Great White Hope
By David Peterson at Aug 16, 2004
To be perfectly honest with you: Having observed the ascent of Illinois State Senator Barack Obama within the ranks of the National Democratic Party over the course of the past 18 months (or so---the Republican incumbent serving in the U.S. Senate from Illinois, Peter Fitzgerald, having announced as far back as April, 2003, that he would not seek re-election when his seat came up for contest this November), culminating in Obama's delivery of the Keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in what one commentator among a depressingly clone-like sect of commentators referred to as a case of “Obamania” (Wasn't there an MTV-type group back in the late 1980s or early 1990s bearing a name close to this?), the whole spectacle sort of makes me feel compelled to ask White America a simple, straightforward, and non-partisan, indeed, strictly a-partisan, question: How do you prefer your Black Man? But, in particular, how do you prefer your Prominent Black Man? Do you prefer to eat him raw? Or cooked? (That is to say: Well-done?) Nor can I help but ask this question of White America. Because what I recall about Barack Obama's ascent within South Side Chicago politics---white as well as black---is that Obama et al. (and here I say et al., since these days, these things never happen spontaneously, but represent genuine expressions of the popular will about as much as the menu at a McDonald's represents the kind of nourishment the human body craves) was able to propel himself into the national Democratic Party spotlight, and to build his base (i.e., what the late Steve Neal at the Chicago Sun-Times would refer to as “South Side independents,” but what I took to mean very well-heeled white people whose real interests lie anywhere but in Chicago's South Side neighborhoods and the real lives of the people indigenous to the State of Illinois' 1st Congressional District), by trying to climb up and over the body of the old Black Panther Party member, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. A case in point: As an Associated Press report on the 1st Congressional District's March 2000 primary was to open (Jennifer Loven, “Panther-turned-congressman faces tough re-election battle,” March 15, 2000):
The main threads of black political history in America are woven through Chicago's South Side. For most of the last seven decades its congressman has also been a symbol. The first black congressman of the 20th century was elected here. Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, first gained prominence representing the 1st District, the home of Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan that encompasses stately mansions near the University of Chicago, crumbling high-rise public-housing slums and rows of middle-class bungalows. Rep. Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther defense minister who turned from urban warfare to elective politics, inherited that legacy when he won the seat in 1992. But a year after suffering an overwhelming defeat in his own bid for mayor, Rush faces the fight of his political life in Illinois' March 21 primary, challenged by three fellow black Democrats who say Rush has squandered his inheritance. It's a contest with little disagreement on top issues: bringing economic prosperity to the South Side, lowering prescription drug costs, and addressing racial profiling and police brutality. Instead, Rush's opponents, state Sens. Barack Obama and Donne Trotter, along with retired police officer George Roby, assail Rush on leadership……..
Note that this was during 1999-2000. (Obama has served in the Illinois State Senate since 1997.) But Rush convincingly defeated Obama in the March, 2000, Democratic primary, by roughly a two-to-one margin. Ultimately, redistricting moved Obama and Rush into different voting districts, and mooted Obama's earlier strategy. (For an old commentary by Steve Neal, as well as two others from the Chicago Sun-Times, see below.) Anyway. I don't care about the decrepit biographical refrain that tells us Obama was the Harvard Law Review's “first black president in more than 100 years of publication,” that he's been a “civil rights lawyer,” a “senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School,” “touted by South Side independents as a new-generation politician,” and now is the Democratic Party's new “symbol for diversity.” Etc. Etc. Etc. Forget everything here but the rapid ascent of Obama's star these past four-and-one-half years and how his newfound political celebritihood, or symbolic uses, work on the national political scene. So, four-and-one-half years ago, Obama tried to climb over the body of the “former Black Panther defense minister who turned from urban warfare to elective politics”---and failed. And today?
Barack Obama took the dais as the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention here on Tuesday and told a classic American story of immigration, hope, striving and opportunity. He did not speak of race or civil rights or a struggle for equality. He did not speak, as the Rev. Jesse Jackson did so passionately in 1996, of the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a black America still in despair. Instead, Mr. Obama, a black state senator from Illinois who is running for the United States Senate, spoke of ''one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.'' He drew rousing applause, and tears in some cases, for lines like, ''There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America.'' (Katharine Q. Seelye et al., “Senate Nominee Speaks of Encompassing Unity,” New York Times, July 28.)
Today, Barack Obama is the No. One Black Star in the Democratic Party's Firmament. As Jennifer Loven wrote in an earlier version of the aforementioned story for AP, “Former Black Panther Bobby Rush's 1992 election to Congress from Chicago's South Side crowned his evolution from gun-toting urban guerrilla to graying, soft-spoken mainstream politician.” If in the symbolic field at work here, Bobby Rush went from “gun-toting urban guerrilla to graying, soft-spoken mainstream politician,” what trajectory, exactly, do you suppose Barack Obama's political career followed? The hints of Great White Hope rhetoric became unmistakable the closer we got to the July 27 date of Obama's Keynote address at the Democratic Convention. And don't let the fact that the Illinois Republican Party has brought in the ridiculous, bathos-ridden out-of-stater Alan Keyes to make a last-ditch showing for the Party in the State fool you into thinking there's something fundamentally progressive at work here on the Democratic side. Not only is Obama not a gun-toting urban guerrilla become a graying, soft- (or forcefully-) spoken mainstream politician. But the Obama brand's ascent has its roots within the brand's usefulness as the symbol of the highly cultivated and indeed tamed Black Man who is willing to drive the gun-toting urban guerrillas away from the national political consciousness, once and for all. What this leaves us with are the civilized Americans of all races, creeds, and offshore investment accounts ("E pluribus unum"), tending to their vast domains. A star is born.
