Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Shifting Positions Leave Questions Unanswered On Guns...


By JOHN R. LOTT JR. | Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Sen. Barack Obama claims there has been only a "shift in emphasis," not "wild shifts," in his political positions. Many already know the list: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, NAFTA, public financing of campaigns, abortion, gay marriage, Social Security taxes, the death penalty and negotiating with rogue nations.

Possibly one of the more remarkable changes has been his position on guns.

But despite Obama's recent concession on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" that there has been a "shift in emphasis" on various issues, on guns he held firm: "You mentioned the gun position. I've been talking about the Second Amendment being an individual right for the last year and a half. So there wasn't a shift there."

Unfortunately, the interviewer, Gwen Ifill, didn't challenge his claim.

The day the Supreme Court struck Washington, D.C.'s gun ban, Obama claimed the court's decision merely confirmed his own view. He told Fox News he had "said consistently that I believe that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and that was the essential decision that the Supreme Court came down on."

So has Obama consistently supported individuals' rights to own guns and opposed the D.C. handgun ban?

Last November, Obama's campaign told the Chicago Tribune that "Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional." After Obama's statement supporting the Supreme Court striking down the ban, the campaign quickly disowned the Chicago Tribune quote as a staffer's "inartful attempt" to characterize his position.

Unfortunately, however, Obama personally voiced support for the D.C. ban at other times. In February, he did this himself, not something that he could blame on a staffer.

ABC's local Washington, D.C., anchor Leon Harris asked Obama: "One other issue that's of great importance here in the district as well is gun control. You said in Idaho recently . . . 'I have no intention of taking away folks' guns,' but you support the D.C. handgun ban." Obama's simple response: "Right." When Harris said "And you've said that it's constitutional," Obama is clearly seen on tape nodding his head yes.

But this is not new. Obama has a long history of supporting city gun bans. As the Associated Press described his 2004 vote on a gun control bill:

"He also opposed letting people use a self-defense argument if charged with violating local handgun bans by using weapons in their homes. The bill was a reaction to a Chicago-area man who, after shooting an intruder, was charged with a handgun violation."

Obama's statement on "NewsHour" added a new qualifier that he has been making the individual right position "for the last year and a half." Previous statements have simply said that he has had "consistently" held that position on guns. But all the changes are causing confusion among Obama's own advisers.

One adviser, Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig, said last week on Hugh Hewitt's national radio show that "Barack Obama is not a lefty. . . . I think that he has always been an individual rights person on the Second Amendment."

No matter Obama's current position, no major party presidential nominee has probably ever had as strong and consistent an anti-gun record. Here is a politician who supported a ban on handguns in 1996, backed a ban on the sale of all semiautomatic guns in 1998 (a ban that would encompass the vast majority of guns sold in the U.S.), advocated in 2004 banning gun sales within five miles of a school or park (essentially a ban on virtually all gun stores), as well as served on the board of the Joyce Foundation, probably the largest private funder of anti-gun and pro-ban research in the country.

Difficult questions still remain. With new legal cases being filed against Chicago's gun ban over the last couple of weeks, somebody in the media is going to eventually have to ask Obama why he has not only never spoken out against Chicago's ban, he actively supported it.

Or, what do his positions mean for Supreme Court nominees? How will Obama reconcile his new position with the fact that all the members of the Supreme Court whom he reveres and whom his appointees would be like voted that the Second Amendment is not an individual right? These justices went even further and argued that even if the Amendment guaranteed such a right, D.C.'s ban does not infringe people's rights to own guns.

Obama obviously thinks the gun issue is important. Why else is it one issue on which he won't admit shifting emphasis? But would anyone believe a promise by him that his judicial nominees wouldn't vote to reverse the court's close 5-to-4 decision on the Second Amendment?

Lott is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland and the author of "Freedomnomics."

Barack's Obama-isms


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Media: The gaffes Barack Obama has committed would have crushed the typical Republican politician. But the reporters who can't get over Dan Quayle's misspelling of "potato" have little to say about their man's slip-ups.

Read More: Media & Culture | Election 2008

Sometimes it's hard to tell if Obama is really fouling up or simply puffed up when he tries to live up to his media-fed image as a leader ready for prime time.

Consider his claim during a news conference Wednesday in Israel that "just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran."

His committee? Obama isn't even a member of the Banking Committee, let alone its chairman. So was it a self-promoting lie or a misstep? Only he knows.

In other cases, however, it's clear the junior senator from Illinois has erred. It was Obama — and not a too-old-to-serve John McCain or a too-dopey-to-take-serious George W. Bush — who once said he'd visited 57 states, not including Alaska and Hawaii, and still had "one left to go."

It was also Obama who said Tuesday from Amman, Jordan: "You know, it's always a bad practice to say 'always' or 'never' " — a statement only Yogi Berra could fathom but which those aboard O-Force One seemed to regard as incontestably profound.

While the media have ensured that Obama's communication skills are now widely viewed to be impeccable, it's obvious that when the man doesn't have a teleprompter in front of him, he tends to mangle both facts and language.

How else to explain his "Face The Nation" comment that the leaders he would meet in the Middle East and Europe are the ones "who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years"?

Had a Republican candidate said that, he'd have been suspected of some dark plan to shred the Constitution and institute martial law.

A few days later, Obama goofed again, asserting that "Israel is a strong friend of Israel's." Sure, he meant America is a good friend of Israel. And sure, he knows the difference. But he's also sure the media will cover his howlers even as they ridicule Republicans when they are just as "inartful."

Maybe the media kept quiet because they know Obama's no better when it comes to geography. Surely they noticed how he confused Sioux Falls, S.D., with Sioux City, Iowa, claimed that Arkansas is closer to Kentucky than to Illinois, and called Iran — with population bigger than France's and a land mass four times that of Germany — "a tiny country."

Even worse, he claimed Iran doesn't "pose a serious threat to us," then somehow recalled the next day that he has indeed "made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave."

Could it be that Obama is even worse with figures? It was in the spring of 2007, long before he could blame campaign fatigue for causing him to stumble, when he reckoned that tornadoes had killed 10,000 people in Kansas even though the real number was 12.

Obama's tendency to lapse into some rainbow world has apparently infected his staff. In discussing Obama's Berlin speech, a senior adviser first promised "it's not going to be a political speech." But then he added: "When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally."

The staffer had to be reminded: Obama isn't president — yet.

Or does that kind of thinking — that his coronation is a mere formality — start at the top? Earlier this month, it was Obama himself who reminisced about a time "when I was a United States senator."

Space won't allow a full list of Obama's blunders to date. But somehow we get the feeling we haven't heard the last of them.

Chrysler to get out of leasing business

Chrysler to get out of leasing business

By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
1 hour, 59 minutes ago

Chrysler LLC said Friday its financial arm will get out of the auto leasing business by the end of the month because economic conditions have made leasing more expensive than buying, for both consumers and the company.

The move comes as Chrysler Financial is in the process of renewing a $30 billion credit line with banks amid a startling drop in values for leased trucks and sport utility vehicles that are coming back to automakers as leases end.

Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said the company wants to allocate its limited resources to retail incentives and financing, which make up 80 percent of the market, instead of leasing, which is 20 percent of the U.S. market.

The move probably won't be followed by Chrysler's competitors, but other automakers are likely to raise prices for leased vehicles because of the added costs, said David Healy, an auto analyst with Burnham Securities.

"I think that the companies may de-emphasize leases by pricing them tougher," Healy said.

