- Democrat U.S. Senator from Illinois
- Far-left Democrat candidate for President of the United States in 2008
For an in-depth look at a host of Barack Obama's key personal and political affiliations, visit DiscoverTheNetworks' special feature, Barack's World.
Speaking to a gathering of hundreds of minority journalists yesterday in Chicago, Senator Barack Obama said the United States should acknowledge its history of poor treatment of certain ethnic groups. He said:
There's no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we've got some very sad and difficult things to account for
. I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged
. I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.
Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. is a United States Senator from Illinois. In 2008 he defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Partys presidential nomination.
Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a black Muslim father from Kenya who met as students at the University of Hawaii. His mother Anna, as Obama describes her in his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.
His father, also named Barack (Swahili for One who is blessed by God) Obama, left his rural Luo-speaking village and his Muslim father to become an agnostic and study economics abroad. His son was two years old when the elder Barack left the boy and his mother and returned to Harvard University and then to Kenya, where he became a globe-traveling economist for the government.
When the young Obama was six, his mother married an Indonesian oil manager, a non-practicing Muslim, and the family moved to Jakarta, where Baracks half-sister Maya was born. The family would reside there for four years.
Vis a vis Barack Obamas religious upbringing, Islam scholar Daniel Pipes reports the following:
In Islam, religion passes from the father to the child. Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. [his Kenyan birth father] was a Muslim who named his boy Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Only Muslim children are named Hussein.
[Barack Obamas] stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was also a Muslim. In fact, as Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng explained to Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim. An Indonesian publication, the Banjarmasin Post reports a former classmate, Rony Amir, recalling that All the relatives of Barry's [Baracks] father were very devout Muslims.
Obamas good friend, the attorney and novelist Scott Turow, wrote that Obama as a child spent two years in a Muslim school, then two more in a Catholic school. School records show that when Obama attended Catholic school, he was enrolled as a Muslim.
Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times learned from Obamas childhood friends that Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune found that Obama occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers. An Indonesian friend of Obama, Zulfin Adi, states that [Obama] was Muslim. He went to the mosque. I remember him wearing a sarong [a garment associated with Muslims]. The aforementioned Rony Amir describes Obama as previously quite religious in Islam.
In December 2007 Obama would say, I've always been a Christian. The only connection I've had to Islam is that my grandfather on my father's side came from that country [Kenya]. But I've never practiced Islam. In February 2008 he elaborated, I have never been a Muslim.
[O]ther than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for four years when I was a child [Indonesia, 1967-71] I have very little connection to the Islamic religion.
At age ten, Obama was sent back to Hawaii to be raised largely by his middle-class white maternal grandparents, and to attend the prestigious Punahou Academy. For only one month of his life, also when he was ten, Obama was visited by his biological father.
In the 1970s the Obama family became friendly with Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987), a black writer and fellow Hawaiian resident. Davis wrote for the Honolulu Record (a Communist newspaper) and was a known member of the Soviet-controlled Communist Party USA (CPUSA). He soon became the young Barack Obamas mentor and advisor.
In Dreams From My Father, Obama writes about Davis but does not reveal the latters full name, identifying him only as a poet named Frank -- a man with much hard-earned knowledge who had known some modest notoriety once but was now pushing eighty. (Several sources -- including Professor Gerald Horne, Dr. Kathryn Takara, and libertarian writer Trevor Loudon -- have confirmed that Obamas Frank was indeed Frank Marshall Davis.)
Obama in his book recounts how, just prior to heading off to Occidental College (in California) in 1979, he spent some time with Frank and his old Black Power dashiki self. Obama writes that Frank told him that college was merely an advanced degree in compromise, and cautioned the young man not to start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh--.
From Occidental, Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he graduated in 1983 with a degree in political science. He applied for work as a community organizer with groups across the United States while working as a writer and financial analyst for Business International Corporation.
One small group of 20-odd churches in Chicago offered Obama a job helping residents of poor, predominantly black, Far South Side neighborhoods. He moved to Chicago and in June 1985 became Director of the Developing Communities Project, working for the next three years on efforts that ranged from job training to school reform to hazardous waste cleanup.
Obama was trained by the Saul Alinsky-founded Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in Chicago. (The Developing Communities Project itself was an affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation, whose modus operandi for the creation of a more just and democratic society is rooted firmly in the Alinsky method.) Alinsky was known for helping to establish the aggressive political tactics that characterized the 1960s and have remained central to all subsequent revolutionary movements in the United States.
In the Alinsky model, organizing is a euphemism for revolution -- a wholesale revolution whose ultimate objective is the systematic acquisition of power by a purportedly oppressed segment of the population, and the radical transformation of America's social and economic structure. The goal is to foment enough public discontent, moral confusion, and outright chaos to spark the social upheaval that Marx, Engels, and Lenin predicted -- a revolution whose foot soldiers view the status quo as fatally flawed and wholly unworthy of salvation. Thus, the theory goes, the people will settle for nothing less than that status quos complete collapse -- to be followed by the erection of an entirely new system upon its ruins. Toward that end, they will be apt to follow the lead of charismatic radical organizers who project an aura of confidence and vision, and who profess to clearly understand what types of societal changes are needed.
But Alinsky's brand of revolution was not characterized by dramatic, sweeping, overnight transformations of social institutions. As Richard Poe puts it, Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties. Alinsky advised organizers and their disciples to quietly, subtly gain influence within the decision-making ranks of these institutions, and to introduce changes from that platform.
One of Obama's early mentors in the Alinsky method, Mike Kruglik, would later say the following about Obama:
"He was a natural, the undisputed master of agitation, who could engage a room full of recruiting targets in a rapid-fire Socratic dialogue, nudging them to admit that they were not living up to their own standards. As with the panhandler, he could be aggressive and confrontational. With probing, sometimes personal questions, he would pinpoint the source of pain in their lives, tearing down their egos just enough before dangling a carrot of hope that they could make things better."
For several years, Obama himself taught workshops on the Alinsky method.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, Obama worked with ACORN, a creation of the Alinsky network. ACORN was a grassroots political organization that grew out of George Wiley's National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), whose members in the late 1960s and early 70s had invaded welfare offices across the U.S. -- often violently -- bullying social workers and loudly demanding every penny to which the law entitled them.
Obama also worked for Project Vote, the voter-mobilization arm of ACORN. Project Votes professed purpose is to carry out non-partisan voter-registration drives; to counsel voters on their rights; and to litigate on behalf of voting rights -- focusing on the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised.
In 1988 Obama enrolled at Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991.
From April to November of 1992, Obama served as the Director of Illinois Project Vote, which registered approximately 150,000 mostly poor, mostly Democratic voters in Chicagos Cook County before that years presidential election.
Also in 1992, Obama married Michelle Robinson (now Michelle Obama).
In 1993 Barack Obama took a job as a litigator of voting rights and employment cases with the law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C. (a.k.a. Davis Miner), where he remains a Counsel today. In 1993 he also became a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, another position he still holds.
In 1994 Obama worked for Davis Miner on a case titled Barnett v. Daley, where he was part of a legal team that challenged the racial makeup of Chicagos voting districts. The Obama team sought to raise the number of black super-majority districts from 19 to 24. According to the judge in the case, Richard Posner, Obama and his fellow litigators held that no black aldermanic candidate in Chicago has ever beaten a white in a ward that had a black majority of less than 62.6 percent, and it is emphatic that the ward in which the population is 55 percent black is not a black ward -- is indeed a white ward, even though only 42 percent of its population is white.
In a 1995 case known as Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank, Obama and his fellow Davis Miner attorneys charged that Citibank was making too few loans to black applicants, and they won the case.
Also in 1995, Obama sued, on behalf of ACORN, for the implementation of the Motor Voter law in Illinois. Jim Edgar, the state's Republican Governor, opposed the law because he believed that allowing voters to register using only a postcard would breed widespread fraud.
ACORN would later invite Obama to help train its staff. Moreover, Obama eventually would sit on the Board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which gave a number of sizable grants to ACORN.
In 1995 Obama -- along with such notables as Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright -- helped organize the Washington, DC-based Million Man March which featured Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Said Obama in the immediate aftermath of the March:
What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society
. Historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldnt care less about the profound problems African-Americans are facing.
In the mid-1990s, Obama developed a friendship with fellow Chicagoans Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, university professors who hosted meetings at their home to introduce Obama to their neighbors during his first run for the Illinois state senate in 1996. Ayers (who contributed money to Obamas 1996 campaign) and Dohrn had been leaders of the 1960s domestic terrorist group Weatherman, a Communist-driven splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society. The pair had participated personally in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. To this day, both have remained unrepentant about their former terrorist activities and their hatred of the United States.
A notable attendee at the Ayers/Dohrn-hosted political gatherings was Democratic state senator Alice J. Palmer (of Illinois 13th District), who soon developed a friendly relationship with Obama. Prior to her stint in politics, Palmer had worked for the Black Press Institute and was editor of the Black Press Review. During the Cold War, she supported the Soviet Union and spoke against the United States. In the 1980s she served as an executive board member of the U.S. Peace Council, which the FBI identified as a Communist front group (and which was an affiliate of the World Peace Council, an international Soviet front). Palmer participated in the World Peace Councils Prague assembly in 1983 -- just as the USSR was launching its nuclear freeze movement, a scheme that would have frozen Soviet nuclear and military superiority in place.
