David Freddoso's new book, The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate is a badly written hatchet job, full of errors and distortions and smears. The author, who works for the right-wing National Review and published his book with Regnery (which printed Unfit for Command, one of the Swiftboating attacks on John Kerry in 2004), simply fails to prove his key assertions, preferring to rely upon a bunch of false attacks, McCarthyist-style denunciations of Obama's associations, and extreme conservative attacks on abortion rights, all of it padded with lengthy digressions on topics unrelated to Obama and his record.
Freddoso's lies begin on the very first page of his book (repeated on the back cover) when he proclaims that Obama is "the least experienced politician in at least one hundred years to obtain a major party nomination for President...."(ix) Freddoso seems to be conveniently forgetting that George W. Bush in 2000 had served only six years as governor, far fewer years of experience as an elected public official than Obama's 12 years of experience (eight as state senator, four as US senator). Obama's experience in politics also exceeds that of Ronald Reagan (eight years as governor), Jimmy Carter (four years in state senate, four years as governor), Dwight Eisenhower (no political experience), Harry Truman (10 years as US senator, one year as vice president), Herbert Hoover (eight years as Secretary of Commerce), Woodrow Wilson (two years as governor), and William Howard Taft (four years as Secretary of War, two years as Solicitor General). Compared to 17 presidents in the past century, Obama has more political experience than eight of them, and less experience than eight of them (he's tied with Warren Harding).
Like any good conspiracy theorist, Freddoso is careful to condemn the conspiracy theories he doesn't believe in, hoping that doing so will make him seem reasonable by comparison. He writes, "Too many of those criticizing Obama have been content merely to slander him," listing some of the false rumors about Obama refusing to salute the American flag or being sworn into office on a Koran.(x) Yet throughout his book, Freddoso charges Obama with being a part of some secret liberal plot. A plot to help Daley by knocking Alice Palmer off the ballot. A plot to have "silently and at times vocally cooperated with Chicago's Democratic Machine."(x) A plot by Axelrod to let Blair Hull take the lead and then leak his damaging divorce data. A plot to help Rezko by passing legislation for affordable housing. A plot to spread socialism revealed by his associations with communists and Marxists, proven by the fact that he actually read award-winning books written by communists!
Freddoso uses a common trick of conspiracy theorists: deny that you're proposing a conspiracy theory, but add on "there is this set of facts" to support that exact conspiracy theory. And so Freddoso writes:
There's no evidence Obama's campaign was the force behind dragging down Blair Hull, but there is this set of facts:
*Axelrod knew about Hull's marital problems
*Axelrod's former employer, the Chicago Tribune, unearthed Hull's marital problems just weeks before the primary, and not until Hull had already sucked the wind out of Hynes's sails
*Obama benefited—immensely--from these revelations.(48)
All of this might lead a reasonable reader to conclude that Obama's campaign did secretly smear his opponent. Except that it's not true. Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell recounts in his book Obama: From Promise to Power that he was the first to report on the court order sealing Hull's divorce file, and he also reports on how it happened: "I met with a Hynes operative for lunch....I was handed a folder of opposition research on Hull. Among the papers was a copy of the outside sheet of the filing of one of Hull's two divorces in Illinois....The order contained only one salient fact: Hull's second wife, Brenda Sexton, had once been granted an order of protection against him."(212-3) It was the Hynes campaign, not the Obama campaign, that brought down Hull. It's hard to imagine that Freddoso could have overlooked this lengthy passage in Mendell's book about Obama, since Mendell is cited 39 times in Freddoso's book.
Even the cover of the book is an attempt to spread Freddoso's attacks. Beneath a glowering, dark-faced photo of Obama are photos of Obama dancing with his wife (they're black), smiling with Ted Kennedy (according to Freddoso, he's a communist KGB agent), his arm around Jeremiah Wright (they're black and racist), and next to Mayor Daley (they're corrupt).
In one of the many red-baiting sections of his book, Freddoso denounces Obama's predecessor Alice Palmer for covering the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1986 as a journalist, and expressing praise for some of the Soviet plans, along with criticism of Ronald Reagan. Because Obama was endorsed by Palmer as his successor (and attended a Palmer fundraiser at Bill Ayers' home), Obama is deemed guilty by association. But Freddoso also denounces Obama's campaign for successfully challenging Palmer's improper petitions when she made a late decision to enter the State Senate race after failing to gain traction in her run for Congress.
