Skip to comments.Read Our Interview with David Freddoso ("The Case Against Barack Obama")
Posted on 08/28/2008 11:27:01 AM PDT by vadum
Capital Research Centers James Dellinger and Matthew Vadum interviewed National Review Onlines David Freddoso about his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama on the August 26, 2008, edition of online radio show Organization Watch.
In the book Freddoso cites the work of Capital Research Center, specifically our June 2008 Foundation Watch article, Barack Obama: A Radical Leftists Journey from Community Organizing to Politics.
Obama is "one of the fiercest guardians of the corrupt status quo," says Freddoso. "He is the problem he describes."
The full interview is available here as an MP3 audio file.
The following is an edited transcript of the interview:
VADUM: Is it fair to say that your main argument in The Case Against Barack Obama, which was published early this month by Regnery and is now number six on the nonfiction edition of the New York Times bestseller list, is it that Barack Obama is not what he claims or appears to be?
FREDDOSO: That would be a very fair way of saying it. He is not what he claims to be. He is not an agent of hope and change. He is in fact one of the fiercest guardians of the corrupt status quo and hes proven that repeatedly in Chicago. Hes proven it through his legislative activity which has generally consisted of helping his friends and even in some cases it looks like he might have done something certainly helping his friends, certainly helping his political allies and I also cite two instances in which his activity in governance appears to have actually benefited himself personally. The problems in government that Senator Obama describes about how the guy with the best lobbyist and the biggest contributions gets whatever he wants are actually real problems and the reason people like Senator Obamas critique is that it addresses a real problem in society. The problem, though, is that those problems exist precisely because there are too many politicians like Barack Obama. He likes to say, we are the ones weve been waiting for. But [it would be] more accurate to say that he is the problem he describes.
DELLINGER: Could he possibly be described as the best machine politician ever? Youve persuasively argued that time and time again he could spend his rising political capital on various reform ventures. Instead he nixes them to play the game at a higher level.
FREDDOSO: Thats exactly right. At any point in time when he could have supported reform, Senator Obama decides to go the other way. I think not necessarily the most important but the most dramatic example of this came in the 2006 race for Cook County board president. Now this is kind of a big deal in Chicago people who arent from there have to understand. But you had the Democratic machine boss of Cook County whos basically running the government for the benefit of himself and his political cronies. John Stroger ran an entire patronage system according to allegations from hundreds of civil servants that are still being sorted out by the federal government today, because Stroger of course is deceased, but Stroger was running the county government like his own personal fiefdom. He would hire, promote, and give all the best jobs to his political workers whether they were qualified for the jobs they were being given or not on the county payroll. The way a political machine works, its building block anyway, is this hiring process because you use the hiring process to give permanent salaries, incomes, to the people who are going to run out and knock on doors and pass out leaflets and do all the basic work of your political campaign for you. And that way the taxpayers actually paying for your campaign because not only do they donate their time because theyre getting this job, they also kick back small contributions, and if you look at Strogers campaign funds that he had raised, more than half of the money he got was coming from people whose pockets he was lining with taxpayer dollars. So thats the way a political machine is maintained, thats how it remains perpetual because who wants to run against Mayor Daley, who wants to run against John Stroger when hes got this structural advantage built in? Hes got the taxpayers money to use against you? Youd have to raise so much money just to keep up.
* * * * *
VADUM: David, Barack Obama has made a really big deal out of the fact that before he got involved in elective politics he was a community organizer. What the heck is a community organizer?
FREDDOSO: Thats a great question and Obamas friends asked him that question and he writes about it in Dreams from My Father and he wasnt really sure how to answer it, so he started talking about how we needed change and he wanted to bring about change. Maybe that sounds kind of familiar, actually. I mean he actually writes in his book, well I didnt really know how to answer it; I didnt know what it meant. But a community organizer is in the tradition of Saul Alinsky who wrote Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals, two very important seminal books in left-wing activism. Alinsky viewed that his way of getting people to rise up out of their situation assumed that first of all there is a link between political empowerment and economic empowerment and that by becoming politically powerful the people in a poor neighborhood could then become wealthy, better off in their situation. Now I would say if anything its exactly the opposite. The reason that this community organizing could not save Chicago from what ended up happening to it, which was that enormous, entire neighborhoods were run down, just overrun by crime and gangs and complete decay, total self-segregation during the 1950s and 60s, the reason that that happened is that Saul Alinskys community organizing is a failed exercise. It is futile, which is also something that Obama recognized, but when he was practicing it he would go to people and try to manipulate their self-interest in order to get them to act in a certain way that he felt would make an improvement in their neighborhood.