State senator Palmer was instrumental in Obama's entry into politics. In 1995 Palmer decided to pursue an opportunity to run for a higher office when Mel Reynolds, the congressman from Illinois 2nd District, resigned from the House of Representatives amid a sexual scandal involving him and an underage campaign volunteer. As Palmer prepared to leave the state senate, she hand-picked Obama as the person she most wanted to fill her newly vacated senate seat. Toward that end, she introduced Obama to party elders and donors as her preferred successor, and helped him gather the signatures required for getting his name placed on the ballot.
But in November 1995, Jesse Jackson, Jr. defeated Palmer in a special election for Reynolds empty congressional seat. At that point, Palmer filed to retain the Democratic nomination for the state senate seat she had encouraged Obama to pursue; that seat would be up for grabs in the November 1996 elections. She asked Obama to politely withdraw from the race and offered to help him find an alternative position elsewhere.
But Obama refused to withdraw, so Palmer resolved to run against him (and two other opponents who also had declared their candidacy) in the 1996 Democratic primary. To get her name placed on the ballot, Palmer hastily gathered the minimum number of signatures required. Obama promptly challenged the legitimacy of those signatures and charged Palmer with fraud. A subsequent investigation found that a number of the names on Palmers petition were invalid, thus she was knocked off the ballot. (Names could be eliminated from a candidate's petition for a variety of reasons. For example, if a name was printed rather than written in cursive script, it was considered invalid. Or if the person collecting the signatures was not registered to perform that task, any signatures that he or she had collected likewise were nullified.)
Obama also successfully challenged the signatures gathered by his other two opponents, and both of them were disqualified as well. Consequently, Obama ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and won by default.
I liked Alice Palmer a lot, Obama would later reflect. I thought she was a good public servant. It [the process by which Obama had gotten Palmer's name removed from the ballot] was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently.
Another key supporter of Obamas 1996 state senate campaign was Carl Davidson, a Marxist who in the 1960s had been a national secretary of Students of a Democratic Society and a national leader of the anti-Vietnam War movement. In 1969 Davidson (along with Tom Hayden) helped launch the Venceremos Brigades, which covertly transported hundreds of young Americans to Cuba to help harvest sugar cane and interact with Havanas communist revolutionary leadership. (The Brigades were organized by Fidel Castro's Cuban intelligence agency, which trained "brigadistas" in guerrilla warfare techniques, including the use of arms and explosives.)
In 1988 Davidson founded Networking for Democracy (NFD), a program encouraging high-school students to engage in mass action aimed at tearing down the old structures of race and class privilege in the U.S. and around the world. In 1992 he became a leader of the newly formed Committees of Correspondence, a Marxist coalition of former Maoists, Trotskyists, and members of the Communist Party USA. In the mid-1990s Davidson was a major player in the Chicago branch of a Marxist political coalition known as the New Party, whose endorsement Obama actively sought -- and received -- for his Illinois state senate run in 1996. Moreover, Obama used a number of New Party volunteers as campaign workers.
Obamas 1996 senate campaign also secured the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the United States and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. Obamas affiliation with DSA was longstanding, as evidenced by his reference, in Dreams From My Father, to the fact that during his student years at Columbia University he went to socialist conferences at Cooper Union, a privately funded college for the advancement of science and art. From the early 1980s until 2004, Cooper Union had served as the usual venue of the annual Socialist Scholars Conference. According to Trevor Loudon, guest speakers at these conferences included members of the Communist Party USA and its offshoot, the Committees of Correspondence, as well as Maoists, Trotsyists, black radicals, gay activists and radical feminists. Mr. London observes that Obama speaks of conferences plural, indicating [that] his attendance was not the result of accident or youthful curiosity.
Obama won his 1996 race for the Illinois state senate in the 13th District, which mostly represented poor South Side blacks but also a few wealthy neighborhoods.
In 1998 Obama became a board member of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which targets its philanthropy in large measure toward organizations dedicated to the agendas of radical environmentalism, social justice, prison reform, and increased government funding for social services, particularly for minorities. Obama would remain a board member for three years, during which time the Joyce Foundation made grants to such groups as the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio, the Jane Addams Resource Corporation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Izaak Walton League of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SUSTAIN, the Tides Center, the Environmental Working Group, the World Resources Institute, the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the Democracy 21 Education Fund, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Brookings Institution, Alliance For Justice, the Council on Foundations, the Center for Community Change, the National Network of Grantmakers, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the Nine to Five Working Women Education Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, Environmental Defense and the Urban Institute.
Obama also had been a member of the Woods Fund of Chicago since 1993. In 1999 he was joined on this board by Bill Ayers, who would serve alongside Obama until the latter left the Fund in December 2002. (In 2002 -- while Obama was still on the board -- the Woods Fund made a grant to Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center, where Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn, was employed.)
In 2000, Obama ran against former Black Panther and incumbent congressman Bobby Rush in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. House of Representatives. Rush denounced Obama as an elitist who wasnt black enough, and crushed him by nearly a two-to-one vote margin. Obama returned to the Illinois state senate for another four-year term.
As noted earlier, during these years Obama was a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school, where he became friendly with Rashid Khalidi, a professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Obama and his wife were regular dinner guests at Khalidis Hyde Park home. Khalidi and his wife Mona had founded in 1995 the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), noted for its contention that Arab Americans face widespread discrimination in the United States, and for its view that Israels creation in 1948 was a "catastrophe" for Arab people. In 2001 and again in 2002, the Woods Fund of Chicago, while Obama served on its board, made grants totaling $75,000 to AAAN. (In 2003 Obama would attend a farewell party in Khalidis honor when the latter was leaving the University of Chicago to embark on a new position at Columbia University.)
According to journalist John Batchelor, "AAAN vice-president Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada [a website that, like AAAN, refers to Israels creation as a "catastrophe"] has remembered Mr. Obama's speaking in 1999 against Israeli occupation at a charity event for a West Bank refugee camp; and Mr. Abunimah
has also recalled Mr. and Mrs. Obama at a fundraiser held for the then-Congressional candidate Obama in 2000 at Rashid and Mona Khalidi's home, where Mr. Obama made convincing statements in support of the Palestinian cause.
Shortly after Obamas unsuccessful run for Congress in 2000, he was deeply in debt, with little cash at his disposal (his annual part-time salary as a state senator was $58,000) and a stagnant law practice that he had largely neglected during a year of political campaigning.
In early 2001 a longtime political supporter, Chicago entrepreneur Robert Blackwell, Jr., hired Obama to provide legal advice for his (Blackwells) growing technology firm, Electronic Knowledge Interchange (EKI). In exchange for his services, Blackwell paid Obama an $8,000 retainer each month for roughly a 14-month period -- a total of $118,000.
In return for these payments, Obama pressured the Illinois state tourism board to send a $50,000 grant to EKI. He also issued a formal written request for Illinois officials to furnish a $50,000 tourism promotion grant to another Blackwell company, Killerspin, which sells equipment and apparel related to the sport of table tennis. The day after Obama wrote this letter, his U.S. Senate campaign received a $1,000 donation from Blackwell.
Killerspin would not receive the full $50,000 it was seeking that year, but only $20,000. With Obamas help, however, the company eventually secured $320,000 in state grants between 2002 and 2004 to subsidize the table tennis tournaments it sponsored. As blogger Ed Morrissey observes: This looks like a rather obvious quid pro quo
. In exchange for $118,000 in salary, Blackwell received $320,000 in state taxpayer money and influence at the highest level of state politics.
Obamas presidential campaign website reported that Blackwell in 2008 committed to raise between $100,000 and $200,000 for Obamas White House run that year.
Obama was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War ever since it was first discussed as a possible means of unseating Saddam Hussein from power. On October 2, 2002, Obama gave an antiwar speech alongside Jesse Jackson on the very day that President Bush and Congress had agreed on a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Suggesting that the prospect of war was largely a Republican ploy to distract voters from domestic issues that were impacting minorities negatively, Obama said: What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like [Republican strategist] Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty state, a drop in the medium income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone thorough the worst month since the Great Depression. Thats what I am opposed to.
In July 2004, Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He used the speech to introduce himself to a national audience while impugning the Bush administration and the War in Iraq.
In 2004 Obama ran for one of Illinois two seats in the U.S. Senate. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obamas campaign. More importantly, the Tribune persuaded a Democrat-appointed judge in California to open the sealed divorce records of Obamas Republican opponent to the media. The resulting sex scandal, based on allegations in the divorce records by a Hollywood actress eager to prevent her ex-husband from getting custody of their children, prompted the Republican to resign from the race.
With a $10 million campaign war chest from contributors, and with no Republican opponent who could garner much support, Obama had an open road to become the next U.S. Senator from Illinois. His friend and political supporter, the longtime Chicago alderwoman Dorothy Tillman, helped him win the voting in Chicagos predominantly black wards. He also received valuable backing from the Jesse Jacksons, Junior and Senior, and Rev. Jacksons Rainbow Coalition.
In March 2005 Obama joined forces with the Web-based, grassroots political network MoveOn -- which seeks to use its fundraising clout to push the Democratic Party ever further to the political left -- in an effort to raise campaign money for West Virginia Senator Robert Byrds 2006 reelection bid. In a letter to MoveOn members, Obama wrote: You and millions of others, working through MoveOn, have helped change the way politics works in this country.
In a 2005 commencement address, Obama described the conservative philosophy of government as one that promises to give everyone one big refund on their government, divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on. In Washington, said Obama, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it, Social Darwinism, every man or woman for him or herself. It's a tempting idea, because it doesn't require much thought or ingenuity.