Freddoso offers a particularly hilarious claim that Chicago Mayor Richard "Daley considered Palmer a serious threat, a potential mayoral rival."(5) According to Freddoso, "By clearing the ballot, Obama had done more than just elbow his way into power without a real election--he had also erased any doubt of Daley's path to his next term."(5) This anecdote shows how little Freddoso understands about Chicago politics. It's laughable to imagine that Palmer, after she failed miserably in her race for Congress, could take on Daley. Indeed, the last thing Daley would have wanted is an appealing black politician like Obama winning an election in Chicago, since Obama was probably the only threat to Daley's permanent occupation of the mayoral position. Yet Freddoso compares Obama to Karl Rove and Machiavelli, imagining some kind of conspiracy where Obama was secretly doing Daley's bidding.(6)
Freddoso also promotes Obama's guilt by association with Chicago politics. Astonishingly, Freddoso devotes 14 pages of his book to the Stroger family's corruption in Cook County politics, and links it to Obama because Obama didn't endorse anybody in the primary and endorsed the Democrat over the Republican in the general election. Yet Freddoso admits, "He did not campaign for John Stroger or even endorse him...."(14)
One could make an analogy here: what if a Republican candidate for president had failed to speak out about the political corruption of a Republican office-holder? Indeed, that's exactly the case with John McCain. Except that McCain, unlike Obama, endorsed the incumbent George W. Bush in the 2004 primary and actively campaigned for him. And what McCain did was far worse: part of the job of a U.S. Senator is to monitor the activities of the executive branch, while no one imagines that the job of a U.S. Senator is to intervene in local county politics.
After giving us an endless description of the Cook County corruption that Obama had no role in, Freddoso goes on for seven more pages to discuss the city of Chicago corruption that Obama also had no role in. The only thing Obama did was endorse the inevitable re-election of Mayor Daley, even though Obama criticized the corruption scandals which he said "give me huge pause."(22)
I have no love at all for the corruption of the Strogers and the Daleys in Chicago. But having written a book about Obama, I understand why he gave his lukewarm support to them. Obama is not the patron saint of progressive hopeless causes. He won't undermine his political movement in pursuit of an impossible quest to take down Mayor Daley.
But Obama is also not part of the "Chicago Machine." He developed his own power base in the independent Hyde Park neighborhood, and never ran for local office. He was only endorsed for the U.S. Senate by Daley and Stroger after he won the Democratic nomination.
Obama's Record of Achievements
In every case, Freddoso tries to downplay any of Obama's accomplishments, even if it requires twisting the truth. Freddoso tells the story of Illinois state senator Rickey Hendon: "Hendon had been the original sponsor of two bills that Obama often writes and speaks about as if they had been his own. One required the taping of murder interrogations to help eliminate mistakes in the [sic] Illinois's death penalty system, and the other was designed to reduce the incidence of racial profiling by the police." According to Freddoso, "Obama had the privilege of stealing important bills. Other senators had a name for this practice: 'bill-jacking.'" (30) However, Freddoso stole that phrase from Hendon, who had told another reporter exactly the opposite about this particular bill, "I don't consider it bill jacking."
According to Freddoso, "The murder interrogation bill—requiring videotaping of interrogations in all capital cases—was an excellent example of something with a broad bipartisan consensus in all but the minutest details, coming as it did after thirteen death row inmates were found to have been falsely convicted in Illinois."(31) But the citation Freddoso offers to support this claim is an unrelated 2000 press release from then Gov. George Ryan announcing a moratorium on executions.
In reality, there was strong opposition to the bill before Obama took charge. When Obama began, the idea was opposed by police, prosecutors, most of the Senate, and Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich, who promised to veto any proposal for mandatory tapings. Obama worked with all of these groups, made some compromises, and it passed in the Illinois Senate by a 58-0 vote. Blagojevich reversed himself and signed the bill, making Illinois the first state in the country to undertake this reform.
