So you went down to Candidates “R” Us to pick out a new President. Before you barely got on the lot you got accosted by “Slick” the hot-shot salesman. He is really pushy and won’t leave you alone until you buy the advertised special, The “2008 Unity Pony Deluxe”
Slick can rattle off all the factory specs and special features, as well as all the various ways this model is superior to competing models. He tells you that the Unity Pony is eloquent, inspirational, and has 80% better judgment. When you question the undersized resume, Slick explains that the tiny resume is a feature not a bug, because large resumes become clogged with corruption. Yet despite Slick’s hard-sell tactics, you insist on consulting with Consumer Reports before you commit.
Stripped down to the basics, Barack Obama is a 46 year old (47 next month) Senator who is just completing his fourth year in Washington D.C. (If the Senate were a high school, Obama would be a senior) Prior to being elected to the Senate, he spent eight years in the Illinois legislature. He is an attorney (Harvard Law) with a BA in Political Science (Columbia) and is the author of two memoirs. He has also worked as a “community organizer” and as a adjunct instructor/professor at the University of Illinois Law School. His advertised strengths are his eloquence, his judgment, and his ability to inspire people.
Let’s look a little closer at those basics. His education is a undisputed fact, but it is noteworthy that although he was President of the Harvard Law Review while in law school, that particular year was undistinguished if not below average in comparison to other years. The publicity from his election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review led to a contract and advance to write a book about race relations. In an effort to recruit him to their faculty, the University of Chicago Law School provided Obama with a fellowship and an office to work on his book. The book, Obama’s first “memoir,” was “Dreams From My Father” and was supposed to take about a year to complete but wasn’t finished until four years later.
From the NYT:
Mr. Obama was given an office to write in at the University of Chicago through a surprising connection. Douglas G. Baird, a professor who was head of the law school’s appointments committee, had learned of Mr. Obama from Michael W. McConnell, a conservative constitutional scholar then at Chicago whom President Bush would later make a federal judge.
Professor McConnell encountered Mr. Obama during the editing of an article he wrote for The Harvard Law Review, Professor Baird said recently. “He sent a note saying this person is really brilliant, we should have him on our radar screen,” Professor Baird said. Professor Baird called Mr. Obama at Harvard and asked if he was interested in teaching.
“I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that, ‘Well, in fact, I want to write this book.’ What he really wanted was the Virginia Woolf equivalent of a clean, well lighted room.” So Professor Baird got him one, a small office near the law library, along with a law school fellowship that Professor Baird hoped might later lead to his full-time teaching.
This was prior to Obama being elected to the Illinois Senate. A conservative Republican helped hook Obama up with a cushy job at the University of Chicago Law School with an office to do his writing in. Not bad for a guy fresh out of law school and no real accomplishments as an attorney. But the book didn’t do so well:
The book came out in the summer of 1995, shortly before Mr. Obama announced that he was running for the Illinois State Senate. At 57th Street Books, in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, a few dozen people turned out for a reading. There were respectful reviews in newspapers including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Times Books sold 8,000 to 9,000 copies.
“I joke that 290 million Americans did not buy the book,” he said.
Kodansha Globe, a now-defunct branch of a Japanese company, bought the paperback rights for $5,000 to $7,500 and printed about 6,000 copies in 1996, said Philip Turner, Kondansha’s editor in chief at the time.
Senator Obama admits to taking a certain “artistic license” with the facts in his first memoir, changing names and blending characters together. There are questions now about the accuracy of the stories, including his parents’ relationship and his own alleged drug use. The book was reissued after Obama was the Democratic Senate nominee from Illinois, and did better than before:
Crown moved up the publication date, Barnes & Noble increased its order to 20,000 copies, and the book hit the top 50 on Amazon before it was even reissued. Bidding on eBay for a first edition copy hit $255. By December, Mr. Obama was the senator-elect and his book had been on the best-seller list for 14 weeks.
Two weeks before Mr. Obama’s swearing in, Crown announced that it had signed a contract with him for three more books. The first would offer “a window into the political and spiritual convictions that propelled Obama’s recent U.S. Senate victory.” The second will be a children’s book about his life, and the third is yet to be defined.
Mr. Obama completed “The Audacity of Hope” in the summer of 2006. This time, he distributed drafts to several dozen friends and Senate staff members, many of whom now advise his campaign. They included David Axelrod, his chief political strategist; Anthony Lake, who was a national security adviser for President Bill Clinton; Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to Mr. Clinton; and Samantha Power, who recently stepped down as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama after calling his opponent, Mrs. Clinton, “a monster.”
The book’s release in October 2006 must have been the envy of anyone who ever published a book or contemplated higher office. In Chicago, people started lining up outside 57th Street Books at 4:15 on the morning of Mr. Obama’s book signing. For his Seattle signing, the Elliott Bay Book Company rented the 2,500-seat hall where the symphony performs, sold out the tickets in 90 minutes and reported a level of turnout that topped all previous records at the store for any author, including Mr. Clinton.
