What sets Illinois Sen. Barack Obama apart from other presidential aspirants is that he is relatively untainted by the preferences and prejudices of the baby-boom generation. He reaches across the board to all citizens alike with charm and candor wherever he goes.
There is evidence of a subtle synergy at work here. It appears to have a strangely unifying effect on the population after years of being splintered by the myopic declarations of politicians bent on perpetuating their narrow, divisive partisan goals at the expense of forging a national consciousness of unity from which democracy ultimately draws its strength and currency.
Sages of east and west have reminded us time and again that we have to cease finding solutions in the realm of opposites where each side digs its heels in the ground and self-righteously declares itself right while denouncing the other as wrong. This is the world of duality that we have unfortunately come to accept as reality. The wisdom of advaita or nonduality challenges us to look for a solution beyond the culturally ossified norms of right and wrong. How many more people do we have to see maimed and slaughtered before we awaken to this realization?
Obama is in Hawaii right now pondering his widely expected candidacy. He needs to be acknowledged for bringing a brand new perspective to the political discourse.
Comment: Coming up next, we will interview a Native Hawaiian spirit about its perceptions of Obama.
CONCORD, N.H. — Two weeks after Sen. Barack Obama's first trip to New Hampshire, a new poll shows him about even with Sen. Hillary Clinton among likely voters in the state's 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
Among participants in the Concord Monitor poll, 22 percent said they would vote for Clinton if the primary was held now, and 21 percent said Obama. That put them slightly ahead of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who was at 16 percent.
Last month, a Monitor poll showed Clinton leading Obama by 23 percentage points.
CHICAGO — Chicago politics, viewed from afar, often seems a monolithic thing. The words most closely associated with it — "the machine" — imply an implacable, unbreakable force. On the ground, nearly the opposite is true.
Far from being a monolith, the machine has many parts.
Anyone seeking to navigate and survive it, much less prosper, must master a set of equations that includes fine gradations of locale and clan. There are, just for starters, the South Side and the Near North Side, the Loop, the South Loop, the West Loop, West Town, Irving Park, Portage Park, Hyde Park, this Catholic parish or that, the Poles and the Czechs.
You'll encounter a hundred fiefdoms without ever leaving Cook County, beyond which lie still more divisions: the collar counties around the city, and, of course, downstate, from the northwest suburbs to the sundown towns — as in, if you were black, you'd better be out of town before the sun set.
It is a place, in other words, of great divisions and, maybe because of that, uncommonly well-suited to have initiated U.S. Sen. Barack Obama into politics.
Obama-mania has exploded across the country, propelled by a wave of adulation that greeted the publication of his second book, "The Audacity of Hope," and by shrewd manipulation of the opportunity that attention afforded. He has popped up everywhere, from the cover of Men's Vogue to "Monday Night Football." He has been urged to run for president by everybody from Oprah Winfrey to a shockingly large number of ideologically opposed political commentators.
For the moment, the Honolulu-born Obama has demurred. A decision, he has said, will be forthcoming after the New Year. His sister, Maya Soetoro, said last week that he would decide during his holiday visit with family and friends in Hawai'i and probably would announce it after returning to Illinois.
Hardly anybody who knows Obama doubts that he wants to run. But he has two young children, and whether he enters the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination will be largely a family matter, friends say.
OUTSIDER TAKES CHICAGO
Obama, a Punahou School alumnus, arrived in Chicago in 1991, unbidden, with a fresh Harvard Law degree, big ambitions and virtually no reason to think they would ever be fulfilled. In a place of fervid group loyalties, he was a nearly complete outsider, having spent just three of his prior 30 years in the place, a member of no group but his own.
Five years later he was elected to the state Senate. He was re-elected in 2000, then won election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. What he had instead of a loyal base was a million-dollar smile, an optimistic message of inclusion and a willingness to work with anyone willing to put a shoulder to the wheel of his choosing, no matter their ideological stance.
Chicago politics tends toward polarization. Depolarization is Obama's stock-in-trade.
Just a generation ago, when Harold Washington was campaigning to become the first black mayor of Chicago, he and Democratic presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale attended Sunday Mass at St. Pascal's, a white Roman Catholic parish in Northwest Chicago. They were spat upon, cursed and lucky to leave unharmed.
In his 2004 Senate campaign, Obama carried every precinct but one, in St. Pascal's Portage Park neighborhood. Talk to people who live there now and you could get the impression that Obama grew up one block over.
