How Obama Happened: The Real Story
OBAMA'S AMERICAN ORIGIN MYTH
With the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, the question of how Obama happened merits critical reflection. The explanation advanced by his campaign, the incoming White House public relations team, and, for the most part, dominant
The second narrative, attractive to his many progressive supporters, emphasizes selflessness. It focuses on how Obama has supposedly embraced the common good over personal ambition and gain. Obama, the campaign story and official biography, continues, worked for three years as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. He could have become a wealthy Wall Street lawyer with his Harvard Law degree. Instead, he returned to the South Side to work as a voting rights activist and a "civil rights lawyer." He began an eight-year career as a state legislator dedicated to nothing more than dutifully serving his predominantly black and heavily impoverished South Side constituency.
Along the way, the line goes, his noble peoples' activism carried over naturally into national politics. He became a viable candidate for the U.S. Senate, rocked the nation with his 2004 Keynote Address to the Democratic Convention, and ended up being essentially drafted into the 2008 presidential race by sheer popular demand.
The true history of Obama's ascendancy is less inspiring and sanguine. His talents and hard work are part it all, to be sure. But the real story is also and equally about advantages of birth and socialization, remarkable ambition, astonishing good luck, and --- last but not all least --- the pursuit and landing of sponsorship from rich and powerful elites who rain down good fortune on their carefully Chosen Ones.
At the same time, it is about mass-marketing, deception, corporate media-love, the special advantage that U.S. power-brokers saw in advancing a certain, power-friendly kind of non-white politician. It is also about Obama's willingness to steer clear of any meaningful confrontation with racism beyond the simple fact of his quest to become the nation's first black president.
LESS THAN TRULY DISADVANTAGED
Obama has obviously not risen from the sort of class or race privilege or elite political lineages that produced such past presidents and presidential candidates as Franklin Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, George W. Bush, or Al Gore. Still, he hardly came from destitution, with no inherited advantages and resources.
Young Obama enjoyed a pleasant existence on the idyllic Hawaiian
And while his all-too absent parents were a source of considerable angst, they were highly intelligent, intellectually inclined, and highly educated. His father attained an Ivy League economics doctorate before returning to
All things considered, Obama did not climb to greatness out of a great hole of personal, racial, cultural or socioeconomic misery. His origins are hardly the stuff of Horatio Alger mythology. For what it's worth, Bill Clinton arguably arose from lower economic and cultural circumstances than Obama. Elected heads of state have recently risen from more truly disadvantaged situation in the significantly more impoverished and unequal nations of
"Obama Believes in Obama"
Contrary to the selflessness theme in the official Obama narrative, Obama has long lusted for high state power, including the top job. According to his longtime close personal friend and top advisor Valerie Jarrett, in early 2007, Obama has "always wanted to be president. He didn't always admit it, but, oh, absolutely. The first time he said it," Jarrett told New Yorker essayist Larissa MacFarquhar, "he said ‘I just think I have some special qualities and wouldn't it be a shame to waste them...you know, I just think I have something.'"1
During the mid 1990s, Obama participated in a seminar put together by Harvard professor Robert Putnam to gather young, civic-minded intellectuals, activists, and officeholders. By Putnam's recollection, Obama "talked so openly about his political future that the group began referring to him, teasingly, as ‘Governor'" and "once gathered around him to ask, ‘when are you running for president?'" 2
In the early 1990s, Obama told Craig Robinson, his future brother-in-law, the following, in Robinson's words: "I'd like to teach at some point and maybe run for office...he said, no at some point I'd like to run for the U.S. Senate. And then he said ‘possibly even run for president at some point.'" 3
According to Bobby Rush, reflecting on Obama's rash effort to unseat Rush from the U.S. Congress in 2000: "He was blinded by his ambition. ...Obama believes in Obama. And, frankly, that has its good side but it also has its negative side," Rush told the New York Times in September of 20074
"Eyes on the Prize"
Consistent with these reflections, longtime Illinois state senator Steven Rauschenberger recalled in 2007 that state senator (1996-2004) Obama was "a very bright but very ambitious person who had his eyes on the prize and it wasn't [Illinois state capital] Springfield." 5 An extensive Chicago Tribune feature on Obama's statehouse career bore the interesting title, "Careful Steps, Looking Ahead." The feature's authors Rick Pearson and Ray Long learned that "from the moment he arrived in the Illinois Senate it was clear to many that he didn't intend to stay." After just two months in
Obama's desire for power was apparent to many from the way he attained his first legislative seat. He won an easy victory after forcing all other Democratic contenders off the ballot by challenging their signature petitions - a classic street-smart tactic in
Consistent with Rush, Rauschenberger, and Putnam's take on him, Obama launched an ill-advised challenge to the popular black South Side congressman Bobby Rush in 2000. He began scheming for Peter Fitzgerald's U.S. Senate seat within a year of being badly defeated by Rush. When Democrats won control of the
"A Study in Caution and Calculation"
Intimately related to Obama's powerful ambition was his pronounced tendency to temper his (supposed) "progressive" impulses and preferences. Numerous accounts of Obama's
Arguably more interested in having his name associated with resume-padding legislative victories than with substantive progressive change, he sponsored a distinctly modest 1998 campaign finance "reform" bill. The legislation required electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports, prohibited the personal spending of campaign dollars by candidates and banned most gifts from lobbyists to legislators but set no limits on contributions from corporations or the exaggerated campaign spending of the state legislature's four top party officers.
When the state changed its public assistance system in accord with the national welfare "reform" (elimination) introduced in 1996-97, Obama joined Republicans and conservative Democrats and opposed much of the black Illinois legislative delegation by supporting the imposition of "work [punitive low-income wage-labor] requirements" on single mothers receiving family cash assistance.
Obama managed to be absent from the voting floor when a key handgun control bill came up in 1999. He voted in 2004 (in pursuit of the electoral endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police) with Republicans to support a bill granting retired law enforcement officers the right to carry concealed weapons. 10 He sold his heralded bill requiring that all criminal interrogations be videotaped in the case of capital crimes to law enforcement officials and Republicans on conservative grounds, claiming it would help fix the state's broken death penalty system. He also supported the extension of the death penalty to certain types of capital offenses - the killing of senior citizens and handicapped persons, for example.
