candidates must be approved by the party’s political committee and, once approved, must sign a contract mandating they will have a “visible and active relationship” with the party.

The New Party, established in 1992, took advantage of what was known as electoral “fusion,” which enabled candidates to run on two tickets simultaneously, attracting voters from both parties. But the New Party went defunct in 1998, one year after fusion was halted by the Supreme Court.