Monday, September 18, 2006

Senator Barack Obama in Iowa: “Had enough.”

With a speech that could be labeled, “Best of Obama,” the 45 year old junior U. S. Senator from the State of Illinois, Barack Obama entered, unofficially, the Iowa Democratic Presidential caucuses yesterday at the Senator Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola. It was a speech that relied heavily on Senator Obama’s tried and true stomp speech from his 2004 U. S. Senate Democratic Primary. The primary stomp speech gave Obama a big win in a field of seven candidates, so the generally politically cautious Senator Obama no doubt felt comfortable with this material.

Obama used some of the same stuff in his U. S. Senate general election campaign but in large part there was no such campaign, with Republican Jack Ryan withdrawing in late June, 2004 and his replacement candidate, Alan Keyes, turning his portion of the campaign into something resembling a Pentecostal revival tour across the State of Illinois.

First there were the oft-repeated two questions then state senator Barack Obama got the most: where did he get that funny name and why would a nice, smart, talented, “church-going," guy like Obama, who "teaches at a fine law school," has a "fancy law school degree," and is "doing good work on behalf of labor unions," want to go into something “dirty and nasty like politics.”

Almost two year Senator Barack Obama hit hard, yesterday, on the theme of “mutually shared obligations in America,” that he seems to think characterizes only Democrats and not Republicans, or at least not the Republican philosophy. This is an Obama favorite from his Democratic Senate Primary, although the emphasis at that time was more on the positives of Democrats than the negatives of Republicans.

Senator Obama brought up the truly touching story of his conversation with a 105 year old Obama fan backstage at a 2004 Democratic U. S. Senate Primary election eve rally [This story obviously is one that couldn’t have been in his primary stomp speech, but did make it into his 2004 general election campaign themes].

Here, Obama discussed the broad sweep of progress of civil rights in America during the last half century. He noted his elderly fan voted every time after the passage of the Voting Rights Act [in 1965] because she understood that in America, “there is no challenge too great, no injustice too crippling, there is no destiny that is out of reach for those of us who are lucky enough to be born in this country we call America.” This was Barack Obama almost sounding Republican for a moment—that line about being “lucky enough to be born in America.”

You don’t hear Democrats and especially not San Francisco Democrats talk that way much about America. But, Obama is no San Francisco Democrat when it comes to oratory. Got some of that resistance to such perhaps from having lived two decades in the Heartland—well, at least Chicago, Illinois and maybe from his Kansas mom.

Senator Obama then went quickly back to what he thinks is the Democratic strength: “In America, we don’t settle for equality just for some and we don’t settle for opportunity just for the few. We don’t settle for freedoms only for a handful… We have an obligation not just to ourselves, but to each other… that’s what she [his elderly fan] understood.”

Yesterday, Senator Obama used his philosophy of “mutually shared obligations,” to bash Bush. In short, he bashed the “Bush ownership society.” Obama thinks that Bush, although “not a bad man,” believes we do not have obligations to each other. He accused Bush of thinking all will be fine if we just privatize schools, social security, police and parks and cut taxes for the wealthy. In the world of Barack Obama, Bush and his Republican cronies don’t worry about 46 million people who lack health insurance, about people who work at a plant but lose their jobs, pensions, etc. when plants close and move to Mexico and China. Democrats, on the other hand, feel their pain.

Obama would dismiss Bush’s work with Senator Kennedy and other Democrats to produce No Child Left Behind as no rebuttal to the above because Bush “left the money behind.” He would dismiss Republicans who argue school vouchers-school choice would help kids of low income parents more than those of high income parents with the argument that vouchers create a two tier education system. However, Senator Obama doesn’t explain why he thinks that would be more of a two tier system than is currently the case in American elementary and secondary public school education, a system that he acknowledges is often characterized by “retched and deplorable conditions,” at least in inner city, public schools [This inconsistentcy of Senator Obama was one of the better points made by Alan Keyes during the 2004 U. S. Senate campaign, and he made it on the "Public Affairs," TV show].

Obama said he would quote former House Speaker and potential 2008 Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich as to what the Democrats' theme in the fall election should be. Senator Obama said that Newt’s advice [which Obama would take in this instance] to Democrats, in light of all the problems that Republicans have had managing the country—managing the economy, managing the War in Iraq—would be to run on just two words: Had Enough?

There is a bit of irony in that choice of words by Senator Obama. Tony Peraica, Cook County Commissioner and Republican nominee for Cook County Board President, is using that phrase to run against his Democratic opponent, Ald. Todd Stroger [Chicago 8th Ward], son of the former President of that Board, John Stroger. Commissioner Peraica, along with several Democrat allies on the board, argues that Cook County citizens, and especially low income, minority consumers of county services have been treated to decades of waste, patronage, bloat, poor health care and juvenile detention services and inefficiency under Democrat John’s Stroger’s 12 year Cook County regime, as well as under Stroger's Democratic predecessors going back to 1968. Thus, Tony's patented question, "Have you had enough."

Ald. Todd Stroger, Democratic nominee for Cook County Board President, got his nomination as a result of a process that Democrat Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool characterizes as basically abusive, cynical actions taking by an evil cabal in the Illinois Democratic Party. [see here]. And, essentially, reformer Forrest Claypool is not the nominee of the Democratic Party for County Board President because as some of his Barack’s local critics say, Senator Barack Obama was looking up, not down, when his good friend, reformer Forrest Claypool was looking for some help from fellow reformer Barack Obama. [See here]

So, as Tony Peraica likes to say, “Have you had enough.” Well, have you?
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at