General Motors Corp. spokeswoman Susan Garontakos said she was not aware of any discussions at GM about ending its leasing business.

"We don't have any plans for that right now," she said, declining to comment further.

Ford Motor Co. spokesman said Bill Collins said the automaker doesn't publicly discuss its leasing forecast but its business plan "always includes a certain amount of leasing to support Ford sales."

Because banks lend money based on the risk, and the risk of leases sold as securities has increased, interest rates to borrow money for leases are higher than those for retail sales, said Tom Gilman, executive vice chairman of Chrysler Financial.

"The cost of that borrowing has increased dramatically," he said.

Press said the dramatic drop in truck and SUV values at the end of their leases also played a role in the company's decision.

"We really reached a point today in this environment where the advantages of leasing, the economic advantages of leasing, have really disappeared," Press said in a conference call Friday afternoon with reporters and industry analysts.

"When you have a certain amount of capital available, you're got to use it in a way that's smart and best for the customers and the company," he said.

Press said dealers will still be able to offer leases through independent sources, but not Chrysler Financial.

Chrysler said it will sweeten incentives on the retail side to make up for any lost lease business. The company on Friday announced that it will expand zero percent financing for 72 months on vehicles from Ram pickup trucks to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Commander and other SUVs. The offers will run through the end of the month.

The company also plans to enhance its incentives during the next 60 days in an effort to capture more of the retail market, Press said.

Steven Landry, executive vice president of North American sales, said the new incentives will in many cases reduce monthly payments so they are close to or the same as lease payments.

"They really look for the monthly payment when they go to the dealership," he said.

Chrysler's announcement comes a day after Ford's credit arm took a $2.1 billion charge because of the drop in the residual value of leased vehicles, mainly trucks and SUVs.

Press said Chrysler would also have to take a similar write-down, but "it hasn't been a major problem for us at this point in time."

Chrysler, which is 80.1 percent owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, is a private company and unlike Ford, does not have to report such losses publicly.

Healy said Chrysler Financial probably is getting out of the lease business to satisfy lenders as it renews its credit line.

"There's a lot less risk in standard transactions than there is in leasing these days," he said.

Midsize SUVs, on average, lost 28.7 percent of their value, from $15,577 in March 2005 to $11,096 at the end of June, according to wholesale auction data from the National Automobile Dealers Association. The figures are adjusted for variations in vehicle mileage.

Press also said Chrysler's gasoline subsidy incentive, which keeps the price for customers at $2.99 per gallon for three years, will end this month. The deal is based on 12,000 miles of driving per year and the vehicle's government fuel economy rating.


AP Business Writer Dan Strumpf in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obama's Nation of Islam Staffers, Edward Said & "Inflexible Jews" Causing Mid-East Conflict: An Obama Insider Reveals the Real Barack


January 30, 2008

p>**** EXCLUSIVE: Must Cite Debbie Schlussel and/or ****

Responding to criticism by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, Barack Obama declared his strong opposition to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan.

Obama also went on to condemn his Church's award to Farrakhan and his minister's tight relationship with him.

But a former Obama insider says that Obama's sudden aversion to NOI and Farrakhan is belied by the fact that Obama employed and continues to employ several Farrakhan acolytes in high positions on his Illinois and U.S. Senate campaign and office staffs. I have verified that this person--who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity--held a key position in the Obama campaign. The insider was so close to Senator Obama that they frequently personally discussed and exchanged direct e-mail messages on campaign and policy matters. This person is not connected with the Clintons and is not a disgruntled employee.

Barack Hussein & Michelle Obama with Palestinian Activist, PLO/Arafat Advisor Edward Said @ Arab Fundraiser

(Photos From Electronic Intifada)

The insider says he frequently objected to Mr. Obama's placement of Cynthia K. Miller, a member of the Nation of Islam, as the Treasurer of his U.S. Senate campaign. When I contacted Miller, now a Chicago real estate agent, to verify whether she was a member of the Nation of Islam and whether she shared Louis Farrakhan's bigoted views about Jews, she responded, "None of your business! Where are you going with this?" She said her resignation as Obama's treasurer had nothing to do with her Nation of Islam ties. Then, she hung up.

The Obama insider says he also objected to Obama's involvement with Jennifer Mason, whom he says is also a member of the Nation of Islam. Mason is Obama's Director of Constituent Services in his U.S. Senate office and is also in charge of selecting Obama's Senate interns. She did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

But it's not just that he employed these individuals in positions of power in his office, it's that when the former associate raised objections, he says Mr. Obama's position was that he saw nothing wrong with the Nation of Islam and didn't think it was a problem. If true--and the fact that Ms. Mason still holds her prominent Obama Senate staff position bears that out--Obama's condemnation of Farrakhan, this month, is phony.

But the insider says there is more to it than that. Obama's Illinois State Senate district consisted of prime Nation of Islam territory, including Hyde Park, home to Farrakhan's mansion. It is not possible, Illinois politicos say, to win that district without the blessing of the NOI leader. NOI members, including consultant Shakir Muhammad, held important roles in the Obama state senate campaign.

How many Nation of Islam members will work in an Obama White House?

Then, there is the issue of Israel. When Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, he gave militant responses to the Chicago Jewish News about Israel. Obama denounced Israel's fence--which he called a "wall" and "barrier to peace"--to keep out terrorists and favored working with Yasser Arafat. When members of the Chicago Jewish community circulated his responses, Obama said that the answers were not his positions, but the work of a low-level intern. He submitted new answers. But that was a lie, the insider says. In fact, they were the work of Obama's Policy Director, Audra Wilson. Moreover, Obama told the insider that he blamed the Mideast conflict on the Jews:

Barack told me that he felt that Jewish community was too inflexible, and that was why the situation in the Mideast could not be resolved.

This is the man who says in a new campaign ad that Hillary Clinton will say anything but change nothing. Barack Obama will say anything, but change his answers.

Palestinian activist and Islamist Ali Abunimah, who was a close friend of Obama's, attended an Arab fundraiser at which the late Edward Said--plagiarist, fabricator, and prominent PLO/Arafat advisor--was the keynote speaker, and at which the Obamas were notably in attendance. Pictures on Abunimah's site, posted above, show Obama and wife, Michelle, sitting next to Said and engaging in conversation. Abunimah, in a must-read article, says the Senator has since "changed" his proclaimed views from those he expressed privately, in order to get Jewish donors and votes.

And he has succeeded in spades. Lee Rosenberg a top Illinois official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby is a big Obama donor. Ditto for former national AIPAC official Bob Asher. And Penny Pritzker of the pro-Israel family that owns Hyatt hotels. And there are so many others who have bought in to Obama's newly pro-Israel views. The insider says Obama pulled the wool over their eyes.

Then, there's Bettylu Saltzman, also Jewish and one of Obama's first major supporters and donors. She is a major Peace Now devotee, officer of the far-left, pro-capitulation New Israel Fund, and wrote a letter to a Chicago newspaper praising Jimmy Carter's book calling Israel an apartheid state. The Obama insider says she has Obama's ear on the Mideast and "will be a major policy person for Barack. Very dangerous."

The insider points to Mr. Obama's changing views in Iraq as another area of uncertainty. He has highlighted his opposition to the War in Iraq. The insider says there is strong speculation that Obama attempted to get his crony, Federal Indictee Tony Rezko, a contract to build a nuclear power plant in the new Iraq. Rezko, a Syrian Arab who helped Obama in a deal to purchase his home, was in a partnership with NOI founder Elijah Muhammad's son, Jabir.

