Obama's Whoppers: Double Standard?
Posted by Robert Zimmer on 04.02.2008
Senator Clinton was excoriated by the media for claiming she landed in a Bosnian combat zone in 1996, but Senator Obama is fond of tall tales himself. Will the media give him a pass on his latest whoppers? Plus, an analysis of the absurd calls for Senator Clinton to quit the race.
Senator Clinton was rightfully taken to task by the news media for her fib about having landed in a combat zone during a 1996 trip to Bosnia. She has since admitted to "misspeaking," going as far to observe that the incident proves something her detractors doubt – her fallible humanity. Nevertheless, her enemies have again made a mountain out of a molehill, claiming that Senator Clinton's repeating of the story until she was caught as further evidence of her soulless, Machiavellian quest to win the presidency at all costs.
However, Senator Obama is prone to exaggerations and fibs of his own, including his oft-repeated story that the Kennedy family rescued his father from Africa in 1960. In a fawning January 30, 2008 story about Senator Edward Kennedy's endorsement of Obama, Newsweek reported the following:
"Two weeks after he was nominated for president in July 1960, then-Senator Kennedy received a visit at his vacation home in Hyannis Port, Mass., from a Kenyan educator, Tom Mboya, who told him that more than 200 African students had received scholarships to American universities through the African-American Students Foundation but did not have the $100,000 for air transport. So then-Sen. John F. Kennedy "quietly tapped his family's Kennedy Foundation, which agreed to raise the necessary funds privately," Alter writes. "The airlift money came through from the Kennedy Foundation, and the students arrived. Barack Obama Sr. went to the University of Hawaii, where he met and married a young white woman from Kansas. Their son, born the following year, arrived in the United States Senate in early 2005 and found that the antique desk he had been assigned on the Senate floor had once belonged to JFK, whose initials were carved inside. Obama learned only recently how his father's dream of studying in the United States had been fulfilled."
A lovely story, if it were true. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, Mr. Obama Sr. actually made his way to the United States in 1959, a full year before the Kennedy family funded the airlift of 200 Kenyan students to the United States in 1960. The Kennedys had nothing to do with Mr. Obama Sr.'s arrival in the U.S., or his education here. Nonetheless, Obama most famously told the story on January 28, 2008, at a rally where he was endorsed by Senator Edward Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy. In 2007, Obama told the same story at a rally commemorating the Voting Rights March in Selma, Alabama – but he embellished the fib with another tall tale for good measure: Senator Obama claimed that his parents met at and because of the 1965 march. Problem is, Obama was born in 1961, a full four years before he claimed his parents met and he was conceived.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton acknowledged over the weekend that Obama had "erred" in making these statements. Underreported in the media was another recent occasion that Obama has "erred" -- in claiming he had never been present in church during any of his pastor Reverend Wright's inflammatory sermons, which contained such now infamous gems as "God damn America!" In truth, Obama had been present during some of these offensive sermons, a fact that he snuck into his otherwise impressive speech on race relations on March 18.
Why is Obama largely being given a pass on these fibs and prevarications, yet Senator Clinton gets nailed to the wall anytime she slips up? As importantly, why is the media perpetuating the narrative that Senator Clinton aims to destroy Obama in order to win the race? Obama has given the Republicans enough ammunition to destroy him without Senator Clinton's help. The attack ads will practically write (Wright?) and edit themselves, and you can bet the uncommitted superdelegates are factoring this grim knowledge into their considerations.
Over the weekend, Obama surrogate Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called for Senator Clinton to quit the race in a staggering display of hubris. Fortunately, Senator Clinton calmly responded that she had no intentions of going away just yet, nor should she. For those who still don't seem to get the basic metrics of the race for the nomination, let's recap: it is mathematically impossible for either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama to reach the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination from the pledged delegates that are up for grabs in the remaining nine upcoming primaries. The only way for either candidate to reach that magic number is with the support of the remaining 300 uncommitted superdelegates. The superdelegates could end the contest today if they wanted to, or at any time for that matter. Why haven't they done so? If Obama's nomination is the certainty Senator Leahy claims it is, the message apparently has not been received by the remaining uncommitted superdelegates. The absurdity of the withdrawal calls is further clear when one considers the pitiful state of John McCain's campaign last year, so broke that McCain, facing a daily barrage of media obituaries, could only afford to travel with a single aide -- yet soldiered on. If Senator Clinton wallops Obama in Pennsylvania, which seems likely, it will seem even more absurd for her to drop out. Furthermore, though Obama's lead in the North Carolina polls is still formidable, Senator Clinton has gained four points in the latest American Research Group North Carolina poll, released today; the contest is not until May 6, and given the unpredictability of the race thus far, anything could happen. (The oft-cited national head-to-head polls are fun propaganda, but meaningless as they have no bearing on the race other than contributing to the perception of momentum for either candidate at any given point in time.)
Senator Clinton should ignore calls for her premature exit and instead await the decision of the superdelegates, whom I believe should not render a verdict until after the final primary in Puerto Rico on June 3. However, Obama's surrogates and his campaign continue their drumbeat of whining that the superdelegates should follow the will of the voters, conveniently sidestepping the entire raison d'etre for superdelegates in the first place. (Also, will Senators Kerry and Kennedy of Massachusetts, both superdelegates, be supporting Senator Clinton given the voters gave her a victory in their home state?) The Obama campaign's spin that the superdelegates are undemocratic is yet another piece of hypocritical irony, given the Obama campaign's successful effort to block revotes in Michigan and Florida and deny voters in the remaining nine primary contests their chance to be heard.
I do, however, agree wholeheartedly that the nomination should be settled immediately following the last June primary and that Senator Clinton should step aside gracefully if it is appropriate at that time. If this is the case, Senator Obama should be reciprocally grateful and offer Senator Clinton the vice presidential slot, and vice versa. A joint ticket would be a far more formidable beast to tackle John McCain and the Republican attack machine.