Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama Playing the Race Card

John McCain, in an interview with CNN's John King, says Barack Obama is playing the "race card":

John McCain told CNN Thursday it is fair for his campaign manager to claim Barack Obama is playing 'the race card.'

"I'm sorry to say that it is. It's legitimate," McCain told CNN's John King. "And there's no place in this campaign for that. There's no place for it and we shouldn't be doing it."

Earlier Thursday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis lashed out at the Democratic presidential candidate over his comments that Republicans are making an issue of his race.

"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong," Davis said in a statement sent to reporters.
The Obama campaign has issued a denunciation.

Yet, McCain's on solid ground here.
Peter Kirsanow explains why:

Obama's statement yesterday about Republican scare tactics is merely the latest in a string of statements in which he suggests that certain Americans are intrinsically racist, and those Americans aren't just confined to political opponents. His declaration that his grandmother was a "typical white person," was, at the time, derided primarily because it was seen as Obama "throwing her under the bus" for political expediency. But the statement's premise — that the "typical" white person is a reflexive racist — is at least as offensive.

Similarly, the commentary surrounding Obama's statement to San Francisco elites about bitter, working class voters focused largely on the condescension in his claim that such folks "cling to guns or religion." Somewhat ignored was the clause "...or antipathy to people who aren't like them..." Again, Obama is branding a huge swath of the American populace in unsavory terms.

During the primaries his campaign lept upon any statement that was even remotely related to color as evidence of racist intent. This is, to say the least, peculiar for someone whose campaign was based in part on racial transcendence. Even more so for someone who doesn't seem to have encountered any pernicious racism or racial barriers in his personal life. His profligate insinuations of racism now are far beyond unseemly. As the possible next President of the United States, he needs to be called on it.
Kirsanow's comments are in keeping with the points I've made on Democratic racial hypocrisy, here and here.

John McCain will be mercilously attacked by Obama's supporters, but he's absolutely right to take a stand on this issue. Indeed, McCain might further consolidate his campaign's comeback by making his own national address on race. Although Democrats continue to hold 90 percent of the black vote, the GOP's stress on bolstering family institutions, and meritocracy in economic opportunity, continues to offer a powerful moral-mobility agenda for America in the post-civil rights era.

See also, Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith, "Race Issue Moves to Center of Campaign."

John McCain's Final Solution!

I noted previously - with reference to the McCain campaign's "Celeb" ad buy - that there's a racist double-standard on race this election season. We saw yesterday, for example, that just suggesting Barack Obama's "presumptuousness" triggers cries of "racism" from left-wing partisans.

As one blogger argued, perhaps the Democrats are "so horny for someone to call Obama a shiftless darkie they're this close to saying it themselves."

The allegations of John McCain's race-baiting have continued today. This comment, from
The New Disease, is mindboggling:

What's really going on here? This ain't McCain taking a cheap shot at Obama's "celebrity" status....

This vicious, nasty, disgusting ad is about the black mens and the white womens. And how the former ain't supposed to touch the latter. It's about a threat to the white womens! Rape! Why else juxtapose two comely young white ladies in striking profile shots against the vaguely threatening, kinda shadowy image of a black man, with sorta scary chanting in the background. That chanting has a purpose, too - it says the black man has somehow bewitched the white folk and fooled them with his mystical savage black powers somehow.
This is an incredibly interesting passage, particularly for someone like myself, who has studied Jim Crow race relations as a professional, and as one who's father grew up in pre-civil rights era Missouri, especially since the hypothesized "strapping black predator" theme in McCain's ad buy absolutely never occcured to me.

Indeed, I'm convinced more than ever that the lefties are jonesing so bad - including Barack Obama himself - that every single criticism of his campaign or personal statements is "racist."

The Republicans have responded, in "
McCain Camp: 'Obama Has Played the Race Card'."

But that's not all!

It's not enough to allege racism: Obama backers are now
making the case that the "Celeb" ad recalls the Nazi propaganda films of Leni Riefenstahl, especially, "Triumph of the Will."

So, we have McCain not just as a white-feminine sex object race-baiter, he's further alleged as mounting a campaign of 1930s imperialist, industrial-style, war-state final solution-esque propaganda!

Now, while its certainly okay to check the veracity of McCain's campaign blitz against Obama (Garance Franke-Ruta notes that
bloggers are on the assignment), to go as far as to suggest that images of young celebrity sex-kittens juxtaposed to a Democratic-sponsored campaign speech by a black American presidential candidate in modern-day Berlin is a reprise of the 1000-Year Reich, is patently absurd.

The Building Backlash to Obama's Marxism?

I noted this morning that the "foundations of Obama's community organization of power are found in his radical ideological, political, and religious history."

As we get closer to the campaign, perhaps Barack Obama's radicalism is becoming more apparent, which may explain why the Illinois Senator's
unable to pull out a lead in public opinion over GOP nominee John McCain.

Also, as Carrie Dudoff Brown reports today,
at the Politico, the new attention to Obama as smug and elitist seems to be taking hold (recall Obama's dismisall of the working-classes as "bitter").

In turn, the Democrats' far left-wing base has become
increasingly crazed in trying to come up with something to offset Obama's own self-immolation. Obama's weaknesses have left Democratic partisans scrambing to paint the GOP as racist, which is perhaps the only thing more scary than a neo-Marxist administration come January, as Investor's Business Daily warned earlier:

Obama Marxist

When one looks at Obama, it's shocking how radical and anti-American his closest associates are. Taken separately, the black liberation theology of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or fundraiser William Ayers' unrepentant past as a 1960s terrorist or Obama's openly pro-Che Guevara volunteers in Houston might be dismissed.

But taken together, and given Obama's closeness to his friends, it's fair to ask whether Obama doesn't share their extreme-left views. Yet whenever he's asked, he gets mad and avoids the issue.

Maybe that's not surprising, given that Obama himself began his career as a Chicago community organizer and worked on projects there influenced by Saul Alinsky. The Marxist Machiavellian of the Chicago scene advised budding revolutionaries in his 1971 book "Rules For Radicals" to conceal their radical affiliations to attain greater power. That works well for Marxists.

