Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Yes, I (mis)remember it well


By DAVID REINHARD

In the beginning there was ...

Many mainstream journalists think I was born in a manger, though a few among this hard-bitten lot say I was simply found floating in a basket along the Nile. It's understandable. People need their myths, and if I, Barack Obama, am the vehicle for their hopes and dreams, well, that's my destiny. But it's important at this historic moment that we keep things real.

The fact is my beginnings were not the "unto us a child was born" story some claim. As I've noted in speeches, the Kennedys paid for my Kenyan dad to come here, and I owe my "very existence" to the Selma civil rights march. ("It is a touching story—but the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified. Contrary to Obama's claims ... , the Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 airlift ... that included Obama's father. The Selma bridge protest occurred four years after Obama's birth." The Washington Post, March 30, 2008)

Growing pains

Selma was only my first involvement in racial issues. As I wrote in one of my books, my own conversation on race began in high school. I had "heated conversations on racism" with a black student named Ray. ("The real Ray, Keith Kakugawa ... said he does recall long, soulful talks with the young Obama. But those talks ... were not about race. The handful of black students who attended Punahou School ... say they struggled mightily with issues of race and racism there. But absent from those discussions, they say, was another student then known as Barry Obama." Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2007)

The paper chase

I was a law professor at the University of Chicago. ("The University of Chicago released a statement on Thursday saying Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., 'served as a professor' in the law school—but that is a title Obama, who taught courses there part time, never held, a spokesman for the school confirmed on Friday." Chicago Sun-Times, March 30, 2008)

Politics ain't bean bag

To whom much is given, much is expected. For me, this isn't, as I like to say, "just words." I soon realized it was time to give back—to make other folks as hopeful about Barack Obama as I am about myself. Politics beckoned, but I wasn't interested in the old politics of left vs. right.

It isn't always easy. In my first run for office, a voter questionnaire had me taking standard liberal stands—banning the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns, opposing parental notice for minors seeking abortions. Not stuff that transcends right and left. As my presidential campaign said when asked about this disconnect last year, an aide must have "unintentionally mischaracterize(d)" my views because I "never saw or approved" the questionnaire. ("But a Politico examination determined that Obama was actually interviewed about the issues on the questionnaire by .... the group that issued it. And it found that Obama ... filed an amended version of the questionnaire, which appears to contain Obama's own handwritten notes added to one answer." The Politico, March 31, 2008)

The Wright stuff

Chapter on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and racial healing under revision. Check back in another 20 years.

Change we can believe in

I was determined to make a difference from the time I arrived in the U.S. Senate. Americans are tired of politicians who talk about change and don't deliver or use the Senate as a pit stop on their road to the White House. They want results, not rhetoric. That's why I passed nuclear safety legislation in the Senate. ("[C]ontrary to Mr. Obama's comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate." The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008)

That's why, as I said in one debate, I pushed through a law to require the disclosure of all "bundlers"—people who boost their influence by presenting candidates with checks they've gathered up from their rich pals. ("Although Obama's amendment was agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent, the measure never became law as Obama seemed to suggest." ABC News, July 23, 2003)

The end

Actually, this really is the end.




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