Barack Obama can denounce Louis Farrakhan ad infinitum. But with supporters like Ms. Saltzman, high-level staffers who are Nation of Islam members, and constantly morphing views on Israel merely for donor appeal, a Barack Obama White House bodes poorly both for Israel and--far more important--for America.

Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama By Peter Wallsten


April 10, 2008

It was a celebration of Palestinian culture – a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.

A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases… . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation – a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.

And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.

Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.

At Khalidi’s 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”

One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”

Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House.

I am confident that Barack Obama is more sympathetic to the position of ending the occupation than either of the other candidates,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that began after the 1967 war. More than his rivals for the White House, Ibish said, Obama sees a “moral imperative” in resolving the conflict and is most likely to apply pressure to both sides to make concessions.

That’s my personal opinion,” Ibish said, “and I think it for a very large number of circumstantial reasons, and what he’s said.”

Aides say that Obama’s friendships with Palestinian Americans reflect only his ability to interact with a wide diversity of people, and that his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been consistent. Obama has called himself a “stalwart” supporter of the Jewish state and its security needs. He believes in an eventual two-state solution in which Jewish and Palestinian nations exist in peace, which is consistent with current U.S. policy.

Obama also calls for the U.S. to talk to such declared enemies as Iran, Syria and Cuba. But he argues that the Palestinian militant organization Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is an exception, calling it a terrorist group that should renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist before dialogue begins. That viewpoint, which also matches current U.S. policy, clashes with that of many Palestinian advocates who urge the United States and Israel to treat Hamas as a partner in negotiations.

Barack’s belief is that it’s important to understand other points of view, even if you can’t agree with them,” said his longtime political strategist, David Axelrod.

Obama “can disagree without shunning or demonizing those with other views,” he said. “That’s far different than the suggestion that he somehow tailors his view.”

Looking for clues

But because Obama is relatively new on the national political scene, and new to foreign policy questions such as the long-simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides have been looking closely for clues to what role he would play in that dispute.

And both sides, on certain issues, have interpreted Obama’s remarks as supporting their point of view.

Last year, for example, Obama was quoted saying that “nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people.” The candidate later said the remark had been taken out of context, and that he meant that the Palestinians were suffering “from the failure of the Palestinian leadership [in Gaza] to recognize Israel” and to renounce violence.

Jewish leaders were satisfied with Obama’s explanation, but some Palestinian leaders, including Ibish, took the original quotation as a sign of the candidate’s empathy for their plight.

Obama’s willingness to befriend Palestinian Americans and to hear their views also impressed, and even excited, a community that says it does not often have the ear of the political establishment.

Among other community events, Obama in 1998 attended a speech by Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor and a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement. According to a news account of the speech, Said called that day for a nonviolent campaign “against settlements, against Israeli apartheid.”

The use of such language to describe Israel’s policies has drawn vehement objection from Israel’s defenders in the United States. A photo on the pro-Palestinian website the Electronic Intifada shows Obama and his wife, Michelle, engaged in conversation at the dinner table with Said, and later listening to Said’s keynote address. Obama had taken an English class from Said as an undergraduate at Columbia University.

Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian rights activist in Chicago who helps run Electronic Intifada, said that he met Obama several times at Palestinian and Arab American community events. At one, a 2000 fundraiser at a private home, Obama called for the U.S. to take an “even-handed” approach toward Israel, Abunimah wrote in an article on the website last year. He did not cite Obama’s specific criticisms.

Abunimah, in a Times interview and on his website, said Obama seemed sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but more circumspect as he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. At a dinner gathering that year, Abunimah said, Obama greeted him warmly and said privately that he needed to speak cautiously about the Middle East.

Abunimah quoted Obama as saying that he was sorry he wasn’t talking more about the Palestinian cause, but that his primary campaign had constrained what he could say.

Obama, through his aide Axelrod, denied he ever said those words, and Abunimah’s account could not be independently verified.

In no way did he take a position privately that he hasn’t taken publicly and consistently,” Axelrod said of Obama. “He always had expressed solicitude for the Palestinian people, who have been ill-served and have suffered greatly from the refusal of their leaders to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

In Chicago, one of Obama’s friends was Khalidi, a highly visible figure in the Arab American community.

In the 1970s, when Khalidi taught at a university in Beirut, he often spoke to reporters on behalf of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. In the early 1990s, he advised the Palestinian delegation during peace negotiations. Khalidi now occupies a prestigious professorship of Arab studies at Columbia.

He is seen as a moderate in Palestinian circles, having decried suicide bombings against civilians as a “war crime” and criticized the conduct of Hamas and other Palestinian leaders. Still, many of Khalidi’s opinions are troubling to pro-Israel activists, such as his defense of Palestinians’ right to resist Israeli occupation and his critique of U.S. policy as biased toward Israel.

While teaching at the University of Chicago, Khalidi and his wife lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood near the Obamas. The families became friends and dinner companions.

In 2000, the Khalidis held a fundraiser for Obama’s unsuccessful congressional bid. The next year, a social service group whose board was headed by Mona Khalidi received a $40,000 grant from a local charity, the Woods Fund of Chicago, when Obama served on the fund’s board of directors.

At Khalidi’s going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. “You will not have a better senator under any circumstances,” Khalidi said.

The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times.

Though Khalidi has seen little of Sen. Obama in recent years, Michelle Obama attended a party several months ago celebrating the marriage of the Khalidis’ daughter.

In interviews with The Times, Khalidi declined to discuss specifics of private talks over the years with Obama. He did not begrudge his friend for being out of touch, or for focusing more these days on his support for Israel – a stance that Khalidi calls a requirement to win a national election in the U.S., just as wooing Chicago’s large Arab American community was important for winning local elections.

Khalidi added that he strongly disagrees with Obama’s current views on Israel, and often disagreed with him during their talks over the years. But he added that Obama, because of his unusual background, with family ties to Kenya and Indonesia, would be more understanding of the Palestinian experience than typical American politicians.

He has family literally all over the world,” Khalidi said. “I feel a kindred spirit from that.”

Ties with Israel

Even as he won support in Chicago’s Palestinian community, Obama tried to forge ties with advocates for Israel.

In 2000, he submitted a policy paper to CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, that among other things supported a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a position far out of step from that of his Palestinian friends. The PAC concluded that Obama’s position paper “suggests he is strongly pro-Israel on all of the major issues.”

In 2002, as a rash of suicide bombings struck Israel, Obama sought out a Jewish colleague in the state Senate and asked whether he could sign onto a measure calling on Palestinian leaders to denounce violence. “He came to me and said, ‘I want to have my name next to yours,’ ” said his former state Senate colleague Ira Silverstein, an observant Jew.

As a presidential candidate, Obama has won support from such prominent Chicago Jewish leaders as Penny Pritzker, a member of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, and who is now his campaign finance chair, and from Lee Rosenberg, a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Nationally, Obama continues to face skepticism from some Jewish leaders who are wary of his long association with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who had made racially incendiary comments during several sermons that recently became widely known. Questions have persisted about Wright in part because of the recent revelation that his church bulletin reprinted a Times op-ed written by a leader of Hamas.

One Jewish leader said he viewed Obama’s outreach to Palestinian activists, such as Said, in the light of his relationship to Wright.

In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated, … that’s what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director for the Anti-Defamation League.