Freddoso also doesn't mention this quote from Hendon praising Obama's compromises in getting the other bill passed to monitor racial profiling by police: "In hindsight, it was best to go ahead with the weaker version because a lot of police attitudes changed when we passed it."
So Obama didn't "bill-jack" anybody's legislation. He took unpopular proposals and built an unprecedented level of consensus behind it. In the divisive world of Illinois politics, it was one of the finest examples of skillful political work in recent memory.
Freddoso also recalls how Senate President Emil Jones did Obama the "favor" of having him handle ethics reform to make "Obama look like a reformer."(31) It wasn't a favor—few other legislators wanted to deal with it and as Jones noted, "He caught pure hell." Freddoso doesn"t mention what Republican state senator Kirk Dillard recalled: "Barack was literally hooted and catcalled in his caucus." And Republicans on the Senate floor "would bark their displeasure at me, and then they’d unload on Obama." But Obama built a consensus and got the legislation passed by a 52-4 vote.
So much for Freddoso's claim that, "If Barack Obama is a reformer, he may be the first reformer ever to become president of the United States before doing anything serious in the name of reform."(26) In fact, Freddoso contradicts this himself later in the book, admitting that Obama's co-sponsorship of The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 "was a real accomplishment for Obama in the name of reform,"(94) along with his ethics legislation on the state level.
According to Freddoso, "there’s never been a single time in Senator Obama’s political career where he did something that was difficult and would cost him politically for the sake of needed reforms and change." In fact, there is: when Obama spoke out in 2002 against the war in Iraq. As Freddoso himself admits, "He deserves full credit for opposing the war at a time when his position was not necessarily popular."(177) Of course, Obama likes to work by building bipartisan consensus, so it's not surprising that he doesn't take a lot of symbolic stands that hurt him politically. But Obama has proven both his political skills and his integrity in his legislative work.
Freddoso also tries to dismiss Obama's campaign abilities, asserting that "Obama has enjoyed success due to the failures of others"(44) and argues that he won his US Senate seat in 2004 solely due to "two men and their messy divorces."(44) In a large field, Obama's main competitors were Dan Hynes, whom Freddoso calls "the clear favorite" backed by the Democratic establishment, and millionaire Blair Hull, who spent $28.7 million of his personal fortune to build a small lead a month before the election. According to Freddoso, "In the final weeks, everything was pointing toward a Hull victory."(47) Not at all. Hull's 10-point lead in the polls was shaky at best, since Obama had saved his money until the end of the race. Voters began paying more attention to the election, Obama started running commercials, and most of the state's newspapers endorsed Obama (almost none supported Hull, and most expressed disdain at his effort to buy a Senate seat). In the end, Obama won 53% of the votes, beating Hynes by 29 points and Hull by more than 40 points.
To Freddoso, the sole factor in Obama's overwhelming victory was the release of Hull's divorce papers, in which his ex-wife accused him of abuse. Even if scandal affected Hull, how can that explain why Obama defeated Hynes (who had no scandals) by such a large margin?
Then in the general election, Obama held a large lead in the polls over Republican Jack Ryan. But Ryan dropped out when his divorce papers were leaked, revealing that he had tried to convince his ex-wife to go to sex clubs with him.
Freddoso had his own role in the Ryan case. Freddoso and his colleague John Gizzi interviewed Ryan and asked him off the record about his divorce file. When the file was released, Freddoso and Gizzi decided to violate their own word and report on their conversation with Ryan. The story shows both bad reporting (no good reporter makes a question off the record without even being requested to do so), and a serious lack of ethics (Freddoso violated his promise to keep the answer off the record by later printing it). Freddoso predicted at the time that Obama would win easily against Ryan, which may help explain why Freddoso was willing to break his word and attack the Republican nominee in order to push him to withdraw. Unfortunately for him, Obama's massive lead in the polls discouraged any serious candidates from running, and the Illinois Republican Party picked perennial loser Alan Keyes from Maryland to run. Keyes lost by more than 40 points.