"Barack is wildly less threatening than Harold Washington," said Judson Miner, who hired Obama into his small Chicago civil rights law firm in 1991. "Even the North Shore ladies love him."
Go west to DuPage County, one of the most Republican in the nation, and you'll find a GOP county chairman, state Sen. Kirk W. Dillard, who relishes the opportunity to accompany Obama whenever he comes to town. "My constituency is enamored of him," Dillard said. That Obama registered approval ratings in DuPage above 60 percent in fall's campaign season is an obvious reason to get next to him, but Dillard has been on the Obama bandwagon for years.
He, along with many others, were skeptical when Obama arrived in Springfield, the state capital. There was suspicion that Obama, with his fancy degrees and a job teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, was an elitist. It turned out he was a more or less regular guy who played pick-up basketball and poker.
Obama developed a reputation as a very conservative poker player. He threw in many more hands than he played, said another Senate colleague, Larry Walsh. "I told him once, 'If you were a little more liberal in your poker-playing and a little more conservative in your politics, we'd get along a lot better.' "
Obama was somebody you could have a beer with, Walsh said, even if Obama, who frequently quit buying but not smoking cigarettes, perpetually bummed them.
SIGNS OF A 'ROCK STAR'
As a freshman, a member of a Democratic minority in a General Assembly not much interested in policing itself, Obama carried to passage the state's first significant ethics legislation in a generation. He later worked to reform the state's death penalty and healthcare laws. He developed a reputation as someone anybody could work with.
"I brag that before anybody knew who he was, I knew he had the gifts that have made him into the rock star he is — charm, intellect, hard worker, ability to relate," Dillard said.
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama tells of being on the floor of the state Senate, sitting with a white colleague. A black senator, whom Obama refers to as John Doe, gave a lengthy, passionate speech in which he said voting against the program he was speaking for would be racist. The white colleague, a liberal, turned to Obama and said, "You know what the problem is with John? Whenever I hear him, he makes me feel more white."
Obama sees this as an illustration of the exhaustion of white guilt. He has nearly the opposite effect on people; he removes race from the equation.
Some critics would say he works too hard at this, yet there is no one in contemporary American politics who has gone to greater lengths to define and embrace his racial identity. He wrote an entire memoir, "Dreams From My Father," about that act of definition. "My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn't, couldn't end there. At least that's what I would choose to believe," he wrote.
'THIS IS NOT AN ACT'
In many ways, Obama is both politician and celebrity. He is one of very few politicians who cause a rustle just entering a room. Heads turn, cameras flash and whooping and hollering commence often before he reaches the stage. People offer up their children for hugs and scramble for autographs.
Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate and one of Obama's mentors, tells the story of attending a downstate political dinner where he, his driver and Obama were the only black faces in a crowd of 3,000 people.
"Sitting across the table from me was a little old lady, said she was 86 years old," Jones said. "After Barack spoke, she nudged me on the shoulder and said, 'This young man is going to be president of the United States some day. I just hope I live long enough to vote for him.' "
Obama was utterly unknown outside Illinois until he was chosen to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watching that speech from the convention floor, Jones was astounded to find tears rolling down his face. He was embarrassed, he said, until he saw another delegate crying too. "It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen in 40 years in politics," Jones said.
People who have known Obama for a while tend to describe him in ways that are eerily similar to the way he is described by people who know him hardly at all. "The biggest difference between then and now is he's been well-publicized," said state Sen. Terry Link, another legislative colleague. "A lot more people know him, but he's the same guy. I've spent a lot of quiet nights with him. This is not an act by any means."
What is most striking about the surge of interest in Obama is the degree to which it is fueled by people's estimation of him as an individual, not as a politician. His appeal is almost entirely personal.
Abner Mikva, a former federal judge and Illinois congressman who taught with Obama at the University of Chicago, said Obama was probably the smartest man he had ever met. Yet people typically saw him as the next-door neighbor they would love to have: "He's Everyman. People look at him and see what they want to see. Not that he cuts and trims. They fit him into what they want."
This is probably not an accident. Obama's political skills are in some ways reflected in his personal history. Born half Kenyan, half Kansan, and raised in polyglot places such as Honolulu and Jakarta, Indonesia, he has spent much of his life as an outsider figuring out a way to fit in. As a consequence, friends say, there is no place Obama doesn't feel at ease, no room he's uncomfortable entering.