Obama played a critical role at the end of his Springfield tenure in helping the insurance industry kill legislative efforts towards universal health coverage in Illinois. Working with Republicans and insurance lobbyists who extolled him for honoring their interests, he worked to water down the state's "Health Care Justice Act" to mean little more than the setting up of a toothless body to research the supposedly mysterious question of how to provide universal coverage - a panel that gave the insurance industry significant influence in how the issue would be approached. At the beginning of 2004, the state's progressive health-care advocates had high hopes (thanks to newly attained Democratic dominance in the state's legislative, executive, and judicial bodies) for passing a bill that would have made it official state policy to ensure that all Illinois residents could access "quality healthcare at costs that are reasonable." Insurers expressed their fear that such language would lead to a "government takeover of healthcare." By the time the bill became law, containing three amendments written by Obama, the health care powers-that-be had little to worry about. The legislation merely established universal healthcare as a policy goal. It designated a task force charged only with studying how to expand healthcare access - a panel that gave (thanks to one of Obama's amendments) insurers an outsized voice.11
"Aspirations of Doing Something Else in Politics"
One particular set of state-legislative votes especially suggests the accuracy of Rauschenberger's notion that Obama was more interested in higher office than in the daily work of representing his constituents in Springfield. As a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, Obama claimed to be a staunch champion of abortion rights. He strongly criticized a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a controversial ban on a late-term abortion procedure.
In the Illinois legislature, however, Obama voted "present" instead of "no" on seven bills restricting abortion. He subsequently claimed that these noncommittal "present" votes were part of a "progressive" political strategy worked out with liberal groups like Planned Parenthood to provide political "cover" for legislators who could not afford to appear to be "pro-abortion." But legislators interviewed by the Chicago Tribune recalled no such strategy and noted that Obama needed no such "cover" in his mostly liberal and predominantly black South Side district.
Obama did think he required "cover," however, for his "higher ambitions" for running a statewide or even national campaign someday. As his good friend and former state legislator Terry Link (D-Waukeagan IL) noted, "a ‘present' vote helped if you had had aspirations of doing something else in politics. I think Obama looked at it in that regard." 12
Calculated Low-Risk Progressivism
Insofar as state legislator Obama behaved in accord with many liberal commentators' concept of him as "true progressive," moreover, it should be acknowledged that he gained his entrée to the world of electoral politics atop a heavily black district where majority opinion ran well to the progressive left of mainstream U.S. sentiment. Black-Americans are the leftmost section of the U.S. electorate. There is little risk involved in taking --- or (perhaps more accurately in Obama's case) seeming to take --- progressive positions in predominantly black voting districts. Running and legislating to some extent as a nominal progressive in such a district would be entirely consistent with higher political ambitions hitched to a more conservative, "vacuous to repressive neoliberal" (left black political scientist Adolph Reed Jr.'s description of Obama in 1996) world view. After all, one has to show their capacity to win elections in order to be taken seriously by the power brokers who control access to more elevated elected positions. When Obama felt his longer political viability for statewide and even national races threatened, he behaved according to the principle of calculation, as with the seven abortion rights bills he failed to support.
And that's why Obama was nowhere to be seen around the great Chicago marches held against the actual (no longer just planned) beginning of the U.S. assault on Iraq on the evenings of March 19 and March 20, 2003. It's also why his subsequently famous October 2002 speech (an oration that tellingly called Bush's planned war "dumb" but NOT criminal or immoral) against the future occupation came down from his Web site in 2003. By this time, of course, Obama was pursuing theFitzgerald seat in the U.S. Senate --- a national office with a statewide voting base.
"Operation Iraqi Freedom" and the false pretexts on which it was sold were widely rejected in the black community from the beginning. But early "war" (invasion) opinion was different and more trusting of the Bush administration in the white majority and across the state and nation.
A Pre-Springfield Penchant for Personally Ambitious "Pragmatism"
Obama brought a taste for compromise, "watering down," and working with conservatives to achieve concrete, resume-building victories with him to the Illinois legislature. "13 His "penchant" for personally ambitious "pragmatism" and accommodation was evident at Harvard Law, where he utilized his willingness to give editorial power to arch-conservative members of the Republican Federalist Society to win election to the highly prestigious position of president of that school's law review. Black students at Harvard Law were frustrated by Obama's frequent reluctance to join them in criticizing the institution's discriminatory racial practices.
Contrary to his campaign rhetoric, Obama's decision to work after college as a community organizer and later (after Harvard) as a "civil rights lawyer" was hardly inconsistent with grandiose personal ambition. The road to higher elected office is more effectively paved with a résumé emphasizing public service than with one demonstrating private wealth-maximization. At the same time, the Harvard Law education that came between his community organizing and legal careers was consistent with the goal of making the elite connections required to make a serious run for the upper reaches of U.S elective office. It would prove very useful in the fall of 2003 and early 2004, when Obama received an early "audition" with the national money and politics class --- a critical prelude (I shall suggest below) to his more well-known and spectacular introduction to the country as a whole on the night of instantly famous Keynote Address.
"What Barack Obama [Didn't] Tell You About His Community Organizing Past"
Obama's experience as a community organizer taught him that concrete victories were only gained only by playing the game of power in the "world as it is" and not by advocating "pie in the sky" ideals reflecting "the world as we would like it to be." It was a profoundly unsentimental and hard-headed lesson, consistent with core activist principles of Saul Alinksy, who preached empowerment through the cultivation of combined "self-interest."
At the same time, the President-elect's campaign narrative omitted the interesting fact that young adult Obama became thoroughly dissatisfied with community organizing as a path to either social change or career success. Prior to entering law school, he told his community organizing mentor (Jerry Kellman) of his fear of ending up like Barack Obama, Sr. --- a bitter and ineffective failure in the end ---- if he did not shift into business or politics, pursuing personal advancement. That was a little detail that quite naturally did not make it into Obama's campaign advertisements, which portrayed his political career as a natural outgrowth of his community organizing and "civil rights" days. As John Judis noted last September in a New Republic essay titled "Creation Myth: What Barack Obama Won't Tell You About His Community Organizing Past:"
"To hear Obama the candidate tell it, those years in Chicago as a community organizer shaped the person --- and the politician --- he has become. Campaigning in Iowa last year, he declared that community organizing was ‘the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School.' In a video this spring, Obama stated that community organizing is ‘something I carry with me when I think about politics today--obviously at a different level and in a different place, but the same principles still apply.' ‘Barack is not a politician first and foremost,' Michelle Obama has said. ‘He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.' "
"...His campaign has taken the point a step further, implying that Obama the politician is a direct descendant of Obama the organizer--that he has carried the practices and principles of community organizing into his campaign, and would carry them into the White House as well. This is the version of Obama's biography that most journalists have accepted."