Barack Obama Is Just Another Liberal by Amanda B. Carpenter



As Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) gathers increasing attention as a potential rival to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, remarkably little attention has been paid to his record, which reveals him to be at least as liberal as Hillary.

While Obama has a knack for portraying himself as an even-handed politician, who is inspired by traditional religious values, he has earned 100% ratings from Americans for Democratic Action, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization of Women, the NAACP and the NEA.

Hedged Rhetoric

To drum up support for his Senate bid in 2004, Obama wrote a letter to the Windy City Times, a publication targeted to Chicago’s gay community. “I opposed DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] in 1996. It should be repealed, and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor,” he vowed. “I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying” (see page 3).

Obama told the paper that constitutional marriage amendment proposals were merely “an effort to demonize people for political advantage.” At the same time, he pledged to work to “expand adoption rights” for same-sex couples.

In 2006, he followed through by voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment. “Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said, as he voted against defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Obama has similarly hedged his pro-choice rhetoric, while consistently supporting the pro-choice cause. As a state senator in Illinois he twice voted “present” on an Illinois ban on partial-birth abortion and was “absent” on a third vote. In 2001, he voted “present” on a parental notification bill for minors and in 2002 he voted against a bill to protect babies that survived failed abortions.

In his 2004 race Senate, Obama accepted $41,750 in campaign contributions from pro-choice interest groups.

These positions contrast with the Christian faith to which he frequently refers in public appearances. Obama’s father, a Muslim who abandoned his faith for atheism, divorced Barack’s mother when Barack was two. In his 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, Barack said that his mother’s parents were a non-practicing Baptist and a non-practicing Methodist. She “grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself,” he said. “As a consequence so did I.”

After his mother remarried, Obama lived in Indonesia with his stepfather, who was conscripted into the Indonesian Army. He first attended a Catholic school there, then a Muslim school.

“In both cases,” he writes in his new book, The Audacity of Hope, “my mother was less concerned with me learning the catechism or puzzling out the meaning of the muezzin’s call to evening prayer than she was with whether I was properly learning my multiplication tables.”

Supporting Socialism

As an Illinois senator, Obama introduced the “Bernardin Amendment,” which would have inserted language from a pastoral letter by the late Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin into a universal health care program. The amendment contained Bernardin’s line: “Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity, and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person is able to realize that right.” The bill, which did not pass, was to be funded with money taken from tobacco companies.

Obama spoke of his faith in his keynote address at the 2006 Call to Renewal’s “Building a Covenant for a New America” conference. He said that if it wasn’t for the “particular attributes” of the black church, he may have never have become part of it. “Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principles,” he said.

In the same speech, he asked Christians, Jews and Muslims to convene on Capitol Hill and give an “injection of morality” by opposing a repeal of the estate tax.

When speaking out against various tax cuts, Obama has likened the “Ownership Society”—which entails such things as personalized Social Security accounts, health savings accounts and school choice—to “social Darwinism.” In a November 2005 speech to the National Women’s Law Center, he said: “The idea here is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up into some tax breaks, hand them out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own unemployment insurance, education, and so forth.”

“In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society,” Obama explained. “But in our past there has been another term for it—social Darwinism, every man and woman for him or herself.”

As an Illinois state legislator, Obama also supported raising taxes on insurance premiums and on casino patrons, retaining the state death tax and levying a new tax on businesses.

He voted against a bill that would add penalties for crimes committed as a part of gang activity and against a bill that would make it a criminal offense for accused gang members, free on bond or probation, to associate with other gang members. In 1999, he was the only state senator to oppose a bill that prohibited early prison release for criminal sexual offenders.

In 2001, he voted “present” on a measure to keep pornographic books and video stores 1,000 feet away from schools and churches, and in 1999, he voted against a requirement to make schools filter internet pornography from school computers.

Obama has spoken against the Iraq War since its inception, beginning with an October 2002 speech he gave alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He went so far as to suggest that the war was a ploy to distract voters from domestic issues impacting minorities.

“What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like 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,” he said. “That’s what I am opposed to.”

Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope that although he believed Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, coveted nuclear arms, scoffed at UN resolutions and butchered his own people, he sensed “the threat Saddam posed was not imminent” and “the administration’s rationales for war were flimsy and ideologically driven.”

In November 2003, he told the Chicago Sun-Times that if he were in the Senate he would not have voted for the President’s $87.5 billion supplemental appropriations package for Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think it enables the Bush Administration to continue on a flawed policy without being accountable to the American people or to the troops who are making sacrifices,” he said.

His opposition to the war carries through today in his support for the call by Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich.) to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq four to six months after its enactment.

Miss Carpenter was formerly a congressional correspondent & assistant editor for HUMAN EVENTS. She is the author of "The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's Dossier on Hillary Rodham Clinton," published by Regnery (a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Pelosi's Price


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Congress: Americans expect and need a Speaker of the House who offers common-sense leadership to direct bipartisan legislative action. Nancy Pelosi is not up to that task, and our nation is the loser.

Read More: Energy

It's bad enough that Rep. Pelosi refuses to embrace reality, evaluate facts and oversee meaningful debate. But the hissy fits she throws against President Bush and the Republican minority are worse yet. This is a sad situation.

Pelosi's reaction to Bush's lifting of the ban on offshore drilling is a perfect example. She called the action a giveaway of "more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they've already leased."

The key phrase is "public" resources — not Democratic resources or Pelosi's resources — and polls clearly show Americans are behind coastal drilling. The speaker knows that.

Her demonizing of Big Oil doesn't make sense, either. The companies want to get oil out of the ground. Their exploratory technology is very effective, and they're drilling extensively. But not all lease properties have oil that's readily recoverable.

Pelosi says the president's action is a "gift of more profits for the oil companies." Does she prefer that foreign, and often hostile, nations make the profits? Well, they are. She knows that, too.

"The Bush plan is a hoax," Pelosi charges, ignoring the fact that we know large reserves are located off our shores, in Western oil-shale deposits and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bush says let's get it as quickly as possible, drilling responsibly off our shores, in the West's oil shale formations and on 2,000 acres of the 19 million acres in ANWR. Prudhoe Bay, North America's largest oil field, has proved we can do so and not hurt the environment. It can be done, and America needs it. Pelosi also knows that.

Pelosi wonders that if congressional action is so important, "why didn't the Republicans pass it when they were in control?" She seems to doubt the need for any debate on drilling. This is scary.

The two parties have bumped heads on this issue since the Carter years. Surely the speaker remembers 1995, when she voted against a GOP bill to drill in ANWR. It passed both the House and Senate only to be vetoed by President Clinton. She knows that as well.

Last weekend, Pelosi responded to Bush's criticism of Congress by calling him "a total failure." It was a telling interview, with CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressing her on topics including offshore drilling. Each time she blamed everybody but Congress.

The real failure is Pelosi's refusal to address reality and lead. The nation knows that.

Arab-American Activist Says Obama Hiding Anti-Israel Stance by Gil Ronen


Published: 03/23/08

( Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is currently hiding his anti-Israel views in order to get elected, according to a well-known anti-Israel activist. The activist, Ali Abunimah, claimed to know Obama well and to have met him on numerous occasions at pro-Palestinian events in Chicago.

In an article he penned for the anti-Israeli website Electronic Intifada, Abunimah wrote:

"The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.

"As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, 'Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.' He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy [and said:] 'Keep up the good work!'"

