Tuesday, August 12, 2008


First-time author David Freddoso has taken on the difficult job of sorting the wheat from the chaff. In the intro to “The Case Against Barack Obama,” he writes that “too many of those criticizing Mr. Obama have been content merely to slander him - to claim falsely that he refuses to salute the U.S. flag or was sworn into office on a Koran, or that he was really born in a foreign country.”

Such conspiracy mongering, he writes, has “given rise to an intellectual laziness among the very people who should be carefully scrutinizing Obama [i.e., thoughtful conservatives and, of course, journalists].” This book isn’t merely the case against Mr. Obama. It’s the case against the dumb case against the Democratic nominee as well.

Mr. Freddoso, whose current job as a reporter for National Review Online and previous gig at the Evans-Novak Report brought him into contact with Mr. Obama, has been surprised by the press’ reception of the Chicago pol. The book opens with a reminder that should be unnecessary, and yet seems called for: “Barack Obama is a mere man.”

Slate magazine’s Timothy Noah famously unveiled the “Obama Messiah Watch” to convince fellow liberals to get a grip on themselves, but it didn’t work. In chapter four, “Obamessiah,” Mr. Freddoso quotes from some of the many over-the-top things that liberals have written about Mr. Obama, including the progressive journalist Ezra Klein’s bizarre, trippy evaluation of Mr. Obama’s oratorical efforts.

“Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire,” Mr. Klein wrote in a post on the Web site of the progressive monthly the American Prospect. Instead, “They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.”

Mr. Freddoso does not believe the presumptive Democratic nominee is an America-hating Marxist or a foreign agent or the Second Coming. Rather, he argues at length that Mr. Obama is a big phony. The Illinois pol may have “crafted himself an image as one of those rare reformers who succeeds,” but “the idea of Barack Obama as a reformer is a great lie” that many now devoutly, and wrongly, believe in.

Mr. Obama first won office by challenging the signatures on a petition for re-election of one of his mentors, state Sen. Alice Palmer, and having her thrown off the ballot. He hired consultant Ronald Davis to issue challenges to signatures for every possible reason, including a married woman having signed with her maiden name. Oh, and “While they were at it,” writes Mr. Freddoso, “Obama’s campaign got the other three candidates disqualified as well,” setting up their candidate to run unopposed.

Most of the barbs that have stung Mr. Obama on the campaign trail are related to his dalliances with fringy radicals, such as his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But while conservative critics and the press are busy exploring his radical connections, sometimes down conspiratorial rabbit trails, they’re mostly overlooking his more important ones.

In Chicago politics, Mr. Obama didn’t oppose the Cook County machine. He helped it to hold on to power. He has come under fire with a land deal with fund-raiser and slum lord Tony Rezko. Mr. Freddoso explains that the deal was probably legal but argues it points to something interesting.

Mr. Obama has long been a strong supporter of Chicago developers. Why would a former “community organizer” have any interest in developers? Because these landed fat cats “financed his political career.”

The problem with Mr. Obama is not that he doesn’t believe in anything. On abortion, for instance, he opposes any restrictions whatsoever. Mr. Freddoso makes the case that the reason he’s stood against even legislation that would protect premature babies that are accidentally born during abortions is that Mr. Obama fears it would set a legal precedent that could keep even one partial-birth abortion from occurring. Indeed, a future President Obama’s Supreme Court picks would be pretty horrible.

Rather, the real problem is this: For all the promises of change and calls to hope, the only interest that ultimately matters to Barack Obama is Barack Obama. In this smart sketch of the Illinois senator’s career, that warning is sounded on every page.

Jeremy Lott is author of “The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency.”

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