Misinformation in Freddoso's anti-Obama book comes early

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

The introduction and first few pages of David Freddoso's forthcoming book, The Case Against Barack Obama, are marked by false and misleading assertions about Obama, accompanied by dubious citations.

The introduction to conservative author David Freddoso's forthcoming book, The Case Against Barack Obama (Regnery), which Media Matters for America has obtained, is titled "The Rhetoric vs. The Reality" and purports to explain "why this book needed to be written." The introduction and first few pages of The Case Against Barack Obama, however, are marked by false and misleading assertions about Obama, accompanied by dubious citations.

"Technicality"

On page xi, Freddoso writes:

Obama's ethnic pedigree understandably attracts much interest and fascination. But it is far less interesting than his unusual political pedigree. He is the product of a marriage between two of the least attractive parts of Democratic politics -- the hard-core radicalism of the 1960s era and Chicago's Machine politics. Obama plays hardball and knows when to look the other way. But he also surrounds himself with political, social, and spiritual mentors who are so far to the left that many push the envelope on ideological respectability. The interesting result of this mix is that Obama can engineer a high-minded drive to register thousands of voters in Chicago's black wards, only to turn around and throw all of his opponents off the ballot on a technicality, so that those voters have no choice but to elect him. This is precisely how he first won his state Senate seat in 1996.

In fact, Obama's opponents in the 1996 Democratic primary for the 13th district Illinois state Senate seat were removed from the ballot for failing to adhere to election laws -- the Obama campaign challenged the signatures his opponents had collected to get their names on the ballot, and the signatures were deemed ineligible for a variety of reasons. On page 2, Freddoso undermines his own claim by quoting a 1996 Chicago Weekend article explaining that some of incumbent Sen. Alice Palmer's signatures were disqualified because the voters who signed lived outside the 13th district -- something more than a mere "technicality":

With that justification, he approved the project, and he checked up on its progress nightly. One by one, Obama's "petitions guru" disqualified Palmer's signatures for one reason or another. According to one local newspaper at the time: "Some of the problems include printing registered voters name [sic] instead of writing, a female voter got married after she registered to vote and signed her maiden name, registered voters signed the petitions but don't live in the 13th district."5

Additionally, the Chicago Tribune reported on April 4, 2007, that one of Obama's opponents, Gha-Is Askia, "now suspects" some of the signatures his campaign collected were forged. Tribune reporter David Mendell wrote in his book, Obama: From Promise to Power (Amistad, 2007), that Palmer acknowledged at the time that her signatures had not been properly collected. From pages 109-110 of Obama: From Promise to Power:

So a volunteer for Obama challenged the legality of her petitions, as well as the legality of petitions from several other candidates in the race. As an elections board hearing on the petitions neared, Palmer realized that Obama had called her hand, and she acknowledged that she had not properly acquired the necessary number of signatures. Many of the voters had printed their names, rather than signing them as the law required.

Freddoso is presumably aware of these facts, as he cites both the April 4, 2007, Chicago Tribune article and page 109 of Obama: From Promise to Power in the first chapter of his book. On page 3, Freddoso reproduces a quotation from Askia in the Tribune article:

One of them was Gha-is Askia. He never had much of a chance of winning anyway, but he had gathered 1,899 signatures, and Team Obama took the time to challenge them as well.6 Askia spoke to the Chicago Tribune in 2007 about it:

"Why say you're for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?" Askia said. "He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?"7

On page 5, Freddoso twice cites (in bold below) page 109 of Mendell's book in arguing that Obama's actions were "Rovian" and Machiavellian:

As an incumbent with the backing of the new congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr., Palmer was considered the early favorite in this contest.14 She went out and collected nearly 1,600 petition signatures in just ten days and submitted them ahead of the December 18 deadline.15 She would still need to defeat Obama and two other Democratic challengers, but as an incumbent with the backing of the popular new congressman, Palmer was the early favorite. Until Obama kept her from running, that is.16

Downtown, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley must have smiled when he learned that some "skinny kid with a funny name" had just ended Alice Palmer's career. According to contemporaneous news reports, Daley considered Palmer a serious threat, a potential mayoral rival.17 The black press had also raised the possibility of Palmer's husband running for mayor.18 Chicago was a majority-minority city with a white mayor. Both Palmers represented precisely the kind of black candidate around whom others might have united against Daley, as they had united around Chicago's first and only black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983.

By clearing the ballot, Obama had done more than just elbow his way into power without a real election-he had also erased any doubt of Daley's path to his next term.

There was nothing illegal in what Obama did in the primary. It was typical Chicago politics -- "If you can win, you should win."

And that is the point. Barack Obama promises to smooth over the bitter divides of American politics. He promises hope and an end to bitter partisanship. He frames himself as someone who rises above Clintonian or Rovian tactics. Contrast his promises today with what he did in 1996. He was not even a state senator yet, and he had already done enough to make Karl Rove, Bill Clinton, or Niccolo Machiavelli proud. He got his start in politics by denying voters a choice.

At no point does Freddoso note that two of Obama's 1996 primary opponents reportedly acknowledged that they had not complied with election laws.

"Slip of the tongue"

On page xii, Freddoso describes the effects of what he called the "Obama phenomenon":

It can drive Obama's liberal supporters, normally opponents of unilateral military action, to support military strikes within the territory of an American ally without that nation's permission. They take this position because Obama apparently made a slip of the tongue in August of last year and advocated such incursions into Pakistan.6

The source Freddoso cited was an August 1, 2007, Reuters article on Obama's speech that day at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., in which Obama said:

OBAMA: I understand that [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

But Obama's comments were not a "slip of the tongue"; they were included in his prepared remarks. Indeed, according to an August 1, 2007, entry to USA Today's On Politics blog (posted at 7:58 a.m. ET, hours before Obama delivered the speech), they were among the excerpts the Obama campaign emailed to reporters prior to the actual speech:

"I understand that President Musharraf (of Pakistan) has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

That's a passage from a speech that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will deliver today in Washington. He will also use the address to propose sending "at least two additional brigades" of troops to Afghanistan to secure that nation and hunt for terrorits.

His campaign just e-mailed us some excerpts. Among the other things Obama plans to say:

The Reuters article Freddoso cited does not characterize Obama's remarks as a "slip of the tongue," nor does it suggest that they were in any way inadvertent.

Network/Outlet
Regnery Publishing
Person
David Freddoso
Stories/Interests
Freddoso's "The Case Against Obama", Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.