Barack, Michelle, Edward and Mariam
Abunimah's report included a photo of Obama with his wife Michelle seated at a table with virulently anti-Israeli Professor Edward Said and his wife Mariam, in what Abunimah said was a May 1998 Arab community event in Chicago at which Said gave the keynote speech.

In an interview earlier this year for the leftist radio show "Democracy Now!," a daily TV and radio news program hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Abunimah said he knew Obama for many years as his state senator "when he used to attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time."

"I remember personally introducing him onstage in 1999, when we had a major community fundraiser for the community center in Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank," he recounted. "And that's just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation."

About face 'to get elected'
The Arab-American activist went on to say: "In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

"Obama's about-face is not surprising," Abunimah wrote. "He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power."
When Obama first ran for the Senate in 2004, the Chicago Jewish News interviewed him on his stance regarding Israel's security fence. He accused the Bush administration of neglecting the "Israeli-Palestinian" situation and criticized the security fence built by Israel to prevent terror attacks: "The creation of a wall dividing the two nations is yet another example of the neglect of this Administration in brokering peace," Obama was quoted as saying.

The First Affirmative Action Candidate By Joseph Puder

Source: | Friday, January 18, 2008

Shelby Steele, an African-American research fellow at Stanford University Hoover Institute and author of White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era pointed out that, “By the mid-sixties White Guilt was eliciting an entirely new kind of Black leadership, not selfless men like Martin Luther King who appealed to the nation’s moral character but smaller men, bargainers, bluffers, and haranguers - not moralists but specialists in moral indignation - who would set up a trade with White Guilt.”

Barack Hussein Obama is different from previous African-American presidential contenders - he understands that the key to the U.S. presidency and power is making deals with the White-American establishment. Unlike Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, characterized by Shelby Steele as “bluffers and haranguers,” and, one might add, extortionists who trade in White guilt for personal gain, Obama is more of a “bargainer.” His appeal to White America is that he is not overtly trading on White guilt but at the same time he and his aides know that White America seeks moral legitimacy, and his bargain is in promising to provide such legitimacy in exchange for power. It is far more sophisticated a bargain than previous Black leaders have had with White America.

To the adoring eyes of the liberal mass media, Obama is the closest expression of a rock star, if not a “black messiah.” While every white candidate is scrutinized and criticized, Obama remains “beyond criticism.” Had any white candidate, with less than three years experience in the national arena declared himself a candidate for the presidency, especially at the tender age of 46, he/she would have been ridiculed. The media’s collective white guilt with its derivative of “political correctness,” does not seek articulation on policy or substance from Obama. It does not demand answers as to how he would tackle Iran’s terrorist aggression and nuclear pursuits, or ideas on how to grow the U.S. economy? His generalized “vision” is sufficient for the liberal media. The white liberal media would love a black president in order to end the perceived stigma of white institutional racism - a way to cleanse the soul and regain moral legitimacy.

There is little difference between the rhetoric of Obama and the white candidates. They all speak of hope and change. Why should Obama’s words be more believable, legitimate or acceptable? The answer is white guilt.

American institutions tainted with white guilt are ready to dispense with justice for what they perceive as the higher goal of attaining moral legitimacy. The charge of racism in contemporary America is probably the most intimidating, if not the most ruinous, to white people's careers. The case of O.J. Simpson illustrated to perfection how America has gone from one extreme to the other. Shelby Steele writes, “In 1955 the murderers of Emmet Till, a black Mississippi youth, were acquitted of their crime, undoubtedly because they were white. Forty years later, O.J. Simpson, who many thought would be charged with the murder of his white wife and Ron Goldman, by virtue of the DNA evidence against him, was also acquitted after his black attorney (Johnny Cochran) portrayed him as a victim of racism.”

Steele observed that, “Because white guilt is a vacuum of moral authority, it makes the moral authority of whites and the legitimacy of American institutions contingent on proving a negative: that they are not racist…Whites and American institutions are stigmatized as racist until proven otherwise.” Political parties and universities “not only declare their devotion to diversity but also use racial preferences to increase the visibility of minorities so as to refute the racist stigma,” Steele added. This is especially apparent within the Democratic Party, where support for racial preferences is widespread and pandering to African-Americans votes is routine.

The blind support and almost universal cheering of college students for Obama is a by-product of years of indoctrination on college campuses (especially Ivy League universities) under the stern eyes of faculty and administrative “political correctors,” who bar the teaching of Western Civilization and bash Europeans as imperialists, oppressors and racists. It seems as if American college students have been groomed to cheer a black presidential candidate thereby providing them with a small measure of ablution from their “racist sins.” Unfortunately, they were not trained to apply universal moral standards and sound judgment when analyzing issues and individuals. Rather, their worldview is seen through the limited prism of white guilt. The outcome of which is that white America, Europe and Israel are tainted with sin, and blacks, Muslims and those of the third-world are victims, and therefore virtuous regardless of their actions or motivations.

America, it appears to Shelby Steele, is governed by this “white guilt” and, it is destructive to blacks and whites alike. “Whites and American institutions” he argues, “live by a simple formula: lessening responsibility for minorities equals moral authority; increasing it equals racism. This is a formula that locks whites into publicly supporting affirmative action even as they privately dislike it.”

It also stigmatizes black excellence.

Can you imagine proclamations posted on the church websites of the white presidential candidates (Protestant or Catholic), proclaiming that they are “unashamedly white?” Seems Obama’s pastor; Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Chicago Trinity United Church (of which Obama has been a member of since 1988) is quoted as stating that he is “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” Rev. Wright, whom Obama credits with being the inspiration for his book, The Audacity of Hope, subscribes to what he calls the “Black Value System.” Does Obama also subscribe to this value system? Obama has distanced himself from Wright’s decision to present an award to Louis Farrakhan, but he has not otherwise distanced himself from this black radical pastor.

Obama’s revered pastor considers “Middle Classness” (which Obama claims to extol) a way for American (white) society to “snare” blacks rather than “killing them off directly or placing them in concentration camps.” In sermons and interviews, Wright has claimed that Zionism equals racism and has equated Israel with apartheid-era South Africa. Following 9/11, Wright charged that the attack on America was a consequence of violent American policies, and later suggested that the murder of 3,000 Americans was “retribution for America’s racism.” At the kick-off of Obama’s presidential campaign on February 10, 2007, Wright was asked to stay away. He responded: “When Obama’s enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit Col. Muammer el-Qaddafi with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell.”

Obama’s pastor Rev. Wright is a race-monger, but you will not discover that from the mainstream liberal media. What you will find in the liberal media is an unrestrained attack on Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion, but little about the racism and anti-Semitism of Rev. Wright. Obama’s brilliant academic background will be extolled, while, for example, Romney’s extensive experience in government and business will be downplayed.

In the final analysis one must ask the simple question: In a color-blind society, devoid of white guilt, does an inexperienced, untried, albeit bright contender like Obama, deserve to be president in contrast to Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudi Giuliani – candidates who are equally as bright and have far greater experience? To vote on any other basis would be racist.

Top Obama Flip-Flops


Monday, February 25, 2008

1. Special interests In January, the Obama campaign described union contributions to the campaigns of Clinton and John Edwards as "special interest" money. Obama changed his tune as he began gathering his own union endorsements. He now refers respectfully to unions as the representatives of "working people" and says he is "thrilled" by their support.

2. Public financing Obama replied "yes" in September 2007 when asked if he would agree to public financing of the presidential election if his GOP opponent did the same. Obama has now attached several conditions to such an agreement, including regulating spending by outside groups. His spokesman says the candidate never committed himself on the matter.