FYA ("For your archives"): Am depositing here three sets of items that pertain to the rapid ascent of Illinois State Senator Barack Obama within the ranks of the National Democratic Party: (A) Two more or less red-baiting (at least quasi-red-baiting) commentaries on "Obamania" from the pages of the Chicago Tribune; (b) three old Chicago Sun-Times articles on South Side Chicago (i.e., 1st Congressional District) politics leading up to the March, 2000 Primary elections; and (c) transcripts to the two most prominent speeches that Barack Obama has delivered this summer---one before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, and the other his Keynote address at the Convention. Illinois Democratic Party Obama for Illinois Illinois Republican Party Keyes for the U.S. Senate (A) Chicago Tribune July 29, 2004 4 partisan questions for Obama By Terrence L. Barnich. Terrence L. Barnich was legal counsel to Gov. Jim Thompson and now is president of the Chicago-based New Paradigm Resources Group Inc With his Tuesday keynote speech at the Democratic Party National Convention behind him, Barack Obama, evidently, only has to wait for his coronation. As of this writing, the once proud and formidable political party of Lincoln, Dirksen, Thompson and Edgar, rocked by charges of corruption--large and small--and deflated by electoral rejection, is finding it nearly impossible to even field a candidate to vie for one of politics' greatest plums. As each day passes without a Republican candidate for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat, the state's GOP adds luster to the "rock star" status a fawning media has bestowed on Obama. "Facts are facts," as they say: Barack Obama is the prohibitive favorite to be Illinois' next junior U.S. senator. For the Illinois GOP, already dealing with more than its fair share of embarrassments, this electoral vacancy seems almost like piling on. But more ominous is the prospect that we may hold an election for one of the nation's most important public offices without the benefit of any debate over the issues. Without a vigorous public debate--or in this case any debate at all--how are we to know how a Sen. Obama might represent us in Congress? From what the press has told us so far, Obama is an intelligent, delightful guy, an accomplished state legislator and a good family man. But what about his politics? Will he, as the popular press suggests, continue his move away from his parochial and very liberal Hyde Park constituency and toward Illinois' political center? Or will he stick to his guns as a 24-karat liberal who, once he gets to Washington, will feel fully justified in taxing middle-class families out of house and home? What to do until the state's Republican leadership fills the void? As one newspaper says, "Enquiring minds want to know." So to that end, and in the spirit of participatory democracy, I'd like to initiate a series of questions for candidate Obama to answer. Some day a live Republican candidate will enlist to join in the fun. But until then, let's see how he answers these for a start. Would you vote to repeal the USA Patriot Act? Sen. Obama is on record claiming that the act is "unfair and unpatriotic." But many knowledgeable commentators who have analyzed the law have shown that its principle effect is to permit our intelligence community to work together in order to use against terrorists the same tools used against the mob and drug criminals. Does Obama have a better idea for going after terrorists? Will you oppose tax increases that can be shown will kill jobs? Obama voted for a bill during the 2003 Illinois General Assembly legislative session that raised a huge number of fees and taxes for businesses and licenses to cover day-to-day expenses of state government. One increase alone drove nearly 17,000 trucking jobs out of the state, according to Mid-West Truckers Association estimates. Obama has remained unapologetic about that vote, which could lead a voter to suspect that Obama thinks money for government is more important than private-sector jobs. Will you consider abandoning your teachers-union allies to permit parents in failing public schools to experiment with a school-choice program? In 1997 and again in 1999, he voted as a state senator against an education tax credit for working families struggling to give their kids a parochial school education because public schools are so bad. These votes hurt kids but helped unions. Will a U.S. Sen. Obama continue to stick with the teachers union over schoolchildren every time? Do you agree with Sen. John Kerry that the delivery of health care primarily through private industry is "shameful" and that the only system you will support is a government-mandated one, no matter how expensive? During the 2003 legislative session in Springfield, Obama proposed a state plan similar to the one offered by former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and rejected by Congress in 1993. If the Illinois plan had been enacted it would have created an enforceable legal claim by anyone in the state to full, free medical care. Legislative budget analysts from Obama's own party calculated that the plan would cost between $2.6 billion and $4 billion. The cost would have nearly doubled the state's budget deficit at that time. While I think these questions are fair, they are phrased for partisan advantage, just as his answers would be. That is how the give-and-take of politics works. Voters hear both sides trying to make their views sound as good as possible and, through the magical distillation of the market of ideas, a collective judgment is made about the candidates and their positions. The point is that with no challenger, it will be all take and no give. That is not fair to the voters and not healthy for a functioning democracy. So I invite the candidate to take his best partisan swing at these questions. Let the voters see both sides. Chicago Tribune August 16, 2004 A critical look at Obama's politics Dennis Byrne, a Chicago-area writer and public affairs consultant Now that we've been fully informed by vigilant observers of what Alan Keyes is, let's look at what state Sen. Barack Obama is. Keyes, the designated Republican U.S. Senate candidate, has been labeled "a crazy," "sucker," "carpetbagger" and a member of "the right wing of the right wing." But if Keyes and his Democratic opponent, Obama, are "polar opposites," as we're led to believe, then what does that say about Obama. A member of the left wing of the left wing? Democrats, like Republicans who are anxious to paint Obama as "liberal," should look beyond the labels. Since Keyes' views already have been well exposed by the media, Obama's also should be vetted for their reasonableness, consistency and practicality. Consider the economy and job creation, one of Obama's big issues. He would reward companies that create "quality" jobs in America by giving the firms "tax incentives" if: they keep in America 90 percent of the employment and production costs of the goods or services they sell domestically; invest at least 50 percent of their research and development budget in America; pay at least 70 percent of portable health-care insurance costs for all their employees; pay 5 percent of payroll for portable pension funds and profit-sharing for all full-time employees, and limit management compensation to 50 times the lowest-paid full-time worker. That's a fine formula for driving companies out of the U.S. For any significant number of companies to agree to such terms, the "incentive" would cost a bundle. Also consider Obama's solution for health-care problems: He sponsored a state constitutional amendment that