VADUM: Just to elaborate on this, David, didnt Alinsky teach that you had to find the problem and then rub raw the sores of discontent in order to make ordinary people in the community angry and want to do something?
FREDDOSO: Exactly. That is by stoking discontent, you manipulate their discontent, you try to make sure that their problems are elevated to something that is serious enough they want to act on, and then you offer them a solution and you try to make them think they came up with it by themselves and then theyll pursuit it.
VADUM: Basically he could say thats salesmanship and a cynic would say thats being a con man.
FREDDOSO: Yes, you could say it, although the community organizer doesnt walk away with a big suitcase full of cash, so maybe con man is but yes, youre conning people into doing something that you think is in their interest. Thats what community organizing is about basically. And its kind of interesting to look at Alinskys worldview because of course its a failed idea thats never really seriously benefited anyone. I mean you can bring one or two nice things. Obama succeeded in bringing a job training referral center to his neighborhood. He got some of the asbestos removed from a housing complex, and thats all well and good, but the real problem in these neighborhoods was never just that it was more than simply the fact that the government services were lacking its that they had become unlivable and that peoples attitudes, in part something that was solidified by the onset of the welfare state long ago, that peoples attitudes really changed toward personal responsibility and then the government would also neglect those areas, the police wouldnt really do what theyre supposed to do and make sure that the places were safe to live. So anyway that was Chicagos big problem and a lot of the south side of Chicago is still just kind of a wasteland to this day even, although its improving. Its definitely getting better. That was the environment that Obama was in and he recognized after a few years of doing this that it wasnt really getting any results, the people he was working with were frustrated by it, and they didnt really want to participate that much anymore. And he thought to himself, you know what Ill have to do: I will have to go to law school because without a law degree I really cant make a difference in any of these neighborhoods. So he went to Harvard and that was the end of his community organizing days but Alinskys influence on him lives on. And I just want to cite for you one of the things that Alinsky says in Rules for Radicals. Im not going to read it or quote, Im just going to summarize it. What he says is that, hes talking about the middle classes, and he says that they are sort of hopeless and lost. They become bitter. They cling to illusory fixed points which are nonetheless very real to them. They hold irrational religious beliefs that you shouldnt try to disabuse them of because then theyll react violently. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
DELLINGER: Yes, it sounds like that speech in Pennsylvania that caused so much controversy.
FREDDOSO: Yes, it was in San Francisco. He talked about the people back in Pennsylvania as bitter people who cling to guns and religion and patriotism. Thats exactly the way Alinsky talked about it, so Obama sort of takes this Alinskys entire philosophy condescends upon the human person. It condescends on the poor basically thinking that I know what they need better than they do. It condescends on the middle classes saying that we need to help them because theyre confused and everything but really theyre just a bunch of delusional people who think that patriotism and stuff like that is important. Thats the kind of influence you see in Obamas life that you see from Saul Alinsky.
* * * * *
VADUM: A group is trying to remind Americans, or at least inform Americans of his radical ties, the group called American Issues Project, the nonprofit group, and they have come up with an ad that highlights Barack Obamas ties to the unrepentant terrorist bomber William Ayers. Do you want to tell us about that ad campaign and the problems that theyre experiencing?
FREDDOSO: Senator Obamas campaign is threatening legal action and theyre going after the group thats doing it and theyre threatening legal action against the stations that run it, which is a great way to stifle debate I suppose. And theyre even running their own ad in response which I think is a huge mistake because they should just be trying to draw as little attention to this as possible. It doesnt strike me as terribly smart. Look, and the thing about Ayers, and I think some people over-blow this: Obama has nothing to do with the stuff that Ayers did. That was all when he was a kid. That is a legitimate defense I think. The problem with Obamas defense of his current relationship with Ayers, though, is: Why would you become even casual friends with an unrepentant terrorist who blew things up, bombed the Pentagon, and is tied through congressional testimony to a murder in fact, that he was discussing this murder that had already happened, and said to the witness in congressional testimony, that his wife had planned the bomb that killed the police officer in San Francisco? This is the thing: Its like Eric Rudolph, the abortion clinic bomber, the guy who bombed the Olympics, if, like Ayers, he had somehow avoided prosecution for his crimes, do you think that Senator Obama or anyone else, would you sit on panel discussions with the guy where maybe he has some high-minded ideas about education or juvenile justice. Does that make sense?