3. The Cuba embargo In January 2004, Obama said it was time "to end the embargo with Cuba" because it had "utterly failed in the effort to overthrow Castro." Speaking to a Cuban American audience in Miami in August 2007, he said he would not "take off the embargo" as president because it is "an important inducement for change."

4. Illegal immigration In a March 2004 questionnaire, Obama was asked if the government should "crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants." He replied "Oppose." In a Jan. 31, 2008, televised debate, he said that "we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation."

5. Decriminalization of marijuana While running for the U.S. Senate in January 2004, Obama told Illinois college students that he supported eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana use. In the Oct. 30, 2007, presidential debate, he joined other Democratic candidates in opposing the decriminalization of marijuana.

Top Clinton Flip-Flops

1. NAFTA In a January 2004 news conference, Clinton said she thought that "on balance [NAFTA] has been good for New York and good for America." She now says she has "long been a critic of the shortcomings of NAFTA" and advocates a "time out" from similar trade agreements.

2. No Child Left Behind Clinton voted in favor of the 2002 education bill that focused on raising student achievement levels, hailing the measure as "a major step forward." She now attacks the law at campaign rallies and meetings with teachers, describing it as a "test, test, test" approach.

3. Ending the war in Iraq In June 2006, Clinton restated her long-standing opposition to establishing timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces in Iraq. In a Jan. 15, 2008, Democratic debate in Las Vegas, she proposed to "start withdrawing" troops within 60 days of her inauguration, to bring out "one or two brigades a month" and to have "nearly all of the troops out" by the end of 2009.

4 . Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants In a campaign statement on Oct. 31, 2007, Clinton expressed support for a plan by New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D) to offer limited driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, after going back and forth on the matter in a televised debate. In a Nov. 15, 2007, televised debate from Nevada, she replied with a simple "no" when asked if she approved the driver's license idea in the absence of comprehensive immigration changes.

5. Florida and Michigan delegates In September 2007, the Clinton campaign formally pledged not to participate in primary or caucus elections staged before Feb. 5, 2008, in defiance of Democratic National Committee rules. She now says delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated at the Democratic National Convention, despite their flouting of rules that all the major Democratic candidates endorsed.

McCain's Essay at National War College Still Rings True


In ’74 Thesis, the Seeds of McCain’s War Views

Published: June 15, 2008

About a year after his release from a North Vietnamese prison camp, Cmdr. John S. McCain III sat down to address one of the most vexing questions confronting his fellow prisoners: Why did some choose to collaborate with the North Vietnamese?

Associated Press

John McCain arrived at Clark Air Base in the Philippines on March 14, 1973. The time he spent as a prisoner in North Vietnam helped mold his views on war policy and conduct that he discussed later in a thesis.

Associated Press

John McCain, a prisoner of war, in a Hanoi hospital in the fall of 1967 after his Navy jet was shot down during a bombing run.

Mr. McCain blamed American politics.

“The biggest factor in a man’s ability to perform credibly as a prisoner of war is a strong belief in the correctness of his nation’s foreign policy,” Mr. McCain wrote in a 1974 essay submitted to the National War College and never released to the public. Prisoners who questioned “the legality of the war” were “extremely easy marks for Communist propaganda,” he wrote.

Americans captured after 1968 had proven to be more susceptible to North Vietnamese pressure, he argued, because they “had been exposed to the divisive forces which had come into focus as a result of the antiwar movement in the United States.”

To insulate against such doubts, he recommended that the military should teach its recruits not only how to fight but also the reasons for American foreign policies like the containment of Southeast Asian communism — even though, Mr. McCain acknowledged, “a program of this nature could be construed as ‘brainwashing’ or ‘thought control’ and could come in for a great deal of criticism.”

Now a senator who is the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, Mr. McCain often points to his nine months at the War College as the time that crystallized his views toward foreign conflicts like the war in Iraq. He has talked about his studies as a tutorial in the hows-and-whys of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. But the 40-page final paper he produced was limited to an evaluation of the military code of conduct through the prism of his “narrow, but personal, viewpoint.”

It was in many ways a first draft of his political autobiography, recounting the ennobling stories of resistance that he and his co-author, Mark Salter, would later retell in his 1999 memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.”

Mr. McCain’s 1974 thesis, though, also revealed a welter of other emotions about his years as a prisoner of war, including a deep anger at those he considered collaborators, a tough-minded disdain for public hand-wringing about captives like himself, and a sharp impatience with the American government for failing to “explain to its people, young and old, some basic facts of its foreign policy.” But at the same time, Mr. McCain also urged that any military survival training should include lessons in what he called “the necessity to forgive.”

Mr. McCain’s paper sheds new light on the experience that first brought him national attention and remains a staple of his campaign commercials. His conclusions hint at themes of his career, like his habit of making peace with former enemies. And his arguments that the government and the military should have done more to convince the voters and the troops about the case for the war in Vietnam echo in current debates about Iraq as well.

Asked if he still had those views, Mr. McCain said in an e-mail message that he still believed the antiwar movement had hurt the morale of some prisoners, although he added the vast majority “performed their duty with courage and resolve irrespective of how controversy about the war influenced their view of it.”

Historians, though, say his assertion that the antiwar movement weakened the resistance of Americans captured late in the war is misleading, in part because almost all the most cooperative prisoners were captured early and in part because many other cultural shifts contributed to differences in the later war captives. And some of his fellow prisoners also question the connection between the war protests and the camp collaborators.

“Don’t connect those guys with the antiwar movement,” said Orson Swindle, a prisoner who became a friend of Mr. McCain. “It was the guy in the next cell who was the reason we were trying so hard to uphold the code and our honor, and those guys just betrayed everything we stood for.”

But others say it is easy to see how Mr. McCain’s dismay at prisoners’ propaganda statements could feed his current impatience with calls for a withdrawal from Iraq. In the crucible of the camps, it was easy to see the collaborators — broadcasting antiwar statements over prison loudspeakers, smiling for Jane Fonda and visiting peace activists, enjoying the rewards of better food and less torture — as embodiments of the war protesters that the North Vietnamese counted on to wear down the American war effort.

“Just like the ‘pull-out movement’ today, as I call it, the peace movement would give them something to hang their hats on,” said Richard A. Stratton, another former prisoner incarcerated with Mr. McCain. “You are being tortured and all you have to do to get them to stop is say the same thing that Bobby Kennedy is saying. The same thing that George McGovern is saying. You don’t even have to make anything up.”

Determination Redoubled

Mr. McCain, then a Navy lieutenant commander, was by all accounts what the American prisoners called a “tough resister.” He was nicknamed Crip for the severity of the injuries he sustained — a shoulder, both arms and his knee broken, with a bayonet wound near the groin — when his fighter plane was shot down in October 1967. Military rules only allowed P.O.W.’s to go home in the order of their capture, but some senior officers said his medical condition justified accepting an offer of release from the North Vietnamese. Mr. McCain, the son of a prominent admiral, did not want to be part of North Vietnamese propaganda, so he chose to endure years of torture instead.

At times, Mr. McCain seemed to court punishment, noisily cussing out his captors while giving “thumbs up” signs to his fellow prisoners. “No matter what he did, he always played to the bleachers,” Robert Coram, a military historian, wrote in a book about the camps.