Freddoso dismisses Obama by declaring that "Obama is currently running the first real political campaign of his life."(53) However, Obama wasn't given a US Senate seat by anyone. He didn't have a popular name or an overflowing bank account or a powerful political sponsor. Unlike most of his colleagues in the US Senate, Obama won by running an incredible campaign. His wide margin of victory showed how real Obama's campaign really was. It's true that Obama might have won his elections by "only" 20 points if not for the stumbles of some of his opponents. Even if someone superficially examined Obama's Senate race and wrongly concluded that his victory was due to being the "luckiest man alive,"(53) no one can say that about the 2008 Democratic primary, when Obama beat one of the most powerful and popular political families in America to obtain the nomination. No one except Freddoso, who claims that Obama was "fortunate to have the opponents he did."(54)
Freddoso provides filler for his book by recounting people who give over-the-top compliments to Obama and are excited by his candidacy, which Freddoso compares to "the Gospel stories of sick people hoping to touch even the hem of Christ's garments, or hoping that Saint Peter's shadow might pass over them and bring healing."(65) This shows, in Freddoso's mind, that Obama is treated as "a secular Messiah."(68) According to Freddoso, "any criticism of Obama is a 'smear,' ipso facto."(71) That would be odd considering that Obama has received more negative coverage than any presidential candidate in American history (he's also gotten more positive coverage than anyone else). No one thinks that every criticism is a smear. But any criticism of Obama based on lies, factual errors, and distortions of reality actually is a "smear." And that's what Freddoso does repeatedly in his book.
Freddoso is fond of seeing a secret plan behind this "stealth liberal": "hidden in Obama's shapeless rhetoric about 'Change' and 'Hope' is a dangerous agenda that will take on real substance if he is given power."(xiv) Yet Freddoso says almost nothing about Obama's policy work in the past or his proposals for the presidency. Perhaps that's because Freddoso recognizes that Obama's ideas for reforming health care and improving government are very popular. This 240-page book says little of substance about any issue except abortion, where Freddoso dramatically distorts Obama's record.
Obama and Abortion
Freddoso condemns the Freedom of Choice Act, which Obama co-sponsored along with 13 other senators, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman: "This bill would effectively cancel every state, federal, and local regulation of abortion, no matter how modest or reasonable."(204) To the contrary, the bill would simply codify Roe v. Wade and assure abortion rights before viability and allow for a health of mother exception at any time. It's an outright lie to claim that there could be no restrictions at all on abortion under this bill. Yet Freddoso falsely declares, "Obama is one of the very few pro-choice advocates who accepts no restrictions on late-term abortions, or any kind of abortions."(203)
Freddoso is so obsessed with attacking Obama's support of abortion rights that the photo section of the book includes a full-page photo of Gianna Jessen, who "survived a saline abortion in 1977." What does this have to do with Obama? Absolutely nothing.
Freddoso notes how Obama opposed a vaguely-worded Illinois bill banning "partial-birth" abortion. Obama feared that it defined the fetus as a person, and said, "this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny."(196) (In fact, Freddoso repeats the same lengthy quote from Obama again four pages later, for mysterious reasons.) The US Senate passed a similar bill 98-0, but it included a key provision that the bill did not define the fetus as a person. And Obama said he would have voted for the US Senate bill.(198)
While he's falsely smearing Obama, Freddoso also accuses him of "smearing pro-lifers" in this quote from Obama's book: "Most antiabortion activists, for example, have openly discouraged legislative allies from even pursuing those compromise measures that would have significantly reduced the incidence of the procedure popularly known as partial-birth abortion, because the image the procedure evokes in the mind of the public has helped them win converts to their position."(208) According to Freddoso, "This questions not only the sincerity of pro-lifers but also their dedication to their own cause."(209) As usual, Freddoso is misreading Obama. Obama simply said that the antiabortion activists wanted a total ban on "partial-birth" abortion rather than compromise legislation to reduce the most objectionable abortions. That's factually true and doesn't question anyone's sincerity. The fact is, anti-abortion activists want to ban all abortions, and so they are happy to use the so-called "partial-birth" abortion as a tool to do that. Obama was making a point about how he prefers political compromise to ideological purity, but Freddoso is so determined to smear Obama as a radical that he misreads these clearly stated views.