But Obama's friends seem to be giving him away. If this sounds extreme, take a look at some of the activities of Obama's associates:

Wright is an adherent of black liberation theology, an explicitly Marxist interpretation of the Bible whose aim is to stir up class and race hatred to advance communism. Created by a rifle-toting Peruvian priest in the 1960s, it's now discredited in religious circles.

"Liberation theology isolates a few verses, takes them out of context, and then exaggerates their meaning," said the Rev. Bob Schenk of the National Clergy Council, on "Hannity's America" last weekend.

But Wright clings to it. And recently, he loudly praised the Marxist Sandinista dictatorship of Nicaragua.

Not by coincidence, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's president, endorses Obama. "This is not to say that there is already a revolution under way in the U.S. . . . But yes, (Obama and friends) are laying the foundations for a revolutionary change," said Ortega.

If that's not enough, Wright's also made pilgrimage to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Havana in 1984, alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Cuban-American writer Humberto Fontova noted Jackson and his entourage cheered "Viva Fidel" and "Viva Che Guevara" on the $300,000 trip paid for by the Cuban Council of Churches.

Then there's Obama's friend ex-Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, another Marxist. Not only did Ayers set off terrorist bombs against "the establishment" with no regrets during the 1960s, he told the New York Times "we didn't do enough."
Further, as the American Spectator notes, "Obama’s Left-Wing Extremism":

So the true picture of who Obama is should now be clear. His consistently extreme left policy positions are well grounded deep into his past, dating back even to the prep school Marxism of his youth. How could America allow this man to become President of the United States? Do we not take that position seriously anymore?
See also, Kyle-Anne Shriver, "Obama, the Closer: An Eloquent Clean Cut Black Man is the Perfect Front Man for the Radical Left.

Image Credit: "Obama's Marxist Underpinnings."

Obama's Community Organization of Power

One of the most imporant and fundamentally radical elements of Barack Obama's political journey is his experience as a Chicago community organizer.

The nature of community organization is inherently leftist and anti-establisment. Rooted in progressive social activism, community action is an Americanized version of the proletarian class struggle of the Marxist-Leninist ideological program. As such its essential project is the overthrow of institutions of hierarchical dominance and the decimation of the oppressive classes. It is totalizing in its project to defeat the reigning patterns of alleged hegemony of class and race. It seeks to give power to "the people."

The contemporary progressive left is well aware of Obama's practice of radical community organization. Progressives see in Obama one of their own. He'll take his politics of agitation, practiced on the Chicago South Side, to the national level.

The political appeal and current application of this leftist Trojan Horse is explained by John Maki, in his essay, "
Obama's "Community Organizer" Phase Was About Political Power, Not Soup Kitchens":
"Community organizer."

If you've heard the term, you likely learned about it through Barack Obama's memoir or one of his speeches where he talks about his time working in poor neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side in the 1980s. He refers to this time in his life a lot. Obama leans on it, hard, while stumping. But what does it mean?

"One of my fundamental beliefs from my days as a community organizer is that real change comes from the bottom up ... And there's no more powerful tool for grassroots organizing than the Internet."

-Barack Obama

What do community organizers actually do? How do they do it? And how has Obama's experience as a community organizer shaped his run for the presidency?

Well, as Maki indicates, community organizers practice a brutalizing politics of fear and power. Community progressives achieve their aims through a politics of implacable belligerency. It is the politics of abject thuggery. It is based in confrontation and scare-tactics. Those subjected to the community activist model will be offered a deal they can't refuse - there'll be hell to pay in going against the will of the people:

If you think these tactics resemble standard forms of political intimidation, you are right ... community organizing is old-fashioned, bare-knuckle politics for the little guy.

This is also what most coverage of Obama's days as a community organizer fails to appreciate. For whether you are an Alinksy-schooled community organizer or a Chicago politician, you are a student of power. If you have survived long enough to succeed in either position, like Obama has, you have learned not to worry so much about the power you have. What keeps you up at night is the power you do not have. In community organizing and politics, you know the only thing that can hurt you is what you cannot control.

Since Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, he has been accused of moving to the center and flip-flopping on positions he adopted during the primary. This criticism misses the point. In his recent moves, Obama, the community organizer, is simply trying to build new alliances as he neutralizes threats to his power. It is what any Chicago-trained community organizer worth his salt would do.
The fruits of Obama's community organization model can be seen in the latest revelations surrounding the presumptive nominee's ties to ACORN, the Chicago-based radical community action group. As Stanley Kurtz notes:

Obama has had an intimate and long-term association with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), the largest radical group in America. If I told you Obama had close ties with or Code Pink, you’d know what I was talking about. Acorn is at least as radical as these better-known groups, arguably more so. Yet because Acorn works locally, in carefully selected urban areas, its national profile is lower. Acorn likes it that way. And so, I’d wager, does Barack Obama.
Obama has been tremendously successful in keeping his oppositional community ties out of the national spotlight. There's been some attention to Obama's South Side radicalism, but for the most part the soft, respectable images of Barack Obama as a Harvard-trained lawyer and family man, with some sprinklings of benign multiculturalism, have prevailed as the dominant narrative.

The truth is otherwise.

Obama's steeped in the oppositional model of critical race studies. His theology's one of black liberation, social revolution, and hatred. He has known ties to ex-revolutionary fugitives William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, activists today who still denounce the United States and stomp on the American flag; and Obama's family ties have deep and troubling foundations in doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist activism and ideology.

The foundations of Obama's community organization of power are found in his radical ideological, political, and religious history.

This is the political program Obama will take to Washington if he's elected this November.

See also, Rick Moran, "Obama's Ties to ACORN More Substantial Than First Believed."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi: From Guantanamo to Martyrdom

Debra Burlingame, at the Wall Street Journal, illustrates how the civil liberties activists of the American left have enabled terrorists and sacrificed lives to the nihilist mayhem of Islamist evil.