would require Illinois to enact a universal health-care plan for every person in the state by May 31, 2006. In a cash-strapped state, the idea stalled. Just as his legislation to impose on all local law-enforcement agencies the unfunded mandate of a four-year study of possible racial profiling in traffic stops. And Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed Obama's legislation to require the Illinois Public Health Department to promote AIDS/HIV screening. (It already is.) Of course, not all of Obama's ideas lack merit. His bill ending the sunsetting of the earned income tax credit was adopted. And I liked his backing of death-penalty reforms and a bill requiring computer repair professionals to report child pornography when they encounter it on equipment they are fixing. But some of his positions are just confusing. He simultaneously supports free trade and the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Or maybe that has changed by now. Not changed is his attempt to please protectionist organized labor. Also confusing is what he would do in Iraq. He vehemently opposed the war, yet wouldn't pull out until certain conditions are met. Like the ones enunciated by President Bush. In a speech last month to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Obama repeated the standard Democratic condemnations of Bush's "unilateralism." Yet, he cautioned, "multilateralism is not an end in itself"--advice that should be obvious to all, but it's not. He would restore respect of America and its values throughout the world, but without ceding any of our "sovereign rights." He would support "democracy building," but mentions nothing about "nation building." He's for "strengthening" military and intelligence capabilities, but doesn't say much about how he'd pay for it. Or how he'd pay for the many domestic programs he backs, such as requiring that 20 percent of the nation's power supply come from such renewable sources as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy by 2020. He would open Chinese markets "fully to American goods," without "triggering a trade war." There's no ambiguity about abortion, though. He voted against state legislation that would have protected infants born alive during an attempted abortion. His position is roughly based on the logic that once a woman decides that her fetus should not live, it can't be kept alive outside the womb, even when it meets the commonly accepted definition of a person. Obviously, Obama's record on the issues is more complex than I can describe in 750 words. So is Keyes'. Yet Keyes' selection as the GOP candidate is suggested to be racist and cynical because Republican leaders supposedly wanted their own African-American candidate. I don't know if that's true because I can't read minds. But one thing is certain. Illinois is about to have a debate (or maybe six, if Obama consents) on actual issues, by two intelligent, eloquent people. That's not bad. (B) Chicago Sun-Times August 01, 1999, SUNDAY, Late Sports Final Edition SECTION: SUNDAY NEWS; Pg. 9 HEADLINE: Obama set to take on Rush BYLINE: BY STEVE NEAL In what is shaping up as the city's most competitive race for the U.S. House, state Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) is preparing to challenge four-term incumbent Rep. Bobby L. Rush. "A number of people have approached me about the race, and I'm in the process of talking to a wide range of community leadership in the district," said Obama, 37, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches constitutional law. He is likely to announce a fund-raising committee in August and launch his campaign after Labor Day. Rush, 52, has been considered potentially vulnerable since he got only 28 percent of the citywide vote last winter in an unsuccessful run for mayor. The median age in the 1st District is 33 years old. Obama, who was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, has been touted by South Side independents as a new-generation politician. Democratic sources said state Sen. Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago), 48, also is exploring a possible challenge to Rush in next year's Democratic primary. Rush's chances of winning renomination may be strengthened if his opposition is split. The 1st Congressional District, whose population is more than 75 percent African-American, begins at 26th Street and extends south to 103rd Street. About half of its vote is in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 19th wards. Rush carried the 1st District over Mayor Daley last winter by a narrower margin than in his previous runs for the U.S. House. Daley is expected to remain neutral in next year's congressional primary. Rush, who first gained prominence in the late 1960s as deputy defense minister of the Black Panthers, began his political career as an outsider but got elected to the City Council from the 2nd Ward in 1983 and became deputy chairman of the state Democratic Central Committee in 1990. When Rush decided to run for the U.S. House in 1992, his strategy was very much like the one Obama is pursuing now. Rush, who was 45 in spring 1992, challenged nine-year incumbent Charles A. Hayes, who was 74. In a multicandidate field, Rush positioned himself as the candidate of change. Hayes was embarrassed just before the primary when it was revealed that he had 716 overdrafts at the House bank. Rush narrowly beat Hayes in the primary. Like Rush in 1992, Obama has independent credentials. He is a former community organizer on the Far South Side. Obama was among the key organizers of Illinois Project Vote in 1992 that registered about 150,000 minority and low-income voters. As a civil rights lawyer, he has specialized in voting rights and workers' rights case. The 1st District has been represented by an African American the longest of any of the nation's 435 congressional districts. The late Oscar De Priest was elected in 1928 as the first black congressman from a northern district. De Priest, a Republican, served three two-year terms but was defeated in 1934. Rep. William Dawson, who held the seat from 1943 until his death in 1970, was the only African American in the U.S. House when he was first elected. The district's other congressmen have included the late Mayor Harold Washington and Ralph H. Metcalfe, the former Olympic track star whose break with the late Mayor Richard J. Daley helped spark the black independent movement. Chicago Sun-Times September 29, 1999, WEDNESDAY, Late Sports Final Edition SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 6 HEADLINE: Running against Rush SOURCE: RICH HEIN BYLINE: SCOTT FORNEK Rep. Bobby Rush's past re-election campaigns have not exactly been nail-biters. The South Side Democrat won at least 88 percent of the vote in each of his last three congressional primaries. His weakest general election showing in the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District was in 1994. That year Rush squeaked by with a mere 75.7 percent. But no one is expecting those kinds of numbers in the March Primary, when Rush faces at least two major challengers -- Barack Obama and Donne E. Trotter, two state senators vying to oust the seven-year incumbent. "It's shaping up as a real battle, because the battle lines seem not evenly drawn," said Paul Green, a political science professor at Roosevelt University. "There are people from all political sides in everyone's corner. "As of now, I would rate Rush as a favorite, but this is a race that could go either way." Training the spotlight on the contest is Rush's dismal challenge to Mayor Daley in February. Rush lost with just 28.1 percent of the vote, prompting many political