Ironically, Obama was attacked by the left for voting "present" on several votes as part of a strategy by abortion rights groups. Freddoso writes that Obama "avoided many controversial votes" by voting present in the Illinois Senate, which counts the same as a "no" vote.(116) According to Freddoso, Obama voted present "about 130 times over his eight-year career there, which other Illinois senators say is unusually high." As Media Matters pointed out, the New York Times article cited by Freddoso to prove this doesn't say anything about whether Obama's present votes (130 out of more than 4,000 votes) were unusually high, and quotes no senators who say this; in fact, the article noted at least 50 cases where Obama's vote was part of a Democratic Party strategy with many other legislators, and only 36 cases where fewer than five senators had voted present with Obama. If Obama had wanted to avoid controversy, he could have easily voted for popular bills as most of his colleagues did. Instead, he voted present when he wanted to express constitutional concerns about legislation, or objected to the process used to pass a bill.
Obama's Policy Views
Freddoso attacks every policy stand by Obama, even if it requires twisting the facts and distorting Obama's position. Freddoso reads in Obama's book about his visit to a mostly black suburb of Chicago where budget cuts had led a shorter school day and the students were asking to spend more time in school. Freddoso claims the problem is overpaid teachers: "the average teacher in Thornton Township District was earning $83,000 that year."(80) In reality, the average teacher was making $74,171 (Freddoso increased it by adding pension contributions), and this average was inflated by the fact that budget cuts had led to layoffs, with the less experienced, lower paid teachers usually being the first to go.
Freddoso asks, "With teachers that expensive, how could any such school district 'afford to keep teachers for a full school day'?"(80) Actually, it's difficult to find any wealthy suburb of Chicago that pays its teachers less than Thornton Township, and they can all easily afford a full school day. The problem is an unequal system of funding public schools, not millionaire teachers getting rich. More importantly, Freddoso omits what Obama writes in his book: "those on the left often find themselves defending an indefensible status quo, insisting that more spending alone will improve educational outcomes."(161)
Freddoso also repeats a common lie that I've exposed about Obama's decision to reject public financing: "A few months earlier, Obama had supported the system. He had praised it repeatedly. He had promised to stick to it."(86) Freddoso quotes Obama's statement to the Midwest Democracy Network: "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Freddoso even quotes Obama again from the same questionnaire. Yet he somehow misses this part of Obama answer: "My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election." As this makes clear, Freddoso is wrong: Obama never made an unconditional promise to take public financing, and his plan required McCain to "agree on a fundraising truce" that included party funding, something that Obama's campaign says McCain refused to do.
Freddoso explains that in voting against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), "he was simply voting the party line—the union line."(111) But he omits the fact that Obama supported free trade agreements with Oman and Peru. According to Freddoso, "In the U.S. Senate, Obama has yet to find a tax increase that he does not support. He has voted dozens of times to raise federal taxes."(119) Actually, Obama has supported greater tax cuts on low-wage and middle-class taxpayers than John McCain. But Freddoso doesn't care about the facts because he's determined to claim, "He is a rigid, doctrinaire liberal who votes and thinks along his party line."(120)
Guilt by Association
Freddoso favorite attack is guilt by association. He calls Obama's distant connection with Bill Ayers "a remarkable relationship for a presidential nominee to have." (122) It reality, it's not remarkable at all, but Freddoso devotes five pages to detailing the radical activities of Bill Ayers before Obama was a teenager, activities that Obama has condemned. Obama served on a foundation board with Ayers, but he didn't have any connection with Ayers' appointment. He spoke on panels with Ayers, but he wasn't responsible for inviting him. He attended a 1995 event for Palmer's Congressional race with Ayers' home, but Obama never arranged any of it. The notion that people should resign from foundations and refuse to speak in public in order to avoid any connection to a former radical never convicted of a crime is absurd.
In what might be the most mindless passage in the book, Freddoso even attacks Obama for reading Native Son author Richard Wright ("a communist") and W.E.B. DuBois ("a fellow traveler") as well as "other black authors."(128)
Freddoso asks, "What do these relationships tell us about his judgment and the type of people with whom he will entrust executive powers if elected?"(123) The answer is: absolutely nothing. The suggestion that Obama would be appointing Bill Ayers (or the ghost of Richard Wright) to run the government is nothing but insanity.
