Barack Obama: The rhetoric versus the reality

Hillary Clinton really blew it last night. Barack Obama got away with quite a few whoppers and trademark misleading statements, which she – nor moderator Tim Russert – called him on. The post-debate show had Obama apologist Keith Olbermann carrying his water with another whopper, which I will also correct. It’s the morning after in America, and I will do what all of them failed to do: fact check Senator Obama. Here’s a link to the transcript, which I will be quoting from in this post.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, let me ask you about motivating, inspiring, keeping your word. Nothing more important. Last year you said if you were the nominee you would opt for public financing in the general election of the campaign; try to get some of the money out. You checked “Yes” on a questionnaire. And now Senator McCain has said, calling your bluff, let’s do it. You seem to be waffling, saying, well, if we can work on an arrangement here.

Why won’t you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by public financing of the fall election?

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, I am not yet the nominee. Now, what I’ve said is, is that when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee — because we’ve still got a bunch of contests left and Senator Clinton’s a pretty tough opponent. If I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides, because Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting around these loopholes.

Fact: Barack Obama is indeed waffling on his pledge on public financing in the general election. Russert noted a couple of statements both he and his campaign made. Here are others:

3/2/07: On Thursday, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said: “If Senator Obama is the nominee, he will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”

2/18/08: The squabbling marked the first time the two have directly confronted each other on the issue, which revolves around Mr. Obama’s February 2007 pledge to accept public financing — and the spending limits that accompany it — if he went on to the general election and his Republican counterpart likewise accepted public financing.”

2/18/08: Also, in response to a questionnaire in November from the Midwest Democracy Network, a group of nonpartisan government oversight groups, Obama said: “Senator John McCain has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”

From the debate transcript:

OBAMA: Now what I want to point out, though, more broadly is how we have approached this campaign. I said very early on I would not take PAC money. I would not take money from federal-registered lobbyists. That — that was a multimillion-dollar decision but it was the right thing to do and the reason we were able to do that was because I had confidence that the American people, if they were motivated, would in fact finance the campaign.

Fact: As I’ve noted previously with numerous links, it’s not just “the people” who finance Barack Obama’s campaign. The Capital Eye reported that “[a]ccording to the Center for Responsive Politics, 14 of Obama’s top 20 contributors employed lobbyists this year, spending a total of $16.2 million to influence the federal government in the first six months of 2007.” Captain Ed wrote this morning about a piece put out by the USA Today yesterday that noted how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been practicing what they preach when it comes to reducing the influence of lobbyists in government. I’ll focus on Obama’s campaign contribution paybacks, since it appears that he is going to be the nominee:

Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has accepted $54,350 from members of a law firm that in 2006 lobbied him to introduce a tax provision for a Japanese drug company with operations in Illinois, according to public records and interviews. The government estimates the provision, which became law in December 2006, will cost the treasury $800,000.


In May 2006, after the finance committee invited senators to put forward tariff suspension proposals, Obama introduced a bill requested by Astellas Pharma, which was seeking a break on an ingredient it imports from Switzerland.

Astellas employed two lobbyists with the Chicago firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman, Senate records show. Another Katten lawyer had helped the senator set up a blind trust in 2005, campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

The two lobbyists have not contributed to Obama. But their law partners and associates at Katten gave $77,000 to his campaigns since 1999, according to the non-partisan CQ Moneyline.

See how he gets around the system? He is playing the same Washington double speak games that he decries in others, proving once again that he is not the “Washington outsider” he has routinely tried to paint himself as.
Obama is simply not being honest when he tells you his campaign is responsible only to the people.

From the debate transcript:

OBAMA: We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors, $25, $50. We average — our average donation is $109 so we have built the kind of organization that is funded by the American people that is exactly the goal and the aim of everybody who’s interested in good government and politics supports.

Fact: I dunno where Obama gets his numbers from, but the numbers from the FEC tell a different story, as I noted in my prior post on Obama’s lobbyist and special interest ties:

Regarding his (non-transparent) contributions of $200 or less, which constitute over $47 million to his campaign, that’s obviously very impressive, but over $92,000,000 has contributed by the $201+ donors, with $49 million of that being $2000+ donors.

But we’re supposed to believe that 90% of his donations are “small donations.” Riiiight.

From the debate transcript:

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Senator Clinton I think equates experience with longevity in Washington. I don’t think the American people do and I don’t think that if you look at the judgments that we’ve made over the last several years that that’s the accurate measure. On the most important foreign policy decision that we face in a generation — whether or not to go into Iraq — I was very clear as to why we should not — that it would fan the flames of anti-American sentiment — that it would distract us from Afghanistan — that it would cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and would not make us more safe, and I do not believe it has made us more safe.

Fact: On the experience issue, Obama is singing a different tune now than he was shortly after he was elected to serve in the Senate in 2004:

“You know” Obama replied, “I am a believer in knowing what you’re doing when you apply for a job. And I think that if I were to seriously consider running on a national ticket I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now, there are some people who might be comfortable doing that, but I’m not one of those people.”

He also asserted in January 2006 in a Meet The Press interview that he would serve out his full 6 year Senate term:

MR. RUSSERT: There’s been enormous speculation about your political future, Senator. The man you succeeded in the Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican, said this recently. “I think there’s a very good chance that Senator Obama is on the Democratic ticket in 2008 as the vice presidential nominee.” Do you agree?

SEN. OBAMA: No. You know, I can’t speculate on those kinds of things. What I have said is that, you know, I’m not focused on running for higher office, I’m focused on doing the job that the people of Illinois just sent me to do.