The story begins with Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi, a one-time detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who was released from American custody in 2005. Al-Ajmi returned to the Middle East to commit a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in March 2008 (as seen below, in
the blast photo from the Combat Outpost Inman).

Mosul Bombing, March '08

It turns out that Al-Ajmi had written poetry while at Gitmo, with one poem mocking the American detention system, and glorifying holy martyrdom under Islam:

Al-Ajmi, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti, blew himself up in one of several coordinated suicide attacks on Iraqi security forces in Mosul this year. Originally reported to have participated in an April attack that killed six Iraqi policemen, a recent martyrdom video published on a password-protected al Qaeda Web site indicates that Al-Ajmi carried out the March 23 attack on an Iraqi army compound in Mosul. In that attack, an armored truck loaded with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of explosives rammed through a fortified gate, overturned vehicles in its path and exploded in the center of the compound. The huge blast ripped the façade off three apartment buildings being used as barracks, killing 13 soldiers from the 2nd Iraqi Army division and seriously wounding 42 others.

Using the name "Abu Juheiman al-Kuwaiti," Al-Ajmi is seen on the video brandishing an automatic rifle, singing militant songs and exhorting his fellow Muslims to pledge their allegiance to the "Commander of the Faithful" in Iraq. Later, Al-Ajmi's face is superimposed over the army compound, followed by footage of the massive explosion and still shots of several dead bodies lying next to the 25-foot crater left by the blast.

In 2006, Al-Ajmi's "Miranda" poem was included in a recitation of detainee poetry at a "Guantanamo teach-in" sponsored by Seton Hall Law School. The all-day event was Webcast live to 400 colleges and law schools across the country and abroad. Some of the lead attorneys pushing for detainee rights participated in the event, which began with organizers boasting about the diversity of the event's participating schools as exemplified by the American University of Paris, the American University in Cairo, the U.N. University for Peace in Costa Rica, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Parsons School of Design in New York City. One of Al-Ajmi's lawyers gave a presentation about detainee treatment entitled, "Insults to Religion."

Marc Falkoff, a former Covington & Burling attorney-turned-law-professor who represents several detainees, read the poems and later published a selection of them in a book ("Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak," Iowa University Press, 2007.) In his introductory remarks to the students, Mr. Falkoff described Al-Ajmi and the other detainee poets as "gentle, thoughtful young men" who, though frustrated and disillusioned, expressed an abiding hope in the future. "One thing you won't hear is hatred," he said, "and the reason you won't hear it is not because I edited it out, it's because it's not there in the poetry." Then how to explain the fact that -- on the advice of Al-Ajmi's attorneys - "To My Captive Lawyer, Miranda" [the poem glorify Islam jihad] was excluded from the published collection last year? Mr. Falkoff, who also has a Ph.D. in literature, refused to explain further, though he insists on describing Al-Ajmi's verse as a "love poem to his lawyer."
The remainder of Burlingame's essay details how recent Supreme Court rulings will likely result in additional terrorists heading back to the bloody landing grounds of the war on terror, who will then kill American GIs and Iraqi nationals now serving to consolidate freedom for the people of Iraq.

Meanwhile, students back home in American college classrooms, like those at City University of New York in Queens (who were assigned "Poems from Guantanamo"), will be enraptured with the poetic lines of the likes of Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi.

Photo Credit: Long War Journal, "Suicide Car Bomb Attack Killed 13 Iraqi Soldiers in Mosul."

Racist Double Standards

The left's deafening silence on Ludacris' controversial rap that Barack Obama's going to "paint the White House black" is matched today with the latest hypocritical campaign by Obama backers to smear the GOP as racist.

In response to
John McCain's new ad buy questioning Barack Obama's experience to lead, the nihilists have charged the McCain campaign with exploiting white fears of black predation on young white women. Here's Crooks and Liars:

The McCain campaign is looking increasingly desperate with each attack ad has chosen to take a tried and true approach to their latest ad — veiled racism. Referring to Barack Obama as the “biggest celebrity in the world,” McCain’s ad conveniently and quite overtly slides footage of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton into the mix.
Here's Melissa McEwan's attack:

Once again, McCain reveals himself to be eminently, shockingly willing to embrace the heinous tactics of the Bush team that he once deplored. That anyone still considers this guy an honorable rogue, a maverick, or a hero is beyond laughable. He doesn't possess any lingering shred of integrity, and his alleged independent streak came to a screeching halt as it collided with the stumbling zombie corpse of his credibility the moment he stood in New Hampshire with his arm around the shoulders of the man whose operatives called his wife a junky and his adopted daughter illegitimate. He may have been honorable and brave once upon a time, but he’s not anymore.
Is there any reason left in the political world?

Various observers, including journalists at the major national dailies, have noted the presumptuousness of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. But making that argument, too,
it turns out, is racist:

But what I'm most interested in today is the new meme the McCain campaign has been pushing for the last few weeks that Obama is presumptuous, arrogant and well ... just a bit uppity.

Both sides, left and right, make the same allegations - that the other has nothing going for itself but allegations of corruption or racism.

Yet throughout the entire 2008 campaign, the genuine racism that Americans have seen has been in the Democratic Party ranks, from Bill Clinton to Jesse Jackson to Luducris' incitement for John McCain to be shot and paralyzed.

Obama's Presumptuous Arrogance Risks Stunning Loss

Here's Dana Milbank on Barack Obama's "victory tour":

Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee....

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama's biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.
Bonnie Erbe at U.S. News agrees:

Democratic Party leaders would have you believe they are barreling toward victory in November with a youthful, enigmatic, messiahlike candidate capable of resolving every ill and satisfying competing constituencies. The GOP candidate, on the other hand, switches message from the war to the economy to offshore oil drilling and back again. Sen. John McCain goes through staff, advisers, and surrogates more quickly than McDonald's changes burger flippers. What is wrong with this picture? Why are Democrats so united and on-message this year and Republicans so fractiously incompetent?