Freddoso attacks the Black Commentator website for an article calling Condoleezza Rice a "race traitor." What has this got to do with Obama? Well, the publication also attacked Obama in 2003 because his name appeared on a centrist Democratic Leadership Council list of 100 rising stars. Obama responded by asking the DLC to take his name off.(108) According to Freddoso, "This incident reveals far more about Obama's political thinking than did the words of his conciliatory keynote convention speech."(108) What? So a writer on a website alerts Obama to an endorsement he didn't want. Why would anyone think that Obama should be smeared based on anything written on that website?
Freddoso reports that Obama "sought the endorsement of the Marxist 'New Party' in Chicago."(130) Even worse, Freddoso reports that some members of the New Party were also members of Democratic Socialists of America. Let's all gasp together. But the New Party wasn't Marxist. It was a progressive party criticized by the Green Party for being too moderate. It's not exactly shocking to learn that Obama sought to convince progressives to support his campaigns.
Freddoso also reports that a poet named Frank who was a friend of his grandfather's "can be only one man: Frank Marshall Davis. Davis was reportedly a Communist who worked on behalf of the Soviet Union."(133) Freddoso devotes no less than seven pages of his book to recounting (and even quoting) the dangerous communist poems of Davis and speculations on how the teenage Obama might have been influenced. Freddoso writes, "It would be foolish to fear Barack Obama just because he had a communist father-figure when he was young,"(137) which certainly raises the question: If it's foolish, why did you just spend seven pages stoking that fear?
Freddoso writes, "If Obama could understand and get along with radicals like Palmer, Ayers, and Dohrn, it is not because he agrees with everything they stand for—it is probably because they share similar ideological influences."(139) Actually, it's because Obama can get along with radicals on both the left and the right, a concept that apparently is beyond Freddoso's comprehension. Instead, Freddoso claims that Obama was effectively brainwashed into adopting Saul Alinsky's ideas, which Freddoso goes into six pages of detail explaining (and often distorting) them.
All of this is red-baiting of the lowest (and dumbest) sort, and even Freddoso seems slightly embarrassed by his own pathetic arguments. After inflating Obama's distant connections with former radicals, Freddoso admits: "Of greatest significance are the radical advisors with whom Senator Obama surrounds himself even now. Should he become president, will he entrust such men and women with executive power?"(150) Who are these "radicals"? Freddoso names Clinton's National Security Advisor Anthony Lake (denounced for not being sure about the guilt of Alger Hiss in a 1996 interview), Princeton professor Cornel West (for being a progressive socialist and visiting Venezuela) and Harvard professor Charles Ogletree (for supporting reparations for slavery). Freddoso admits, "It would be unreasonable to expect Obama to accept as advisors only those who agree with every single belief he holds,"(138) but Freddoso seems perfectly happy to be unreasonable. He even denounces Obama for accepting money from Jodie Evans, who is deemed guilty of radicalism by Freddoso of being a co-founder of Code Pink, protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison, and praising Hugo Chavez.(139)
Freddoso also targets Obama's former church to smear him, asking: "Would you join a church that proclaimed itself to be grounded in the writings of a racist?"(158) Playing a game of six degrees of separation, Freddoso condemns Obama because the church's website says that its vision statement is "based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone's seminal book, Black Power and Black Theology." According to Freddoso, "Cone's writings provide the context from within which the founding influences of Obama's former church come."(160) I asked Rev. Andrew Greeley (whom Freddoso quotes denouncing Cone) if he agreed with Freddoso's critique of Obama and his church. Greeley called it "nonsense!" Even for guilt by association, Freddoso's claim is pretty weak. A church is much more than the most objectionable statements from a writer who helped found a theological movement that helped inspire the church's vision statement. There's no evidence that Obama ever read Cone, or agreed with him. The fact that Obama was willing to listen to people such as Jeremiah Wright he didn't always agree with is a good qualification for being president, not a disqualification.
Obama's Foreign Policy
Freddoso devotes four pages to Obama's ambivalence on the International Criminal Court without getting anywhere, and finally concludes: "The rap against Obama on foreign policy is not that [sic] so much that he's inconsistent but that he doesn't know what he's doing."(173) Freddoso doesn't provide much evidence for this claim, beyond the "gaffe" in a 2007 debate stating that he would meet with foreign leaders "without precondition." Of course, this wasn't a gaffe at all—it was a repudiation of the failed Bush Doctrine that demands concessions as a condition for negotiation, a tactic that has failed in North Korea and almost everywhere else Bush has tried it.
