Monday, August 02, 2004

Updated August 2, 2004 at 3:20 pm

Hardballing with U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama and Public Affairs show host Jeff Berkowitz, airing tonight at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV] through-out the City of Chicago.

Barack Obama, Lisa Madigan, Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune, Hypocrisy and school vouchers-school choice.

Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama discusses and is challenged tonight on TV on "Public Affairs," on his programs and ideas regarding jobs, education and health care. Obama also debates and discusses with Berkowitz the War, education, school vouchers, free market failures, government failure, taxes, tariffs, the WTO and free trade.

On School Choice and School Vouchers, is Barack Obama, along with former President Bill Clinton, former VP Al Gore, Senator Hillary Clinton, Governor Rod Blagojevich, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former Chicago Public Schools (“CPS”) CEO Paul Vallas and Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr., hypocritical in his opposition to school vouchers. Al Gore’s parents spent $20,000 per year [adjusted to current dollars], as did Cong. Jesse Jackson’s parents, to send VP Gore and Cong. Jackson to the elite St. Alban’s private school in Washington, DC, as Senator Gore and Rev. Jackson chose to opt out of the “intolerable,” DC public schools. CPS CEO Paul Vallas spent considerable sums to opt out of the Chicago public schools he oversaw to send his kids to Christian religious academies. Hillary and Bill spent considerable sums to opt out of the “intolerable,” DC public schools. Speaker Madigan and his wife spent $19,000 per year [adjusted to current dollars] to opt out of the “intolerable” Chicago Public Schools.” U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama sends one of his young daughters to a private school, where the education is valued at about $14,000 per year, and Obama opts out of the public schools in Chicago.

Yet, the one thing all of the above politicians have in common is their unwillingness to give parents of kids in the inner cities [mostly low income and minority] a similar opportunity to the one they have to opt out of what Obama refers to as “admittedly intolerable public schools.” True, a fully funded school voucher in the City of Chicago would only be for the average amount of $11,000 per kid per year that the student is currently receiving, implicitly, in the form of a taxpayer dollars, not the 20K, or so, that Gore, Jackson and Madigan [or their parents] were able to spend, or even the 14K education that Obama’s child receives. However, it is hard to know how that “child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read,” who Barack Obama referred to so eloquently in his keynote speech, would be made worse off if her parents were given an $11,000 per year school voucher and the choice to exit what is most likely “an admittedly intolerable,” public school and to attend a private school, as Obama’s daughter does, that might be able to teach her how to read.

Now, that is a question that I tried to get an answer to from Senate candidate Obama and you can watch the show tonight and decide whether I got my answer. But, please note that I was not barred from asking tough questions on issues simply because the Republicans had [and still have] no senate candidate.

So, the question is, for Chicago Tribune reporters like David Mendell, who wrote a fluff piece today on Obama, as well as one last Monday, why they are acting as if they can’t ask tough question to Obama on the issues. Is it Tribune policy not to do so? Why not? The Tribune Editorial page told us the public has “a right to know,” to the tune of the Tribune spending, it has been estimated, about one million dollars to unseal the Jack Ryan sealed records, so we could find out more about Jack and Jeri Lynn Ryan’s divorce squabbles. Doesn’t the public have a right to know the answers to the above public policy questions from Barack Obama, as well as many more? Well, Chicago Tribune, inquiring minds want to know. When are you going to start asking the tough questions? With tough follow-ups? Oh yeah, pulling stuff off the Obama web site, reporting that and calling that “issue analysis,” doesn’t quite cut it.

A few disclaimers. One, Mendell does very good work. So, this is no shot at him. It is a shot at the Chicago Tribune and his assignment editors for sending him out to do such mindless fluff.

Two, none of the above should suggest that I am unmindful that Barack Obama has come on my show eight times, I believe, in five years. It was extremely nice and quite generous of Barack with his time to do so and it is enormously appreciated. As I appreciate Cong. Jackson coming on the show earlier this year and both Gov. Blagojevich and Paul Vallas, neither of whom came to our studio, but both of whom were very gracious with their time for on-site interviews. It is a testament to all of those office holders, but especially to Barack Obama, of his commitment to intellectual analysis of public policy issues and his willingness to discuss same, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Well, virtually anyone and certainly with me.

Three, Barack Obama, as the world has discovered what I and countless others knew years ago, is a remarkable political talent-- bright, articulate, graceful, polished, sincere and able to connect with a broad range of voters and viewers. None of the above is personal and none of Barack’s enormous talents should get in the way of journalists asking tough questions as I have done and will continue to do with candidates of any party- Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or other.

Jeff Berkowitz, host of Public Affairs, can be reached at