Stay tuned, friends, because this, too, could change. The cracks are growing in the Democratic unity dam. and McCain may be on the verge of getting his act together. Sen. Barack Obama needs to step off his "holier than thou" platform and get his designer shoes dirty. He needs to let voters catch a glimpse of the regular guy who may actually lurk under his veneer of superiority. From using a logo resembling a presidential seal at one speech earlier this year (an obvious error and never seen again) to addressing a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin and meeting with heads of state before he has reason to, Obama's puerile self-absorption may backfire on him and turn off the very voters he needs to turn on: the white working class. His campaign's use of Cecil B. De Mille speaking backdrops rivals Karl Rove's brilliant manipulation of wedge issues. But as Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer notes, this, too, has its downsides:

Mr. Obama's campaign has featured Reagan-like stagecraft that has made his opponents look like midgets, producing an effect that prompted Chris Matthews, in a moment that will haunt him to his grave, to talk of a certain "thrill going up [his] leg." But it never seems to move his polls numbers.

Indeed, according to Gallup and Rasmussen Reports daily tracking polls, Obama's European trip poll bounce dwindled almost immediately to pretrip levels.

See also, "Pro-Bama Media Bias May Mobilize Republican Enthusiasm."

Going Negative: McCain's New Attack Campaign

Unlike some in the GOP, I'm not worried about John McCain's new aggressiveness in attacking Barack Obama's cultural and political liabilities.

The latest indication of McCain's increasing focus is the new "
Celeb" ad buy:

Here's the text:

He's the biggest celebrity in the world.
But, is he ready to lead?
With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling.
And, says he'll raise taxes on electricity.
Higher taxes, more foreign oil, that's the real Obama.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approved this message.

Here's some analysis on McCain's new tack:

As Obama seems to be preparing to become president following his whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe, the McCain campaign is stepping up its criticisms with an aggressive new communications strategy.

McCain, himself, has suggested that Obama would prefer to lose the Iraq war in order to win the election. He has run a television ad blaming Obama for high gas prices, and has criticized him for skipping a meeting with injured U.S. troops in Germany because he couldn't bring television cameras along. All are charges that the Obama campaign vehemently disputes and are disputable.

But McCain advisers say that Obama's hyper-charged celebrity is one thing not open for debate, noting that no one else could just show up in Berlin to find 200,000 Germans screaming his name.

"There are some things about this race that cannot be changed. The fact that Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world is a fundamental truth in the eyes of most Americans and people around the world," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "We cannot argue against what is true. What we can make a case for is that despite his enormous celebrity status, his policies and his positions are not what the American people want in a president because he's inexperienced and his policies underscore a lack of judgment that Americans will not vote for in November."
In the meantime, the Obama camp is squirming under the microscope.

Obama's non-bounce from the European tour is proving just how politically disastrous the trip was.

Ludacris Raps Assassination Chic for Obama

Ludacris, the popular rap music star, is known for glamorizing "a life of guns, violence, drugs and disrespect of women."

So perhaps it's unexceptional that Ludacris would attack presumptive GOP nominee John McCain as not belonging in "any chair," in the Oval Office or otherwise, "unless he's paralyzed." Via
Gateway Pundit, Hot Air, and The Swamp:

Here are the key lyrics:

... so get off your ass, black people, it's time to get out and vote!
paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified
McCain don't belong in ANY chair unless he's paralyzed ...
So, is this racist?

Not for
Spencer Ackerman:

Dave Weigel tipped me off to Hot Air posting this as an example of what they're too pussy-assed to call Luda's unforgivable blackness. But look: you're playing into our hands. Play every race card you want. Expose yourselves completely and irrevocably. Get out there on the record. Just remember what they say about payback.
Assassination chic, defended with some extreme left-wing demonology of vengeance.

Well then, who's exposing whom?

Turns out that Obama's hip to it, in any case: "Outrageously Offensive."

Deconstructing Obama's Legal Pedagogy

Recall what I noted last night, in my post on Barack Obama at the University of Chicago Law School:

I haven't seen any law professors weigh in yet, but I thought I'd throw in my two-cents from the political science perspective."
In focusing on Obama's reading selections, I suggested that his assignments reveal a particular postmodern pedagogy. Obama puts special emphasis on the work of Derrick Bell, the country's original proponent of critical race theory.

I'm thus pleased to see I'm not only one who's noticed something skewed here. The New York Times is updating
Jodi Kantor's original articles with commentary from four legal experts, in its update to "Inside Professor Obama’s Classroom." John C. Eastman, from Chapman University Law School, observes that while he's impressed that Obama included readings from "across the ideological spectrum," the special attention to Bell's postmodernism raises red flags:

My one criticism of the course is his recommendation that students read Derrick Bell’s summary of some landmark (if notorious) Supreme Court decisions. Cases such as Dred Scott v. Sanford, The Slaughterhouse Cases, and Plessy v. Ferguson, and in particular the strong dissenting opinions in those cases, cry out for careful study of the original materials, not a secondary summary.
Yes, especially not a secondary summary from a predetermined deconstructionist approach. But see also Randy Barnett's entry, where he tries to preempt criticism of Obama by noting:

While the course materials themselves do not tell us very much about Senator Obama, the candidate, what they do tell is about Obama, the teacher, is generally favorable....

Indeed, if one is looking to these material to learn more about Senator Obama’s own views of either “racism and the law” or the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, one will be disappointed.
I think that lets Obama off the hook too easily, especially since Obama's syllabus assigned seven selections from Derrick Bell, in contrast to one from Robert Bork and one from Randall Kennedy.