Comment: Obama attended Punahou Schools in Honolulu during the Culture of Corruption. I have never met Obama, and I never heard of him prior to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Accordingly, I cannot relay anything personal about him. He just arrived on scene.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Barack Obama. But where's the beef? He has charisma and a great smile. Perhaps that's all that is needed to get the Oprah vote. The time in which we live requires a person in the White House with more substance than that.
Having never been a governor, a mayor or even a CEO, Obama lacks the executive experience that a 21st-century president needs to lead our great country. With seven years as state senator and only two as a U.S. senator, what record of leadership does he have? The answer: none.
Obama is all hype. Where is he on the pressing issues of today's America? Obama needs to do more than deliver banal bumper-sticker speeches and write a book to lead the country. He needs to get some leadership experience under his belt and establish a track record of substance and leadership. I find it interesting that his biography on the draftObama.org Web site is shorter than this letter to the editor.
If elected president in 2008, Barack Obama will be a bigger bust than that peanut farmer from Georgia.
Comment: So much for the pampered-poodle from Punahou Schools! Typical Democrat politician: Alligator mouth and hummingbird credentials.
Looking Behind The 'Purpose Driven' Sheep’s Clothing
By Christopher G. Adamo, 12/28/2006 2:27:12 PM
The facade is beginning to peel back from the so-called ministry of Southern California Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Unfortunately, many among his ample flock have far too much invested in him, both emotionally and otherwise, to admit their mistakes and cut their losses.
Moreover, he certainly faces no possibility of in-depth scrutiny from the “mainstream media,” as his brand of “Christianity” poses little or no threat to their liberal social agenda. Yet to the degree that anyone at all questions Warren as anything less than authentic, his response is thoroughly telling as to his true character, as well as the nature of his “ministry.”
Joseph Farah, editor in chief of the premiere Internet news site, “World Net Daily,” opened a can of worms by calling Warren to account over his fawning praise of the terrorist stronghold of Syria. While there, Warren lauded the brutish dictatorship as “peaceful,” claiming that the Islamist government does not officially sanction “extremism of any kind.”
When confronted by Farah, an American of middle-eastern decent who knows too well the history of horror and tragedy faced by persecuted Christians in that region of the world, Warren immediately denied ever making such statements.
Subsequently, Farah offered as evidence a “YouTube” video from Saddleback Church, where Warren is pastor, inarguably proving Farah’s statement. So Warren’s Church simply pulled the video from circulation and continued the denial, being unaware that a copy of the video file had been downloaded and is still in circulation. Warren’s follow up to this inconvenient circumstance is perhaps most telling of all.
In a concurrent set of moves, Warren sent a seemingly conciliatory e-mail to Farah, while distributing another to his “flock,” in which he characterized Farah’s pursuit of the incident as nothing less than “doing Satan’s job for him.” Throughout this sorry episode, Farah’s only error has been to suggest that Warren’s disturbing behavior represents some new departure from consistency.
In fact, Warren is actually being entirely consistent. Whether his audience might be Farah himself, Syrian Despot Bashar Assad, or the Saddleback congregation, Warren tells each exactly what he believes they want to hear. This pattern is the essence of what Warren is, and what has made him so “successful” from a worldly perspective.
For those among his congregation who sincerely want to know the truth, the evidence is ample. Unfortunately, it always has been available, and any present “confusion” merely results from past decisions to ignore that evidence.
For example, his letter to the congregation decrying the “attack” and making his defense by invoking Scripture is barely four paragraphs long. Yet in those four paragraphs, he employs three different “translations” of the Bible. Why, it must be asked, does he not trust any single translation to convey God’s message to humanity?
Could it be that he has his own message and agenda to advance, and that he has found it very convenient to utilize different wordings of different passages, not because they better convey God’s purpose, but rather his own? It would be better to ask, could his motivation possibly be anything else?
As Farah has refused to let this indefensible situation simply drop, Warren has responded by taking it to another realm, making personal attacks against Farah in an interview with the magazine, “Christianity Today.” But once again, by so doing Warren succeeds in revealing much more about himself than about his adversary.
Warren, who has not to date been known as any sort of standard bearer for Christian principle in the political arena, decries Farah (whose societal and moral views fall unambiguously on the right) and his ideological allies as part of a wrongful “political” encroachment on the faith.