"In truth, however, if you examine carefully how Obama conducted himself as an organizer and how he has conducted himself as a politician, if you consider what he said about organizing to his fellow organizers, and if you look at the reasons he gave friends and colleagues for abandoning organizing, then a very different picture emerges: that of a disillusioned activist who fashioned his political identity not as an extension of community organizing but as a wholesale rejection of it. Indeed, the most important thing to know about Barack Obama's time as a community organizer in Chicago may not be what he gained from the experience - but rather why, in late 1987, he decided to quit."17
Also deleted by Obama's marketers was the fact that he practiced little if any actual "civil rights law" after graduating from Harvard. It appears likely that he spent more time dealing with mundane aspects of real estate litigation (including work on behalf of his early sponsor and "slumlord" Tony Rezko) than with anything related to civil rights. His main energies went into his state-legislative career (1996-2004) and into teaching constitutional law at the notoriously conservative, power-friendly University of Chicago, where he would win accolades from his centrist colleague Cass Sunstein for embracing a "minimalist" approach - a preference for "modest adjustments in institutions."
"The Carefully Crafted Obama Brand"
When he reached the U.S. Senate, Obama and his team were already scheming for the presidency. "One evening in February 2005, in a four-hour meeting stoked by pepperoni pizza and great ambition." the Chicago Tribune reported in the spring of 2007, "Sen. Barack Obama and his senior advisors crafted a strategy to fit the Obama ‘brand.'" The meeting took place just weeks after Obama had been sworn into the elite representative body of the federal United States government. According to Tribune Washington Bureau reporters Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons:
"The charismatic celebrity-politician had rocketed from the Illinois state legislature to the U.S. Senate, stirring national interest. The challenge was to maintain altitude despite the limited tools available to a freshman senator whose party was in a minority."
"Yet even in those early days, Obama and his advisors were thinking ahead. Some called it the ‘2010-2012-2016' plan: a potential bid for governor or re-election to the Senate in 2010, followed by a bid for the White House as soon as 2012, not 2016. The way to get there, they decided, was by carefully building a record that matched the brand identity: Obama as a unifier and consensus-builder, and almost postpolitical leader".
"The staffers in that after-hours session, convened by Obama's Senate staff and including Chicago political advisor David Axlerod, planned a low-profile strategy that would emphasize workhorse results over headlines. Obama would invest in the long-term profile by not seeming too eager for the bright lights."
The title of the article in which this story appeared was "Carefully Crafting the Obama Brand." 18
It was an important and revealing report on numerous levels. The term "brand Obama" is of course deeply suggestive of the commodified nature of a U.S. political culture that tends to reduce elections to "carefully [corporate-] craft[ed" marketing contests revolving less around significant policy and ideological differences than competing candidate images packaged and sold by corporate consultants and public relations experts like Obama's well-known media manager and former Tribune reporter David Axlerod. On one hand, the "brand" being marketed would make sure to seem non-ambitious - "not seeming too eager for the bright lights" and privileging hard work over "headlines" - and respectful toward fellow members of the political class ("establishing good relationships with my colleagues").
On the other hand, Obama and his team were actually all about "the bright lights" and "the headlines" in a "long-term" sense. They were already scheming for the presidency less than a month into his Senate seat. The image of Obama as a humble and hardworking rookie who got along with his colleagues across partisan lines was a crucial part of their marketing strategy on the path to higher --- the highest --- office.
The great "reformer" Obama may have just become only the third black person to sit in the august U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. But for his team the Senate was largely a marketing platform for the Next Big Thing --- a place to build their "brand's" image as a "unifier" and "consensus-builder." They were naturally unconcerned about the authoritarian implications of the concept of a "postpolitical leader" --- a commercialized trademark who would rise above democratic and ideological contestation on the path to ultimate authority atop "the most powerful nation in history."
THE AUDACITY OF DECEPTION
Also consistent with the notion of Obama as profoundly ambitious and contrary to the portrayal of him as the epitome of civic virtue, Obama has exhibited no small capacity for deception on his climb to the top. Beyond the false claim of continuity between his community organizing days and his political career, his presidential campaign advanced a string of bigger deceptions, some quite blatant, including:
* His false claim (in a speech to black civil rights veterans in Selma, Alabama in March 2007) to owe his biracial conception to Deep South Civil Rights struggles in Birmingham (1963) and Selma (1965). (Obama was conceived in relatively racially tolerant and multi-cultural Hawaii in 1960).
* Obama's false claim to reporters that that he asked Jeremiah Wright not to give a prayer before Obama announced his presidential candidacy (in December of 2006) out of a desire to "protect" Wright (Obama was obviously trying to protect his presidential viability).
* Obama's false promise to abide by the spending limits imposed by the public presidential election financing system if he ran against a Republic opponent who pledged to do the same thing (John McCain tried sincerely but unsuccessfully to take Obama up on his public financing pledge)
* Obama's false claim that his private fundraising system amounted to "a system of parallel public financing." (He actually set new records for corporate sponsorship).
* Obama's related and repeated reference to the fact that 91 percent of his contributions came from small donors - a technically accurate detail that deleted the more significant fact that Obama received only a quarter of his total money take from small donors, just like George W. Bush in 2004.
* Obama's repeated false claim in the Iowa campaign to have passed a bill tightening federal regulation of nuclear plant leaks after an emission incident took place at a Braidwood, Illinois nuclear plant in 2005.
* His recurrent efforts in the presidential campaign (especially in the primaries) to sell himself to progressive voters as a peace candidate, something that was flatly contradicted by his many brazenly imperial and militarist statements to elite foreign policy bodies (and by his political and policy behavior in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan). 19
THE LUCK OF OBAMA I, 1996-2004
Another factor that does not fit very well with the official narrative on Obama's supposedly heroic rise to power through hard and honest work for the common good is the simple dynamic of luck.
Reviewing numerous key moments in his career, it is hard not to get a sense of stars repeatedly aligning in as to mystically enable his ascendancy. As the left Chicago writer Salim Muwakill noted in the summer of 2007, "conditions conspired perfectly to grease Obama's route...Those of us following the ‘Obama phenomenon' from its inception were amazed by the magical, dreamlike quality of his ascent. A local astrologer explained it by the notion of a propitious celestial alignment in Obama's chart."  The key chance elements include the following:
* black South Side congressman Mel Reynolds getting busted for sexual misconduct in 1995, which enticed Alice Palmer to run for Congress and opened her state senate seat up to Obama.