Instead of pedagogy, Professor Ann Althouse focuses on legal credentials, and especially Obama's position as a tenured lecturer without publishing one word of legal research:
After his loss in the 2000 Congressional primary race to former Black Panther Bobby L. Rush, "colleagues noticed that he seemed exhausted and was smoking more than usual," and they offered him a tenured faculty position (with a job for his wife). Think about that! He never produced a word of legal scholarship, after all those years teaching, and now they would simply give him tenure — at the University of Chicago Law School, a top 5 school, where the faculty is known for voluminous scholarly publishing. The case for tenure in law school depends predominantly on scholarship. You don't get tenure for being a very popular teacher. The failure to publish anything should be fatal to the tenure case of a lawprof who was hired with a belief in his promise as a scholar, but here tenure is bundled into the original offer to someone who had demonstrated that he lacked that promise. So this is interesting. The University of Chicago Law School has some explaining to do.
The question of Obama's qualifications also comes up at the Wall Street Journal, "‘Publish or Perish’? Apparently Not for Obama at U. of Chicago Law."

See also my original post, "
Professor Obama's Radical Syllabus."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Professor Obama's Radical Syllabus

Jodi Kantor's pair of stories on Barack Obama's teaching years at the University of Chicago Law School should help fill in some gaps on what Americans genuinely know about the presumptive Democratic nominee (here and here).

I haven't seen any law professors weigh in yet, but I thought I'd throw in my two-cents from the political science perspective.

Kantor's first piece, "
Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Apart," provides an overview and character sketch of Obama's faculty days at the Chicago law school. The feeling here is that Obama was well-liked and highly-respected. He also left some colleagues wanting a little more in the way of change, growth, personal challenge, and academic reflection:

The Chicago faculty is more rightward-leaning than that of other top law schools, but if teaching alongside some of the most formidable conservative minds in the country had any impact on Mr. Obama, no one can quite point to it.

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”
The essence of the story is that Obama was a committed, impassioned, inspiring professor, but teaching was literally an adjunct to his political aspirations. He didn't push too hard - never pressed buttons or stepped on toes - and didn't publish for fear of an ideological paper trail.

But he did leave one, in a sense, that provides at least telltale indicators to his ideological thinking.

As Kantor notes, in her second piece, "
Inside Professor Obama’s Classroom," the newspaper's research into Obama's Chicago days unearthed some of his teaching materials, including syllabi, examinations, and internal memos.

Particularly revealing is Obama's syllabus to his Spring 1994 law seminar, "
Current Issues in Racism and the Law." If Obama was resistant to conservative ideas at Chicago, his reading assignments open the door to his closeted postmodern approach to legal curricula.

Obama's Syllabus

It's not as though Obama failed to provide scholarly balance for his students. Included in his reading packet were selections from Robert Bork, the esteemed conservative constitutional scholar whose Supreme Court nomination was rejected for confirmation in 1987.

Yet, beyond Bork it appears Obama was intensely concerned with promoting an social-activist interpretation of race and the law (Kantor's
main article stresses this as well). It's revealing, for example, that Obama indicated that on recommended readings students might substitute the work of Derrick Bell for some of the other selections:

My main purpose in preparing this packet was to present, in easily accessible form, a basic primer regarding both the themes that have dominated the race debate in this country, as well as some of the key cases and statutes that reflect this debate.

Some of you will already be familiar with the material; others will find the material new. As a result, I've made at least half of the material optional (indicated in the syllabus). Those with the time and inclination can read the entire packet, while those with tighter schedules or a strong background in civil rights law can confine themselves to the required reading.

More particularly, in both the Slavery and Reconstruction sections, I have included short excerpts from Derrick Bell's,
Race, Racism, and American Law, that may serve as substitutes for some of the optional material.
Additional optional materials suggested were Derrick Bell's summaries of major cases such as Dred Scott, or his analyses of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

Again, readers will have to check with the law professors, especially regarding the civil rights law casebook (which looks unexceptional), but the privileged position of Derrick Bell in the course provides a partial roadmap to Obama's teaching goals and ideological foundations.

Bell is a founder of the law profession's "
critical race theory" of legal scholarship.

Critical race theory combines activism and scholarship in legal studies. Guiding questions in the genre focus on the nexus of race, racism, power, and privilege in civil rights and American history. The field is explicitly postmodernist, in that it takes issue with "conventional narratives" and seeks to unpack the social construction of white supremacy and black oppression. Critical race theorists are inherently radical; the goal of activist teaching and scholarhip is to break down all forms of subjugation, as well as the eradication of society's materialist edifices of elite hiearchy and classism.

The significance of Obama's pedagogy should be now become apparent.

Throughout the primaries Obama was battered with eruptions and revelations of controversal relationships with people way out of the mainstream of society.

Obama, if anyone could forget, was a parishioner at Trinity Unity Lutheran Church, who's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, preached a theology of black liberation, a religious tradition of Marxit-based social justice and the empowerment of the marginalized. Some adherents of liberation theology, particularly in Latin America during the Cold War,
explicitly advocated the revolutionary overthrow of conservative governmental regimes. Obama also held longstanding and troubling ties to '60s-era domestic revolutionaries, William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn. In addition, the extent of Obama's relationship to radical groups such as ACORN are still being revealed.

The question for many people, who know little of such radicals and their front-organizations, is how could a U.S. Senator - and now presumptive Democratic nominee - have such extensive ties to extremists?

Professor Obama's radical syllabus is one of the pieces of the puzzle. The Illinois Senator could sit in the pews listening to Reverend Jeremiah for twenty years, nodding his head in agreement, because he spent his working days grading law school essays seeking to deconstruct the hegemony of black marginalization under America's legal apartheid. Obama could organize for social change - attending rallies and campaign events - with Weathermen terrorists because he was down with their ideological foundations. He could push a politics of social agitation in housing because he saw the slumlords of the South Side as the appendages of the capitalist oppressor state.

This is the intellectual environment cultivated in Obama's teaching and studies in civil rights law.

Barack Obama is
America's first postmodern presidential candidate.

By training and profession,
he's a social deconstructionist comfortably embedded in the lifestyle of oppositional legal and political culture. He has carefully navigated the waters of legal academe and municipal machine politics to carve out an outwardly non-confrontational demeanor, while on the inside he's informed by post-material, postmodern activist priorities, and his possible accession to the presidency would bring to power an occupant in the Oval Office dramatically unlike any of those who have come before.