In contrast, Warren’s forays into the political realm prove, not surprisingly, to be decidedly leftist. At a recent conference on the African AIDS epidemic, Warren invited the very liberal Senator Barak Obama (D.-IL) as a keynote speaker. He justified the inclusion of Obama, who avidly supports abortion and same-sex “marriage,” on the grounds that Obama offered a worldly solution to ostensibly curb the spread of the disease through condom usage.
The morally ambiguous message conveyed by the advocacy of condoms, along with their inherent unreliability, make them nothing less than iconic to the abortion industry, which fully understands how much new business they generate. In the face of such pragmatism, one has to wonder what will be next. Perhaps Warren’s Church will sponsor a “designated drivers ministry” at every bar in its locale.
Appalling though Obama’s inclusion in the conference may be, it is nonetheless entirely consistent with Warren’s behavior from the beginning. Leading a megachurch in the culturally disintegrating landscape of Southern California, Warren certainly knows that his prospects of maximizing the “flock” will be greatly enhanced as long as he shows proper deference to the real religion of the area, “political correctness.”
In this, his Christian populism movement has proven to be far more palatable to the God-hating secularists of the surrounding communities than such stodgy, old-fashioned, and “intolerant” notions as “Thou Shalt Not.” And the Warren influence has been predictable wherever it can be found.
If other Churches that abide in the Warren philosophy, such as Chicago’s gargantuan “Willow Creek,” were to truly uphold Christian values among their enormous congregations, they would certainly be a constant “thorn in the side” of their surrounding populace, acculturated into the modernism as those communities certainly are. Yet an amazing degree of compatibility and congeniality exists between the Warren Church model and the social structures of Chicago and Southern California.
The tradeoff between true Christian principle and acceptability to the locals is apparently worth the spiritual sacrifice it entails, with expanding parking lots, increasingly lavish facilities, and of course, fuller collection plates bearing witness. Meanwhile, such Churches offer ever less of a worthwhile and much needed alternative to the ailing world around them.
Ultimately, Warren gives conformist Christians, wearied from their ongoing battle with a world that is increasingly hostile to true Christian faith, an apparent “out” by offering a version that the modern world can find more acceptable while remaining in its present spiritual darkness.
Many among Warren’s vast following have made the mistake, in light of his “purpose driven” ministering, of presuming, at the heart of the movement, a Christ-driven purpose. Yet as Warren’s real character continues to be revealed, it is becoming apparent that members of that following are presuming too much.
Comment: Obama & Warren: now, here is a pair to draw to!
Hawaii's senior senator, Daniel Inouye, says it is too soon for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to run for president.
Inouye, 82, who has served in the Senate since 1963, is the third most senior member of the Senate and is considered a national leader of the Democratic Party.
Asked in an interview last week about Obama, Inouye said that while the 46-year-old former state senator is smart and hard working, he does not have the experience for a presidential campaign.
Inouye said the Democrats have several current and former members of the Senate who would be good candidates, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and former Sen. John Edwards. "They also say Barack Obama, but he should wait."
"He has been in the Senate for, what, two years. You can almost anticipate what they are going to do with him. It is always predictable. Someone is always digging up dirt.
"They will dig up everything, even traffic tags, the whole works," Inouye warned.
"He has a good reputation," Inouye said of Obama. "He works hard, but his work would be effected by whatever plans he makes.
"Someone can get away with it like John F. Kennedy did. He just left and started campaigning, but I don't know about (whether) Illinois politics would permit that," Inouye said.
Former state Rep. Brian Schatz, who has been heading the Hawaii campaign requesting Obama to run for president, said "it was much too early to be narrowing the field."
"It is a good sign that the Democrats have three or more exciting candidates to choose from. From Hawaii's perspective we can't lose," Schatz said.
Obama was born in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School before going to Columbia University and Harvard Law School.
Inouye said it was just too soon to endorse any candidate for president.
"I would like to endorse someone who has indicated that he or she is running for president. In that sense I am a politician," Inouye joked.
Looking at the field of possible candidates today, Inouye said that he would "give you odds that on the Democratic stage, the person in the best position to be nominated is Hillary Clinton, because of her financial resources and organizational resources."
"On the Republican side, it would be (John) McCain (the Arizona Republican senator)," Inouye said.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, urged Obama to run.
Abercrombie stopped short of using the word "endorsement" in supporting an Obama candidacy, but said he would back him over other candidates, including Clinton and Edwards.
