What they portray is a Barack Obama sharply at variance with the image of the post-racial, post-ideological, bipartisan, culture-war-shunning politician familiar from current media coverage and purveyed by the Obama campaign. As details of Obama's early political career emerge into the light, his associations with such radical figures as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Reverend James Meeks, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn look less like peculiar instances of personal misjudgment and more like intentional political partnerships.
I was struck after reading Kurtz' story how similar Obama was as a state legislator to State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) and State Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis), two black stalwarts in the Indiana General Assembly. Obama was at the forefront in pushing affirmative action hiring and set asides for minority businesses. Obama demanded that the Illinois governor appoint a black member to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Obama once attacked his former black caucus members in the Illinois legislature for not voting in lockstep. In particular, Obama was peeved that his fellow black caucus members would not unite in supporting the placement of a riverboat casino in a minority neighborhood. Obama argues that a failed casino vote means that "the black caucus is broken and needs to unite for the common good of the African-American community." Responding to his complaint, State Rep. Mary Flowers saw things much differently. "The Black Caucus is from different tribes, different walks of life. I don't expect all of the whites to vote alike. . . Why is it that all of us should walk alike, talk alike and vote alike? "
Hispanics might like Obama's reaction to the 2000 Illinois census and what it meant for political redistricting. Chicago's Hispanic and Asian populations increased dramatically during the 1990s, causing black legislators like Obama to fear that blacks might lose out to other minority groups. "While everyone agrees that the Hispanic population has grown, they cannot expand by taking African-American seats," Obama said. Obama pushed a plan that would blend Hispanic and Asian areas with traditional white communities in order to preserve the same number of black districts in Chicago. He thought some black legislators would have to settle for a 60% black district as opposed to a 90% black district to ensure the same number of black legislators. Obama's race conscious approach led him to promote both "accommodation" and "militancy" to advance African-American causes. He wrote:
The debate as to how black and other dispossessed people can forward their lot in America is not new. From W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, this internal debate has raged between integration and nationalism, between accommodation and militancy, between sit-down strikes and board-room negotiations. The lines between these strategies have never been simply drawn, and the most successful black leadership has recognized the need to bridge these seemingly divergent approaches.
Kurtz' article also has much to say about Obama's liberal and radical associations with the likes of Rev. Wright and terrorist William Ayers, his unwavering support for failed programs to combat poverty and his soft on crime approach. I'm sure some of those will be appearing in 30-second campaign spots which will define Obama just as the Republicans successfully defined Michael Dukakis in 1988 as hopelessly too liberal for America. On spending, Kurtz shows the role Obama played in worsening the fiscal mess in Illinois. He basically didn't give a damn about the huge budget deficit the state was running. Fully funding his favorite programs took a higher precedent over enforcing the state's constitutional requirement that the state budget be balanced. Obama supported such silly smoke and mirror financing schemes like borrowing from tobacco settlement funds to pay the state's bills.