In September 2005, Obama spoke at a town hall meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus. Nominally devoted to the subject of eradicating poverty, the meeting was replete with condemnations of President George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and Americas purportedly intractable racial inequities. Obama stopped short of suggesting that the allegedly slow federal response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina (which had devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast earlier that month) -- especially black victims -- was motivated by racism. But he nonetheless claimed that racism was the cause of what he perceived to be the Bush administrations indifference to the struggles of African Americans generally.
The incompetence was colorblind, said Obama. What wasnt colorblind was the indifference. Human efforts will always pale in comparison to natures forces. But [the Bush administration] is a set of folks who simply dont recognize whats happening in large parts of the country. Blacks in hurricane-hit areas were poor, Obama further charged, because of the Bush administrations decision to give tax breaks to Paris Hilton instead of providing child care and education
In 2006 Obama endorsed the aforementioned Dorothy Tillman in the Third Ward race for the Chicago City Council. A passionate admirer of Louis Farrakhan, Tillman was a leading proponent of reparations for slavery. Claiming that America remains one of the cruelest nations in the world when it comes to black folks, Tillman continues to declare that the U.S. owes blacks a debt.
In December of 2006, Obama, who by then was contemplating a run for the presidency, met in New York with billionaire financier George Soros, who previously had hosted a fundraiser for Obama during the latters 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
One of the most powerful men on earth, Soros is a hedge fund manager who has amassed a personal fortune estimated at about $7.2 billion. His management company controls billions more in investor assets. Since 1979, Soros foundation network -- whose flagship is the Open Society Institute (OSI) -- has dispensed more than $5 billion to a multitude of organizations whose objectives can be summarized as follows:
- promoting the view that America is institutionally an oppressive nation
- promoting the election of leftist political candidates throughout the United States
- opposing virtually all post-9/11 national security measures enacted by U.S. government, particularly the Patriot Act
- depicting American military actions as unjust, unwarranted, and immoral
- promoting open borders, mass immigration, and a watering down of current immigration laws
- promoting a dramatic expansion of social welfare programs funded by ever-escalating taxes
- promoting social welfare benefits and amnesty for illegal aliens
- defending suspected anti-American terrorists and their abetters
- financing the recruitment and training of future activist leaders of the political Left
- advocating Americas unilateral disarmament and/or a steep reduction in its military spending
- opposing the death penalty in all circumstances
- promoting socialized medicine in the United States
- promoting the tenets of radical environmentalism, whose ultimate goal, as writer Michael Berliner has explained, is not clean air and clean water, [but] rather ... the demolition of technological/industrial civilization
- bringing American foreign policy under the control of the United Nations
- promoting racial and ethnic preferences in academia and the business world alike
On January 16, 2007, Obama announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee, and within hours Soros sent the senator a contribution of $2,100, the maximum amount allowable under campaign finance laws. Later that week the New York Daily News reported that Soros would back Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton, whom he had supported in the past.
At the time Obama announced the formation of his exploratory committee, he had logged a mere 143 days of experience in the U.S. Senate (i.e., the number of days the Senate had been in session since his swearing in on January 4, 2005).
On February 10, 2007, Obama officially announced his candidacy for President. Having served for only two years as a U.S. Senator, and with no experience in an executive office, Obama said: I recognize that there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity to this announcement. I know that I have not spent a long time learning the ways of Washington, but I have been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington have to change.
Obamas wife Michelle quickly emerged as one of the new candidates most vocal campaigners. In a February 2007 appearance with her husband on the television program 60 Minutes, Mrs. Obama implied that Americas allegedly rampant white racism posed a great physical threat to her husband. Said Mrs. Obama: As a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station. In a January 2008 speech, Mrs. Obama depicted the U.S. as a nation whose people are inclined to hold on to [their] own stereotypes and misconceptions, and to thereby feel justified in [their] own ignorance. During a February 18, 2008 speech in Milwaukee on behalf of her husbands campaign, she declared, For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. In March 2008 a New Yorker profile quoted Mrs. Obama saying, in a stump speech she had made in South Carolina, that the United States is just downright mean as a nation.
Many notable individuals and organizations began to identify themselves publicly as Obama supporters. Among these were: George Clooney; Rob Reiner; Ariana Huffington; Jesse Jackson; Michael Eric Dyson; Manning Marable; Cornel West; Barbara Weinstein; Laurence Tribe; Jane Fonda; Tom Hayden; Michael Ratner; Danny Glover; Martin Sheen; Susan Sarandon; Spike Lee; Michael Moore; Bill Maher; Bruce Springsteen; Ted Kennedy; John Kerry; John Conyers; Luis Gutierrez; Barbara Lee; Major Owens; Jan Schakowsky; Bobby Rush; Pearl Jam; and ACORN.
In April 2007, Obama addressed the activist Al Sharptons National Action Network, telling an overflow crowd of listeners about his success as an Illinois lawmaker in making health insurance available to children and reducing the cost of prescription drugs for senior citizens. He also expressed his opposition to racial profiling in law enforcement, detailing how he had helped pass legislation against the practice. In addition, he asserted that society must help ex-convicts escape an economic death sentence by securing jobs for them when they leave prison.
In 2007 Obama appointed Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa Program Director for the International Crisis Group, as a foreign policy advisor to his campaign. ICG receives funding from the Open Society Institute (whose founder, George Soros, serves on the ICG Board and Executive Committee). Prior to joining ICG, Malley had served as President Bill Clintons Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs (1998-2001); National Security Advisor Sandy Bergers Executive Assistant (1996-1998); and the National Security Councils Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Affairs (1994-1996). Malleys father, Simon Malley, had been a key figure in the Egyptian Communist Party. Rabidly anti-Israel, Simon Malley was a confidante of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat; an inveterate critic of Western imperialism; a supporter of various leftist revolutionary liberation movements, particularly the Palestinian cause; a beneficiary of Soviet funding; and a supporter of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Robert Malley alleges that Israeli -- not Palestinian -- inflexibility caused the 2000 Camp David peace talks (brokered by Bill Clinton) to fail. He has penned several controversial articles -- some he co-wrote with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Arafat -- blaming Israel and exonerating Arafat for that failure. (In 2008, the Obama campaign would sever its ties with Malley after the latter told the Times of London that he -- Malley -- had been in regular contact with Hamas as part of his work for ICG.)
In October 2007 Obama stated that, if elected, he would offer a high-level position in his administration to former Vice President Al Gore.
On December 4, 2007, Obamas campaign announced the creation of its African American Religious Leadership Committee. Among the committee's more notable members were Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rev. Otis Moss III, and Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.
From March 1972 until February 2008, Jeremiah Wright -- whom Barack Obama described as his spiritual advisor, his mentor, and one of the greatest preachers in America -- was the pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), where Obama had attended services since 1988, and where he (Obama) had been a member since 1992. Wright embraces the tenets of black liberation theology, which seeks to foment Marxist revolutionary fervor founded on racial rather than class solidarity. His writings, public statements, and sermons reflect his conviction that America is a nation infested with racism, prejudice, and injustice. Wright is also a strong supporter of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Controversy erupted in early 2008 when news reports surfaced detailing Wrights incendiary comments. Obama initially dismissed the audio/video clips as mere snippets, claiming that the media were highlighting only Wrights most offensive words, and that his statements had been taken out of context. In May 2008, Obama finally made a move to distance himself from Wright and to denounce aspects of his preachings. As a result of the controversy, Wright stepped down from his position with the Obama campaigns African American Religious Leadership Committee.
Rev. Otis Moss III -- whom Obama has extolled as a wonderful young pastor -- served as assistant pastor of TUCC from 2006-2008 and then succeeded Jeremiah Wright as pastor when the latter retired. In one notable sermon, Moss likened the condition of contemporary black Americans to that of the hapless lepers referenced in biblical stories. He further implied that whites -- who, in his estimation, continue to segregate blacks both socially and economically -- are the enemy of African Americans. Our society creates thugs, Moss added. Children are not born thugs. Thugs are made and not born.
Rev. Joseph Lowery is a prominent figure in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Viewing the United States as a nation that is not committed to serious efforts to address the issue of racism, he has warned that white racism is gaining respectability again, and that theres a resurgence of racism
at almost every level of life. Lowery has expressed contempt for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, specifically because the black conservative Thomas opposes the use of affirmative action (i.e., race preferences) in business and academia. Says Lowery: I have told [Thomas] I am ashamed of him, because he is becoming to the black community what Benedict Arnold was to the nation he deserted; and what Judas Iscariot was to Jesus: a traitor; and what Brutus was to Caesar: an assassin.
Another notable religious supporter of Barack Obama is Rev. Michael Pfleger, a white Roman Catholic priest who has been the pastor of Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago since 1981. A great admirer of Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright, Pfleger views America as a nation plagued by classism and racism, and he identifies white racism as the number one sin in this country. Pfleger has had a longstanding friendly relationship (since the late 1980s) with Obama and has played a significant role as a spiritual advisor for the latter. Between 1995 and 2001, Pfleger contributed a total of $1,500 to Obamas various political campaigns -- including a $200 donation in April 2001, approximately three months after Obama (who was then an Illinois state senator) had announced that St. Sabina programs would be receiving $225,000 in state grants. (After Obama's 2004 election to the U.S. Senate, he would earmark an additional $100,000 in federal tax money for Pfleger's work.) Pfleger also has hosted a number of faith forums for Obama during his political campaigns.