insiders to smell blood in the water. But Obama and Trotter insist they are not sharks circling for the kill. "The reason I'm running is not because he did poorly in the mayoral race," Obama said. "I think Congressman Rush's record (in Congress) articulating an agenda for community-building has been lacking. "And I think the mayor's race has just underscored his inability to shape that proactive agenda that voters have been looking for." Trotter agreed, saying constituents are unhappy with Rush for a variety of reasons -- from his initial challenge to Rep. Charles Hayes in 1992 to his past as a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. "It just amazes me the different reasons why people are not comfortable with Bobby Rush," Trotter said. "Everyone has a different reason." Rush declined to discuss whether his mayoral run exposed any vulnerabilities, but he scoffed at his rivals' criticisms. "While my opponents are out trying to point fingers I'm out trying to work on behalf of my constituents," Rush said. "I have an excellent record." It is indeed tough to gauge just how much Rush's defeat in a citywide mayoral race says about his chances in the South Side and south suburban congressional district he has represented since 1992. "Basically the mayor's race was a referendum on Rich Daley's tenure as mayor, and people are overwhelmingly supportive of the job he has done," said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic political consultant who worked on Daley's campaign and is now supporting Rush. "And anyone who sees it as a referendum on Bobby Rush is misreading that." Obama, 38, a civil rights lawyer from Hyde Park, agrees Rush is the front-runner, but believes he can beat him. "He is the incumbent, and just like in a boxing match you've got to knock out whoever has got the title," said Obama, who was elected to a second term in the Senate in November. "But I think what we are going to benefit from is not only a strong message but a lot of energy in our campaign." Obama said that energy will come from young people attracted to his call for a generational shift in leadership and who are tired of Rush's style. "Part of what we are talking about is a transition from a politics of protest to a politics of progress," he said. Trotter, 49, an 11-year veteran of the state Legislature who is now Democratic spokesman for the Appropriations Committee, said Rush has not done enough to use the current economic boom to benefit the 1st Congressional District. "So when people ask the question 'Why are you running against Bobby Rush?' it's called why not now? And if not now, when? When these good times are over?" Rush scoffs at such criticism, saying he fought for the $ 400 million in federal funds to renovate the Green Line and helped keep Amtrak's reservation center in the Loop to preserve jobs for his constituents. In the last five days alone, he said he has secured $ 11.7 million for projects for the district, including $ 9.7 million in funding for welfare-to-work programs at Chicago State University and the Abraham Lincoln Center. "When people hear about the things I have been able to accomplish in Congress they are left in awe, because not only do I have a record of bringing home federal resources, but I've got a record that shows I will take on local issues," he said. Creating confusion in the race is the split among independent and regular Democrats in a district so heavily Democratic that the primary is tantamount to election. No one candidate has the corner on any one wing of the party. Rush has lined up an impressive roster of supporters. He is backed by independents such as Rep. Danny K. Davis and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. as well as mayoral allies, such as Cook County Board President John Stroger. He also has the backing of Sen. Richard J. Durbin. Obama has the support of such independents as Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) as well as former gubernatorial candidate John R. Schmidt, Daley's former chief of staff. Trotter, a member of Stroger's 8th Ward Organization, declined to talk about losing Stroger's support. But he touted the backing he has from state Rep. Howard Kenner, state Rep. Constance Howard and other legislators. Since race and ideology will not be factors in the campaign -- all three are African Americans with generally liberal records -- some analysts believe lining up such organizational backing will be the key. Don Rose, an independent political consultant, said Rush and Obama split the independent vote, but regular Democrats give Rush the edge. He said Rush's base is about 40 percent, Obama's 35 percent and Trotter's 25 percent. But Rush could run into trouble if he loses any of his regular Democratic support. "With one or two commiteemen turning it could become a very competitive three-way race," Rose said. Also running -- but not attracting quite as much attention -- is perennial candidate Ray Wardingley, who once did charity work as "Spanky the Clown." Wardingley, 63, a Beverly retiree, was the 1995 GOP mayoral nominee, but is now switching to the Democratic Party to take on Rush. His shoestring campaign insists he has a chance to win -- and serve well. "If people look at each one's record I think they will come to the conclusion that one thing about Ray, he doesn't give up," said Imam George Wardingley, the candidate's brother and campaign manager. "I think he will annoy people enough in Congress that they will pass his bill. He doesn't give up. He will just keep on going and going and going." Chicago Sun-Times March 14, 2000, TUESDAY, Late Sports Final Edition SECTION: PRIMARY ELECTION PREVIEW; Pg. 4 HEADLINE: Rush defending seat against 3 Dem challengers SOURCE: BRIAN JACKSON BYLINE: BY CURTIS LAWRENCE Eight years ago, Bobby Rush -- former activist, Black Panther and alderman -- was fresh from an upset over incumbent Rep. Charles Hayes, an icon of the labor movement. Today, Rush is the entrenched candidate, a four-term congressman from the 1st Congressional District seeking a fifth term in what may be his toughest re-election bid. Rush, 53, faces three challengers in the Democratic primary -- state Senators Barack Obama, 38, and Donne Trotter, 50, and retired police officer George C. Roby, 53. The district, which includes much of the South Side and extends west to Beverly and into the southwest suburbs, is rich in political and cultural history. Starting with Republican Oscar DePriest in 1928, it has been represented by African Americans longer than any other district in the country. Framed pictures in Rush's campaign office at 95th and St. Lawrence show his many faces. There is a stoic congressional portrait in suit and tie. And there are other shots in which Rush is more in his element -- dressed in a khaki cap reaching out to touch young constituents at a summer gathering and rallying with protesters against gentrification in Pilsen. His detractors have tried to use some of his history against him -- from his Panther past to his more recent unsuccessful run against Mayor Daley. But Rush said those are exactly the actions he is praised for on the streets of Englewood and Chatham when he is out in the district. Rush's soft-spoken voice hardens when he responds to Obama's criticism that he has not been an innovative leader, despite the more than $ 1.5 billion he takes credit for bringing to the district. One of those criticisms is that although Rush helped secure $ 20 million in funds for wiring classrooms, he hasn't gone the extra mile of finding other funds to teach teachers how to use computers. Rush says he can't believe Obama has "the audacity to criticize somebody who saved a