October 2006? Hmmm, what is special about that date? Oh, yeah, it was just before Senator Obama planned to announce he was running for President! What had Senator Obama been doing in the Senate for his first two years? Um, besides writing his second memoir? Well he, . . .uh, . . .did some stuff, and then some other stuff. Seriously, can you name any significant accomplishments of the junior Senator from Illinois for 2005-2006?
Well, his new book certainly sold much better than the first one, but was it any better? Let’s ask Vast Left at Corrente:
In any case, I’m pulling the plug on my plan to review it in full, because I’m finding it seriously depressing, and because if I call bullshit on all of the bullshit, I’m going to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Maybe we should back up a bit and examine Obama’s times as a state legislator. He was carried to office by acclaimation based on the success of “Dreams From My Father,” right? Not exactly. That might have been the plan, but Obama got “elected” in a manner familiar to Hillary supporters: He got his competition kicked off the ballot.
Having TKO’d Alice Palmer and three others to get in office, Obama spent the next six years voting “present” on every bill that was even remotely controversial. All of his legislative accomplishments took place in his final two years when, you guessed it, he was running for another job. There was another attempt to change jobs in 2000, when he challenged incumbent Bobby Rush for a seat in Congress, but the former Black Panther beat Obama like a red-headed step-child.
Let’s go back to that NYT article:
Then in March 2004, Mr. Obama’s political and literary fortunes abruptly shifted. His victory in a tightly contested United States Senate primary in Illinois made him an overnight Democratic Party sensation.
“Tightly contested?” From Wikipedia:
In early media polls leading up to the March 16, 2004 primary election, [Blair] Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth for the campaign.
When allegations that Hull had abused his ex-wife were made by the media, Hull’s poll numbers dropped and he failed to win the nomination. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama later became the nominee.
Obama finished 29 points ahead of the second place primary finisher. Then he cake-walked in the general against Alan Keyes after Jack Ryan withdrew from the race following disclosure of divorce records containing politically embarrassing charges by his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. (Apparently Jack liked getting his freak on with Jeri in sex clubs) It was probably just a coinky-dink that all that juicy stuff surfaced when it did.
Now we often hear that Senator Obama is an eloquent public speaker. At least we used to hear that. First there was the plagiarism scandal, where Obama was caught using chunks of Deval Patrick’s speeches. It may not be Obama’s fault, as both Patrick and Obama are clients of David Axelrod, raising the question as to exactly whose words they were. But then it was pointed out that Obama doesn’t speak quite so eloquently without a Teleprompter, and his attempts to prove that observation wrong failed miserably. His debate performances started at “abysmal” and improved over the course of a year to “lame.”
Senator Obama’s claim to superior judgment is based almost entirely on a speech he gave in 2002 concerning Iraq. Not only has he shown poor judgment on picking his friends and spiritual advisors, his recent vote on FISA alone brings his decision making skills into question. And he is currently revising his position on Iraq too.
The “inspirational” meme is the most interesting. We have heard repeatedly that Obama has inspired his supporters to “cult-like” enthusiasm, and that he has convinced millions of Americans to donate nearly $300 million to his campaign. But it seems like no one has converted to Obamamania lately. Since March the only “converts” are reluctant supporters, and the donations are drying up. Well, he has inspired a new political movement, but I don’t think PUMA is what they meant.
If Barack Obama is so inspiring, why did he have to knock Alice Palmer off the ballot to win? Why couldn’t he beat Bobby Rush? He certainly didn’t win his Senate seat strictly on his own merits, and his record in office (Springfield or Washington DC) doesn’t demonstrate “inspirational leadership” either.
Maybe this will help explain things:
Furthermore, in Silicon Valley’s unique reckoning, what everyone else considered to be Obama’s major shortcomings—his youth, his inexperience—here counted as prime assets.
I asked Roos, the personification of a buttoned-down corporate attorney, if there had been concerns about Obama’s limited CV, and for a moment he looked as if he might burst out laughing. “No one in Silicon Valley sits here and thinks, ‘You need massive inside-the-Beltway experience,’” he explained, after a diplomatic pause. “Sergey and Larry were in their early 20s when they started Google. The YouTube guys were also in their 20s. So were the guys who started Facebook. And I’ll tell you, we recognize what great companies have been built on, and that’s ideas, talent, and inspirational leadership.”
I think we have disposed of talent and inspirational leadership, but what about this “ideas” thingie? Quick, name three original ideas advocated by Barack Obama! Two? How about just one? Aside from slogans about “changing the way Washington works” and similar empty rhetoric, he has offered nada planada.
And as for that part about large resumes getting clogged with corruption, I have two words for you: Tony Rezko.