In May 2008 Pfleger was a guest preacher at Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), where he condemned America as a racist nation that "has been raping people of color." He also declared that Hillary Clinton felt a sense of "white entitlement" in her quest to become President. When portions of this sermon were aired widely by the media, Obama denounced Pfleger's rhetoric as "divisive" and "backward-looking," and soon thereafter he announced that he was leaving Trinity church.
Yet another religious figure affiliated with Obama is Rev. James Meeks, a Democratic member of the Illinois state senate, where he served alongside Obama from 2002-2004 (prior to Obamas election to the U.S. Senate). Meeks also has been the pastor of Chicagos 22,000-member Salem Baptist Church since 1985, and he was once the executive vice president of Jesse Jacksons Rainbow/PUSH coalition. In July 2006, Meeks sparked controversy when he delivered a heated sermon excoriating Chicago mayor Richard Daley and others regarding public-school funding issues. We dont have slave masters, Meeks shouted. We got mayors. But they still the same white people who are presiding over systems where black people are not able, or to be educated. Also among the targets of Meeks wrath were African Americans who supported Daley. Said Meeks: You got some preachers that are house niggers. You got some elected officials that are house niggers. And rather than them trying to break this up, they gonna fight you to protect this white man.
Meeks is a longtime political ally of Barack Obama, who in 2003 and 2004 frequently campaigned at Salem Baptist Church during his run for the U.S. Senate. Meeks, meanwhile, appeared in television ads supporting Obamas candidacy. Also in 2004, Obama personally selected Meeks to endorse him in a radio ad. In a 2004 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama described Meeks as an adviser to whom he looked for spiritual counsel. In 2007 Meeks served on Obamas exploratory committee for the presidency. The Obama campaign website listed Meeks as one of the candidates influential black supporters. A Meeks endorsement of Obama was featured on that same website in 2008. Also in 2008, Meeks was named as an Illinois superdelegate pledged to Obama for the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorado.
During a Democratic presidential debate on January 21, 2008, Obama expressed his belief that Republican politicians had failed to provide adequate opportunities for the social and economic advancement of minorities: I am absolutely convinced that white, black, Latino, Asian, people want to move beyond our divisions, and they want to join together in order to create a movement for change in this country. The Republicans may have a different attitude.... The policies that they have promoted have not been good at providing ladders for upward mobility and opportunity for all people.
Also in January 2008, Obamas relationship with a federally indicted real estate developer came to light when rival candidate Hillary Clinton said, during a South Carolina Democratic Party presidential debate: I was fighting against
[Republican] ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago. Clintons reference was to Tony Rezko, a Syrian-born, Chicago-based restaurateur and real estate developer who had been one of the first major financial contributors to Barack Obamas political campaigns in the 1990s. For a full explanation of Rezkos relationship with Obama, click on the footnote number here: 
In March 2008 the controversial Al Sharpton, a strong supporter of Obamas presidential candidacy, revealed publicly that he was in the habit of speaking to Obama on a regular basis -- two or three times a week. Sharpton also said that he had told Obama four months earlier, I wont either endorse you or not endorse you. But I will tell you I can be freer not endorsing you to help you and everybody else. According to Sharpton, Obama then protested and asked for his public support: No, no, no. I want you to endorse.
In early 2008 MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser announced that he and his organization were endorsing Obama for U.S. President. Weve learned that the key to achieving change in Washington without compromising core values is having a galvanized electorate to back you up, said Pariser, and Barack Obama has our members fired up and ready to go on that front.
Said Obama in response: In just a few years, the members of MoveOn have once again demonstrated that real change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. From their principled opposition to the Iraq war -- a war I also opposed from the start -- to their strong support for a number of progressive causes, MoveOn shows what Americans can achieve when we come together in a grassroots movement for change
. I thank them for their support and look forward to working with their members in the weeks and months ahead.
In April 2008 Ahmed Yousef, a political advisor for the terrorist group Hamas, told interviewer Aaron Klein that his (Yousefs) organization was hopeful that Obama would win the presidential election and change Americas foreign policy vis a vis the Arab-Israeli conflict. When reporters subsequently asked Obama what he thought of the Hamas leaders endorsement, Obama said: My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of Hillary Clinton or [Republican presidential candidate] John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization, and I've repeatedly condemned them. Ive repeatedly said, and I mean what I say: Since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and abide by previous agreements.
During an April 2008 campaign stop in San Francisco, Obama said, You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothings replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not. And its not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Obamas Positions and Voting Record
Miscellaneous Issues (gun control, health care, Cuba, affirmative action, pornography):
Barack Obama is a strong supporter of gun control, a proponent of socialized medicine, and an advocate of loosening restrictions on trade with -- and travel to -- Communist-controlled Cuba.
He favors racial preferences for minorities in university admissions, public employment, and state contracting. I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, says Obama.
In 2001 Obama voted Present on a bill to restrict the location of buildings with adult uses (meaning pornographic video stores, strip clubs, etc.) within 1,000 feet of any school, public park, place of worship, preschool, day-care facility, or residential area. In 1999 he voted No on a bill requiring school boards to install software that would block sexually explicit material on public computers accessible to minors.
In the wake of a May 2008 California Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in that state (similar to a 2003 decision by the high court of Massachusetts), Obama issued a call to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by President Clinton in 1996), a move that would have the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. The Defense of Marriage Act currently protects states from having to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. Says Obamas campaign website: Obama also believes we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions.
Notably, no Congress or state legislature has ever voted to define homosexual unions as marriages. And wherever proposals for same-sex marriage have been put up for popular vote, they have been rejected by the American people. In the 13 states where gay marriage was on the ballot in 2004, for example, it was defeated by majorities ranging in size from 58 percent to 85 percent of the voters.
Obama has consistently voted in favor of expanding abortion rights and the funding of abortion services with taxpayer dollars. As a state senator in 1997, he voted against Senate Bill 230, which sought to ban partial-birth abortions unless necessary to save the life of a mother. He also voted against a 2000 bill that would have ended state funding of partial-birth abortions. He voted No on a bill prohibiting minors from crossing state lines to gain access to abortion services, and No to requiring physicians to notify parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. As a state senator in 2002, he voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which was intended to protect babies that survived late-term abortions from being permitted to die from intentional neglect. He voted against this same legislation in 2003, and as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, he blocked another attempt to bring the bill to the floor of the Illinois Senate. Obamas voting record in the foregoing matters earned him a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He also received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2006, and a zero percent rating from the National Right-to-Life Committee (an anti-abortion group) in 2005 and 2006.
In 2006 Obama voted Yes on a Senate Budget amendment allocating $100 million to: increas[e] funding and access to family planning services; fun[d] legislation that requires equitable prescription coverage for contraceptives under health plans; and fun[d] legislation that would create and expand teen pregnancy prevention programs and education programs concerning emergency contraceptives.
Obama as a lawmaker has opposed the death penalty and authored legislation requiring police to keep records of the race of everyone questioned, detained or arrested.
Obama promises that as President, he will work to ban racial profiling and eliminate racial disparities in criminal sentencing. The criminal justice system is not color blind, he says. It does not work for all people equally, and that is why it's critical to have a president who sends a signal that we are going to have a system of justice that is not just us, but is everybody.
According to Obama, [W]e know that in our criminal justice system, African-Americans and whites, for the same crime
are arrested at very different rates, are convicted at very different rates, receive very different sentences. That is something that we have to talk about. But that's a substantive issue and it has to do with how
we pursue racial justice. If I am president, I will have a civil rights division that is working with local law enforcement so that they are enforcing laws fairly and justly.
Obama contends that the much harsher penalties for crimes involving crack cocaine as opposed to powder-based cocaine -- the former disproportionately involve black offenders, whereas the latter involve mostly white offenders -- are wrong and should be completely eliminated.
He also pledges to provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that [ex-convicts] are successfully re-integrated into society. Moreover, he vows to create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
In Obamas calculus, many young black men engage in street-level drug dealing not because they seek to profit handsomely from it, but because they are unable to find legitimate jobs anywhere. Says Obama: For many inner-city men, what prevents gainful employment is not simply the absence of motivation to get off the streets but the absence of a job history or any marketable skills -- and, increasingly, the stigma of a prison record. We can assume that with lawful work available for young men now in the drug trade, crime in any community would drop.
During his years as a legislator, Obama voted against a proposal to criminalize contact with gang members for any convicts who were free on probation or on bail. In 2001 he opposed, for reasons of racial equity, making gang activity a consideration in determining who may be eligible for capital punishment. There's a strong overlap between gang affiliation and young men of color, said Obama.
I think it's problematic for them [nonwhites] to be singled out as more likely to receive the death penalty for carrying out certain acts than are others who do the same thing.
In 1999, Obama was the only state senator to oppose a bill prohibiting early prison release for offenders convicted of sex crimes.
Obama has occasionally attacked special interests in the Democratic Party. In the past, for instance, he was prepared to help students escape from bad public schools by considering school vouchers. But he now toes the anti-voucher party line and thus the special interest of the Democratic Partys biggest funding and activist base, the National Education Association.