* Peter Fitzgerald's unusual decision not to run for a second term in the U.S. Senate in 2004, creating a rare open seat for the nation's highest legislative body.
* Former black U.S. Senator (D-Illinois) Carol Mosley Braun's decision to run for the U.S. presidency in 2004 (Obama knew he had no chance to win the Democratic nomination for the Fitzgerald seat if Mosley-Braun threw her hat in the ring: she would have dominated his two critical potential bases of support --- African Americans and affluent white liberals.) 21
* Legendary Chicago-based Democratic political consultant David Axelrod (Chicago's powerful Mayor Richard M. Daley's longtime media strategist and image architect) decision not to work for the multi-millionaire Democrat Blair Hull in the 2004 Senate primary, reflecting Axlerod's concerns over Hull's messy divorce and related allegations of alcoholism. When Obama subsequently got Axelrod, he instantly became the likely winner. (Hull's campaign imploded in the wake of ugly divorce allegations).
*Running against Hull in the primary helped Obama raise much more money (developing critical relationships with wealthy campaign investors along the way) than would have been possible otherwise. Under the rules of the recently passed McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law (itself another stroke of luck for Obama), a candidate was permitted to raise significantly more than the usual limit when running against a wealthy opponent financing his or her own campaign. For the 2004 primary, Obama was free to raise $12,000 from each donor instead of $2,000. 
* Obama got the pivotal Keynote job - the critical oration that made him an overnight national and even global phenomenon - over Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on the basis of five basic facts in the Democratic Party's selection process: (i) the party was looking for freshness and youth; (ii), it was looking for a Midwesterner from a major industrial state to provide geographic counter-balance to the Northeastern presidential candidate John Kerry and the Southern vice presidential candidate John Edwards; (iii) it wanted to increase its power in the U.S. Senate; (iv) Obama was currently running for a rare open U.S. Senate seat and would (the party expected, with reason) benefit in that race from the national prominence afforded to Keynote speakers; (v) Obama's main rival for the Keynote slot (Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm) was not up for re-election.
The last three factors were critical. By Washington Post writer Liza Mundy's account, "the decision came down to the fact that Obama, unlike Granholm, was still trying to win an election..... The balance in the Senate was 51-48 in favor of Republicans. ‘We needed his Senate seat,' says [a Democratic Party] official. So Obama it was."
FRIENDS IN HIGH AND POWERFUL PLACES
But here as in much of his subsequent political career, Obama's good fortune cannot be properly understood without understanding how his remarkable personal ambition and skills brought him into the chance-narrowing realm of power elite politics. In the actuality of American "democracy," officially "electable" candidates for top offices (like U.S. Senator and President) are vetted in advance by what the left author and activist Laurence Shoup calls "the hidden primary of the ruling class." By prior Establishment selection, most if not all "viable" contenders are closely tied to corporate and military-imperial power in numerous and interrelated ways. There's little if any room for mere luck to propel a risky --- an excessively "populist" or even left --- presidential candidate past the nation's corporate-imperial gatekeepers of power.
"What's the Dollar Value of a Starry-Eyed Idealist?"
The Obama campaign's narrative about his attainment of the Keynote assignment has been less than perfectly truthful in two critical ways. In his bestselling campaign book The Audacity of Hope (2006), Obama claimed to remember it is as a complete surprise when John Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill called Obama and invited him to deliver the 2004 Keynote Address. "The process by which I was selected as the keynote speaker remains something of a mystery to me," he wrote. But "this," Liza Mundy notes, "seems disingenuous," since the campaign had been told in advance that he was "likely" to get it and because Obama's manager Axelrod had been fiercely lobbying for the role.
A bigger problem with the Obama Keynote narrative is the way it deletes what we might call the "political- and business-class try-out" he received prior to his nationally broadcast introduction to the country and the world. As Ken Silverstein noted in an important Harper's article in the fall of 2006, "If the speech was his debut to the wider American public, he had already undergone an equally successful but much quieter audition with Democratic Party leaders and fund-raisers, without whose support he would surely never have been chosen for such a prominent role at the convention [emphasis added]."
A national corporate, financial, and legal vetting of Obama, with an emphasis on the critical money-politics nexus of Washington DC, began in October of 2003. That's "when Vernon Jordan, the well-known power broker and corporate board-member who chaired Bill Clinton's presidential transition team after the 1992 election, placed calls to roughly twenty of his friends and invited them to a fund-raiser at his home. That event," Silverstein noted, "marked his entry into a well-established Washington ritual—the gauntlet of fund-raising parties and meet-and-greets through which potential stars are vetted by fixers, donors, and lobbyists."
Drawing on his undoubted charm, wit, intelligence, and, of no small significance at the level of the political elite, his Harvard Law credentials, Obama passed this preliminary trial of wealth and power with shining colors. At a series of social meetings and at least one conference with assorted big "players" from the financial, legal and lobbyist sectors, Obama impressed key establishment figures like Gregory Craig (a longtime leading attorney and former special counsel to the White House), Mike Williams (the legislative director of the Bond Market Association), Tom Quinn (a partner at the leading corporate law firm Venable who was one of "the leading lobbyists in town" and a leading Democratic Party "power broker"), and Robert Harmala (another Venable partner and "also a big player in Democratic circles").
Craig liked the fact that Obama was not seen as a racial "polarizer" on the model of past African-American leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Williams was impressed by Obama's reassurances that he was not "anti-business" and became "convinced...that the two could work together."
"There's a reasonableness about him," Harmala told Silverstein. "I don't see him as being on the liberal fringe."
By Silverstein's account, the good "word about Obama spread through Washington's blue-chip law firms, lobby shops, and political offices, and this accelerated after his win in the March  Democratic primary."
Elite financial, legal, and lobbyists contributions came into the Obama campaign's coffers at a growing accelerating pace. The "good news" for Washington and Wall Street insiders was that Obama's "star quality" would not be directed against the elite segments of the business class: the interesting black legislator from the South Side of Chicago was "a player," someone the rich and powerful could work with.