United Press International

Services for Sgt. Abel Kavanaugh, who fatally shot himself, in Denver in 1973. While John McCain was considered a “tough resister” as a prisoner of war, Mr. Kavanaugh and the six pallbearers were accused of collaborating with the enemy. Those charges were later dropped.

Dennis Cook/Associated Press

Senator John McCain greeted by a former North Vietnamese colonel, Bui Tin, at a Congressional hearing in 1991.

All of the prisoners acknowledged that everyone had a breaking point. Mr. McCain’s came 10 months after he arrived. With his father taking command of the Pacific Fleet, the North Vietnamese were determined to coerce the son into denouncing the war. For four days they tied him with ropes, beat him every few hours, re-broke his arm, and left him in a pool of his own blood and refuse. Finally, he signed and tape-recorded a war crimes confession.

His fellow prisoners say his capitulation only redoubled his determination to provoke his captors. “Acts of defiance felt so good that I felt they more than compensated for their repercussions,” he wrote, “and they helped me keep at bay the unsettled feelings of guilt and self doubt my confession had aroused.”

Others responded differently. Initially unable to feed or clean himself, Mr. McCain was nursed back to health by his cellmate, Maj. Norris Overly of the Air Force. Mr. McCain has often credited Mr. Overly with saving his life, calling him “a very fine man.”

Returning from an interrogation in February 1968, however, Mr. Overly told his cellmates he was going home. He said, as he later testified to Congress, that he had given his captors nothing and could not explain their decision.

Mr. McCain said in his e-mail message that he had never been angry with Mr. Overly. In his memoir, he recalls only a fear his friend was making a mistake. “I couldn’t stand in judgment of him,” he wrote.

But his fellow prisoners say he felt betrayed. After a goodbye ceremony staged for North Vietnamese cameras — Mr. McCain arrived on a stretcher — he and the others began referring to the departures as the “fink release program” and “the slimies.”

Mr. Overly declined to comment.

By the end of 1972, a dozen of the roughly 400 American prisoners of war in the North had accepted offers to be freed, only one with the permission of the senior American officers. All were required, at the very least, to sign letters requesting “amnesty” and thanking the North Vietnamese.

Some went further. As early as 1969, Mr. McCain began hearing three American officers denouncing the war over camp loudspeakers. The first two, Robert Schweitzer and Edison Miller, became known as “The Bob and Ed Show.” Walter Eugene Wilber soon joined.

They were followed by as many as a dozen others: enlisted infantrymen captured in South Vietnam early in the war and later brought to the northern prisons. They had not received the same training in survival strategies and the code of conduct as the pilots who made up the rest of the prisons in the North. The cooperators called themselves the “peace committee” and enjoyed treats from their captors, including beer, ice cream, Vietnamese dinners, and front-row seats at a local circus. They lived in fear of retribution from the tough resisters.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Wilber, the officers, said in interviews that they considered it pointless to resist after they had surrendered. “I think our duty as senior officers is to get these men home as healthy emotionally and physically as we can, and I don’t intend to play politics,” Mr. Miller, a Marine lieutenant colonel, said he told the others.

Some members of the peace committee said that watching the destruction of Vietnamese villages had turned them against the war, arguing that the pilots did not see the carnage. Others said they were beaten down. “We said what we had to say to get through it,” Michael Branch, one of the enlisted men, said in an interview.

Mr. McCain was as enraged as any of the tough resisters by what they considered the treason of the two officers and enlisted men, his friends said. “He thought this was ‘terrible, terrible, terrible,’ they should all be shot,” said John Dramesi, a fellow prisoner.

In his memoirs, Mr. McCain addressed only briefly what he called “the camp rats.” During a stint in solitary confinement, he had caught a glimpse of two other American officers acting friendly with their guards and enjoying delicacies like eggs and bananas, Mr. McCain and his co-author wrote. Assuming that contact with a fellow American would restore their nerve, Mr. McCain called out: “Hey, guys, my name’s McCain. Who are you?” They called the guards, who beat him again.

Those two were Mr. Miller and Mr. Wilber. They denied the exchange took place, but in his e-mail message Mr. McCain said, “I would have been astonished if they admitted it.”

Willingness to Forgive

But Mr. Schweitzer, who died in a car crash soon after the war, became an example of what Mr. McCain later called “the necessity to forgive.” Confronted by a senior officer, Mr. Schweitzer renounced his participation in the propaganda and resumed his place in the American ranks.

“It is neither American nor Christian to nag a repentant sinner to his grave,” the senior Americans taught.

“John McCain has lived by that his whole life,” Mr. Swindle said. Others have observed the pattern as Mr. McCain has embraced former adversaries from antiwar activists and North Vietnamese prison commanders to the critics who charged him with corruption in the Keating Five scandal.

Mr. McCain was one of about a half-dozen former prisoners of war who spent the year after their release at the National War College, an elite academy for future admirals or generals.

Some officers fresh from Vietnam questioned the premise of the war. “The vast majority of generals who had experience in Vietnam will tell you we should never have gone past the advisory level,” said John H. Johns, a retired Army general and a student at the college that year. But in Mr. McCain’s paper, he instead focused on the failure to sustain public support for the fight. The paper was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and provided to The New York Times by Matt Welch, an author of a book about Mr. McCain.

He cast a cold eye on the public sympathy for prisoners like himself. “Two and a half million American fighting men served in the Vietnam conflict, and more importantly 46,000 sacrificed their lives,” Mr. McCain wrote. “Yet in the latter stages of that war millions of people were more actively concerned about the plight of 565 P.O.W.’s in Hanoi than in any bigger issue of the war.”

American elected officials, he argued, had fostered a myopic focus on the prisoners by forsaking the goal of unconditional surrender in favor of a negotiated peace, enabling the North Vietnamese to turn their hostages into a bargaining chip. “Many Congressional resolutions, favorable to the enemy, were based solely on the guaranteed return of Americans from North Vietnam,” he wrote.

With prisoners returned, he argued, ambivalence about the war was protecting the minority of American prisoners “who did not keep faith with their country or their fellow prisoners.”

Court-martial charges were filed against two officers and seven enlisted men, he noted. “Probably more would have been charged if the Vietnam War had been like other wars in which this country has engaged,” Mr. McCain wrote. (Top military leaders quickly quashed charges against those nine.)

Mr. McCain reserved his fiercest criticism for what he called “the evils of parole and amnesty,” returning repeatedly to the importance of teaching recruits to reject such offers as he did. The prospect of early release had tempted and demoralized the other captives while providing the North Vietnamese “a maximum of favorable publicity and propaganda value from these ‘humane acts,’ ” he wrote.

“Probably the greatest shock to great numbers of the P.O.W.’s was to find, on returning to the U.S., that P.O.W.’s who were released early had not been court-martialed but in fact had received choice assignments and early promotions,” he added, calling their warm welcome “inexcusable.”

Mr. McCain’s proposal that the military teach U.S. foreign policy to its recruits may be his most notable recommendation. “Too many men in the armed forces of the United States do not understand what this nation’s foreign policy is,” Mr. McCain wrote, adding he did not propose a Soviet-style “indoctrination,” but “a simple, straightforward explanation of the foreign policy of the United States.”

In his e-mail message, Mr. McCain stood by the idea. “It is important, not just for P.O.W.’s, but all Americans serving in combat to understand the purpose and reason for the sacrifices they are asked to make for our country,” he said.

Such instruction, though, sounds close to heretical to some military officers because it risks instructing the troops in the foreign policy of either one president or another, a prospect that particularly troubles Mr. McCain’s contemporaries who came to opposite conclusions about the Vietnam War.