In his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stressed the importance of increasing government expenditures on public education. We're going to put more money into education than we have, he said. We have to invest in human capital. Obamas education plan calls for investing $10 billion annually in a comprehensive Zero to Five plan that will provide critical supports to young children and their parents. These funds will be used to create or expand high-quality early care and education programs for pregnant women and children from birth to age five; to quadruple the number of eligible children for Early Head Start; to ensure [that] all children have access to pre-school; to provide affordable and high-quality child care that will
ease the burden on working families; to allow more money to be funneled into after-school programs; and to fund home visiting programs [by health-care personnel] to all low-income, first-time mothers.
In Obamas view, virtually all schooling-related problems can be solved with an infusion of additional cash. Consider, for instance, his perspective on the low graduation rate of nonwhite minorities: Latinos have such a high dropout rate. What you see consistently are children at a very early age are starting school already behind. Thats why Ive said that Im going to put billions of dollars into early childhood education that makes sure that our African-American youth, Latino youth, poor youth of every race, are getting the kind of help that they need so that they know their numbers, their colors, their letters.
Obama opposed the Supreme Courts 2007 split decision that invalidated programs in Seattle and Louisville (Kentucky) which sought to maintain diversity in local schools by factoring race into decisions about which students could be admitted to any particular school, or which students could be allowed to transfer from one school to another. Under these programs, parents were not free to send their children to the schools of their choice. Instead they were obliged to abide by the quotas preordained by bureaucrats who had never met any of the children whose educational lives they sought to micromanage. Both the Seattle and Louisville programs were representative of similar plans in hundreds of other school districts nationwide.
In Obamas opinion, the Courts wrong-headed ruling was but the latest in a string of decisions by this conservative bloc of Justices that turn back the clock on decades of advancement and progress in the struggle for equality. The Supreme Court was wrong, Obama added. These were local school districts that had voluntarily made a determination that all children would be better off if they learned together. The notion that this Supreme Court would equate that with the segregation as tasked would make Thurgood Marshall turn in his grave.
Viewing racial mixing as an educational objective compelling enough to warrant the use of quotas and bussing for its attainment, Obama stated that a racially diverse learning environment has a profoundly positive educational impact on all students, and thus he remains devoted to working toward this goal.
Obama has said many times, "I am going to give health insurance to 47 million Americans who are now without coverage." But as Dick Morris points out, the 47 million statistic includes at least 12 million illegal immigrants who are uninsured. Another 15 million uninsured are eligible for Medicaid but have not yet registered for it primarily because they have not yet been ill. When they do enroll eventually, they will receive inexpensive health care, courtesy of the American taxpayers. Then there are uninsured children, almost all of whom are eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program even if their parents have not yet enrolled them therein. That leaves fewer than 20 million uninsured adults who are either American citizens or legal immigrant non-citizens. To address this situation, Obama proposes to drastically alter the country's health-care system.
The Obama campaign asserts that gender-based discrimination on the job is a big problem in America. For every $1.00 earned by a man, the average woman receives only 77 cents, says the campaign website. A recent study estimates it will take another 47 years for women to close the wage gap with men. To rectify this, Obama believes the government needs to take steps to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace.
Obama voted against permitting the U.S. to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Says Obama: It is hard to overstate the degree to which our addiction to oil undermines our future
. A large portion of the $800 million we spend on foreign oil every day goes to some of the world's most volatile regimes. And there are the environmental consequences. Just about every scientist outside the White House believes climate change is real. We cannot drill our way out of the problem. Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1% of the revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and infrastructure.
At a July 30, 2008 campaign stop in Missouri, Obama said: There are things that you can do individually ... to save energy; making sure your tires are properly inflated, simple thing, but we could save all the oil that theyre talking about getting off [from] drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. You could actually save just as much.
Obamas position on the issue of global warming is unambiguous. Says the Obama campaign:
Global warming is real, is happening now and is the result of human activities. The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years. Glaciers are melting faster; the polar ice caps are shrinking; trees are blooming earlier; oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening marine life; people are dying in heat waves; species are migrating, and eventually many will become extinct. Scientists predict that absent major emission reductions, climate change will worsen famine and drought in some of the poorest places in the world and wreak havoc across the globe. In the U.S., sea-level rise threatens to cause massive economic and ecological damage to our populated coastal areas.
During a 2008 campaign stop in Oregon, Obama called on the United States to lead by example on global warming. We cant drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK, he said. Thats not leadership. Thats not going to happen.
Homeland Security / War on Terror:
Obama voted No on a bill to remove the need for a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant before the government may proceed with wiretapping in terrorism-related investigations of suspects in other countries. Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional, says Obama.
In Obamas view, the creation of military commissions to try terror suspects captured in the War on Terror was, from its inception, a bad idea.
Such commissions are designed to adjudicate the cases of so-called unlawful combatants -- as distinguished from lawful combatants -- who are captured in battle. The former are entitled to prisoner-of-war status and its accompanying Geneva Convention protections; the latter are entitled to none of that. Article IV of the Geneva Convention defines lawful combatants as those whose military organization meets four very specific criteria: (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign [a uniform or emblem] recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; [and] (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Al Qaeda, for one, fails even to come close to satisfying these conditions. Obama opposes the distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants, and has called for the repeal of any separate standards regulating the treatment of each.
Obama has also voted in favor of preserving habeas corpus -- the notion that the government may not detain a prisoner without filing specific charges that can expeditiously be brought before a court -- for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. U.S. officials consider these prisoners -- captured mostly on the battlefields of the Middle East -- to be of the highest value for intelligence purposes, or to constitute, in their own persons, a great threat to the United States. Says Obama: Why dont we close Guantanamo and restore the right of habeas corpus, because thats how we lead, not with the might of our military, but the power of our ideals and the power of our values. Its time to show the world were not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries.
On June 19, 2008, political analyst Dick Morris described Obama's prescription for dealing with terrorism as follows:
"[Obama has] urged us to go back to the era of criminal-justice prosecution of terror suspects, citing the successful efforts to imprison those who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. [He said] 'It is my firm belief that we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution.... In previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in US prisons, incapacitated.'
"This is big -- because that prosecution, and the ground rules for it, had more to do with our inability to avert 9/11 than any other single factor. Because we treated the 1993 WTC bombing as simply a crime, our investigation was slow, sluggish and constrained by the need to acquire admissible evidence to convict the terrorists.
"As a result, we didn't know that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were responsible for the attack until 1997 -- too late for us to grab Osama when Sudan offered to send him to us in 1996. Clinton and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger turned down the offer, saying we had no grounds on which to hold him or to order his kidnapping or death.
"Obama's embrace of the post-'93 approach shows a blindness to the key distinction that has kept us safe since 9/11 -- the difference between prosecution and protection."
The Obama campaign website declared that Obama, as President, would immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of . He would call for a new constitutional convention in Iraq, convened with the United Nations, which would not adjourn until Iraqs leaders reach a new accord on reconciliation. He would use presidential leadership to surge our diplomacy with all of the nations of the region on behalf of a new regional security compact. And he would take immediate steps to confront the humanitarian disaster in Iraq, and to hold accountable any perpetrators of potential war crimes.
Obama also vows to fulfill America's obligation to accept refugees from Iraq. The State Department pledged to allow 7,000 Iraqi refugees into America, says the Obama campaign, but has only let 190 into the United States. [President] Obama would expedite the Department of Homeland Security's review of Iraqi asylum applicants.
After President Bush announced in January 2007 that he would send a surge of some 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in an effort to quell the insurgency there. In response, Obama said: I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. Throughout 2007, Obama continued to argue that the surge was ill-advised.
In July 2008, by which time the surge had proven to be extremely effective in reducing the violence in Iraq, newscaster Katie Couric asked Obama: But yet you're saying ... given what you know now, you still wouldn't support [the surge] ... so I'm just trying to understand this. Obama replied:
Because ... it's pretty straightforward. By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that's money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States. That money could have been applied to having a serious energy security plan so that we were reducing our demand on oil, which is helping to fund the insurgents in many countries. So those are all factors that would be taken into consideration in my decision -- to deal with a specific tactic or strategy inside of Iraq.
While running for Congress in 2000, Obama prepared a position paper on Israel in which he stated, Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as Israel's capital.
In January 2008 Obama wrote, in response to an American Jewish Committee Election Questionaire's question about how he foresaw "the likely final status of Jerusalem," that Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided.
In a June 4, 2008 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama said, Let me be clear
. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided. The next day, an unnamed Obama adviser tried to clarify the candidates statement by suggesting that it left room for Palestinian sovereignty. Soon thereafter, Obama said: [T]he truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech and a reminder of the need to be careful in terms of our syntax. He said his point had been simply that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war.
Military/Missile Defense/Weapons Systems:
Obama has consistently opposed America's development of a missile defense system. In a February 2008 campaign ad, he stated:
I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems. I will institute an independent Defense Priorities Board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary defense spending.... I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons. I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material
Obama generally favors significant increases in the tax rates paid by Americans. During a June 28, 2007 primary debate at Howard University, he was asked, Do you agree that the rich aren't paying their fair share of taxes? He replied, Theres no doubt that the tax system has been skewed. And the Bush tax cuts -- people didnt need them, and they weren't even asking for them, and thats why they need to be less, so that we can pay for universal health care and other initiatives.
In 1999 Obama voted No on a bill to create an income tax credit for the families of all full-time K-12 pupils. In 2003 he voted Yes on a bill to retain the Illinois Estate Tax. He also supported raising taxes on insurance premiums and levying a new tax on businesses. In his keynote address at a 2006 Building a Covenant for a New America conference, he urged Americans of all faiths to convene on Capitol Hill and give it an injection of morality by opposing a repeal of the estate tax.