According to Obama's biographer and Chicago Tribune reporter, David Mendell:
"Word of Obama's rising star was now rising beyond Illinois, especially through influential Washington political circles like blue chip law firms, party insiders, lobbying houses. They were all hearing about this rare, exciting, charismatic, up-and-coming African American who unbelievably could win votes across color lines... Axelrod, Jim Cauley and Obama's influential Chicago supporters and fund-raisers all vigorously worked their D.C. contacts to help Obama make the rounds with the Democrats' set of power brokers...Obama...spent a couple of days and nights shaking hands making small talk and delivering speeches to liberal groups, national union leaders, lobbyists, fund-raisers and well-heeled money donors. In setting after setting, Obama's Harvard Law resume and his reasonable tone impressed the elite crowd."
"Reasonable tone" was code language with a useful translation for Obama's new elite business class backers: friendly to capitalism and its opulent masters.
Obama now cultivated the support of the privileged few by "advocate[ing] fiscal restraint" and "calling for pay-as-you-go government" and "extol[ing] the merits of free trade and charter schools." By Mendell's account, he "moved beyond being an obscure good-government reformer to being a candidate more than palatable to the moneyed and political establishment."28
"It's not always clear what Obama's financial backers want," Silverstein noted in the fall of 2006, "but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform." This seems a reasonable judgment given well-known facts on the purposes behind election finance at the upper levels.
"On condition of anonymity," Silverstein reported, "one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn't see him as a ‘player.' The lobbyist added: ‘What's the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?'"
Obama would demonstrate his "reasonable" nature over the next few years, helping himself become the most prolific corporate fundraiser in American political history. He received more than $33 million from "FIRE" --- the finance, real estate, and insurance industries ---- and got nearly $900,000 just from the super-powerful Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs.
This was part of the deeper plutocratic reality beneath his deeply misleading claim to have developed "a parallel system of public financing" during the presidential campaign.
"He Works the Phones Like a Dog"
Obama campaign imagery pretended that his financial backers were simply drawn by the humble and earnest idealism of a candidate who eschewed reliance on the rich and powerful. The noble and progressive Obama did not really aggressively pursue big money supporters, his campaign quite naturally wanted voters to believe.
In his 2006 campaign book The Audacity of Hope, Obama portrayed the pursuit of wealthy donors as a distasteful chore that caused him to spend too much time away from the concerns of ordinary voters. 
This may well have been a deceptive narrative. "Even as he cultivated an image as an unconventional candidate devoted to the people, not the establishment," New York Times reporters Christopher Drew and Mike McIntire noted in April of 2007, Obama "systematically built a sophisticated, and in many ways quite conventional money machine" during and after his race for the U.S. Senate. By Drew and McIntire's account, "he developed a skill at cultivating donors, often with the same disarming directness he uses on the campaign trail. ‘I met him on the first hole,' Steven S. Rogers, a former business owner who teaches at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, recalled recently about a golf game in 2001. ‘By the sixth hole, he said, "Steve, I want to run for the Senate." And by the ninth hole, he said he needed help to clear up some debts.'" 
According to Silverstein's account in 2006, Obama moved rapidly and artfully into the money-politics-policy nexus in Washington D.C.:
"It is ...startling to see how quickly Obama's senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. For the staff post of policy director he hired Karen Kornbluh, a senior aide to Robert Rubin when the latter, as head of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, was a chief advocate for NAFTA and other free-trade policies that decimated the nation's manufacturing sector (and the organized labor wing of the Democratic Party). Obama's top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms (Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, where four attorneys are fund-raisers for Obama as well as donors), Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests (Henry Crown and Company, an investment firm that has stakes in industries ranging from telecommunications to defense). Obama immediately established a ‘leadership PAC,' a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians' campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles." 
Whatever his initial purported inhibitions about seeking sponsorship from the financial aristocracy, Obama overcame reluctance about shaking the "moneyed elite's" campaign cash tree during the first quarter of 2007. As Clinton's campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told Time Magazine in May of 2007, Obama "works the phones like a dog. He probably did three to four times the number of [fundraising] events [Hillary] did" in the first quarter. "No matter who I call," McCAuliffe reported, "he has already called three or four times." 
"Whether Obama was on a book tour in New York or taking a family vacation to Phoenix," the Chicago Tribune noted in April of 2007, "his fundraising machine was almost always in tow for much of 2005 and 2006, just as it is now on the presidential campaign trail." 
THE LUCK OF OBAMA II, 2004-2008
No Viable Republican Opponent
Greased by Wall Street cash, the Luck of Obama showed itself again before the pivotal keynote speech. Just a few weeks before the Democratic convention when it emerged that Obama's originally formidable Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, had tried to convince his ex-wife to perform public acts at a sex club. "Superfreak" Ryan's campaign was instantly undone; he would eventually withdraw.
To make things yet more absurdly easier for Obama, the Illinois Republican Party took more than a month to find a replacement for Ryan. It then exhibited the incredibly poor judgment to import the bizarre perennial candidate Alan Keyes from Maryland. Obama would cruise to a 70 percent victory - an almost unimaginably easy triumph. "You could argue," political scientist Ron Walters told Mundy, "that if the Republicans had had a viable candidate, there would be no Barack."
"Not You, You're Brand New:" The Novelty Dividend
Once the keynote speech was delivered and his celebrity enshrined, Obama's presidential possibilities and calculations were enhanced and accelerated by further good fortune external to his or his campaign's agency. According to Pew Research Center president Andrew Kohut, the U.S. populace was "uniquely posed to receive Obama at the precise moment when he materialized." On the eve of the 2004 election the nation had become deeply dissatisfied with the political status quo and the national direction, reflecting widespread popular concerns with government and corporate corruption, uneven economic performance, deepening inequality, and the problematic invasion of Iraq. "They're looking for political change," Kohut told Mundy in mid 2007, "and he certainly personifies change," adding that a Pew polls showed voters identifying the name "Barack Obama" with the words "new," "young," "charismatic," and "smart." Obama's relative youth and combined with his race and his seemingly (for most Americans) odd-sounding name and the very fact that he had emerged on the national stage seemingly "overnight" and "out of nowhere" to embody and epitomize the notions of transformation and difference at a time when many in the nation were beginning to exhibit a special hunger for novelty and qualitative alteration  if not quite revolution
It didn't hurt Obama's presidential possibilities that the stiff, aristocratic, lackluster and centrist John F. Kerry campaign failed ---- with no small help from the Republican "Swiftboat" strategy of Karl Rove, to be sure --- to dislodge the unpopular Bush-Cheney administration from power. Had Kerry won, it is of course highly unlikely that Obama would have been imagining himself in the White House prior to 2017 and it is likely that Edwards would have been the logical heir apparent for the 2016 nomination.