VADUM: No. He would be a pariah.
FREDDOSO: Yes, and he should be and so should Ayers. But people like Obama, they hang around with the guy, they give him respectability. He works on projects with him. Its kind of disturbing really. It shows a lack of judgment.
VADUM: But whats interesting, though, is that the University of Illinois where William Ayers is an education professor is finally today releasing some documents that talk about Obamas time at the Annenberg Challenge, a charity aimed at education reform in the 90s where Ayers co-founded the Annenberg Challenge and Obama was the chairman of the board. Do you think theyre going to find anything interesting?
FREDDOSO: Its my National Review colleague Stanley Kurtz, he is the one who requested that. At first they granted it to him, he flew to Chicago, then they shut him down and said were not granting you access. And this is a public library, but of course its called the Richard J. Daley Library so what do you expect?
VADUM: But now theyve suddenly reversed themselves and theyre doing a document dump.
FREDDOSO: Yes. Theyre doing a document dump. Theres something like 134 boxes of documents. This could be potentially very interesting. From the people Ive talked to, and this is more your field perhaps, but the Annenberg Challenge was such an unmitigated disaster, a waste of money, that it convinced a lot of educational philanthropists that they shouldnt bother with projects like that ever again. It was a bit of a disaster in the world of educational philanthropy, I was talking with a friend who works in that field, and I dont go too much into detail but in their own report I mention in the book they basically said that they didnt improve student outcomes at all. But the fact that Ayers and Obama, meanwhile, are in this thing giving grants and spending all this money, they have to have had a lot of interaction. And I think well learn a lot more about it. Im really looking forward to whatever Stanley can find.
DELLINGER: I was going to ask you about your op-ed that was in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago.
FREDDOSO: Yes, yes.
VADUM: It was August 20th. Its called Obama Played by Chicago Rules.
DELLINGER: Specifically, the discussions of the tactics used to accomplish certain people being removed from a ballot.
FREDDOSO: And Senator Obama ran unopposed. Whats interesting is if you read The Audacity of Hope, his 2006 political autobiography, Senator Obama writes about that election in a very interesting way. He says that he went around the south side of Chicago telling people to be less cynical about politics and that maybe politicians had broken their promises in the past, but that there was also a great tradition in American politics of working together, and coming together around a common interest for the common good. And he said that people liked the speech and they ended up making him their state senator, they voted for him. Whereas in fact what happened is he threw all his opponents off the ballot by challenging the petitions signatures that they submitted to appear on the ballot. And he even threw an incumbent state senator off the ballot, that was how he ended up becoming a state senator. And nobody seems to know that, which Im very surprised by, because it has been reported. Its out there.
DELLINGER: Do you still get blank stares when you tell your liberal friends that story?
FREDDOSO: Well, they kind of dont believe it. Sometimes I have told that story and people will just give me a blank stare, whatever kind of stare they have to give me. They cant believe its true.
VADUM: And yet it persists. David, the fact that Barack Obama is a red diaper baby, in other words, he grew up in an environment that was either supportive or at a minimum very tolerant of communist ideals, does it matter? He identified as his boyhood mentor Frank Marshall Davis, an actual Communist Party member, in his book Dreams from My Father.
FREDDOSO: Does it matter? I think, yes, it matters only insofar as the influence that its clearly had on him that you see at times. Senator Obamas mentor was not someone he chose so I dont think you can necessarily blame him for the association, but it is very interesting to see how when Frank Marshall Davis tells Obama, never trust white people, and dont sell out your race, and all those things, I dont think Obama actually doesnt trust white people or anything, but you seeing him playing the race card in this election and being the one to insert race into this election. It really does say something about his, again, influences. Hes willing to go there a little bit at least.
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