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The “Making” of a Politician

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Got your attention? While the cover of this issue of the New Yorker will likely be the topic of countless blogs and tv spots tomorrow, don’t miss the article.

It is a fascinating piece on Obama’s early years in Illinois politics. Seems like some of his early supporters have buyer’s remorse. Many people have questioned how Obama could rise so quickly in Chicago politics. This article attempts to trace his rise and finds some interesting parallels to this year’s presidential race.

Read the rest ->

In a particularly interesting bit, the article tells how Obama looked to redraw the district he represented in Illinois after losing the congressional race to Bobby Rush.

. . . Obama began working on his “ideal map.” Corrigan remembers two things about the district that he and Obama drew. First, it retained Obama’s Hyde Park base—he had managed to beat Rush in Hyde Park—then swooped upward along the lakefront and toward downtown. By the end of the final redistricting process, his new district bore little resemblance to his old one. Rather than jutting far to the west, like a long thin dagger, into a swath of poor black neighborhoods of bungalow homes, Obama’s map now shot north, encompassing about half of the Loop, whose southern portion was beginning to be transformed by developers like Tony Rezko, and stretched far up Michigan Avenue and into the Gold Coast, covering much of the city’s economic heart, its main retail thoroughfares, and its finest museums, parks, skyscrapers, and lakefront apartment buildings. African-Americans still were a majority, and the map contained some of the poorest sections of Chicago, but Obama’s new district was wealthier, whiter, more Jewish, less blue-collar, and better educated. It also included one of the highest concentrations of Republicans in Chicago.

“It was a radical change,” Corrigan said. The new district was a natural fit for the candidate that Obama was in the process of becoming. “He saw that when we were doing fund-raisers in the Rush campaign his appeal to, quite frankly, young white professionals was dramatic.”

While Obama’s current race for president portrays him as a black man running against white privilege and against long odds, Obama’s base has always been mainly upper-class whites. And he has always known this.

Also interesting is Obama’s current use of surrogates and un-official campaign advisors. As some of these people are now under the bus, the story has always been that they spoke out of turn or didn’t represent Obama’s real position or that Obama no longer “knew” these people. In that sense, Obama is seen as removed from some of the lower aspects of politicking. But in this article, the author asserts:

Obama also became more of a strategist, someone increasingly comfortable discussing the finer points of polls, message, and fund-raising. According to his friends, Obama does not delegate campaign planning.

I find this curious as well, because one of the hallmarks of the Obama campaign to date is its incoherence. Obama says one thing and his handlers say “what he meant was. . . ” Everyone contradicts everyone else, with the end point being no one knows where Obama really stands on much of anything. Given all of Obama’s “present” votes and non-appearance at votes, it feels as if the “fog of information” is really a campaign tactic. If you can’t be pinned down, you can’t be held accountable and you get to claim outcomes after the fact. If you don’t actually vote on something, you can easily claim to have been for or against it all along, with no penalty for the slight of hand.

Another interesting point not covered in the MSM is Obama’s history with the troubled administration of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Although Tony Rezko links the two men, Obama has kept his distance. Recently though, Rahm Emanuel noted that Obama and he worked for Blagojevich’s campaign.

That year, he gained his first high-level experience in a statewide campaign when he advised the victorious gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, another politician with a funny name and a message of reform. Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago and a friend of Obama’s, told me that he, Obama, David Wilhelm, who was Blagojevich’s campaign co-chair, and another Blagojevich aide were the top strategists of Blagojevich’s victory. He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.” A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel’s account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama’s role. “There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them,” Wilhelm said, and he disputed the notion that Obama was “an architect or one of the principal strategists.”

It’s important to note that the Obama campaign has since claimed Emanual’s memory on this issue is faulty. Must be a problem there.

As the presidential race continues, the Obama campaign continues to tout his achievements in the state senate as examples of his ability to govern and help his constituents. As many people know by now, this record is spotty. The New Yorker’s take on this period is clear.

In the State Senate, Jones [an important politician in Illinois] did something even more important for Obama. He pushed him forward as the key sponsor of some of the Party’s most important legislation, even though the move did not sit well with some colleagues who had plugged away in the minority on bills that Obama now championed as part of the majority. “Because he had been in the minority, Barack didn’t have a legislative record to run on, and there was a buildup of all these great ideas that the Republicans kept in the rules committee when they were in the majority,” Burns said. “Jones basically gave Obama the space to do what Obama wanted to do. Emil made it clear to people that it would be good for them.” Burns, who at that point was working for Jones, was assigned to keep an eye on Obama’s floor votes, which, because he was a Senate candidate, would be under closer scrutiny. The Obama-Jones alliance worked. In one year, 2003, Obama passed much of the legislation, including bills on racial profiling, death-penalty reform, and expanded health insurance for children, that he highlighted in his Senate campaign.