“It gets to be partisan political positioning and regime support,” said Merrill McPeak, a retired Air Force general and another War College classmate of Mr. McCain. (Both Mr. Johns and Mr. McPeak are supporting the Democratic presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.)

But Prof. Richard H. Kohn, a historian of civil-military relations at the University of North Carolina who has taught at the War College, suggested that Mr. McCain’s recommendation was more of a “time warp” back to the 1950s, when he came of age at the Naval Academy. It was an era of staunchly anti-communist foreign policy consensus that was shattered by the debates over the Vietnam War while Mr. McCain was in prison, Professor Kohn said.

Mr. McCain’s public statements when he returned from the war suggested that he saw a similar consensus emerging again. “I see more of an appreciation of our way of life,” he wrote in a 1973 article for U.S. News & World Report. “There is more patriotism. The flag is all over the place.”

“Some of my fellow prisoners sang a different tune, but they were a very small minority,” he added. “I ask myself if they should be prosecuted, and I don’t find that easy to answer. It might destroy the very fine image the great majority of us have brought back from that hellhole.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barry Obama Columbia University Thesis Search

Item: Barry Obama Columbia University thesis from 1983 or 1984 on Soviet Nuclear Disarmament
Resources: CLIO


Columbia Masters Theses

  • The masters theses of previous GSAPP Historic Preservation students are cataloged in CLIO.

  • They are all housed in the rare book collection, Avery Classics.

  • To view the list of theses, search these keywords in CLIO : columbia thesis preservation. Please note, you must use the singular "thesis", not the plural theses.

  • What appears is a full list of theses, in alphabetical order by title.

  • Most students are interested in recent work.  In the box above the citations titled "Re-sort result by:" select  "Date (newest first)" from the drop-down box. You will have last year's theses in alphabetical order, followed year by descending year, in alphabetical order .

  • If you know of a specific author, you can do an author search.

  • The records for masters theses are not complete. They have no subject headings. This is generally not a problem since the titles of theses are self-explanatory.  If there is a particular topic you are interested in, add that topic to the keywords above. For example churches brooklyn OR marble conservation.


Contact Information for Columbia Archival Collections

Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. Department of Drawings and Archives
Columbia University,
1172 Amsterdam Ave, MC0301,
New York, NY  10027

telephone: (212) 851-5612


The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
3041 Broadway at 121st Street,
New York, NY  10027

telephone: (212) 854-5606


Columbia Unversity Archives
Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 535 W. 114th Street,
MC 1127, New York, NY  10027

telephone: (212) 854-3786


C.V. Starr East Asian Library
300 Kent Hall, Columbia University, 1140 Amsterdam Avenue, MC3901, New York, NY 10027

telephone: (212) 854-4318


Health Sciences Library, Archives and Special Collections, Columbia University Medical Center

710 W. 168th St., New York,
NY  10032; 

telephone: (212) 305-7931


Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Butler Library, 6th Floor,
535 West 114th St., New York, NY  10027

telephone: (212) 854-1365


Monday, July 21, 2008

Economic stimulus, Part 2?

Economic stimulus, Part 2?

By Ron Scherer
Mon Jul 21, 4:00 AM ET

No one can remember the last time Congress enacted two major economic stimulus packages in one year. But 2008 may see a sequel to the $100 billion worth of checks that started filling individuals' bank accounts in early spring.

Democrats say they will proceed this fall with a "Son of Stimulus." Whether it materializes is questionable; President Bush currently opposes such a move, preferring to wait to see the full effect of the first stimulus package.

As for economists, some say it's a good idea, if done differently from Round 1, but many are skeptical that money can start to circulate through the economy quickly enough. One reason for their concern: Surveys are finding that a major chunk of the money already doled out is going into savings instead of spending.

The impetus for Congress, besides the election year, is a US economy that is not expected to show much change from its current weak conditions by the time lawmakers return from their August recess. The unemployment rate may be trending higher. Energy prices, one driver of inflation, are likely to remain relatively high at least until the end of hurricane season in late November. While new housing starts may be showing signs of stabilizing, home values could still be falling.

"Whether we have negative growth or not, the economy is barely positive, it is going nowhere," says Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa.

Some budget watchers say Congress is unlikely to act unless the economy is in crisis.

"There would have to be an unambiguous perceived need, such as a big stock market drop, a major bank failure, or something that would scare the members," says Stanley Collender, a budget expert and managing director at Qorvis Communications in Washington. "And it would have to be called a tax cut instead of a spending increase."

Some in Congress began weighing an additional spending package in February after Bill Gross, head of PIMCO, a mega-investment manager, suggested the need for a permanent $300 billion to $500 billion spending program.

"To provide a stable recovery path, government spending needs to fill the gap – not consumption," he wrote back then.

If Congress could agree on a second stimulus package, it's not clear how soon the benefits would actually start pulsing through the economy.

"Say they do pass a package in October," says Mr. Naroff. "The Treasury won't start sending out a set of checks until the beginning of next year, and they won't get spent until February, March, and April."

Some economists expect the economy will still be weak next year and in need of a boost.

"The downside risks are significant. Another well-timed and targeted stimulus package would be helpful," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy. com.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after meeting with economists, seemed to indicate any stimulus package would be aimed at lower- to middle-income Americans.

"Even though we believe the initial public rebates had a positive impact, it is certainly not enough to offset the rising prices in gasoline, in food, in fuel, in healthcare, in education … while the purchasing power of Americans' income has gone down," she said at a press conference.

Not all economists, however, are convinced that the tax rebate, as this year's handout was called, has been that effective.

University of Michigan economists Joel Slemrod and Matthew Shapiro are researching what taxpayers are doing with their checks – $600 per individual and $1,200 for couples filing jointly.

"So far, we're finding that 20 percent of the people say the rebate led them to spend more," says Dr. Slemrod, who teaches at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. "That's about what we found for the tax rebates of 2001."

Data indicate a significant portion of the rebate checks is going into savings, Slemrod says. In May, the personal savings rate soared to 5 percent, up from 0.4 percent the month before.

"If you convert that to dollars, you see the jump in savings is about the same magnitude as the stimulus checks in May," he says.

The economist says he has a "wait-and-see" attitude about a second round of stimulus. "I'm not sure we would want to do a second dose the same [way] as the first dose," he says.

Mr. Zandi agrees on the need to try something different. He would consider a payroll-tax holiday for a period of time. This is an immediate cash benefit, particularly for small business and workers who don't earn enough to pay taxes, and is easily implemented, writes Zandi in an e-mail.

"The biggest perceived downside is that payroll-tax revenue goes into the Social Security Trust Fund," he writes, adding that this problem can be resolved by moving money from the general fund to the trust fund.

In addition, Zandi would consider a federal gasoline-tax holiday, an expansion of the food-stamp program, aid to state governments for their Medicaid bills, and maybe some infrastructure spending if a good list could be drawn up quickly.

"It would be all temporary, not permanent, and would run $50 billion to $100 billion," he says.

Economist Robert Gay of Fenwick Advisers in Rye, N.Y., says the economy may well need some form of fiscal stimulus. But the consumer should not be the targeted beneficiary, he argues. "Why not prime a pump that would continue to run?" he asks. One area of spending, he suggests, is alternative energy or improving the electric grid. "Go at the heart of the issue," he argues.

Copyright © 2008 The Christian Science Monitor

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