In June 2008, Rea Hederman and Patrick Tyrell of the Heritage Foundation summarized Obama's tax proposals as follows:
"His plan would boost the top marginal [income tax] rate to well over 55 percentbefore the inclusion of state and local taxesresulting in many individuals seeing their marginal tax rate double
. Senator Obama would end the Bush tax cuts and allow the top two tax rates to return to 36 and 39.6 percent. He also would allow personal exemptions and deductions to be phased out for those with income over $250,000
[and] would end the Social Security payroll tax cap for those over $250,000 in earnings. (The cap is currently set at $102,000.) These individuals will then face a tax rate of 15.65 percent from payroll taxes and the top income tax rate of 39.6 percent for a combined top rate of over 56 percent on each additional dollar earned.
"High-income individuals will be forced to pay even more if they live in cities or states with high taxes such as New York City, California, or Maryland. These unlucky people would pay over two-thirds of each new dollar in earnings to the federal government
. Senator Obama's new tax rate would give the United States one of the highest tax rates among developed countries. Currently only six of the top 30 industrial nations have a tax rate for all levels of government combined of over 55 percent. Under this tax plan, the United States would join this group and have a higher top rate than such high-tax nations as Sweden and Denmark. The top marginal rate would exceed 60 percent with the inclusion of state and local taxes, which means that only Hungary would exceed Senator Obama's new proposed top tax rate.
In an April 2008 Democratic primary debate, Obama was asked, by journalist Charlie Gibson, a question about his proposal to nearly double the capital gains tax (from 15 percent to 28 percent). Said Gibson:
In each instance when the rate dropped [in the 1990s], revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the [capital gains] tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected? Obama replied that he wished to raise the tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today, he explained, which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year
. [T]hose who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. Thats not fair.
The National Taxpayers Union -- an organization that "seeks to reduce government spending, cut taxes, and protect the rights of taxpayers" -- gave Obama ratings of zero percent, 16 percent, and "F" in 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively.
Americans for Tax Reform -- which "believes in a system in which taxes are simpler, fairer, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today" -- gave Obama a zero percent rating in 2005 and a 15 percent rating in 2006.
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council -- which "works to influence legislation and policies that help to create a favorable and productive environment for small businesses and entrepreneurship" -- gave Obama a rating of 9 percent in 2005.
The National Federation of Independent Business -- which seeks "to impact public policy at the state and federal level and be a key business resource for small and independent business in America" -- gave Obama a rating of 12 percent in 2005-2006.
The Business-Industry Political Action Committee -- which "supports pro-business candidates who have demonstrated the skill and leadership necessary to fuel a pro-business Congress" -- rated Obama 15 percent in 2005 and 10 percent in 2006.
Obama opposes immigration raids designed to identify illegal aliens in workplaces or housing units. He says the U.S. should allow undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. When I was a state senator in Illinois, Obama says, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention. The problem we have here is not drivers licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive. Theyre here to work.
Obama voted in favor of allowing former illegal aliens who had previously worked at jobs under phony or stolen Social Security numbers, to someday reap the benefits of whatever Social Security contributions they may have made while they were so employed.
He voted in favor of an amendment placing an expiration date on a point-based immigration system (i.e., a system that seeks to ensure that people with skills that society needs are given preference for entry into the United States). Obama instead advocates a system focusing on the reunification of family members, even if that means permitting the relatives of illegal aliens to join the latter in America.
Obama seeks to delineate a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, so as to bring people out of the shadows and allow them to to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. Says the Obama campaign, America has always been a nation of immigrants
. For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law.
Obama is a supporter of the DREAM Act, intended to allow illegal aliens to attend college at the reduced tuition rates normally reserved for in-state legal residents. He helped to pass a state version of such a law in Illinois during his years as a state senator. Says the Obama campaign, the DREAM Act would allow undocumented children brought to the United states the opportunity to pursue higher education or serve in our military, and eventually becoming legalized citizens
. [I]nstead of driving thousands of children who were on the right path into the shadows, we need to giver those who play by the rules the opportunity to succeed.
In July 2007 Obama was a featured speaker at the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza, an open-borders group that lobbies for racial preferences, mass immigration, and amnesty for illegal aliens. Among his remarks were the following:
I will never walk away from the 12 million undocumented immigrants who live, work, and contribute to our country every single day.
There are few better examples of how broken, bitter, and divisive our politics has become than the immigration debate that played out in Washington a few weeks ago. So many of us -- Democrats and Republicans -- were willing to compromise in order to pass comprehensive reform that would secure our borders while giving the undocumented a chance to earn their citizenship....
[W]e are a nation of immigrants -- a nation that has always been willing to give weary travelers from around the world the chance to come here and reach for the dream that so many of us have reached for. That's the America that answered my father's letters and his prayers and brought him here from Kenya so long ago. That's the America we believe in.
But that's the America that the President and too many Republicans walked away from when the politics got tough.... [W]e saw parts of the immigration debate took a turn that was both ugly and racist in a way we haven't seen since the struggle for civil rights....
We don't expect our government to guarantee success and happiness, but when millions of children start the race of life so far behind only because of race, only because of class, that's a betrayal of our ideals. That's not just a Latino problem or an African-American problem; that is an American problem that we have to solve....
It's an American problem when one in four Latinos cannot communicate well with their doctor about what's wrong or fill out medical forms because there are language barriers we refuse to break down....
In July 2008, Obama again spoke to NCLR. Among his remarks were the following:
The theme of this [La Raza] conference is the work of your lives: strengthening America together. It's been the work of this organization for four decades --lifting up families and transforming communities across America. And for that, I honor you, I congratulate you, I thank you, and I wish you another forty years as extraordinary as your last
The system isn't working when a child in a crumbling school graduates without learning to read or doesn't graduate at all. Or when a young person at the top of her class -- a young person with so much to offer this country -- can't attend a public college.
The system isn't working when Hispanics are losing their jobs faster than almost anybody else, or working jobs that pay less, and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else.
The system isn't working when 12 million people live in hiding, and hundreds of thousands cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented immigrants instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; when communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids -- when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel
[W]e'll make the system work again for everyone. By living up to the ideals that this organization has always embodied the ideals reflected in your name, Raza, the people. [Actually, a literal translation is the race.]
And together, we won't just win an election; we will transform this nation.
The U.S. Border Control (USBC), a nonprofit citizen's lobby dedicated to ending illegal immigration and securing Americas borders, reports that Obamas immigration-related votes are consistent with USBCs values only 8 percent of the time. By USBCs definition, Obamas stance on immigration qualifies him as an open borders advocate.
Obama voted against a bill to declare English the official language of the U.S. government. Under this bill, no person would be entitled to have the government communicate with him (or provide materials for him) in any language other than English. Nothing in the bill, however, prohibited the use of a language other than English.
Constitution / Supreme Court:
In his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope, Obama expresses his belief that the U.S. Constitution is a living document, and states that, as President, he would not appoint a strict constructionist to the Supreme Court:
When President Bush in 2005 nominated John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Obama stated that few Supreme Court cases involve any controversy at all, so that both a [conservative like] Scalia and a [leftist like] Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of cases. In the other 5 percent, he said, the critical ingredient was neither the law nor the Constitution says, but rather what is in the judges heart.
When we get in a tussle, we appeal to the Founding Fathers and the Constitutions ratifiers to give direction. Some, like Justice Scalia, conclude that the original understanding must be followed and if we obey this rule, democracy is respected. Others, like Justice Breyer, insist that sometimes the original understanding can take you only so far -- that on the truly big arguments, we have to take context, history, and the practical outcomes of a decision into account. I have to side with Justice Breyers view of the Constitution -- that it is not a static but rather a living document and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.
[W]hen I examined Judge Roberts record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak, Obama said in a floor speech on September 22, 2005. In his work in the White House and the Solicitor Generals Office, he seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process. In these same positions, he seemed dismissive of concerns that it is harder to make it in this world and in this economy when you are a woman rather than a man.
Obama was also deeply troubled by the philosophy, ideology and record of yet another Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito. There is no indication that he is not a man of fine character, Obama said in a floor speech on January 26, 2006. But when you look at his record, when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I found that in almost every case he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless.
Columnist Terrence Jeffrey observes: In contrast to his soaring campaign rhetoric about bringing America together, Obamas Senate speeches against Roberts and Alito revealed a polarizing vision of America. Minorities, women, employees and criminal defendants were among the weak; majorities, men, employers and prosecutors were among the strong.
Obama is a co-sponsor of the so-called Global Poverty Act (GPA), which he calls the type of legislation that we can -- and must -- make
a priority. The GPA, if signed into law, would compel the President to develop and implement a policy to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade, debt relief, and other means.
With billions of people living on just dollars a day around the world, global poverty remains one of the greatest challenges and tragedies the international community faces, Obama says. It must be a priority of American foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring every child has food, shelter, and clean drinking water. As we strive to rebuild Americas standing in the world, this important bill will demonstrate our promise and commitment to those in the developing world
. Our commitment to the global economy must extend beyond trade agreements that are more about increasing profits than about helping workers and small farmers everywhere.
According to a report by Accuracy in Media editor Cliff Kincaid, the adoption of the GPA could result in the imposition of a global tax on the United States and would make levels of U.S. foreign aid spending subservient to the dictates of the United Nations. Kincaid states that the legislation would earmark some 0.7 percent of the U.S. gross national product to foreign aid, which over a 13-year period would amount to roughly $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends.