Interesting stuff indeed. Still, the core of Obama as a politician is muddy on the national scene. His supporters claim he is a person not “of the system” who practices “transformational politics.” Here at NoQuarter, we’ve been saying this is not the case. The New Yorker says the same thing.

Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them. When he was a community organizer, he channelled his work through Chicago’s churches, because they were the main bases of power on the South Side. He was an agnostic when he started, and the work led him to become a practicing Christian. At Harvard, he won the presidency of the Law Review by appealing to the conservatives on the selection panel. In Springfield, rather than challenge the Old Guard Democratic leaders, Obama built a mutually beneficial relationship with them. “You have the power to make a United States senator,” he told Emil Jones in 2003. In his downtime, he played poker with lobbyists and Republican lawmakers. In Washington, he has been a cautious senator and, when he arrived, made a point of not defining himself as an opponent of the Iraq war.

In addition to this, the New Yorker notes that Obama has alienated past supporters by his tendency to switch positions. Sound familiar?

Obama’s establishment inclinations have alienated some old friends. During the 2004 Senate primary, Obama sometimes reminded voters of his anti-machine credentials, but at the same time he shrewdly wrote to Mayor Daley’s brother, William, who had backed one of Obama’s primary opponents, asking for his support if he won the primary. As he outgrew the provincial politics of Hyde Park, he became closer to the Mayor, and this accommodation, as well as his unwillingness to condemn the corruption scandals ensnaring Daley and Blagojevich, both of whom he supported for reëlection, have some of his original supporters feeling alienated and angry.

Deja vu, much?

The title of this article is “Making It.” OK. But I think this story is more like the MTV show “Made” where young people are given a couple of weeks to learn something hard to do in order to “become” something they dream of, like the video gamer who was “made” into a martial artist. While you can’t help admire the pluck and effort of these young people, you still know that a video gamer doesn’t become Jackie Chan in a few weeks of hard work. It’s artificial. Whatever skills the gamer gets won’t be backed up by years of practice or depth of knowledge.

And while Barack Obama has, arguably, put in a few years of work in politics, his rise and experience suggest to me someone who has been “made.” There’s just no “there” there.

This article is definitely worth the read. In addition to the few bits I’ve highlighted are insights about Obama’s choice of church and Michelle Obama’s political connections.

UPDATE FROM LARRY JOHNSON: We need to stop with calling Michele Obama “Ho”bama. Not acceptable. I don’t want any woman being called a demeaning name, even the ones we aren’t too fond of.

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  • Indiana Dem

    “You folks weren’t listening at all to Obama were you? His pitch was always that he could get folks together, which means you have to compromise. If you thought he was never going to compromise, then you weren’t paying attention.”

    Right on target!

    There’s a consistency about Barack Obama’s approach and message. Change requires unity. Unity requires compromise. Compromise isn’t the same thing as selling out. Compromise is strategy. Compromise is also what makes democracy work in the real world.

    Take away compromise, and democracy turns into “the tyranny of the majority”.

  • shampoovta

    blech wrote:

    “You folks weren’t listening at all to Obama were you? His pitch was always that he could get folks together, which means you have to compromise. If you thought he was never going to compromise, then you weren’t paying attention.”

    Thats right Pimp that reason blech, she is your Ho. Make her walk the street for you and the Pimp of hope.

    He switched well known positions that had won him support. We call that lying.

    PS: I have a bridge for sale, cheep! Interested? Oh thats right you were born yesterday and still have your Tootsie Pop wrapper on.

  • Thinker

    The article is great, but the cover is too distracting.

    People are going to focus on the cover being racist,and therefore dismiss what was written in the article.

    New Yorker did a really good job with this article, but the cover wasn’t a good move.

  • Urban Hillbilly

    Hilarious!

  • VMorris

    I know most of you will probably disagree, but I also hope you remember from my prior posts that am no fan of Obambi. The problem here is that the article is spot on but I think the illustration was a stategic blunder, though, because what is the MSM talking about today and what did the Obama campaign pounce upon?