Image Credit: New York Times

What Record Deficits Teach Us

It is significant news that the Bush administration is expected to leave office with the federal budget showing a record $482 billion deficit. There's even some added outrage that defense appropriations for Afghanistan and Iraq are held "off-budget," which ostensibly swells the numbers even further.

It's interesting, though, that liberal economist Dean Baker notes that in terms of deficits as a percentage of GDP, the Bush budget legacy should be less controversial than his predecessors:

The latest projections show a deficit of $490 billion. By the absolutely meaningless measure of nominal dollars this is a record. But if anyone thinks this is giving information to readers, then they have no business writing news. The relevant measure is the deficit as a share of GDP. The 2009 deficit will be equal to about 3.3 percent of GDP. Even if you add in 1.3 percent of GDP for the money borrowed from Social Security this only gets you to 4.6 percent, well below the 6.0 percent deficit hit in 1983.
President Reagan was in office in 1983, which leads Matthew Yglesias to hammer home the point, with reference to the following graph:

Budget Deficits

Dean observes that "the 2009 deficit will be equal to about 3.3 percent of GDP," similar to the deficits earlier in the Bush administration and to the deficits ran in the mid-1970s. The real "record" deficits hit in the 1980s and early 1990s were substantially larger than today's deficits.

This visual display of quantitative information helps put things in perspective. Yglesias focuses on the "real" record deficits, which preceded President Clinton's two terms in the 1990s.

But note how President Bush's budget legacy at 3.3 percent of GDP is roughly equal to the deficit graphed in 1968, near the end of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. According to the data, the fiscal situation moved to surplus in President Nixon's first term and then deteriorated following the Johnson adminstration's global monetization of America's balance-of-payments difficulties, as well as the exogenous oil-shocks of the 1970s. After the initial "record" budget shortfalls of the Reagan years, the deficit neared 2.5 percent of GDP by 1989, not much different from where we stand today.

What seems clear is that a Democratic Bill Clinton administration is the exception to a U.S. fiscal policy pattern of deficit-financed economic growth. Further, the implications of the pattern of long-term budgetary imbalance remain unclear, given the size, dynamism, and resilience of the U.S. economy.

As Paul Samuelson noted in the 1990s:

Those who study economics or make economic policies ... will confront the need to service a large external debt and the possibility of sluggish economic growth. But in the midst of today's tempest, keep in mind the observations on growth and debt of the English historian Lord Macaulay, written more than a century ago:

At every stage in the growth of that debt, the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair. At every stage in the growth of that debt, it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand. Yet still the debt went on growing; and still bankruptcy and ruin were as remote as ever.

The prophets of evil were under a double delusion. They erroneously imagined that there was an exact analogy between the case of an individual who is in debt to another individual and the case of a society which is in debt to a part of itself ... They made no allowance for the effect produced by the incessant progress of every experimental science, and by the incessant efforts of every man to get on in life. They saw that the deficit grew; and they forgot that other things grew as well.

What can Macaulay teach us ... ? We can hardly doubt that high fiscal deficits are producing an unprecedented growth in ... debt in the United States....

But it would be unwise to forecast economic collapse. The spector of national bankruptcy or financial ruin is remote for the United States...

That's a good bit of perspective, after all.

Graphic Credit: Matthew Yglesias

Pro-Bama Media Bias May Mobilize Republican Enthusiasm

Gallup reports that John McCain may ultimately benefit from Barack Obama's overseas trip last week.

It turns out that public opinion, especially among Republicans, is reacting negatively to the aggressive media coverage of Obama's world tour:

Obama Media

John McCain benefit from Barack Obama's much-publicized foreign trip? Several observations from the just-completed USA Today/Gallup poll suggest that this is a possibility....

The heavy coverage of the trip may have fueled speculation (or reinforced pre-existing attitudes) about news media bias in Obama's favor. A separate set of questions in the weekend poll asked Americans about their views of the news media's coverage of the two major-party candidates. Americans are more than twice as likely to say media coverage of Obama is unfairly positive as to say it is unfairly negative. For McCain, the opposite is true, with many more seeing coverage of him as unfairly negative than as unfairly positive.

The differences in views of the media are enormous between those who are voting for McCain and those voting for Obama. In general, McCain voters largely believe their candidate is being treated unfairly while Obama is getting overly friendly media coverage. In turn, Obama voters tend to view the media coverage of both candidates as even-handed....

The media's coverage of Obama's foreign trip, coupled with a strong reaction from McCain and other conservatives, may have created the seemingly paradoxical effect of increasing Republicans' energy and excitement about voting for McCain. If this is the case, the degree to which this is short-term versus long-term is still not clear.
My feeling is that conservative outrage at media favoritism toward Obama will be lasting.

Just yesterday liberal
Frank Rich at the New York Times suggested that Obama is now the "acting president" and that, in fact, the media's really giving John McCain a "free pass."

Thus, it's entirely likely that we'll see lingering conservative resentment, as more and more of such coverage looks to annoint Obama presumptuously.

Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen capture the essence of this in their essay, "
The Campaign is All About Obama":

If you were to make a movie about the general election campaign so far, John McCain would be a supporting actor.

Despite vulnerabilities that have kept the race closer in polls than most analysts expected — and McCain even jumped to a 4-percentage-point lead among likely voters in a USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday —
Barack Obama dominates the race by virtually any other measure. He is dictating the agenda and soaking up news coverage as McCain and his team scramble to react.
As Martin and Allen observe, however, the race remains entirely within McCain's grasp. The key will be for the McCain camp to hone-in on an effective campaign message to drive the battle on the hustings until November.

Fortunately, with McCain's "
Troops" ad buy last weekend, we're seeing a turnaround in the McCain organization toward a more forthright aggressivness, and this shift may provide the focus to increase Obama's negatives and sow doubt among an electorate ready for change but hestitant about the acession of oppositional values and untried leadership to the Oval Office.

Graphic Credit: Gallup

Blue Dogs Under the Bus? Go for it, Democrats!

You've got to love Glenn Greenwald. He provides conservatives with so much humorous fodder.