program and brought $ 20 million back," his voice rising to the upper limits of its register. "His criticisms are empty," Rush said. "He curses the darkness rather than lighting a candle." But Obama, a two-term state senator from the South Side, says the light from Rush's candle is dim. "My critique of Congressman Rush is that he hasn't clearly identified needs in the community (and) crafted a vision for how those needs can be addressed," said Obama, who came under heavy criticism for missing a recent vote on the Safe Neighborhoods Act. Obama's polished delivery was honed at Harvard Law School, where he also served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles before transferring to Columbia University, where he majored in political science and minored in English literature. After graduation in 1983, Obama came to Chicago and began working for the Developing Communities Project, which was providing assistance for unemployed steelworkers. He then spent four years in Roseland developing job training and health care programs before attending law school. A public health care administrator for Cook County, Trotter has represented the 16th District in the state Senate since 1993. Before that, he served in the state House from 1988 to 1993. "I come into this race with a solid record and a solid name that's been known in the district for 100 years," Trotter said. The Trotter name has deep roots in the district and throughout the South Side, where Trotter grew up. His grandfather, the late Rev. W. L. Trotter, was a longtime South Side pastor and leader of the National Baptist Convention. His aunt Marva was married to heavyweight champ Joe Louis, and his father, the late James Trotter, was a professional photographer. Like Rush, Trotter says he has brought more than $ 1 billion into the 1st Congressional District, including $ 45 million for a new convocation center and library for Chicago State University and $ 55 million to rebuild the south end of Lake Shore Drive. He criticizes Rush for not taking advantage of all federal funding available, accusing him of returning to the district with "half a loaf." And he dismisses Obama as a new kid on the block, who may have good intentions but lacks experience. Roby, who retired in 1997, says he is closer to the pressing issues in the district than any of his challengers. During his years on the force, he walked the streets of many neighborhoods in the district and fought racial harassment and discrimination within the department. The winner of the primary will face Republican candidate Ray Wardingley, a 63-year-old retired actor from Beverly. Wardingley, who once did charity work as "Spanky the Clown," also was the 1995 GOP mayoral candidate. (C) Barack Obama's Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Monday, July 12, 2004 Good afternoon. It's an honor to address the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, and I applaud the organization for fostering the type of debate, discussion and free exchange of ideas that can contribute to an enlightened international strategy. It's also sobering to set forth my views at such a critical juncture. I can't think of another period in my lifetime when American actions abroad have had such a profound effect on our people and our future as a nation. As some of you may be aware, I have a particular stake in an intelligent foreign policy. My father was an economist from Kenya, my mother, an international development specialist from Kansas. I was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, before moving to the continental United States to attend college. In grade school, I was a Protestant child attending Catholic school in a majority Muslim country. My own life experience has taught me the interconnectedness of our world, the common threads that link disparate nations and cultures. So I speak from the heart as well as the head when I tell you that our nation is served by being part of the world, and not apart from it. American leadership has been a mighty force for human progress. The steady march of democracy and free enterprise across the globe speaks to the steadfastness of our leadership and the power of our ideals. Today, we face new and frightful challenges, especially the threat of terror. Never has it been more important for America to lead wisely, to shrewdly project power and wield influence on behalf of liberty and security. Unfortunately, I fear our once great influence is waning, a victim of misguided policies and impetuous actions. Never has the United States possessed so much power, and never has the United States had so little influence to lead. Sadly, today, much of the world no longer listens to the United States. On September 12th, 2001, the banner headline in Le Monde read ‘We are all Americans.' Just think about that – a French newspaper expressing such support less than three years ago. And think about how we have squandered that good will since then and what we could have done with it in building support of common goals. In forming a “coalition of the willing” in Iraq that failed to include the most capable and sophisticated of our allies—France, Germany, Turkey, among others—the United States increased exponentially the risks and costs of the war. The absence of international support not only weakened our credibility and moral authority; it also made the occupation more difficult and dangerous. Even worse, we undermined moderate Muslim leaders who were receptive to American ideals and leadership. Terrorists have had a recruiting bonanza with the images of slain children and civilians, the pictures of torture and sexual humiliation at Abu Gharib prison, the image of an oil-rich Arab state under U.S. occupation. As we know from last week's Senate report on U.S. intelligence failures, the very reasons we presented to the world for going to war in Iraq were also wrong. The credibility of the United States, its most important asset in wielding influence and leadership in the world, has been damaged for generations to come. There is a well-known story from the beginning of the Cuban missile crisis when Dean Acheson, who was serving as special envoy to brief French President deGaulle, offered to document the American case by presenting satellite photos of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. The normally contentious deGaulle shrugged and replied, “No, the word of the President of the United States is good enough for me.” That kind of confidence in American leadership will be difficult to restore. So will the willingness of our partners to join us in attacking a host of other global problems. The unilateralism of the Bush administration, in all aspects of American foreign policy, has added to the burden of restoring American prestige. This Administration walked away from a host of efforts to promote international security, environmental protection, and human rights, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide. In fact, any international obligation that requires compromise, that in any way restricts our ability to act unilaterally, has been rejected. Some see this as conservative. In fact it is radical—the abandonment of 50 years of American principles practiced by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. I do not suggest that we cede any of our sovereign rights. Multilateralism is not an end in itself. We don't pursue cooperation for the sake of cooperation alone. It is in our national interest to work with others to accomplish national goals. With American troops in more than 100 countries, it is in our national interest to observe the Geneva Convention so that we do not diminish the potential protection