CNN has been running a fine series about prejudice in America. But has CNN considered the persistent prejudice against atheists? If Sen. Barack Obama had followed the example of his father (an atheist) or his mother (witness of secular humanism), what would his chances be to run for president of the United States? Or for that matter, most public offices?
Special from the OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary
By John Fund, 1/12/2007 8:29:52 AM
It looks as if Barack Obama is likely to run for president. Given the choice between backing their junior senator and Hillary Clinton, who grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois Democratic pols are clearly lining up behind Mr. Obama -- and are even trying to change the date of the state's primary to help him.
State House Speaker Michael Madigan unveiled a plan to move up the primary next year from March 18 to February 5. "If Barack is a candidate... the selection process may be finished before it reaches the Illinois primary," he warned fellow legislators. Other legislative leaders and the state's Democratic governor are on-board with the proposed change.
If he had stopped there, most everyone would have understood Mr. Madigan's desire to secure political advantage for the local candidate. But Mr. Madigan went further and decided to diss other states with early primaries or caucuses by claiming the adjustment was necessary to correct presumably undemocratic flaws in the primary system. After mentioning Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the Illinois Speaker dismissed them all by saying, "These states are not representative of mainstream America."
Hmmm. Exactly in what way? The residents of Nevada, which is 23% Hispanic, will no doubt wonder what he means. So too will people in South Carolina, where 29% of the population is African-American. How are they not "representative of mainstream America"?
Perhaps after Mr. Obama thanks his ally Mr. Madigan for the favor of moving up the state's primary, he might also educate him in the nuances of diversity politics, which Mr. Madigan apparently is clueless about.
WASHINGTON — Feeling a wind at his back, freshman Sen. Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he is taking the step political pundits have been predicting for months and filing papers for a presidential exploratory committee.
The Illinois Democrat sent a letter and posted a video on his Web site notifying supporters of his plans to join the 2008 White House race. He said he would announce updates to his plan in his home state on Feb. 10.
Obama, who if elected would become the first black president in the United States, said he never expected a year ago that he would be in the position he is now. But after being on the road promoting his book and campaigning on behalf of other Democrats in the run-up to the Nov. 7 election last year, he was "struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics."
Like others before him, Obama stressed that he wanted to change the tone of debate in Washington.
"It's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that's what we have to change first," he said.
Obama joins a growing list of Democratic contenders who have already filed their paperwork. Included on that list are 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
So far, the man with two years of Senate experience has jumped over all of them in public opinion polls and landed right up at the top of popularity surveys alongside New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The most inexperienced candidate in the mix, Obama is trying to turn that potential disadvantage into an asset, emphasizing his fresh face, young family and father's immigrant background. That angle has worked well in the press with coverage reaching beyond the politics pages and all the way to dishy magazines like People, which last week featured a photo of the shirtless and fit senator playing in the Caribbean's waves.
"He has an amazing ability to cut across various divides, possibly because of his upbringing as the son of a black African and a white woman from Kansas. I think he speaks to today's youth and I think he will create a lot of excitement among young people," said Newsweek columnist and FOX News contributor Eleanor Clift.
Still, Obama outlined serious issues in his letter, saying while considering his future he will discuss issues like wages, health care costs, energy, the environment and the war in Iraq.
"Many of you have shared with me your stories about skyrocketing health care bills, the pensions you've lost and your struggles to pay for college for your kids. Our continued dependence on oil has put our security and our very planet at risk. And we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged," he said.
Senior Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who launched the "Draft Obama" campaign, said the candidate offers the "promise of reconciliation and a feeling of hope that America desperately needs."
"This is an opportunity for a new generation of leaders to step forward to remake America, combining the great traditions and values we share with a bold, hopeful vision of tomorrow," Durbin said in a written statement.
Comment: The notion is emerging that Obama is merely a distraction for Hillary Clinton. Some political analysts are beginning to envision Obama as a candidate that could take votes from John Edwards. Noting the similar platforms of Edwards & Obama, this speculation has merit.
In support of this notion, Backdoor Dan Inouye (D-HI) has publicly discouraged Obama from running in 2008. Backdoor Dan prefers that Obama acquire some much needed experience in order to compete successfully for the White House. Despite Backdoor Dan's public discouragement, Obama continues to go through the motions. Why? Obama must be savvy enough to realize that Edwards and he will be bumping heads for the same voter pool. Hence, Obama could just be a sacrificial lamb in 2008 in return for Hillary's and Backdoor Dan's support in future elections.