It also helped a great deal that both of Obama's future leading rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination - John Edwards and Hillary Clinton - committed the significant strategic and (many would argue) moral mistake (crime even) of voting to advance-authorize Bush's invasion of Iraq in October of 2002. Going into the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama enjoyed the supreme advantage of not having been in the U.S. Senate when that fateful "war" authorization vote came up - a fateful tally he admitted (during the 2004 Democratic Convention) he might have joined had he been in the U.S. Senate two years before. He could also point to the "antiwar" speech he gave in downtown Chicago in the October of 2002.
A status quo gone bad can be a profound advantage to those who seem not to have been part of it. While he was not particularly progressive in comparison to his leading Democratic presidential rivals, Obama benefited enormously from what we might call a candidate's version of a frequently noted economic phenomenon - the "privilege of late development."
Without denying his considerable talents and his impressive ambition, he enjoyed a remarkable novelty dividend not of his own making.
Time magazine columnist Joe Klein gave a small but suggestive example of this special "freshness" bonus in a 2006 article titled "The Fresh Face." At one point during a summer 2006 speaking engagement attended by nearly a thousand people in Rockford, Illinois, Klein reported, a middle-aged man stood up to "say what seem[ed] to be on everyone's mind, with appropriate passion: ‘Congress hasn't done a damn thing this year. I'm tired of the politicians blaming each other. We should throw them all out and start over.'"
" ‘ Including me?' Obama asked."
"A chorus of n-o-o-o-s. ‘Not you,' the man says, ‘You're brand new.'"41
The War Goes Incredibly Bad
From the perspective of Obama's political career, Bush's deepening quagmire in Iraq was no small good fortune. Obama's 2002 "antiwar" speech deserves credit for joining a considerable portion of the U.S. foreign policy establishment in foretelling potential strategic disaster in an Iraq invasion. But Obama could by no means predict the shocking and distinctive incompetence with which the Bush administration and the Pentagon would conduct "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The administration's bungling turned the in fact (as Obama has never admitted) criminal invasion into possibly the greatest strategic "fiasco" in the history of U.S. foreign policy.  That in turn fed the steeply declining popularity of the war among the U.S. populace, something that turned Obama's 2002 speech into a critical asset for Obama's national profile - and a pivotal campaign asset - leading into the 2007-08 presidential contest.
Empire's New Clothes: "Rebranding America"
The biracial and Hawaiian-born Obama's race and ethno-cultural nomenclature --- his full name is Barack Hussein Obama ---added to his novelty dividend. These critical "identity" factors helped voters see him as "brand new," making it easier for him to advance some very traditional and conservative agendas and beliefs under the guise of originality and "progressivism." This enhanced his attractiveness to U.S. economic, political and policy elites and power brokers, who sensed a need for the U.S. to seem to be dramatically changing the face of power after the profound damage George W. Bush's shockingly regressive, oppressive, and inept presidency had done to U.S. state power at home and abroad. As Meg Hirshberg, an influential New Hampshire political donor, told Liz Mundy during the primary campaign, "His election would do more to restore peoples' faith and belief in the U.S. around the world. Can you imagine them being president and first lady? It knocks me out as far as what we would be saying to ourselves and the world. He's not a descendant of slaves, but [his wife Michelle] is. I think it would be a remarkable moment in history."
Obama's technically Islamic name and his three years living as a young boy in Indonesia held special promise, some foreign policy elites hoped, in the Middle East and across the Muslim world. These are quite naturally areas of special concern for the U.S. in a time when extremist Islamo-terrorist threats to the U.S. have been furthered by the provocative, deadly, and prolonged American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and by the United States' longstanding sponsorship, equipping, and protection of Israel's brutal oppression of the Palestinians.
By Mundy's account in August of 2007, "it does seem that - in the wake of Abu Grab and Guantanamo - part of Obama's appeal is the opportunity to send the world a different message about racial tolerance at a moment when this seems more important than ever."
Two weeks before the election, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff looked forward to the presidential ascendancy of a black politician with an Islamic name as something that would produce the "Rebranding [of] the U.S. With Obama." That was the title of one of Kristoff's pre-election columns, applying the language of corporate advertising to the 2008 election. "If this election goes as the polls suggest," Kristof opined, "we may find a path to restore some of America's global influence - and thus to achieve some of our international objectives - in part because the world is concluding that America can, after all see, see beyond a person's epidermis."
This was not just a marginal opinion restricted to the margins of the "liberal" Times. Right after the election, the leading public relations and advertising industry trade journal Advertising Age hailed Obama for producing "An Instant Overhaul for Tainted Brand America." The journal quoted David Brain, CEO of the global public relations firm Edelman Europe, Middle East and Africa, on how "the election and nomination process is the brand relaunch of the year. Brand USA. It's just fantastic."
According to Nick Ragone, the senior VP of client development at the leading global advertising firm Omnicom Group's Ketchum, "We've put a new face on [America] and that face happens to be African-American. It takes a lot of the hubris and arrogance of the last eight years and starts to put it in the rearview mirror for us," Ragone told Advertising Age.
Harvard Business School professor and former board member at "WWP Group" (a global advertising firm) board member John Welch said that "The election result zero-bases the image of the United States worldwide. We have a clean slate with which to work," Welch told Advertising Age. "Let us hope the opportunity is not squandered the way it was after 9/11."
According to Carolyn Carter, the London-based president and CEO and Grey Group Europe, Middle East and Africa (creator of the popular teeth-rotting "Coke Zero" ad campaign for Northern Europe), "The last eight years broke faith in Brand America, and people want that faith restored."
Obama is "almost like Che Guevera, in a good way," said Foreign Policy magazine's Web editor Blake Hounshell. "He has icon status," Hounshell told Advertising Age, "with the all the art around the world of his face." The difference, of course, is that Che boldly inspired radical challenges to the American Empire but Obama inspires captivation with the corporate-imperial U.S. and its supposed self-reinvention as a land of progressive democracy and endless possibility.
