- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Barack Obama‘s supporters often try to sidestep questions about his character and judgment by saying that we should stick to what they arbitrarily define as “the real issues.”

But Mr. Obama’s record on specific issues is as bad as his record of repeatedly allying himself over the years with people who make no attempt to hide their hatred of America.

Among the so-called “real issues” are earmarks for senators’ pet projects, like the “bridge to nowhere.” These are among the most indefensible parts of the inbred Washington political culture, which Mr. Obama has so often claimed to be against, as part of his promise of “change” to “clean up the mess in Washington.”

Yet Mr. Obama not only voted in favor of the bridge to nowhere, he voted against anti-earmark amendments proposed by Sen. John McCain.

Mr. Obama has had more than two dozen of his own earmarks in the past fiscal year, and he knows the Senate well enough to know that, if he voted against the bridge to nowhere, his own earmarks might get nowhere.

Those earmarks, incidentally, included a million dollars of the taxpayers’ money for a facility where his wife works at the University of Chicago. Her salary rose by nearly $200,000 when her husband became a United States senator - no doubt a shrewd university investment that paid off.

When a highly publicized 2007 bridge collapse in Minnesota led Sen. Tom Coburn to propose taking money from federal funds for bicycle paths and use to maintain and repair bridges instead, Sen. Obama voted against it. The kind of people who vote for him want bike paths.

Moreover, the very idea of taking money from one thing to use for something with a higher priority - something we all have to do in our own personal lives - is foreign to the liberal big spenders in Washington.

When they want more money for some purpose, they simply raise the tax rates. They don’t cut spending somewhere else.

The idea Barack Obama is somehow different from other liberal-left politicians can only be based on his rhetoric, because his actual track record shows him to differ only in being further left than most liberals and at least as opportunistic.

His talk, however, is another story. The speech Mr. Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention - the speech that put him on the national map politically - was one which has been aptly described as a speech that would have been almost equally at home if it had been delivered at the Republican National Convention.

In the world of rhetoric - the world in which Mr. Obama is supreme - he is a moderate, reasonable man, reaching out to unite people and parties, dedicated to reform, opposed to special interests and a healer of the racial divide.

Only in the real world of action is Barack Obama the direct opposite. He has pushed for federal subsidies for ethanol, for example, as other Midwestern senators have, since a lot of corn is grown in the Midwest to be turned into ethanol.

He is 100 percent behind the teachers’ unions’ fight to preserve their grip on the public schools and exempt their members from being judged by performance instead of seniority - which is to say, he is throwing the students, and especially minority students - to the wolves.

Mr. Obama would never call voting for ethanol subsidies a vote for “special interests,” any more than he called his total support of the teachers unions a matter of special interests, even though teachers unions are the biggest obstacle to changing the status quo in public schools that have failed American children in general and minority children in particular.

Barack Obama’s track record on so-called “real issues” is no better than his track record on issues of character and judgment. The media’s track record of conveying the facts to the public is a travesty of their claims about “the public’s right to know.”

If John McCain had made half as many gaffes as Barack Obama - “all 57 states,” for example - they would picture him as senile. Meanwhile, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran supplying its terrorist surrogates with nukes does not interest the media nearly as much as scoring “gotchas” against Sarah Palin.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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