MR. RUSSERT: But there seems to be an evolution in your thinking. This is what you told the Chicago Tribune last month: “Have you ruled out running for another office before your term is up?” Obama answer: “It’s not something I anticipate doing.” But when we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama: “Absolutely.”

SEN. OBAMA: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

Re: Obama’s Iraq claim, Senator Clinton has been verbally slapped around on her vote in favor of the Iraq war on numerous occasions, but what she didn’t mention last night as a rebuttal to Senator Obama’s claim of better “judgement” about the Iraq war was a couple of things: 1) She was in the Senate when the debate was being held on the Iraq war, and was privy to more intelligence than then-state senator Obama had, and made her decision on her Iraq war vote based on the information she had at the time. 2) On July 26, 2004 this NYT article reported a more nuanced position by Senator Obama, implying that he might have voted like the majority did, had he had he, too, been privy to more intelligence:

”But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports,” Mr. Obama said. ”What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.”

IOW, it’s really easy to be sitting on the sidelines without all the information at hand when you come down against something. It’s another thing to have the access to the information that the people did who actually voted on the issue.

The very next day he flip flopped and said he would have voted “no” on the Senate resolution.

From the debate transcript:

OBAMA: Al Qaeda is stronger than anytime since 2001 according to our own intelligence estimates, and we are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years,

Fact: This is false. Barack Obama has characterized McCain’s 100 years war comment in a number of ways, all of them distorted. Here were McCain’s actual comments:

Last month, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a crowd member asked McCain about a Bush statement that troops could stay in Iraq for 50 years.

“Maybe 100,” McCain replied. “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

You’ll note that McCain never once suggested that we could be in Iraq for 100 years, but that instead we’ll probably need to maintain a presence there – which is, BTW, what we’ve done in numerous other countries after wars we’ve been involved in in the past. Barack Obama is simply not being truthful when he makes little quips about McCain’s “100 year war.”

We were treated to biased post-debate coverage last night hosted by Keith Olbermann, who asserted that McCain’s criticism of Obama’s comments on Pakistan were bogus, because the US “did the same thing” recently, according to the Washington Post. If I wanted to be charitable in characterizing Olbermann’s remarks, I would call them misleading, but in actuality, they were an outright lie (and this is also a lie that the Obama campaign has used against McCain’s criticisms as well). First, Obama’s comments, made last summer:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a pointed warning yesterday to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying that as president he would be prepared to order U.S. troops into that country unilaterally if it failed to act on its own against Islamic extremists.

In his most comprehensive statement on terrorism, the senator from Illinois said that the Iraq war has left the United States less safe than it was before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that if elected he would seek to withdraw U.S. troops and shift the country’s military focus to threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won,” he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the District. He added, “The first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”


“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans,” he said. “They are plotting to strike again. . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Obama was talking about redeploying more troops into Pakistan without Musharraf’s permission. If I recall correctly, at this point the few troops who are there are there because of an agreement the US has with Musharraf. Sending our troops where they have not been invited is considered an act of war, and this is what BO is suggesting we do to a nuclear power.

McCain has rightly criticized Obama’s remarks:

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio — Sen. John McCain intensified his attacks on Sen. Barack Obama, saying he was “naïve” for publicly suggesting several months ago he would attack targets in Pakistan.

“The best idea is not broadcast what you are going to do. That’s naïve,” McCain said at a news conference in Columbus.

“You make plans and you work with the other country that is your ally and friend, which Pakistan is,” McCain added. “You don’t broadcast and say you are going bomb the country without their permission or without consulting them. This is the fundamentals of the conduct of national security policy. I believe in working with the other country.”

He’s exactly right. But that’s not something that Barack Obama believes in, apparently (nor does Senator Jay Rockefeller, for that matter, but I digress …) .

In that same article, however, the Washington Post falsely claimed (emphasis added):

The Bush administration, however, did not follow that strategy last month, when on Jan. 29 a CIA Predator aircraft flew over the Pakistani town of Mir Ali and fired Hellfire missiles that killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander.

According to an article in The Washington Post this week, “Having requested the Pakistani government’s official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.”

But as the NYT reported earlier this month, we already have permission:

Two top American intelligence officials — Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director — traveled secretly to Pakistan in January to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the C.I.A. greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories.

Mr. Musharraf rebuffed proposals to expand any American combat presence in Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan and the United States agreed to consider a series of other joint efforts, including increasing the number and scope of missions by remotely piloted Predator aircraft over the tribal areas.

The C.I.A. has fired missiles from Predator aircraft in the Pakistan tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Ayman al-Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda leader, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village.

What Barack Obama is advocating is, essentially, an act of war – going into Pakistan expressly without Musharraf’s permission. I guess this makes him a “warmonger!!!!!” Simply put, we already have an agreement with Pakistan to do the very thing we did when a Predator drone killed Abu Laith al-Libi on January 29th.

Last but not least, when Barack Obama pledges that as president he will protect the American people, he should be asked how he plans on doing this, when he advocates the following:

I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems…

…I will not weaponize space…

…I will slow development of future combat systems…

…and I will institute a “Defense Priorities Board” to ensure the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending…

…I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons…

…and to seek that goal, I will not develop nuclear weapons…

…I will seek a global ban on the development of fissile material…

…and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert…

…and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals…

What the video of these assertions made by Obama here.

I feel safer already!

These are several of many facts that hopefully will be discussed at length, especially between the candidates, between now and the general election. Let’s hope the McCain campaign is ready to hammer home these points because, as Tony Blankley writes about Obama, “Make no mistake, this guy isn’t only good with inspirational rhetoric; when it comes to policy slipperiness, he makes Bill Clinton look slow-witted and honest.”

See tons more discussion about last night’s debate via Memeorandum.

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