Obama's Overall Record:
In January 2008 the National Journal published its rankings of all U.S. senators -- based on how they had voted on a host of foreign and domestic policy bills -- and rated Barack Obama the most liberal Senator of 2007. Obamas [foreign policy] liberal score of 92 and conservative score of 7 indicate that he was more liberal in that issue area than 92 percent of the senators and more conservative than 7 percent, the researchers explained. In the area of domestic policy voting, the study found that Obama voted the liberal position on 65 of the 66 key votes on which he voted
[and] garnered perfect liberal scores in both the economic and social categories.
The leftist organization Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) similarly rated Obamas Senate voting record at 97.5 percent. By contrast, the American Conservative Union (the ADAs ideological antithesis) gave Obama a rating of 8 percent.
Around July 19, 2007 -- after slightly more than five months had passed since he had declared his presidential candidacy -- Obama clearly became far more focused on campaigning for his White House run, than on performing the legislative duties for which he had been elected to the U.S. Senate. From that date through May 22, 2008, Obama voted on just 34 percent of all the bills that came before the Senate. On the other 66 percent, he cast no vote of any kind, either for or against the legislation in question.
 ACORN's mandate today includes all issues touching low-income and working-class people. The organization runs schools where children are trained in class consciousness; it oversees a network of boot camps where street activists are trained; and it conducts operations that extort contributions from banks and other businesses under threat of trumped-up civil rights charges.
 In the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, both Project Vote and ACORN ran nationwide voter-mobilization drives marred by allegations of fraudulent voter registration, vote-rigging, voter intimidation, and vote-for-pay scams.
 As one observer noted in May 2008, legal successes such as this were probably responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007. That is, banks were not loaning to blacks whose credit was poor. When the law forced them to lend money anyway, the inevitable happened.
 When Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, and his relationship with Ayers and Dohrn became a matter of public controversy, his campaign produced a fact sheet pronouncing the former terrorists now to be "respectable" members of the "mainstream" community.
 Rezko had initially met Obama in 1990, when the former was a low-income housing developer in Chicago and the latter was a Harvard Law School student. In fact, Rezko offered Obama a job with his company, Rezmar Corporation, but Obama turned it down.
Obama eventually found employment in 1993 with the aforementioned Chicago law firm Davis Miner Barnhill, which represented developers who built low-income housing with government funds. In 1995 one of the firm's clients -- the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation (WPIC) -- partnered with Rezmar Corporation in a project to convert an abandoned nursing home into low-income apartments. Obama was instrumental in helping Rezmar Corporation and WPIC strike their deal. Rezmar Corporation would also partner with WPIC clients in four later deals.
When Obama announced in 1995 that he was running for an Illinois Senate seat (which would be up for grabs in 1996), two of Tony Rezkos companies donated a total of $2,000 to Obamas campaign. Over the course of the entire primary season, Rezko raised between $10,000 and $15,000 of the roughly $100,000 Obama collected overall. Obama won the November 1996 election, and the district he represented included 11 of Rezko's 30 low-income housing projects.
Rezko served on the campaign committee for Obamas failed congressional run against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in 2000, raising between $50,000 and $75,000 of the estimated $600,000 Obama collected for that race.
In 2001 Rezkos Rezmar Corporation stopped making its mortgage payments on the old nursing home it had converted into apartments, and the state of Illinois foreclosed on the building, which was located in Obama's Senate district.
In 2003 Obama announced that he would run for an Illinois seat in the U.S. Senate which would be open the following year. He again named Rezko to his campaign finance committee. It is estimated that Rezko raised some $160,000 for Obama during the Senate primary season.
In November 2004 Obama was elected U.S. Senator. A few months later, he and Rezko's wife, Rita, purchased adjacent pieces of property in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood. Obamas portion of the deal involved a mansion for which he paid $1.65 million -- $300,000 below the sellers asking price. Meanwhile, Rezko's wife (who earned only $37,000 per year and owned few assets) paid the full asking price -- $625,000 -- for a vacant lot adjacent to Obamas mansion.
At this time, Mr. Rezko was being pursued by creditors seeking more than $10 million which Rezko owed on defaulted loans and failed business ventures. At least 12 lawsuits had been filed against Rezko and his businesses from November 2002 to January 2005, including one by the G.E. Commercial Finance Corporation, which had extended more than $5 million in loans for Rezkos 17 Papa Johns Pizza parlors in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. In November 2004, G.E. obtained a court judgment against Mr. Rezko for the $3.5 million that it said was outstanding on its loans.
Obama says he does not know why the Rezkos decided to purchase the vacant lot at that time. But the Rezkos involvement was crucial because the owners of the house and the lot had stipulated that neither property could be sold unless a deal for the other also closed on the same day. Both deals indeed closed on the same day in June 2005.
At the time of the purchase, Mr. Rezko was ostensibly destitute; that is why his wife was named officially as the sole purchaser of the vacant lot.
In December 2005 Obama paid Rita Rezko $104,500 for a strip that constituted one-sixth of her newly acquired lot, so that he could increase the width of his yard by ten feet. At the time of this deal, Tony Rezko was under federal investigation on charges that he had solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state pension business under his friend, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, for whom Rezko reportedly had raised as much as $500,000. For more than two years before the property purchases, news articles also had raised questions about Mr. Rezkos influence over state appointments and contracts. Moreover, reports swirled that the FBI was investigating accusations of a shakedown scheme in which Mr. Rezko had suggested appointments to a state hospital board.
Obama rejects any suggestion that the Rezkos, by paying full price for the vacant lot, had enabled him to save $300,000 on his homes purchase price and were perhaps seeking political favors in return. Frankly, I dont think he [Mr. Rezko] was doing me a favor, Obama has said.
In October 2006, Mr. Rezko was indicted on extortion charges. According to federal prosecutors, Rezko had funneled $10,000 in kickback fees to Obama's 2004 Senate campaign.
Rezko remained free on bail until January 28, 2008, when a U.S. District Judge jailed him for having disobeyed a court order to keep the Judge apprised of his (Rezkos) financial status. Most notably, Rezko had failed to tell the judge about a $3.5 million loan he had received (in mid-2005) from London-based Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi -- a loan that Auchi later forgave in exchange for shares in a prime slice of Chicago real estate. According to the Associated Press, Rezko gave $700,000 of the [$3.5 million] to his wife [for the purchase of the vacant lot adjacent to Obamas mansion] and used the rest to pay legal bills and funnel cash to various supporters.
 Such an approach to pregnancy prevention had been tried before, with disastrous results. In the 1960s, leftists in politics and academia demanded that sex education be added to public-school curricula nationwide, and that government-funded family planning (abortion) services be made more widely available. By 1968, almost half of all U.S. schoolspublic and private, religious and secularhad instituted sex education programs for their students; these programs continued to spread widely throughout the American educational system in the 1970s.
Family planning clinics also proliferated exponentially from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies. Between the late Sixties and 1978, federal expenditures for family planning and population legislation grew from $16 million annually to $279 million. Whereas in 1969 fewer than 250,000 teenagers used the services provided by abortion clinics, by 1976 their number had risen to 1.2 million. Between 1970 and 1980, the pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds rose by more than 40 percent. Among unmarried girls aged 15 to 17, birth rates rose 29 percent between 1970 and 1984even as the number of abortions more than doubled during the same period.
 These rules to deter racial profiling, say critics, lead to de-policing. To avoid charges of racism if they question or arrest too many minority suspects, police find it easier to protect their careers by turning a blind eye and leaving minority criminals alone.
 Obamas premise of a discriminatory justice system is entirely mistaken, as Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald points out:
Lets start with the idea that cops over-arrest blacks and ignore white criminals. In fact, the race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data. As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim identifications and in arrestsa finding replicated many times since, across a range of crimes. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.
Moving up the enforcement chain, the campaign against the criminal-justice system next claims that prosecutors overcharge and judges oversentence blacks.
In 1997, criminologists Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen reviewed the massive literature on charging and sentencing. They concluded that large racial differences in criminal offending, not racism, explained why more blacks were in prison proportionately than whites and for longer terms. A 1987 analysis of Georgia felony convictions, for example, found that blacks frequently received disproportionately lenient punishment. A 1990 study of 11,000 California cases found that slight racial disparities in sentence length resulted from blacks prior records and other legally relevant variables. A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases from the countrys 75 largest urban areas discovered that blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites did, and that they [blacks] were less likely to be found guilty at trial. Following conviction, blacks were more likely to receive prison sentences, howeveran outcome that reflected the gravity of their offenses as well as their criminal records.
Another criminologisteasily as liberal as Sampsonreached the same conclusion in 1995: Racial differences in patterns of offending, not racial bias by police and other officials, are the principal reason that such greater proportions of blacks than whites are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, Michael Tonry wrote in Malign Neglect
. The medias favorite criminologist, Alfred Blumstein, found in 1993 that blacks were significantly underrepresented in prison for homicide compared with their presence in arrest.