Obama's decision thrills his supporters in Hawai'i
Advertiser News Services
WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama's decision to take the first formal step toward running for president caps an extraordinarily rapid rise in politics — and sets up a high-stakes competition for campaign money, staff and supporters for the Democratic nomination.
A state legislator just three years ago, Obama's announcement yesterday that he had formed a presidential exploratory committee establishes him as his party's most formidable rival to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. It also creates a face-off between the first strong black and female candidates for president, adding sizzle and a sense of historic significance to the competition for the party's nomination.
Hawai'i-born Obama, 45, is expected to announce a full-fledged candidacy on Feb. 10 in Springfield, Ill. He is gambling that voters will see his lack of national governing experience as an asset, not a liability, at a time when the electorate is seething with discontent with the Washington establishment.
"I am struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics," Obama said in his announcement yesterday. "The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put us in a precarious place."
In a sign of the importance of the Internet to political campaigning, Obama made his announcement not in a public appearance but in an e-mail statement and a video posted on his Web site.
"Our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way," Obama said in a video posted on his Web site. "Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that's what we have to change first."
Obama also said his campaign would emphasize traditional Democratic goals such as lowering healthcare costs, providing college tuition assistance and developing new energy sources. He only briefly mentioned the Iraq war, the issue that could well drive the 2008 election.
"We're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should never have been waged," Obama said.
In a brief interview on Capitol Hill, he said reaction to the possibility of his candidacy has been positive and added, "We wouldn't have gone forward this far if it hadn't been this positive."
His announcement steps up pressure on Clinton to formally launch her own campaign, a move that is expected soon. Howard Wolfson, a senior Clinton adviser, declined to comment on Obama but said, "Sen. Clinton has a strong case to make for her own candidacy and is going to have to make the best case for herself."
The combined star power and national fame of Clinton and Obama threaten to siphon off vast amounts of money and attention from lesser-known candidates in the crowded Democratic field.
Obama already is competing with Clinton for donors in California, the No. 1 source of money for Democrats. So far, he has been popular among major donors, despite his relatively short history of raising money in the state.
Clinton, who hired Los Angeles fundraiser Diane Hamwi on Sunday to oversee West Coast fundraising, has a huge head start.
As of last month, she had $14.4 million in campaign money in the bank; Obama had $756,000.
Obama was born in Honolulu, where his parents met while studying at the University of Hawai'i. His father was black and from Kenya; his mother, white and from Wichita, Kan.
Obama's parents divorced when he was 2 and his father returned to Kenya. His mother later married an Indonesian student, and the family moved to Jakarta. Obama returned to Hawai'i when he was 10 to live with his maternal grandparents.
He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the first black elected editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama settled in Chicago, where he joined a law firm, helped local churches establish job-training programs and met his future wife, Michelle Robinson. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Obama lacks the deep roots other candidates have cultivated in states with early primaries and caucuses, such as Iowa. Still, he drew huge, enthusiastic crowds during his first-ever trip to New Hampshire, in December, even though most people knew little about him.
Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster who is allied with no presidential candidate, said concern about Obama's inexperience may be eclipsed by a more powerful political force — voters' hunger for change, as evidenced in the 2006 midterm elections.
"People want something new and different, and there is nobody in this contest who can better lay claim to being new and different than Barack Obama," said Mellman.
Now, Obama faces heightened scrutiny that may spotlight less- flattering aspects of his past. In his first book, Obama acknowledged that he experimented with cocaine and marijuana in his youth.
His record will also come under closer scrutiny. He has a traditionally liberal voting history, supporting gay rights, abortion rights and gun control. The only vote in 2006 where he opposed the liberal Americans for Democratic Action was in supporting a free-trade agreement with Oman.
Obama has been a harsher critic of the war in Iraq than Clinton. Although he was not in the U.S. Senate in 2002, when Clinton voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Obama at the time spoke out against the war.
Now, both Obama and Clinton are opposing President Bush's proposal to increase troop levels in Iraq, but Clinton has been more low-key and moderate in her tone.
Comment: Obama never wore the uniform of our country. His educational background is representative of the typical pampered-poodle creatures that rise in political arenas and serve in name only. Clearly, he will be controlled by powerful money brokers ... as Obama has no money himself.