of our troops in those nations. With the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil and abroad, it is in our national interest to work with others to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention so that we protect our citizens from terrorism. With all that is at stake when we do not have stable nations and governments around the world, it is in our national interest to support democracy building. And, where the stakes are the highest—in the war on terror--we cannot possibly succeed without extraordinary international cooperation. Effective international police actions require the highest degree of intelligence sharing, planning and collaborative enforcement. The globalization of the economy also means our self-interest is tied to cooperation and the ability to effectively negotiate conflict. It is in our national interest to work to ensure that economies do not collapse and infant democracies do not fail as we have seen failed states become breeding grounds for belligerents, even terrorists. Robust and fair international commerce can increase living standards here and abroad, while buttressing new democratic institutions. Finally, American leadership and international cooperation are critical to attacking systemic problems that span borders--whether it's the growing threat of AIDS, nuclear proliferation or environmental degradation. But just when the need for American influence and leadership is the greatest, the evidence of our new lack of influence is manifest. The effort to rebuild Iraq has no new recruits among nations. NATO rejected our request for additional personnel and resources to secure free and fair elections in Afghanistan. And when the Bush administration rightly sought the collaboration of our allies to prevent the starvation and slaughter of innocents in the Darfur region of Sudan, we were largely ignored. None of us, as a citizen or an elected official, should just curse the darkness. So, let me tell you where I'd try and light some candles. To begin with, we must confront the immediate challenge involved in returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Although I loudly and vigorously opposed the war in Iraq, I understand that it was an American commitment, not a Republican one. Now that we are there, all of us want to see the mission succeed. The stakes are enormous for the world and our own security. If Iraq can find its way to a reasonable semblance of a modern, reformed and democratic state, it will reap benefits in the region for generations to come. If it disintegrates into chaos, it will plant the seeds of an even greater and more poisonous radicalism. We must leave behind a government that has enough legitimacy and political support from all three factions—the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia - to survive on its own. The best path to that is through free and fair elections and a constitution that preserves minority rights. For these elections to take place next year, as scheduled, there must be sufficient security in the country and, therefore, we must maintain a strong military presence while encouraging the interim government to hold elections as soon as possible. Nevertheless, we desperately need international assistance in Iraq in order to succeed. This will not be easy, but it is possible. It will require us not only to persuade other countries that we share a common interest in preventing failure, but also to give them a meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs. We should give them fair access to the multi-billion dollar reconstruction contracts. Let them be a part of putting Iraq's profitable oil industry back together again. In return, they must forgive Saddam's multi-billion dollar debts to their countries and help pay the reconstruction bill. We should also be giving other nations a leadership role in pursuing our wider strategic goals in the region. Restoring our influence, and our standing in the world, is thus a critical component of securing that cooperation. A second top global priority is the fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States must build and lead an international consensus for early preventive action—before the necessity of force—to secure existing weapons of mass destruction and collateral nuclear material. I believe there is no better dollar for dollar national security investment than the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program for the Soviet Union. More than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia still has nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons and enough nuclear material to produce 50,000 more. At the current pace of spending - a $450 million funding level - it will take 13 years to secure all the potential bomb material from the old Soviet Republic. With increased funding and focus, we can do it in four. At the same time, in order to ensure that these efforts are of real value, we must strengthen global rules against proliferation. The existing Non-Proliferation Treaty allows countries to develop all the building blocks of a nuclear program and then withdraw from the treaty without penalty-- once they are ready to create enriched uranium or produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. International nuclear powers, like the United States, should help non-nuclear countries develop nuclear energy by providing them with uranium, while maintaining control of the fuel cycle so that spent nuclear material can be taken back and stored securely. This must occur so that it cannot be used to build weapons. Automatic UN sanctions should apply to any nation seeking to escape these controls. And, when there are countries that have been proven to have the capability to build weapons of mass destruction, the United States must lead in the efforts to deflect them from that dangerous path. We have seen this in Iran, which the Bush administration has correctly targeted as a dangerous cheater in the nuclear game. According to a report released by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency last month, Iran is continuing to assemble parts and materials needed for building nuclear weapons—in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory. What better illustration is there of the importance of the United States to be able to lead and work with other nations than in Iran, where the United States can work together with Russia and European nations who supply the expertise and business connections there. A third issue crying for attention is North Korea. This Administration spent three and a half years refusing to negotiate directly with North Korea, in the name of a misguided sense of moral purity. The consequences of that delay are now evident. Because we refused to talk, experts believe North Korea may now be close to having six to eight nuclear weapons. Because we refused to talk, many more Koreans faced starvation by their own government. Because we refused to talk, China and South Korea are beginning to act on their own. That is not my conception of morality. While it is important to have backing from the partners in the Six-Party talks, bilateral talks are a key to progress. The United States must insist on complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear capability, while facilitating a reform agenda that is broader than denuclearization. Only genuine negotiations will determine whether diplomacy can bring an end to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions or whether economic pressure and possibly even more forceful measures will be necessary to convince Pyongyang that its nuclear weapons program poses an unacceptable