Race and the Illusion of Greater Liberalism
Besides helping his novelty dividend, Obama's race fed the false notion that Obama was more liberal than his leading opponents in the Democratic primary race - something that proved very useful in capture a Democratic voter base that had been pushed left by the Bush administration. The fact that Obama is black helped deepen his appeal to certain voters by making him seem more liberal than he really was
According to researchers studying the political psychology of race, voters asked to compare a black and a white candidate with similar political positions will tend to see the black candidate as "more liberal." Consistent with the finding, exit-poll data shows that Obama did much better than his centrist ideological soul-mate Hillary Clinton (who actually ran slightly to his left on domestic policy during the primaries) with Democratic primary voters who identified themselves as "very liberal" in numerous key states. Clinton did somewhat better with the large number and percentage of Democrats who called themselves "moderates."
Since Obama's actual policy agenda was generally no more liberal than Clinton's - his housing and health care plan were more conservative - it seems likely that many voters were identifying Obama as more liberal because of his race.
This was a great problem for John Edwards, who ran without success to Obama's populist left on both domestic and foreign policy in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In this critical way, his skin color helped the "deeply conservative"  Obama's skin color helped him capture and co-opt the progressive sentiments and mood of many Democratic primary voters at the end of the Cheney-Bush reign.
Race and "Holding Domestic Constituencies in Check"
At the same time, many of his elite sponsors have certainly long understood that Obama's technical blackness helps make him uniquely qualified to simultaneously surf, de-fang, and "manage" the U.S. citizenry's rising hopes for democratic transformation in the wake of the long national Bush-Cheney nightmare. As John Pilger argued last May: "What is Obama's attraction to big business? Precisely the same as Robert Kennedy's [in 1968]. By offering a 'new,' young and apparently progressive face of Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell's role as Bush's secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent."
Obama's race is part of what makes him so well matched to the tasks of mass pacification and popular "expectation management" (former Obama advisor Samantha Power's revealing phrase). As Aurora Levins Morales noted in Z Magazine last April, "This election is about finding a CEO capable of holding domestic constituencies in check as they are further disenfranchised and....[about] mak[ing] them feel that they have a stake in the military aggressiveness that the ruling class believes is necessary. Having a black man and a white woman run helps...make oppressed people feel compelled to protect them."
"BLACK BUT NOT LIKE JESSE"
But Obama's ability to play the race angle to his advantage has been critically predicated on him proving that he will do nothing to challenge underlying structures of institutional racism or to address the steep price that centuries of racial oppression have inflicted on black, brown, and red America. Even as he won large majorities of black votes in the Democratic presidential primaries and the general election, candidate Obama was remarkably reluctant to align himself with the historical struggle for black equality in any way beyond simply being black. He steered clear of any effort to fully and forthrightly confront the continuing problems of race and (more to the point) racism in American and global affairs. He consistently downplayed the extent of racial inequality in the U.S. and the rooting of that inequality in the persistence of deeply racist policies, structures, and practices.
He played the "black, but not like Jesse" card to perfection, repeatedly demonstrating his "safety" to Caucasian voters and elites who long ago decided that white racism no longer poses serious barriers to black advancement and racial justice in the U.S. He skillfully let whites feel good about their willingness to vote for a black man without pushing defensive white buttons by meaningfully addressing the powerful role white skin privilege continues to play in the U.S.
As a result, he was able to survive the efforts of Hillary Clinton, the Republicans, and certain media powers to destroy and/or (at least) discipline his candidacy by parading his close past association with the viciously demonized "angry black male" Jeremiah Wright. Obama masterfully distanced himself from his former pastor, suggesting in his instantly famous Philadelphia race speech that black anger (on Wright's officially dysfunctional and dangerous model) was no longer appropriate in a nation that had transcended racial oppression on the whole.
From a Machiavellian perspective, Obama's racially neutral, white-friendly strategy has been very smart indeed. However much it offends radical and race activists, his conservative and accommodating approach to the race question is perfectly pitched to the racism-denying skin-color politics of the "post Civil Rights" and neoliberal era.
Distancing himself from meaningful resistance to racism is a key part of how Obama won.
LUCK STRIKES AGAIN: MORE BAD OPPONENTS AND THE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN
Luck shined on Obama yet again during the general election campaign. While he was no Brett Hull, Jack Ryan, or Alan Keyes, John McCain turned out to be another supremely flawed Obama opponent. He was deeply handicapped by his advanced age, highly evident moral and intellectual limits, perceived closeness to the monumentally unpopular George W. Bush administration, and a transparently crass and dangerous vice-presidential running-mate pick. He foolishly ran to the right of his previous centrist record and the sentiments of the electorate, stupidly trashing much of his own "brand."
Still, McCain might conceivably have ridden enough white nationalist fear and sentiment to eke out a victory but for the onset of an epic financial crisis in mid-September of 2008. The collapse of national and global financial markets took the post-Convention steam out of the McCain-Palin ticket.
McCain was strikingly ill-suited for the new economic environment. He made a ridiculous comment about the economy being "fundamentally sound" even as the financial system melted down like no time since 1929. Earlier in the campaign, he had foolishly acknowledged that economics was "not [his] strong suit" and had previously given his top economic-advisory post to former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) - a leading advocate of financial de-regulation (he was a key architect of measures that helped create the 2008 meltdown) who had earlier told Americans that many of them were "whiners" for claiming that the economy was in bad shape.
McCain's poll numbers fell precipitously with the onset of the financial fiasco, with good reason. Ironically enough, and deeply reflective of the Luck of Obama, , many of Obama's top economic advisors - Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, above all - had joined Gramm as leading agents of key de-regulatory moves that were passed in the late 1990s and helped produced the current financial mess. The at once fortunate and (by no mere coincidence) corporate-media-protected Obama got away with repeatedly attributing the crisis to the "failed economic policies of the last eight years," deleting neoliberal policies championed by Rubin and Summers under Clinton.
HARD WORK AHEAD
Now that the rubber of Obama's inspiring and occasionally semi-progressive campaign rhetoric is about to hit the road of corporate-imperial governance, it will be interesting to see how much longer the corporate-sponsored Luck of Obama can hold on. The political commentariat is predicting an unusually passionate and prolonged honeymoon. Barack "Brand New" Obama will enjoy the remarkable windfall of Not Being George W. Bush for some time to come.