Lastly, we must all realize that Obama is a product of affirmative action. Accordingly, his credentials will beg the question of substance. Personally, I doubt that he has any substance at all ... more delusional than pragmatic.
As I previously wrote, Obama will run interference for Hillary Clinton by stripping votes from John Edwards.
As a state senator he supported numerous hot-button measures
By Ryan Keith
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. » Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama might have a lot of explaining to do.
The Hawaii native voted against requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive. He supported allowing retired police officers to carry concealed weapons but opposed allowing people to use banned handguns to defend against intruders in their homes. And the list of sensitive topics goes on.
With only a slim two-year record in the U.S. Senate, Obama does not have many controversial congressional votes that political opponents can frame into attack ads. But his eight years as an Illinois state senator are sprinkled with potentially explosive land mines, such as his abortion and gun-control votes.
Obama, who filed papers this week creating an exploratory committee to seek the 2008 Democratic nomination, could also find himself fielding questions about his actions outside public office, from his acknowledgment of cocaine use in his youth to a more recent land purchase from a political supporter who is facing charges in an unrelated kickback scheme involving investment firms seeking state business.
Obama was known in the Illinois Capitol as a consistently liberal senator who reflected the views of voters in his Chicago district. He helped reform the state death penalty system and create tax breaks for the poor while developing a reputation as someone who would work with critics to build consensus.
He had a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives.
One vote that especially riled abortion opponents involved restrictions on a type of abortion where the fetus sometimes survives, occasionally for hours. The restrictions, which never became law, included requiring the presence of a second doctor to care for the fetus.
"Everyone's going to use this and pound him over the head with it," said Daniel McConchie, vice president and chief of staff for Americans United for Life.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said voters will be able to judge distorted accounts of his votes against his legislative career in general.
"I don't doubt that if you take a series of votes and twist them and kind of squint, you can write a narrative the way you want to write it," Gibbs said. "I think what people understand is that (what matters) is taking the full measure of his career and the full measure of his legislative efforts."
Obama argued the legislation was worded in a way that unconstitutionally threatened a woman's right to abortion by defining the fetus as a child.
Such hot-button issues were the exception in a legislative career that focused more on building consensus to improve the justice system and aid the poor.
Gibbs noted Obama's leadership on legislation requiring police to videotape interrogations in murder cases. It started out as a controversial idea but ended up passing the Senate unanimously.
Allies and opponents alike say he listened to those who disagreed, cooperated with Republicans and incorporated other people's suggestions for improving legislation.
"He was looked upon by members of both parties as someone whose view we listened carefully to," said Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard from Hinsdale, Ill.
WASHINGTON (Jan. 24) - Sen. Barack Obama fought back Wednesday against an allegation that he was educated at a radical Islamic school as a child in Indonesia, determined to avoid being tripped up by unsubstantiated charges like those that undermined John Kerry in 2004.
Interviews by The Associated Press at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s.
Obama, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Indonesia at age 6 to live with his mother and stepfather, attending schools in the country until age 10, when he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.
"The allegations are completely baseless," said Akmad Solichin, the vice principal at SDN Menteng 1, who added, "Yes, most of our students are Muslim, but there are Christians as well. Everyone's welcome here ... it's a public school."
A spokesman for Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs said claims that Obama studied at an Islamic school are groundless.
"SDN Menteng 1 is a public primary school that is open to people of all faiths," said the spokesman, Sutopo, who goes by only one name. "Moreover, he studied earlier at Fransiskus Assisi, which is clearly a Catholic school."
The contention that Obama was educated at a radical Muslim madrassa surfaced on the Web site of the conservative Insight magazine the day after Obama announced he was jumping into the 2008 presidential race. Conservative Internet blogs and the Fox News Channel picked up the story and spread the charges just as his candidacy was getting off the ground.
Obama on Wednesday called the reports "scurrilous," and his communications director e-mailed reporters a lengthy memo attempting to set the record straight.
"I think they recognize that the notion that me going to school in Indonesia for two years at a public school there at the age of 7 and 8 is probably not going to be endangering in some way the people of America," Obama said on NBC's "Today" show.
The push-back was a signal Obama would fight to protect his reputation in the presidential campaign.
Many Democrats argued that Kerry's failure to challenge aggressively his critics in the 2004 presidential race cost him in his effort to unseat President Bush . A group with conservative ties, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, charged that Kerry did not deserve the medals he won in the Vietnam War _ despite his combat record of bravery and valor. Kerry announced Wednesday that he will not run again in 2008.
