Monday, June 2, 2008

Trail of Tall Tales

Sen. Barack Obama has gained a fervent following by preaching messages of hope and change, but has a long campaign tethered him to the sphere of age-old politics? A series of statements on the stump suggest Obama is perfectly capable of joining the ranks of silver-tongued politicians.
1. Spiritual Adviser, April 29, 2008Non-truth: Obama told reporters at a news conference that his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was never his spiritual counselor.
“He was never my spiritual mentor. He was my pastor. And to some extent how the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, was inaccurate,” Obama said.
Truth: During a June 5, 2007, speech at Hampton University, Obama introduced Wright by describing him as “the guy who puts up with me, counsels me, listens to my wife complain about me.”
Sources: CQ, Newsmaker Transcripts, Special Events April 29, 2008; “Obama Says White House Ignores ‘Quiet Riot’ Among Blacks,”, June 5 2007.
2. Jeremiah Wright, April 16, 2008Non-truth: During a March 14 interview with FOX News, Obama said he was never in church when his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made the now infamous sermons during which he proclaimed “God damn America” and asserted that the U.S. brought on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with its own “terrorism.”
“None of these statements were ones I had heard myself personally in the pews,” Obama said, calling the sermons “unacceptable and inexcusable.”
Truth: During a March 18 speech Obama said, “Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.” He added, “The remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial … they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country.”
Nearly one month later, on April 16, Obama told a group of Jewish leaders in Philadelphia that he “did not become aware of [Wright’s statements] until I started running for president,” implying that he did not hear the remarks while he “sat in church.”
Sources: “Obama Rejects Sermons from Pastor Who Was Like an Uncle,”, March 14, 2008; “Remarks of Senator Barack Obama, ‘A More Perfect Union’”, March 18, 2008; “Obama Tells Philadelphia Jewish leaders He Would Not Sit Down With Hamas,” Obama speech, pool report, April 16, 2008.
3. Selma Voting-Rights March, March 5, 2007Obama told an audience at a Selma Voting Rights March commemoration that during this historic civil rights event in 1965 “there was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma.”
Non-truth: He said his parents “got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama.”
Truth: Obama was born in 1961 — four years before the 1965 Selma march occurred. He later clarified his remarks, saying, “I meant the whole civil rights movement.”Sources: “Sen. Obama Delivers Remarks at Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration, Selma, Ala.,” Newsmaker Transcripts, March 4, 2007; “Clinton and Obama Unite, Briefly, in Pleas to Blacks,” The New York Times, March 5, 2007.
4. Lobbyist Money, April 12, 2008Non-truth: During campaign speeches, Obama frequently makes the contention that “I’m the only candidate who doesn’t take money from corporate PACs and lobbyists.”
Truth: Obama has raised nearly $14 million from lawyers and lobbyists. In October, Obama raised about $125,000 at a fundraising event in the Washington offices of Greenberg Traurig, the law firm that once employed convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Obama has sought to draw a distinction between “lawyer advocates” and “lawyer lobbyists,” but some non-partisan experts see that as “a distinction without a difference,” as they both operate as special interests.
Sources: “Full Text of Obama’s Speech to the Alliance for American Manufacturing,”, April 14, 2008; “Obama Draws Fine Line Between Lobbyists, Lawyer Donors,” Newsday, April 12, 2008.5. Nuclear Legislation, Dec. 30, 2007During a campaign event in Newton, Iowa, Obama touted his sponsorship of a bill in the Senate that required nuclear power plant owners to notify authorities immediately of all radioactive leaks, no matter how small.
Non-truth: That was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed” he told the crowd.
Truth: Obama had rewritten the bill to ease its passage and removed the language requiring the reporting of leaks. The bill died when it reached the full Senate, and did not pass as he claimed.
Source: “Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate,” New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008.6. Law Professor, March 30, 2008Non-truth: During a campaign fundraiser in Tallahassee, Fla., in March 2007, Obama spoke of his time as a “constitutional law professor” at the University of Chicago, “which means unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution.”
Truth: Obama never held a professor position at the University of Chicago. The university said he was a lecturer and taught courses to students at the law school, but “did not hold the title of professor of law.”
Sources: “Obama: Bush Fails to Respect the Constitution,” Associated Press, March 30, 2007; “No ‘Professor’ Obama at U. of C,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 30, 2008.
7. Life Magazine Claims in Obama’s Autobiography, March 25, 2007In his 1995 autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama cited a copy of Life magazine as having stirred a racial awakening in him.
Non-truth: He wrote that when he was 9 years old, living in Indonesia, he flipped through Life magazine and read an article about a black man who had scarred and ruined his skin applying chemicals that promised to make his skin white. “I imagine other black children, then and now, undergoing similar moments of revelation,” he wrote.
Truth: No article or pictures exist of any such story, according to Life historians. When questioned about the mix-up, Obama couldn’t name the specific magazine in which he read the article.
Source: “The Not-So-Simple Story of Barack Obama’s Youth,” Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2007.
8. Obama’s Fluency, March 25, 2007Non-truth: Obama has claimed on numerous occasions that, as a boy growing up in Indonesia, he was fluent in the country’s language. “It had taken me less than six months to learn Indonesia’s language, its customs, and its legends,” he wrote in “Dreams From My Father.”
Truth: His first-grade teacher in Jakarta said he struggled with the language, needing help with pronunciation and vowel sounds, and teachers and friends remembered him as a being a quiet boy as a result of his difficulties.
Source: “The Not-So-Simple Story of Barack Obama’s Youth,” Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2007

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is what I love about blogging or what I like to call citizen reporting.

Good for you for helping to keep these people accountable!