The latest example is Greenwald's call for progressives to target "
Blue Dogs," the centrist Democrats who recently "caved" on FISA and are alleged to be "Beltway Democrats" increasing their own power by "mimicking Republicans."

The essay's gotten
quite a response. Especially good is this from Jennifer Rubin:

In a piece filled with perfectly awful analysis and advice Glenn Greenwald says that the problem with Congress is that is was too accommodating of the evil agenda of George W. Bush. FISA passage is at the top of the list. If they hadn’t passed that bill, allowing terrorism surveillance to continue and had cut off funding for the war, they wouldn’t have poll numbers in the teens.

He offers no factual support for this, of course, and indeed polling showed that while the decision to go to war remains unpopular voters did not and still don’t favor a cut off of funds. And Greenwald assumes, again without data, that the public like Barack Obama is stewing that the surge worked — and now taking its wrath out on Congress. His solution? Punish the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, target them for defeat and run them out of town on a rail.

To that I say: oh please do. Let’s see them run Nancy Pelosi clones in the South, anti-gun advocates in Colorado and ultra-liberals in Pennsylvania and Ohio. (See, sometimes you forget that conservatives are not alone in their desire to so purify the party that they would winnow it down to a phone-booth size contingent of true believers.)

But, alas, I do not see any sign that the Democrats are following Greenwald’s advice. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Rahm Emanuel figured out that a party — at least one which seeks majority status — must be broad-based and willing to run people who can win in disparate parts of the country.

So on second thought, forget all the criticism. Go for it, Democrats! Throw the Blue Dogs out, vote to cut off funding for the surge and repeal FISA while you’re at it. And don’t you listen to those poll numbers about off-shore drilling either. It’s just a scheme by Fox news to get you to destroy the environment.

This is the biggest kick I've gotten from lampooning Greenwald since Megan McArdle noted that:

Mr. Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure.
I took a bit more serious a stab at the progressive's attack on "Blue Dogs" in "The Left's Demonology of Vengeance."

Reading Rubin, though, is relaxing. I agree: Go for it, Democrats! LOL!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Between War and Peace in Iraq

Today's bombing attacks in Baghdad and Kirkuk are a tragic reminder that Iraq remains dangerous amid an overwhelming improvement in the nation's security.

The Los Angeles Times reports on a country that lives between war and peace:

Iraq Calm

The departure this month of the last of the 28,500 extra troops sent in a U.S. military buildup leaves Iraq in a rickety calm, an in-between space that is not quite war and not quite peace where ethnic and sectarian tensions bubble beneath the surface.

Politicians and U.S. officials hail the remarkable turnaround from open civil war that left 3,700 Iraqis dead during the worst month in the fall of 2006, compared with June's toll of 490, according to Pentagon estimates.

Signs abound that normal life is starting to return. Revelers can idle away the hours at several neighborhood joints in Baghdad where the tables are buried in beers and a man can bring a girlfriend dolled up in a nice dress.

Despite the gains, the political horizon is clouded: Shiite Muslim parties are locked in dangerous rivalries across central and southern Iraq. Kurds and Arabs in the north compete for land with no resolution in sight. U.S.-backed Sunni Arab fighters who turned on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq could return to the insurgency if the government does not deliver jobs and a chance to join the political process.

Bombings, assassinations and kidnappings still occur almost daily. And those out enjoying Baghdad's night life feel safe only because they are staying inside their own districts in a city transformed into a patchwork of enclaves after years of sectarian violence.

Whether the quiet endures hinges on many factors, including the results of yet-unscheduled provincial and national elections and whether Iraq's religious and ethnic factions can find a fair power-sharing formula.

The country is bedeviled by the question: What happens as the U.S. military vacates outposts in Baghdad neighborhoods, where it has stood as a buffer and occasional arbiter between Sunnis and Shiites and even arrested police and army commanders suspected of sectarian agendas?
This really is the central question, not just in Iraq, but in the United States as well, where Barack Obama continues to argue that Iraq's a "distraction" from our challenges elsewhere in the world.

As we can see in the photo above, while some threats remains, Iraqis live today without the fear of violence that was routine just 18-months ago.

Iraqis no longer face ethnic cleansing and genocide. There is no more civil war. Regional commanders of the Iraqi army
report no threat from al Qaeda in most of the country.

The rates of Iraqi civilian deaths from violent crime pale in comparison to
South Africa.

None of this is to minimize today's suffering, or other deaths of recent months. It is to put things in perspective.

It is also to
put things in contrast to war opponents on the left who are nodding approvingly at the attacks, arguing that this morning once again demonstrates the failure of the surge:

The essence of the "success" of the surge is that, as in 2004 and 2005, you only sometimes read about that kind of thing, whereas at its worst you read about it frequently. That's not nothing, but people should understand that even in its "better" state Iraq is very much a shattered society featuring an unenviable quality of life.
That's just not true, as we can see from the analysis - and images - here.

See also, Long War Journal, "Female Suicide Bombers Kill 70 Iraqis in Kirkuk, Baghdad."

Photo Credit: "Iraqi children run in a park in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 21. In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged," Los Angeles Times.

McCain Leads Obama 49-45 Among Likely Voters

Chris Bowers strained over the weekend to find some daylight for Barack Obama in polling data vis-à-vis John McCain, strangely seeing in Obama a move away from the ideological center in the Illinois Senator's European tour:

Obama has regained the sense of pride and inspiration that he lost with the appearance of moving to the center. Moving to the center, or really moving in any direction, is dangerous for a politician because it sends a message that the politician is ashamed and apologetic for who s/he actually is. This head-hanging feeling will almost invariably translate into a loss of support because, in the same way that we don't want to feel ashamed of our country or of ourselves, few Americans want a President who is ashamed of who s/he is. Thus, Obama's overseas trip was the perfect anecdote for the move to the center meme.
This is an unusual interpretation of Obama's trip.

Obama himself had "cast the tour as a chance for substantive discussion on issues relevant to the American public."