    The cover.

    Is anyone besides us acknowledging the awesome content? No. In the MSM, it is all about the cover and that it is fear-mongering and racist.

    Unfortunately, I believe the New Yorker hoist itself on it’s own pitard. Great article, but the cover was the ammo that Obama needed to change the subject from the contents to the superficial topic of the campaign of fear. As much as I do not like Obama, never have been for him and never will be for him (and I can even appreciate the fact that in many ways the cover is spot on), I am afraid that the The New Yorker dealt the BO campaign the race card with that cover.

    If only they had used a less blatant photo….there were so many other ways they could have visually exemplified him to get your attention so you read it an not give BO a reason to change the subject. Just an empty suit would have sufficed and not played into to BO’s race baiting hand.

    Just my opinion…we appreciate it for it’s accuracy because we have been following this stuff and know the guy is dangerous. But for people who are neutral and don’t know what we know and who haven’t made up their minds yet, how many of them will be turned off just by the cover alone especially with the MSM, BO and even McCain denouncing the cover?

    The article is terrific, but the cover not so much.

    • http://www.thecityedition.com/Pages/Archive/Winter08/2008Election.html Jeremiah God Damn AmeriKKKa Wright

      the MSM would not talk about the article if it didnt have this particular cover.

      I think you are missing the point.

      THe MSM doesnt want to talk about the content of the article.

      THe New Yorker wanted to make sure people were aware of their article.

      The Cover does exactly what it is designed to do.

      This is brilliant bait and switch done to ensure that the New yorker is not viewed as part of the MSM when all is said and done.

      They know that the article itself will be ignored no matter what because it doesnt fawn on Fauxbama. But they also know that a lot more people will get a hold of the magazien with that cover. Some will actualy end up reading it too.

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  • Jaxxy

    At about 7:30 a.m. PDT, today, “Richard”, a “news” person on CNN talked about this New Yorker cover and, through his words and facial expressions made it sound ridiculous. He asked rhetorical questions that made it clear that it was offensive and he used two emails from viewers–both of them critical of the cover. Biased reporting?

    I don’t know why I expected more from cable “news.” I shouldn’t. “News” people and their program managers don’t want people to think for themselves or ask questions.

  • CarolynKB

    If a picture is worth a thousand words this cartoon picture is worth a million. Notice BO-MO is standing on a rug that looks like it might be the Seal of the Presidency. Quite appropriate!!

  • Judy

    Amazingly something missed by the blogs and MSM is the fact that Rod B., Gov of Illinois ran a campaign on CHANGE. Illlinois had just had a Governor convicted, and is now in prison. He was a corrupt Governor using government workers to take bribes and raise money for him.

    So, Rod come along and say he is going to CHANGE government is run in Illinois. The people of Illinois were sick of the corruption and voted for him in masses. Well, where are the people of Illinois now – they would love to see their governor impeached – HE LIED. He is one of the most corrupt governors Illinois has ever had (and that is saying something – Illinois has had its share of Governors go to prison)

    • hank48188

      It was change in Illinois, they changed from a corrupt Republican to a corrupt DEM. The Machine is very inclusive, black or white, Dem or republican, it makes no difference as long as the money keeps flowing.

  • Lynn

    I don’t appreciate the cover picture, however the article is very good. Unfortunately there are people out there who prefer to make spurulous claims of Obama having Muslin leanings ( not that there wouldbe anything wrong with that ). The graphics detract from the very real issues that the article points out. Obama is a shrewd, calculating politician. The only “change” we would see from him is his changing position every other day. Hopefully the picture will only serve to attract readers to the article and not give Obama something else to whine about. I do feel sorry for Obama supporters though. They were sold a bill of goods and are just starting to wake up.

    • one eyed jack

      Osama Bin Ladin is also an Islamic “Not that there is anything wrong with that”. However the Obama’s just like OBL hung out with radicals and are radicals themselves. “Does it matter if Obama is a Muslim?”. Well YES, it matters a hell of a lot if he is a RADICAL MUSLIM and wants to be president of the United States of America. In case you think the Obama’s are not radical, then you have been asleep for the past year. Just one video of the church and it’s preacher where the Obama’s sat and listened for the last 20 years is ample proof of their rdical(ism).

    • Indiana Dem

      A politician might get elected to local, county, or possibly even state office without being shrewd or calculating, but he or she would probably go no further lacking those attributes. Any successful national candidate must possess those qualities–or be paying close attention to the strategies of trusted campaign advisors who have them. National political contests combine the features of a game of chess, a popularity contest, and a corporate take-over.