risk. This brings us to a fourth challenge – our relationship with China. China's role in the North Korean nuclear standoff illustrates its growing importance in both diplomatic and economic affairs. In the new China, we face both a threat and an opportunity. The United States should be firm on issues that divide us—like Taiwan—while flexible on issues that could unite us. We should insist on labor standards and human rights, the opening of Chinese markets fully to American goods, and the fulfillment of legal contracts with American businesses—but without triggering a trade war that could prove disastrous. China's growth has been so explosive, it's factories and people fueling such massive economic activity, that any downward spiral there would reverberate throughout the world. In the words of New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, “the world cannot tolerate any sort of prolonged instability in China. If the China bubble bursts, it will be the mother of all burst bubbles.” Fifth, American influence and leadership is critically required with respect to the AIDS epidemic. This week's alarming report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS showed epidemic levels of new AIDS cases in certain provinces of China and India—the world's two most populous nations. Although overall national infection rates are now low, if new infections grow at rates even close to those we saw in Africa, the world would not only be faced with another humanitarian crisis. There would also be a tremendous destabilizing effect for the world economy, and in a fragile region of the world. Without American leadership and influence, how can we prevent this mounting epidemic from continuing its steady, destabilizing and destructive movement around the globe? The United States must give its fair share to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. President Bush's budget this year actually cuts the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund by 64%. As Senator, I will work to hold the president to his word and fully fund our commitment to the war on AIDS. I also recognize that fighting the war on AIDS will take more than money. American drug companies also hold the key to combating the scourge of AIDS. Today, our government requires FDA approval of all generic drug cocktails purchased with US funds-- despite the fact that a generic drug approval system is already in place under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The United States must take a leadership role in making generic drugs accessible to AIDS victims around the world. There is strong evidence that this is needed. A breakthrough reported last week by the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a new two-drug treatment for pregnant women with AIDS prevents transmittal of the virus to the newborn infants in 98 percent of cases. U.S. policies which ensure the provision of generic or affordable drugs to stop the spread of AIDS to infants, and sustain the lives of mothers to care for their healthy babies, are critical to turning the tide. Sixth, America's moral authority and credibility will be needed, now more than ever, in the quest for a Middle East peace. Our first and immutable commitment must be to the security of Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East and the only democracy. The Administration's failure to be consistently involved in helping Israel achieve peace with the Palestinians has been both wrong for our friendship with Israel, as well as badly damaging to our standing in the Arab world. I do not pretend to have all the answers to this vexing problem, and untangling the issues involved is an appropriate topic for a separate speech. What I can say is this – not only must we be consistent, but we will not succeed unless we have the cooperation of the European Union and the Arab States in pressing for reforms within the Palestinian community. Seventh, and closer to home, the United States has a powerful interest in sustaining democratic reforms in Latin America. We must restore the United States' reputation as a defender of democracy in this region. The U.S. must continue to advocate, in word and action, multilateral action to support democracy. If the citizens of these countries do not see the economic benefits of democracy in their daily lives, their support for democratic governance can erode rapidly. That is when demagogues, like Hugo Chavez, will take advantage of those economic inequalities. We must work toward meaningful democracies, through fair labor standards and the bolstering of the rule of law, to bring about real economic justice. And, in every region, we must remember that our armed forces cannot impose democracies. We must support those brave men and women fighting for democracy in their own countries – whether it is in China or Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Expanded trade, technical assistance, aid for infrastructure development—all these things can help build and sustain the broad middle classes necessary to secure democracy. Now, while America has historically led by the force of its ideas and ideals, as well as by force of arms, our fundamental obligation must still be to maintain the best, most sophisticated military in the world. Our military must be able to meet the new threats of the 21st Century. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism have reduced the pace of military transformation and have revealed our lack of preparation for defensive and stability operations. This Administration has overextended our military - as evidenced by the recent decision to recall 5,600 ready reservists to Iraq for 18 months. And, by grossly underestimating the costs of war, the Bush Administration has been stealing from tomorrow's budget to pay for today's war costs. We must make sure we have enough troops and that those soldiers are given the best equipment and training available. The foundation of the All-Volunteer force is that they will serve with honor, bravery, and integrity and that, in return, we will ensure they will be treated with the honor and respect they deserve. Since 9/11, the U.S. has embarked on the largest call-up of members of the Guard and Reserves since World War II. Forty percent of those serving in Iraq are members of the Guard and Reserves. We must ensure that members of our National Guard and our reservists have access to affordable, quality health care. While active duty members receive free health care through TRICARE – the military health care service – reservists only have access to it for a limited time surrounding their active duty service. That is not honoring our troops. We must also ensure that our activated troops do not have to worry about having enough money to take care of themselves and their families, that they do not have to forfeit a good education when they are called to active duty, and that our military families receive the support they need. Along with strengthening our military, we must strengthen our intelligence capabilities. In recent years, through international cooperation, our government has had some success in tracking the terrorists' financial resources, arresting important terrorist leaders and, thus, making our people more secure. We should be thankful for that. But, to succeed in the war on terror, we must have extraordinary international cooperation on all fronts, while reforming our domestic intelligence capabilities in a manner that balances the risks of impeding on the civil liberties of our citizens. We must make sure that our intelligence sharing capabilities are improved across agencies and between federal and local law enforcement. We must