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On the January 16 edition of ABC's Nightline, during a report on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) decision to form a presidential exploratory committee, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" and asked: "Just who the hell is Barack Obama? And why, in these dangerous times, should he be entrusted with the most powerful job on Earth?"
Earlier in the report, after playing a portion of Obama's video announcing his decision, Tapper suggested that Obama has no plan for Iraq, saying, "Left unanswered today: responses to tough questions on how to win the war in Iraq." Tapper went on to note that, in 2002, Obama was "[r]allying against the [Iraq] war in Chicago," but made no mention of several interviews Obama gave, including one on Nightline itself, in response to President Bush's January 10 address, during which Bush called for 21,500 additional U.S. troops to be deployed to Iraq. On the January 10 edition of Nightline, Obama told co-host Terry Moran that the problem in Iraq is "political," not "military," and said that "[a] phased withdrawal is the only leverage we have to force that political accommodation."
Moreover, Tapper failed to note that on June 22, 2006, Obama voted for a nonbinding amendment sponsored by Democratic Sens. Carl Levin (MI) and Jack Reed (RI), calling for the "begin[ning of] a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq this year" and urging the administration to submit to Congress its plan for continued redeployment beyond 2006.
Later in the report, in noting what voters "may not like" about Obama, Tapper referred to "a questionable land deal he was involved in with a political operative since indicted for fraud." But as Media Matters for America noted, in a December 14 Slate.com article, headlined "Barackwater," Slate chief political correspondent John Dickerson reported "no evidence" Obama did anything wrong.
After Tapper aired a clip of Obama saying, "One of the things I'm pretty confident about is that when people know me, they conclude, not that I'm perfect, but that I am in this thing for them," he concluded: "We shall see. It's up to them. It's up to you."
From the January 16 edition of ABC's Nightline:
OBAMA: We are one, people. All of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes.
TAPPER: If three years ago, in January 2004, someone had told you that this man, then an Illinois state legislator named Barack Hussein Obama, was thinking about running for president, you might have thought he was, well, unhinged.
OBAMA: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
TAPPER: But a lot can happen in a short period of time. Nasty politics can get even nastier. A president's popularity can plummet, and an already brutal war can devolve into a catastrophic civil war.
TAPPER: Left unanswered today: responses to tough questions on how to win the war in Iraq, sensitive debates about race in America, and many other hurdles facing Obama on the campaign trail. But not only did the man, who's only two years into his first term in the U.S. Senate, target all those politicians whose experience outmatches his, today, he seemed to be saying that their experience may be part of the problem. After all, as Obama told Nightline anchor Terry Moran just a few months ago --
OBAMA: Donald Rumsfeld has one of the best resumes in Washington and yet, I would also argue that -- that one of the consequences of bad judgment on his part is some of the problems that we've seen in Iraq.
TAPPER: That was Obama's message today, too, if you read between the lines.
OBAMA: We're still mired in the tragic and costly war that should never have been waged.
TAPPER: A war that should have never been waged, he says. Of course, back in 2002, supporters of the war included all his potential major rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination: Senators Clinton, Biden, Edwards, Kerry, Dodd. Where was Barack Obama in 2002? Rallying against the war in Chicago.
OBAMA: I don't oppose war in all circumstances, and when I look out over this crowd today, what I do oppose is a dumb war.
TAPPER: But beyond the excitement among Democrats and some in the media, it's not tough to discern a certain sense of confusion up here on Capitol Hill, fueled, in part, by jealousy and resentment, sure, but the question you hear bears answering: Just who the hell is Barack Obama? And why, in these dangerous times, should he be entrusted with the most powerful job on Earth?
Obama's biography is part of his selling point. Born in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and an African father, Obama moved around a lot as a child.
TAPPER: Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie does not know Obama and disagrees with his politics, but admires his talent, who he seems to be.
GILLESPIE: He enjoys the benefit of a pretty broad appeal.
TAPPER: But Gillespie notes what Obama himself has acknowledged, that right now, he's, in many ways, a blank slate on which fans are projecting their views and their hopes. That this popularity is unlikely to sustain the more people find out about Obama.
GILLESPIE: Right now, I think they're probably a lot of moderate Democrats who assume he's a moderate Democrat; a lot of liberal Democrats, who assume he's a liberal Democrat, but in the end, given his numbers, somebody's gonna be disappointed.
TAPPER: They may be disappointed to learn that, as a teenager, he did cocaine.
OBAMA: When I was in high school, you know, I did a lot of stupid things.
TAPPER: They may not like what they hear about a questionable land deal he was involved in with a political operative since indicted for fraud.
OBAMA: We paid higher than the appraised value, but, you know, it's a situation where I missed, sort of, the potential appearance of impropriety, or at least the possibility that he was doing me a favor by selling me this land. And I expressed regret publicly.
TAPPER: Or voters may also decide that they want the skinny guy with the funny name to be their next president.
VALERIE JARRETT (Habitat Company managing director and executive vice president): If you ask Michelle [Obama's wife], she'll give you a list of the flaws. They usually have to do with not picking up after himself, and not doing the dishes, and stuff like that. But, you know, he is a -- I'm not gonna say he's flawless -- everybody has flaws -- and he's the first to recognize his flaws, which is a little unusual as well, and he would say he's a work in progress.
OBAMA: One of the things I'm pretty confident about is that when people know me, they conclude, not that I'm perfect, but that I am in this thing for them, and that I generally exercise good judgment.
Come on. Hurry up. I'm cold.
TAPPER: We shall see. It's up to them. It's up to you. This is Jake Tapper for Nightline, on Capitol Hill.