"We will not be swift-boated," said Obama communications director Robert Gibbs. "And we won't take allegations that are patently untrue lying down."
Obama's mother, divorced from Obama's father, married a man from Indonesia named Lolo Soetoro, and the family relocated to the country from 1967-71. At first, Obama attended the Catholic school, Fransiskus Assisis, where documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather.
The document required that each student choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering _ Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant. Gibbs said he wasn't sure why the document had Obama listed as a Muslim.
"Senator Obama has never been a Muslim," Gibbs said. "As a six-year-old in Catholic school, he studied the catechism."
The Illinois senator is a member of the United Church of Christ.
Iis Darmawan, 63, Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. "He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,'" the teacher said.
Obama later transferred to SDN Menteng 1 - the elite, secular elementary school at the center of the controversy. The school is public but is very competitive and has exceptionally high standards. It is located in one of the most affluent parts of Jakarta and attracts mostly middle- to upper-class students, among them several of former dictator Suharto's grandchildren.
Indonesia is home to several of the most radical Islamic schools in Southeast Asia, some with alleged terrorist links. But Solichin, who proudly pointed to a photo of a young Barry Obama, as he was known, said his school is not one of them.
Those tied to the school say they are proud to have had a student like Obama, and hope that, if he is elected president, his ties to Indonesia will broaden his world perspective and his views on religion.
Sri Murtiningsih, who retired from Menteng 1 recently after 39 years of teaching, said she has vivid memories of the left-handed boy who followed a standard curriculum of math, writing, and language, together with twice-weekly religious affairs classes and sports.
Murtiningsih said neighbors ran to her house after seeing a television report about his intention to run for president.
"They were yelling, 'Your old student is going to take Bush's job!'" she said. "Tears filled my eyes."
Comment: As a diplomatic officer who reported on the Republic of Indonesia, I can state that public schools in Indonesia are as Muslim based as our public schools are Christian based.
The fact that Obama registered, in his Indonesian schooling, as a Muslim indicates that he was a Muslim. The notion that the reason for his registering as a Muslim escapes the current Indonesian authorities is nonsense. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his Indonesian family.
Obama can camouflage and spin the story as he pleases ... like any Democrat would do ... but, the fact remains that he was an Indonesia Muslim. A country that boasts of more Muslim suicide bombers ... some 80,000 Muslim suicide bombers between Java (Jakarta's island) and Sumatra alone ... than any other country.
If Obama's father (stepfather) influenced the Indonesian authorities to allow young Obama into a prestigious Jakartan school, then Obama was a Muslim.
KAILUA-KONA » A Big Island genealogist says presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has some ancestral ties to the White House.
Bruce Harrison, founder of the Waikoloa-based Family Forest Project, said he found links between the Democratic senator from Illinois and Presidents George Washington, James Madison, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.
Millisecond Publishing Co., the company that was first to establish the cousin relationship between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 race, traced Obama's maternal ancestors in establishing his relationship to the former presidents.
Harrison said Obama's exact relationships are calculations based on a wealth of fully sourced knowledge within the "Family Forest," his company's proprietary family history research tool.
The company searched the ancestors of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, dating back many centuries.
He said the Family Forest shows Dunham having a number of her ancestral pathways leading back to early colonial Virginia and New England, and some extend back for many centuries into Europe.
One of her ancestral pathways leads to one of Obama's 12th great-grandfathers, the Hon. Laurence Washington, who built Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire, England.
Over the course of five centuries, according to recorded history, he became the ancestor of Washington, Carter, Gen. George S. Patton, Gov. Adlai Stevenson and Quincy Jones, Harrison said.
"Of course, the Honorable Laurence Washington is also the ancestor of at least a million other living people, including some very famous ones, but most are everyday folks," he said.
Harrison, who has spent tens of thousands of hours poring over historical documents and entering the data into a genealogy software program, said links also popped up to four other presidential contenders.
The Hawaii-born Obama shares ancestors with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Arizona Sen. John McCain, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Harrison, who founded the Family Forest Project with wife Kristine in 1995, said the ancestry research program has enough data now to map generation-by-generation ancestral pathways of up to 2 billion people. If all the charts were printed out, he said, it would top 30 billion pages.
Comment: The Big Island seems to be noted for more than drug trafficking and organized crime. Perhaps, these researchers should refrain from sample the products of the Big Island.
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