Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We don’t recall the last time a first-term senator introduced “Monday Night Football” to a national audience; we just hope it doesn’t become a trend. But such is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s celebrity these days that we imagine few who watched Monday’s game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams didn’t know that the guy on their screens wearing that awkward Bears cap was a possible future president.

Of course, if you haven’t yet fallen prey to Obama-mania, you might just be asking, What has this guy done to deserve all this? The answer is very little — but that’s also the point. Mr. Obama’s two years in the Senate have been relatively quiet, given all the national attention he garners. We’ll be analyzing his Senate record so far in a later editorial.

For now, the best way to understand the kind of politician Mr. Obama is — and not what team he roots for — is to look at his record before becoming a U.S. senator. In 1996, Mr. Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate, representing a South Side district of Chicago. Although he failed in a bid at a congressional seat in 2000, this was Mr. Obama’s only legislative experience before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

• Between 1997 and 1998 and again in 2001, the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council gave Mr. Obama a 100 percent rating on his voting record.

• In 1999, the anti-tax organization National Taxpayers United of Illinois gave Mr. Obama a 0 percent rating on his voting record; in 2001-02, it gave him a 10 percent rating.

• In 2003, the Illinois Environmental Council gave Mr. Obama a 100 percent rating; in 1998, it gave Mr. Obama a 75 percent rating.

• In 2004, based on his lifetime voting record in the Illinois Senate, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund gave Mr. Obama a grade of F.

• On labor issues, the Illinois AFL-CIO gave Mr. Obama a 92 percent rating, an 89 percent rating and an 89 percent rating in the years 1999, 2001 and 2003, respectively.

• At an antiwar rally in October 2002, Mr. Obama delivered a fiery speech in which he said, “What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from the rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income…” However, as Black Commentator magazine noticed, when Mr. Obama began his campaign for the U.S. Senate those remarks mysteriously disappeared from his Web site.

In short, Mr. Obama’s record as an Illinois state senator was down-the-line liberal. For someone representing a liberal district in Chicago, that’s not very surprising. What is surprising is how Mr. Obama’s liberal label has been effectively wiped clean since he entered the U.S. Senate.

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