provide the needed resources to our first responders to ensure their access to critical information at the critical times. And we must give the Director of Intelligence the authority he or she needs over budget and personnel to be effective and accountable. I recognize that this is not an easy political move – there will remain turf battles within the Executive Branch and Congress. Such reforms will require a determined effort by the President, the congressional leadership, and members of the Senate, and I will be supportive of such efforts. Finally, our national security strategy must include a plan to free America from its dependence on foreign oil. In an increasingly more hostile and dangerous world, neither American security, nor our economic potential, can afford to be held hostage by those half a world away because our nation is too dependent on others for our energy. This requires concrete steps to move us toward energy independence including requiring that 20% of the nation's power supply portfolio come from renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy by 2020, and that a percentage of our nation's fuel supply is provided by renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Addressing the commencement class at New School University in May, former Kennedy presidential aide Ted Sorensen said, “Our greatest strength has long been not merely our military might but our moral authority. Our surest protection against assault from abroad has been not all our guards, gates and guns or even our two oceans, but our essential goodness as a people…” In every region of the globe, our foreign policy should promote traditional American ideals: democracy and human rights; free and fair trade and cultural exchanges; and development of institutions that ensure broad middle classes within market economies. It is our commonality of interests in the world that can ultimately restore our influence and win back the hearts and minds necessary to defeat terrorism and project American values around the globe. Human aspirations are universal—for dignity, for freedom, for the opportunity to improve the lives of our families. Let us recognize what unites us across borders and build on the strength of this blessed country. Let us embrace our history and our legacy. Let us not only define our values in words and carry them out in deeds. We still have the chance to correct recent missteps that have put our principles and legacy in question. Indeed, it is imperative to our nation's standing and security to do so. It will take a change of attitude and direction in our national leadership—and a new assertiveness by Congress—to restore the values and judgment that made and kept our nation the world's beacon of hope and freedom. I hope to actively participate in the process. And I look forward to benefiting from the work and wise counsel of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations as we address the great challenges facing our nation—and our planet. Thank you very much. Transcript of Speech to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, July 27, 2004 MR. OBAMA: (Cheers, applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you. (Cheers and applause continuing.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud. On behalf of the great state of Illinois -- (cheers, applause) -- crossroads of the nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British. But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance, my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. (Cheers, applause.) While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. (Cheers, applause.) Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's army, marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI bill, bought a house through FHA, and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity. (Applause.) And they too had big dreams for their daughter. A common dream born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed", believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success. (Applause and cheers.) They imagined -- they imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. And yet I know that on this night, they look down on me with great pride. They stand here, and I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible. (Applause and cheers.) Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation. Not because of the height of our skyscrapers or the power of our military or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over 200 years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal -- (applause, cheers) -- that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That is the true genius of America. A faith -- (applause) -- a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution and that our votes will be counted, at least most of the time. (Cheers, applause.) This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we're measuring up to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations. And, fellow Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, independents -- I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. (Cheers, applause.) More work to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father that I met who was losing his job and choking back the tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son need without the health benefits that he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis -- and thousands more like her -- who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college. (Cheers.) Now don't get me wrong; the people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead, and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon. (Cheers, applause.) Go in -- go into any inner-city neighborhood and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach our kids to learn. They know that parents have to teach, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things. (Applause, cheers.) People don't expect -- people don't expect government to solve all their problems, but they sense deep in their bones that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better, and they want that choice. In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer, and that man is John Kerry. (Applause, cheers.) John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service, because they've defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam, to his years as a prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he's devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us. John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded; so instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home. (Applause, cheers.) John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves. (Applause.) John Kerry believes in energy independence so we aren't held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. (Applause.) John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties, nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. (Applause, cheers.) And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option. (Applause, cheers.) You know, a while back -- a while back I met a young man named Shamus (sp) in a VFW hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good- looking kid -- 6'2", 6'3", clear-eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week. And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted, the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for in a child. But then I asked myself, are we serving Shamus (sp) as well as he's serving us? I thought of the 900 men and women -- sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friend