Barack Obama has enjoyed hands-off, near-reverential coverage by the media and pundits. Only a few gutsy journalists as well as a few bloggers, like me, are investigating the skeletons in Obama’s closet and questioning Obama’s preparedness to be president. If Sen. Obama is to be the nominee, he must not only be thoroughly vetted beforehand, but he must also show that he can take the vicious GOP attacks sure to come his way. I read two important pieces today that buttress my points above:
- Digby, the extraordinary blogger at Hullabaloo, in “Pecksniffian Twit“: “The punditocracy’s ‘protectiveness’ toward Obama is patronizing and insulting. And this silly case of the vapors among the villagers over the ‘nastiness’ of the race and how it’s going to tear the party apart is nearly guaranteed to make him look like a weak sister, which he isn’t, and his elite supporters are falling right into the trap. Watching David Brooks and Mark Shields elbow each other to get to the fainting couch about the unprecedented horror of the South Carolina campaign (which as D-Day pointed out in the post below is a complete joke) is not helpful to Obama or Clinton. I would have thought that everyone would at least remember this little bit of negative campaigning. It was only four years ago: [continued below]
- An op-ed, “Worrying about Obama,” in the Boston Globe by Democratic media consultant Dan Payne: “BARACK OBAMA has a realistic chance to be the Democratic nominee for president. As the only white employee at a Detroit civil rights organization years ago, I am moved by this remarkable moment in our nation’s history.” Payne continues:
But as a media consultant to Democrats, I am worried. I want to know more about Obama. And I want to know it now, not in the fall when the Republicans and their thugs in “independent” groups start slinging the sludge.
Who’s this slumlord? While running as a reformer, Obama has had a 17-year relationship with an indicted Chicago con man who’s going on trial for fraud, extortion, and money laundering. ABC News found that Obama has been close to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a major slumlord and wheeler-dealer who used minority set-asides and community groups as fronts to win government contracts.
As a state senator, Obama wrote letters to the city and state backing Rezko’s successful bid to get $14 million in tax money to build senior citizen housing that wasn’t in Obama’s district.
ABC and the Chicago Sun-Times both found that Obama asked for and got Rezko’s help in buying land neighboring Rezko’s property for $300,000 below the asking price. When the deal became public, Obama said it was a mistake that he regrets. He may not be done regretting it.
The Sun-Times has learned that Obama is the unnamed political candidate in the federal indictment against Rezko. His US Senate campaign got $10,000 out of quarter-million-dollar scheme engineered by Rezko.
Obama’s dealings with Rezko took place while it was well known that Rezko was under investigation by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who sent Scooter Libby to jail. Rezko goes on trial Feb. 25, three weeks after Feb. 5, when half of all the delegates will be chosen.
The gang of three. I worry that Obama will get pounded by the GOP for being one of only three state senators to vote against making it a crime for convicts on probation or bail to have contact with street gang members.
Keyes to victory. I’m worried that Obama has never had a tough race against a Republican. He became a US senator because both his primary and general election opponents imploded over ex-wives’ recriminations. In order to beat the last-minute entrant, GOP goofball Alan Keyes, all Obama had to do was continue breathing.
No whining. I don’t know how Obama’s team will deal with the ceaseless attacks from the far right that the Clintons are used to (and dole out). How will they respond to the bilge from Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and hate-filled talk radio? …
Read all of “Worrying about Obama.”
Payne addresses several of the hurdles that every Democrat must face before he or she casts a vote for Barack Obama. But, adding to those hurdles has been Obama’s inability to explain himself clearly or honestly.
As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet pointed out today, “Obama has never agreed to an interview about Rezko.” Why not? Take a look at this Chicago NBC affiliate’s report (posted at YouTube on April 23, 2007) that illustrates the lengths that Obama will go to in order to avoid press questions about his 17-year relationship with the indicted Tony Rezko:
The Rezko/Obama story has been featured in Chicago newspapers and on Chicago television stations for years now. And the story is gaining traction nationally. So, when people wring their hands over a story like mine yesterday, “BREAKING: ABC News Reports $100,000 From Rezko That Obama Hasn’t Returned/Given Away,” I have to ask myself if people really think that the GOP won’t use this information to try to bring nominee Obama down. Of course the GOP will. That’s why these issues must be addressed now. But, the issues can’t be addressed if Obama refuses an interview on Rezko or, when asked about Rezko, pretends he scarcely knows the man — which in my book is at the least evasive, and at the worst a lie.
As Digby points out above, what’s gone on in the South Carolina Democratic primary is NOTHING compared to what’s been done to Democrats by other Democrats in past primary contests.
Digby provides an example that I remember all too well because the attacks were lobbed at my candidate Howard Dean and those attacks came from fellow Democrats Dick Gephardt and John Kerry (who’s now attacking Bill Clinton for raising issues about Obama that must be addressed).
Digby writes, “I would have thought that everyone would at least remember this little bit of negative campaigning. It was only four years ago“:
A new Democratic group that is running advertisements against Howard Dean and has not yet disclosed its sources of financing has introduced by far the toughest commercial of the primary election season.
Though the advertisement, which began running on Friday in South Carolina and New Hampshire, is paid for by Democrats, it offers a taste of a likely Republican strategy against Dr. Dean should he win the presidential nomination.
The spot opens with a Time magazine cover featuring Osama bin Laden as synthesizer music seemingly out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie is heard.
As the camera focuses on Mr. bin Laden’s eyes. the following words flash on the screen: ”Dangerous World,” ”Destroy Us,” ”Dangers Ahead” and ”No Experience.”
”Americans want a president who can face the dangers ahead,” an announcer intones. ”But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It’s time for Democrats to think about that — and think about it now.”
The advertisement is the latest salvo in what amounts to a ”stop Dean” campaign sponsored by the new Democratic group, Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values.
The group’s president, Edward F. Feighan, a former Ohio congressman, donated $2,000 to the campaign of Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, records show, and its treasurer, David Jones, has worked as a fund-raiser for Mr. Gephardt. Its spokesman, Robert Gibbs, recently resigned as the press secretary for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, another presidential candidate.
I haven’t seen or heard anything quite that aggressively ugly in this campaign. Remember, in 2004, the country was still getting terrorist warnings every time Bush needed a bump in the polls. That was about as below the belt as it comes. A lot of Dean supporters were upset by it, but I don’t remember any “thoughtful” members of both parties getting together and deciding it was beyond the pale. Certainly nobody suggested that it was somehow disrespectful to the delicate, high minded Howard Dean or that it would tear the party apart. Of course, it was unlikely the Democrats would win, so the establishment didn’t feel the need to step in and make sure the candidates and the voters didn’t get the crazy idea in their heads that they were actually running things. (I didn’t join the blogospheric outcry over it at the time, because, well, it’s primary politics. Primaries suck.)
Digby’s correct. In 2004, there weren’t “any ‘thoughtful’ members of both parties getting together and deciding it was beyond the pale.”
Nor should there be in 2008. And if you think what I’m writing in 2008 is “beyond the pale,” then you’ve bought into the punditocracy’s meme.
Politics — at both the primary and general election stages — is a blood sport.
Get used to it.