From the cheering hordes at his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston to the enthralled 200,000 who turned out for his speech at Berlin’s Victory Column, Barack Obama’s followers have been numerous, loud, and loyal. Most of all, though, they have been unquestioning.
It has been a little harder to follow Obama so blithely since Monday, when National Review Online reporter David Freddoso’s The Case Against Barack Obama hit the bookstands. Freddoso reviews Obama’s history, from his earliest political experiences as state senator in Illinois to his maneuvers in the general election campaign, to convince America that Obama is not everything they — and the doting media — want him to be. He highlights Obama’s engagement in Chicago-style dirty politics, his hard-line liberalism, and his utter lack of a reform or bipartisan resume.
David generously devoted some of his time recently to discuss his book with TAS.
TAS: What are a few things that people should but don’t know about Obama?
David Freddoso: The broad pattern with Obama is that he’s not the reformer he’s claimed to be in this election. His whole message of hope and change is a carefully crafted one. It’s designed to give people an impression that he’s something different from what you typically see in politics. In fact, if you look at his record both in his dealings and the alliances he’s made in Chicago, and in the kind of legislation he pushed in Springfield and in Washington, you see a pattern of Senator Obama always choosing to get along rather than fight for positive change. So this idea of him as an agent of positive change is a false one.
The first thing that I go into in The Case Against Barack Obama is what it means to say that Chicago politics is dirty and how Senator Obama has helped to keep it that way, through the endorsements he’s made and the alliances he’s forged with various Chicago machine politicians, Mayor Daley being the principal, but others as well. I’m afraid the national press just doesn’t pay enough attention to the Chicago press. If it did, I seriously doubt that Obama would be the Democratic nominee. His ties there go well beyond this business about Tony Rezko.
TAS: Does Obama ever take a bold stand?
DF: Although Senator Obama usually does pick the easy way when he’s faced with a choice between doing something difficult in the name of change and reform and getting along with a corrupt systemic arrangement, there were a couple times in his career when he took a risk and stuck his neck out. The two noteworthy ones were his speech against the Iraq War in 2002, and when he was the only state senator to speak out against the bill that would have protected premature babies from being left to die after they survived abortion. And that one, I don’t think, is very praiseworthy.
It is interesting that that’s the time he chose to stick his neck out politically and do something that might prove politically damaging to himself; to promote an extreme abortion agenda that even people like Senator Barbara Boxer would not support. And in fact she would end up voting for the same piece of legislation at the federal level, which passed unanimously.
TAS: What motivated you to write this book?
DF: I had done some coverage of Senator Obama in the past, going back to his 2004 election, and one of the stories I recounted in the book is how I interviewed his opponent. John Gizzi and I sat him [Republican candidate Jack Ryan] down for lunch, and he basically lied to us about what was going to happen. Jack Ryan was forced out of that race when really embarrassing revelations came out of his divorce files. But the real motivation for doing this now was to watch how the media was treating Senator Obama.
TAS: What do you dislike about the mainstream media coverage of Obama?
DF: First of all, you have a very amusing and at times just absurd love fest, where people are talking about him as the word transcending flesh and Chris Matthews is saying that Obama sends a thrill running up his leg. You have that Newsweek story back in May — a story written and designed by two real political reporters, not columnists — that immunized him from all criticism. Even now we see a lot of his supporters going to the major media organs and pushing this line that any criticism of him is either racist or the old politics.
Now, Senator Obama is good at the old politics, but it’s an absurd idea to think that calling him arrogant for saying that he’s a symbol of hope is a racist attack — it’s absolutely not. The Obama campaign has tried — and a lot of their friends in the media have bought into this idea — to promote the idea that they deserve to be immune from criticism. I don’t understand why they would deserve it, but that’s the way Senator Obama is being treated.
TAS: Why do you think the media have given him so little scrutiny?
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