The tour, in other words, was a chance for the Illinois Senator to gain credibility with Americans in the mainstream, in contrast to what Bowers wants folks to believe.

What is more,
the European bounce for Obama that many hailed last week appears to have evaporated.

In contrast to the subjective reality among Bowers and his friends at
Open Left, McCain actually leads Obama among like voters in the latest USA Today/Gallup survey:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain moved from being behind by 6 points among "likely" voters a month ago to a 4-point lead over Democrat Barack Obama among that group in the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. McCain still trails slightly among the broader universe of "registered" voters. By both measures, the race is tight.

The Friday-Sunday poll, mostly conducted as Obama was returning from his much-publicized overseas trip and released just this hour, shows McCain now ahead 49%-45% among voters that Gallup believes are most likely to go to the polls in November. In late June, he was behind among likely voters, 50%-44%.

Among registered voters, McCain still trails Obama, but by less. He is behind by 3 percentage points in the new poll (47%-44%) vs. a 6-point disadvantage (48%-42%) in late June.

Results based on the survey of 791 likely voters have margins of error of +/- 4 percentage points -- so McCain's lead is not outside that range. Results based on the survey of 900 registered voters also have margins of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

Gallup editor Frank Newport tells Jill that "registered voters are much more important at the moment," because Election Day is still 100 days away, but that the likely-voter result suggests that it may be possible for McCain to energize Republicans and turn them out this fall.
See also, Rasmussen Reports, "Daily Presidential Tracking Poll," which sees Obama’s Berlin bounce collapsing:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that Barack Obama’s Berlin bounce is fading. Obama now attracts 45% of the vote while John McCain earns 42%. When "leaners" are included, it’s Obama 48% and McCain 45%. Both Obama and McCain are viewed favorably by 56% of voters.
An interesting hypothesis is whether McCain's attack on Obama's indifference to wounded veterans - seen in McCain's "Troops" ad buy over the weekend - is having an effect on the numbers.

See, "
McCain: Obama All Politics On Iraq."

Comments on Tennessee Valley Church Killings

Firedoglake is attacking the conservative blogosphere for its alleged silence on the news that "some wingnut crazy shot up a Unitarian church in Tennessee, killing 2 and wounding 7."

Dave Neiwert, also at Firedoglake, argues that the "chickens came home to roost."

I'm troubled to see political polarization in times like these.

I first send out my condolences for the bereaved, and God's blessings to the survivors. But I also want to lay down a moral challenge, to those on both the left and right, for an end to the politicization of these personal tragedies.

The Knoxville News Sentinel has the full story, but the Yankee Confederate has observations on Jim Adkisson, the suspect apprehended in the case:

While many in the political blogosphere will no doubt focus on the fact that Adkisson said he hated liberals and gays, the fact of the matter is that the didn't target a gay club or local progressive political groups, he specifically targeted a church. He did so after expressing beliefs to neighbors in the past that he had an abiding anger against Christianity, an anger that appears rooted in his childhood. The church appears to have been targeted because it embodied at least three things this pathetic human being hated, not just the one or two things I know certain critics will single out as they view the world through their own warped prisms.

Adkisson had apparently planned to keep murdering church-goers until gunned down by police. He planned to keep killing innocents until he died in a hail of police bullets... suicide-by-cop. But he was instead tackled and restrained by church-goers just seconds into his attack as he attempted to reload after shooting his shotgun's magazine dry....

Sunday was a horrible day for the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and there will be terrible days ahead as they seek to recover, and to heal.

The Tennessee church killings might be seen as an example of domestic terrorism (take note Melissa McEwan) , and no one, no reasonable, thoughtful person, should try to score political points from this tragedy.

A background story, also from
the Knoxville News Sentinel, indicates that Adkisson has a history of psychological instablity. He hated "anyone who was different," and he had treatened to kill his wife in 2000. Adkisson had trouble holding down stable employment.

This is a story of personal and community tragedy, not of political payback. Let the healing begin.

Robert Novak Diagnosed With Brain Tumor

Robert Novak, the "dark prince" of American conservative journalism, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak said today he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor but says that, “God willing,” he plans to be back at work soon.

Novak said he was diagnosed Sunday with a tumor and will soon begin treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

He issued the following statement:

“On Sunday, July 27, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have been admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where doctors will soon begin appropriate treatment. “I will be suspending my journalistic work for an indefinite but, God willing, not too lengthy period."

Novak is alert and talking — he wrote the statement announcing his illness — but in intensive care, where the hospital does not allow phone calls or flowers, according to his assistant, Kathleen Connolly.

"He's talking,'' Connolly said. "He seemed fine."

The diagnosis was sudden. Novak became ill Sunday during a family outing near Cape Cod, Mass. A family member called 911, and he was brought by ambulance to Brigham and Women's Hospital, where the diagnosis was made.

It’s too early to know whether the tumor is malignant or benign, his assistant said.

"They haven't even done the biopsy yet," Connolly said.

That’s to be done later today, she said.

There's more at the link.

He was visiting his daughter in Massachusetts when he became ill.

Among his many great journalistic moments, Novak predicted that
John McCain would become the GOP nominee after the Arizona Senator's comeback win in the New Hampshire primary in January. Novak's been with the Chicago Sun-Times since 1966.

Perhaps his medical condition contributed to his automobile accident last week, when he hit a pedestrian in Washington, D.C. Some bloggers hoped "
karma" would catch up with him at the news of the incident (see also Dan Collins).

I wish him a successful recovery. God's blessings to Novak and his family.


UPDATE: It didn't take long for the secular demonologists to attack:

Just go away Novak. No sympathy for you here. You’re [sic] aiding and abetting this criminal administration in treasonous activity will be your well deserved legacy. Say “hi” to Reagan when you get to Hell.
I'll add additional examples of the left's attacks on Novak in later updates, although I won't quote any further demonization. We just need a timeout on the hate once in a while.

Added: The Huffington Post's article on Novak's illness is closed to comments, which is the policy there now, thankfully, to preempt the hate-filled attacks.