      How a candidate navigates the obstacle course that leads to higher office doesn’t reveal what he or she will actually do when they get there. It suggests something about how effective they’ll be, however. Getting anything done once in office also requires shrewdness and calculation.

      Chicago politics is a hard training ground. Succeed there, and you’ve got your eyes wide open.

  • LB

    I LOVE IT! The NYer cover is causing Obamabots’ heads to explode all across the Net. Just checked Daily Kos to find a diary on this setting a record for comments (most of them containing the juvenile “OMFG”) and they ain’t pretty and they’re all going after each other — eating heartily. If someone could drop a bomb on that diary, they’d take out most of the Obama operatives who were sent into that site in early January to take it over (which they did, sweeping Markos and the admins along with them).

  • DAB

    They got one thing wrong. Michelle usually goes sleeveless.

    • Urban Hillbilly

      DAB – I have been making similar snarkity comments, too! LOL!

    • http://www.thecityedition.com/Pages/Archive/Winter08/2008Election.html Jeremiah God Damn AmeriKKKa Wright

      thats because they want you to see that she shaves he under-arms. every one knows that hillary types, the bad women, don’t.

  • Alien

    Natashia -what sort of name is that? God knows not one of those Afro-American names with the multiple Shs in it? The English version of Natalia (diminutive) is Natasha.

    Go make your own language up -dont murder thr Russian one.

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  • Anonymous

    The real problem is that neither the author of the cover art nor those commenting on it understand something important…what is depicted is true.

    Y’all think that Obama is simply a poor choice your party has made. Quite frankly, you only think that because it’s not the choice YOU prefer (ie Clinton). But it is far worse than that. This man and those that surround him represent the very worst of America’s enemies. People who wish you and yours, very real, very intense harm. The democratic party has fallen so very very far. Way past radical politics….towards serving ONLY the purpose of destroying our way of life.

    Whether it’s trying to cause an economic catastrophe by blocking the development of US resources like shale oil, aiding and abetting terrorists in killing our people, positioning our country to be vulnerable to nuclear attack, destroying our moral fiber in various ways so that an explosion of crime results in millions of victims who are raped, robbed, murdered or beaten, or even to the point of glorifying those like Obama who are firmly sided with black versions of neo-nazis, the democrats support all these things and little else. Nothing good, certainly.

    Shame on you for being a part of that.

    • AA meeting

      You gotta stop drinking before you post. You’re seeing pink elephants and terrorists everywhere.

      “…blocking the development….of shale oil…”

      US oil companies are sitting on their developable fields. What are they waiting for? And if we open up coastal areas, we won’t see a thing for a decade or more. The answer is not “more oil! more oil!”. It’s developing alternatives, quickly. Anyone who believes the Republican party is in a race to do that should get back on their meds.

      “…vulnerable to nuclear attack…”

      Let me see: Mr. Nuclear Cowboy Idiot says “bring ‘em on”. We pick three weak-sister targets. The ONLY ONE that we’ve resolved is the one we resolved through negotiations. Is there any question that, in a small world, talking beats shooting in most cases?

      “…destroying our moral fiber…”

      HAAAAAA HAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAA! Funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. So funny that I’m gonna send it off to Sen. Larry Craig, Sen. David Vitter and every Congressional intern for comment.

      “…black versions of neo-Nazis…”

      My God, son, you’ve paddled your little boat a long ways from the shores of sanity, haven’t you? The scary dark people really aren’t coming for you.

  • Clinton Fan

    That cover is pretty stark, that idiotic fist thing and all.

    That candidate is just not ready for prime time.

    And Rahm Emmanuel? He misremembers NOTHING. He’s got a mind like a steel trap.

  • roseeriter

    Obama admits a mistake?? Again? Heh…

    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Obama_I_used_poor_phrasing_on_0713.html
    Obama: I used ‘poor phrasing’ on Jerusalem

  • Dora Ratquila

    Nobama, no winnah!

    B.O.W.L.+ Big Time in November
    HRC, 45th POTUS (2012)
    +Barack Obama Will Lose

  • BJ

    Obama campaign slams magazine cover

    oh god i love it sooooo much !

  • pew

    Check out the Videos on this site,All News related

    http://www.notfallinginline.org/

    Sad how Obama didn’t know about his district.