 The Congressional Record shows that the strict, federal anti-crack legislation dates back to 1986, when the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) -- deeply concerned about the degree to which crack was decimating the black community -- strongly supported the legislation and actually pressed for even harsher penalties. In fact, a few years earlier CBC members had pushed President Reagan to create the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
 In their 1997 book America in Black and White, scholars Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom debunk the claim that big-city public schools attended mostly by blacks are under-funded in comparison to mostly white, suburban schools. Research actually shows that the higher the percentage of minority students in a school district, the higher the per-pupil expenditures. Mostly-minority school districts spend fully 15 percent more money on each student than districts where minority enrollment is below 5 percent. Moreover, per-pupil spending in the central cities of metropolitan areasregardless of raceis identical to spending levels in the surrounding suburbs.
 Many critics of the Courts decision contended that it had undone the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. But these charges were untrue. The Brown case addressed the issue of mandatory racial segregation in Americas public schools, an issue which had become an international embarrassment for the United States. The case centered around a black third-grader named Linda Brown who had been denied admission to an all-white school located just a few blocks from her home in Topeka, Kansas, and was forced instead to take a bus to an all-black school in a more distant neighborhood. Because millions of other blacks nationwide faced the same dilemma, her case had far-reaching, monumental implications.
Miss Browns father successfully sued the Topeka Board of Education on grounds that, contrary to a previous Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), segregated schools were separate but not equal and thus failed to fulfill the Fourteenth Amendments guarantee of equal protection under the laws. On May 17, 1954, the Court handed down a 9-0 decision which stated unequivocally: Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
In other words, Brown overturned the notion that it was permissible to use race as the basis for denying students the right to attend the schools they preferred. Like the 1964 Civil Rights Act that would become law ten years later, Brown was intended to remove barriers to integration by outlawing de jure segregation, but it issued no mandate for measures (like busing or racial quotas) to forcibly integrate Americas schools or workplaces.
 Hoover Institution fellow and Stanford University sociologist Thomas Sowell, who has studied this matter in great depth, explains that the compelling benefits of diversity are as invisible as the proverbial emperors new clothes; that [n]ot only is there no hard evidence that mixing and matching black and white kids in school produces either educational or social benefits, there have been a number of studies of all-black schools whose educational performances equal or exceed the national average; that [s]ome black students -- in fact, whole schools of them -- have performed dramatically better than other black students and exceeded the norms in white schools, and that this phenomenon dates back as far as the late 19th century; that black students who have been bussed into white schools have seen no discernible rise in their standardized test scores -- not even after decades of bussing; and that [n]ot only is there no hard evidence for the dogma that there needs to be a critical mass of black students in a given school or college in order for them to perform up to standard, but that such hard evidence as there is points in the opposite direction. Bright black kids have benefited from being in classes with other bright kids, regardless of the other kids color.
 In his 2005 book Why Men Earn More, former National Organization for Women board member Warren Farrell examines the earnings of men and women and concludes that when a range of key variables are factored into the equation, there is no evidence of systemic gender-based discrimination in the American workplace. These variables include: occupational field and subspecialty; marital status; age; physical hazards associated with ones chosen line of work; the number of consecutive years during which one has been in the workplace; the number of hours worked per week; ones willingness to commute long distances; ones willingness to relocate; the amount of responsibility associated with one's job; the amount of training or education required for a job; and ones actual productivity on the job.
In his synopsis of Farrells book, syndicated columnist John Leo writes:
Some of Farrell's findings: Women are 15 times as likely as men to become top executives in major corporations before the age of 40. Never-married, college-educated males who work full time make only 85 percent of what comparable women earn. Female pay exceeds male pay in more than 80 different fields, 39 of them large fields that offer good jobs, like financial analyst, engineering manager, sales engineer, statistician, surveying and mapping technicians, agricultural and food scientists, and aerospace engineer. A female investment banker's starting salary is 116 percent of a male's. Part-time female workers make $1.10 for every $1 earned by part-time males
. As long ago as the early 1980s,... the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that companies paid men and women equal money when their titles and responsibilities were the same. In 1969, data from the American Council on Education showed that female professors who had never been married and had never published earned 145 percent of their male counterparts' pay. Even during the 1950s ... the gender pay gap for all never-married workers was less than 2 percent while never-married white women between 45 and 54 earned 106 percent of what their white male counterparts made.
 Contrary to Obamas claim, in May 2008 it was announced that more than 31,000 scientists across the U.S. -- including more than 9,000 Ph.D.s in fields such as atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and dozens of other specialties -- had signed a petition rejecting the claim that the human production of greenhouse gases is causing "global warming" that damages the Earth's climate. "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate," the petition stated. "Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
 Most legal scholars believe the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps to collect foreign intelligence, and no statute -- including FISA -- can reverse that. Citing a 22-year-old precedent, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled in 2002 that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.... We take for granted that the president does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the presidents constitutional power.
John Schmidt, President Clintons associate attorney general from 1994-97, wrote that NSA [National Security Agency] surveillance against al-Qaeda is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents; FISA, he explained, did not alter the constitutional situation. Schmidt quoted Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelicks 1994 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee: The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.
 Obama and his fellow critics of military commissions accuse such tribunals of trampling on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, the critics contend, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal court system -- where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence are considerably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals.
In November 2006 Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, formally authorizing the adjudication of war crimes and terrorism cases in military courts. The House of Representatives vote was 253 to 168 (Republicans voted 219 to 7 in favor, Democrats 160 to 34 against); the overall Senate margin was 65 to 34 in favor.
According to the Defense Department, military tribunals, where military officers serve as the judges and jurors, are designed to deal with offenses committed in the context of warfare including pillaging; terrorism; willfully killing or attacking civilians; taking hostages; employing poison or analogous weapons; using civilians as human shields; torture; mutilation or maiming; improperly using a flag of surrender; desecrating or abusing a dead body; rape; hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft; aiding the enemy; spying; providing false testimony or perjury; soliciting others to commit offenses that are triable by military jurisprudence; and intending or conspiring to commit, or to aid in the commission of, such crimes.
The issue of whether it is appropriate to try someone accused of the aforementioned transgressions in a military court depends upon how one answers a single overriding question: Is terrorism a matter of war, or is it a legal issue where redress should be pursued via the criminal-justice system like robbery, vandalism, or murder.
 Our government, the Supreme Court has ruled, by thus defining lawful belligerents entitled to be treated as prisoners of war, has recognized that there is a class of unlawful belligerents not entitled to that privilege, including those who, though combatants, do not wear fixed and distinctive emblems.
Apart from the question of whether military tribunals are a good idea philosophically, trying terrorists and war criminals in civilian rather than military courts poses a number of serious problems from a practical standpoint. For one thing, the rules defining admissible and inadmissible evidence in each venue differ dramatically. In civilian trials, neither coerced testimony, nor confessions made in the absence of a Miranda warning, nor hearsay evidence can presented to the court; in military tribunals the opposite is true, provided that the court determines such evidence to have probative value to a reasonable person.
Attorneys Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson explain the profound significance of this:
A relaxation of the hearsay rule might become critical in a prosecution for terrorism where it may be impossible to produce live witnesses to an event which occurred years earlier in a foreign country. For example, the indictment in the Pan Am Flight 103 case details the alleged purchase of clothing, by Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Bassett, for placement in the suitcase with the bomb. The clothing was used to disguise the contents of the suitcase containing the bomb, which was placed inside a radio-cassette player. Under the rules of evidence applicable in U.S. District Court, the prosecution would have to produce in person the Maltese shopkeeper to identify Abdel Bassett as the man who allegedly purchased the clothing back in 1988, as opposed to producing the investigator who tracked down the shopkeeper and showed him a photograph of Abdel Bassett. Even if we assume that the shopkeeper could be located six years or more after the fact, we recognize that it is nearly impossible to secure involuntary testimony from a witness who is a citizen of a foreign country, especially one that historically has been less than sympathetic to the United States. The reach of a federal court subpoena simply does not extend to Malta.
Another exceedingly significant weakness inherent in civilian trials for terrorists is the fact that in such proceedings, there exists a high likelihood that classified intelligence sources will be compromised. If the government wishes to present certain incriminating evidence in a civilian trial, which is open to the public, it must disclose its sources as well as the techniques it used for obtaining the information from them. This obviously would place those sources in grave danger and would quickly lead to the non-cooperation or disappearance of many of them to say nothing of the future potential informants who would undoubtedly choose to avoid placing themselves in similar peril. Moreover, the effectiveness of any publicly disclosed information-gathering techniques would thereafter be permanently compromised. By contrast, military tribunals permit incriminating evidence to be presented to the judge and jury, while being kept secret from the public as well as from the defendant and his attorney.
For those who are concerned about legal precedent, it must be understood that the use of military tribunals for the adjudication of war crimes is in no way a departure from past practices. military commissions were used commonly during the Civil War. Prior to that, General George Washington employed such tribunals during the American Revolution in the late 18th century. In the era following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, military tribunals were first convened by Major General Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, to adjudicate the alleged war crimes of American troops and Mexican guerrilla fighters alike. World War II also saw the use of military courts, the most famous case involving eight marines of the Third Reich (one of whom was an American citizen named Herbert Haupt) who rode a Nazi U-boat to the east coast of the United States, where, laden with explosives, they disembarked and set off toward various locations with the intent of bombing railroads, hydroelectric plants, factories, department stores, and defense facilities across the country. The saboteurs were wearing no military uniforms or identifying emblems when they were captured, meaning that they were, in the eyes of the law (as defined by the Supreme Court in Ex parte Quirin, quoted earlier in this article), unlawful combatants. Refusing to grant the perpetrators civilian jury trials, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly created a secret military commission to hear their cases. All eight were convicted and sentenced to death, though two turncoats later had their sentences commuted to life in prison.