Operation Hope Containment
Still, his handlers and dominant media friends have been working through the transition to reduce the risk that his lofty oratory and related "sky-high" popular expectations will come back to bite him in his "deeply conservative," power-accommodating backside. The political and communications authorities are engaged in the critical top-down task of "expectation management." The last thing the power elite that opened the door for the "reasonable" Obama wants is for the dangerous rabble (the citiznrt) to get all hop[p]ed- and hyped-up with perilous "ideological" and "unrealistic" notions like peace, justice, equality, and democracy. Hence the already ongoing public relations campaign we might label "Operation Hope Containment."
The Urgent Task
Obama's possible, some might say likely, failure to deliver on his most popular campaign promises could spark a right-populist upsurge tinged my an unseemly measure of proto-fascistic white-nationalism, ably fanned by FOX News Channel and other outlets of the well-funded "conservative" (extremist, plutocratic, racist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, and messianic-militarist) propaganda machine . A left-progressive movement pushing to transcend the limits of Obamaist centrism seems less likely given the terrible shortage of institutional avenues for the articulation of such a movement, the shortage of resources (financial and otherwise) on the left, progressives' fear of the hard right, and the deep willingness of many real and ostensibly progressive citizens and activists to give Obama the benefit of the doubt no matter how conservative, corporate, and imperial he is revealed be.
One obviously unknown factor is the depth and degree of the current "epic recession" (left economic critic Jack Rasmus' useful term) and whether (as seems likely) it turns into a depression. That occurrence, which the Obama administration will be working to avert, could spell a one-term presidency. An upturn in the business cycle and a climb out of recession in 2011 and 2012 could grant Obama a second four years.
In the meantime Left true progressives face tasks that have little to do with luck (or for that matter with Obama's true history and character)and everything to do with hard work. As Noam Chomsky noted on the eve of the election that gave the Worst President Ever (George W. Bush) his second term, "the urgent task for those who want to shift policy in a progressive direction - often in close conformity to majority opinion - is to grow and become strong enough so that they can't be ignored by centers of power. Forces for change that have come up from the grass roots and shaken the society to its core include the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the women's movement, and others, cultivated by steady, dedicated work at all levels, every day, not just once very four years." 
Paul Street is a veteran radical historian in Iowa City, IA. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Street's books include Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York, 2007; Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, September 2008), which can be ordered at http://www.paradigmpublishers.com/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=186987 Paul can be reached at email@example.com
1 Larissa MacFarquhar, "The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?" The New Yorker (May 7, 2007).
2 Liza Mundy, "A Series of Fortunate Events: Barack Obama Needed More Than Talent and Ambition to Rocket From Obscure State Senator to Presidential Contender in Three Years," Washington Post Magazine (August 12, 2007) 3 Mundy, "A Series of fortunate Events."
4 Rush is quoted in Janny Scott, "In 2000, a Streetwise Veteran Schooled a Bold Young Obama," New York Times, 9 September, 2007, pp. A1, A20.
5 Janny Scott, "At State Level, Obama Proved to Be Pragmatic and Practical," New York Times, 30 July 2007, p. A1.
6 Rick Pearson and Ray Long, "Careful Steps, Looking Ahead," Chicago Tribune, 3 May 2007.
7 Pearson and Long, "Careful Steps, Looking Ahead;" David Jackson and Ray Long, "Obama Knows His Way Around a Ballot," Chicago Tribune, 3 April, 2007.
8 Scott, "At State Level."
9 Pearson and Long, "Careful Steps, Looking Ahead."
10 David Mendell, Obama: From Promise to Power (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) pp. 250-51.
11 Scott Helman, "In Illinois, Obama Dealt with Lobbyists," Boston Globe, 23 September 2007.
12 Pearson and Long, "Careful Steps, Looking Ahead."
13 Scott, "At State Level."
14 Bob Secter and John McCormick, "Portrait of a Pragmatist," Chicago Tribune, 30 March, 2007.
15 Joe Klein, "The Fresh Face," Time (October 17, 2006).
16 Ryan Lizza, "The Agitator: The Unlikely Political Education of Barack Obama," The New Republic (March 19, 2007).
18 Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons, "Carefully Crafting the Obama Brand." Chicago Tribune, 12 June, 2007, sec.1. p.1.
19 For exhaustive sources and details, please see the fourth chapter of my book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), titled "How ‘Antiwar?' Barack Obama,, Iraq, and the Audacity of Empire."
20 Salim Muwakill, "The Squandering of Obama," In These Times (August 14, 2007).
21 Mundy, "A Series;" Mendell, Obama, pp.157-162.
22 Mundy, "A Series."
23 Mundy, "A Series."
24 Laurence H. Shoup, "The Presidential Election 2008," Z Magazine (February 2008), p. 31.
25 Barack Obama, Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown, 2006), p.354.
26 Mundy, "A Series of Fortunate Events."
27 Ken Silverstein, "Barack Obama, Inc.: The Birth of a Washington Machine," Harper's (November 2006).
28 Mendell, OBAMA, pp. 248-249.
29 Silverstein, "Obama Inc.," p.37.
30 Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995; Elizabeth Drew, The Corruption of American Politics: What Went Wrong and Why (Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1999); Center for Responsive Politics, A Brief History of Money in Politics (Washington DC: Center for Responsive Politics, 1995); Jamin Raskin and John Bonifaz, "The Constitutional Imperative and Practical Imperative of Democratically Financed Elections," Columbia Law Review, 94-4 (1994): 1160-1203; Charles Lewis, The Buying of the President (New York, NY: Avon, 1996), pp 1-20.
31 Silverstein, "Obama, Inc." p.40.
32 Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Henry Crown, 2006), pp. 109-111.
33 Christopher Drew and Mike McIntire, "Obama Built Donor Network From Roots Up," New York Times, 3 April 2007.
34 Silverstein, "Obama, Inc.." p.33.
35 Karen Tumulty and James Carney, "Hillary Pushes Back," Time (May 7, 2007) p. 42.
36 Jackson and McCormick, "Building Obama's Money Machine."
37 Mundy, "A Series." .
38 Mundy, "A Series."
39 Barack Obama, "Against Going to War With Iraq," speech delivered in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2002, read online at www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/02/28/7343/
40 Barack Obama, 2002 speech: "Against Going to War With Iraq," October 2, 2002, Chicago, IL
41 Klein, "The Fresh Face."
42 Thomas E. Ricks, FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin, 2006).
43 Mundy, "A Series;" James Traub 2007. "Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?" New York Times Magazine (November 4, 2007).
44 MacFarquhar, "The Conciliator."
45. Noam Chomsky, Interventions (San Francisco: City Lights, 2007), p. 99