Freddoso asks: "Is Obama informed? He has not visited Iraq since January 2006, or has he spoken to David Petraeus, the commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, about the situation on the ground there."(182) Of course, Obama just did exactly that, not that it was necessary to be informed. Has Freddoso personally spoken to David Petraeus? If not, does that prove that Freddoso is uninformed about foreign policy? The notion that Obama can't be regarded as informed unless he talks to (and agrees with) Bush appointees is ridiculous.
Freddoso tries, ineptly, to find contradictions in Obama's campaign, quoting Obama saying that the surge in Iraq would not "make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground."(184-5) and then quoting various advisors to Obama who said that a surge would make some difference. Of course, the surge did make a difference on the ground, as Obama predicted, but not a substantial difference. Instead, better negotiations and tactics reduced killings in Iraq down to the still unacceptable levels of a few years ago.
Freddoso also blames Obama for not embracing the foreign policy hallucinations of the far right: "Obama seems wholly unaware of liberal Democrats' opposition to the policies that helped destroy the Soviet Union, and even certain legislators' collaboration with the Soviets" (a reference to Ted Kennedy).(187) Obama's unaware of them because they're not true. For example, Freddoso writes: "He is especially disdainful of the so-called 'Star Wars' program, which was crucial to bankrupting the Soviets then..."(189) The failed Star Wars program, which still doesn't work 25 years and many billions of dollars after its inception, didn't bankrupt the Soviets or cause perestroika and glasnost. It was the failure of the Soviet system, and the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, that caused reforms.
Obama and "Corruption"
Freddoso repeatedly tries to paint Obama as corrupt, such as by linking him to his donor and friend Tony Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer. Freddoso makes a factual error in claiming that "Obama paid twice the tax-assessed price for a ten-foot-wide strip of Rezko's lot."(214) It wasn't a tax-assessed price. It was an estimate that was deeply flawed (probably because no home could be built on such a small plot of land, making it less valuable by itself). Instead of paying that price (which would have raised questions about Rezko giving him a benefit), Obama bought the land for one-sixth of the price Rezko paid for one-sixth of his lot.
Obama said: "I've never done any favors for him." According to Freddoso, "But he has. Obama performed official acts while in office that benefited Tony Rezko." (215) But plenty of people benefit from the official acts of legislators: it's only a favor if Rezko requested it and Obama didn't do the same for others.
Freddoso mentions that Obama wrote letters to support a project to build senior citizen housing that Rezko was involved with. But Freddoso omits the fact that Rezko didn't ask him to write the letters, that these were routine letters often handled by his office (it doesn't appear that Obama was even aware of them, or of Rezko's involvement), and that similar letters were written by several other public officials. There is not the slightest evidence that these letters had any impact on the decision about the senior citizen housing,
Freddoso writes, "Obama is surrounded by developers. Why?"(215) Surrounded is a strong word for four Obama supporters identified by Freddoso who are involved in development. It's not unusual at all in Chicago or other major cities for developers to be deeply involved in the political process. Yet Freddoso sees a vast conspiracy afoot: "the developers financed his political career. He wrote letters to get them government money and supported legislation that helped their business."(216) As evidence of corruption, this falls far short of pathetic. Obama has long supported public funding to aid low-income housing, because of the poor people who benefit from it. So it's not surprising that he would sponsor legislation to support low-income development (it passed 58-0) or write letters encouraging all specific developments around his district. One can argue that the "privatization of public housing" supported by Obama was a waste of money due to developers like Rezko, but it's not the slightest evidence of corruption (or a left-wing devotion to government programs, since Obama was embracing a market-based alternative to public housing).
Freddoso even tells us this horrible fact: "Obama has three bankers involved in his campaign."(225) Needless to say, one suspects that anyone could find three bankers involved with John McCain's campaign (or almost any senator).
Freddoso also repeats a story from the Los Angeles Times about Robert Blackwell Jr. of Electronic Knowledge Interchange (EKI), who hired Obama's law firm and put Obama on retainer in 2001 and 2002. After Obama stopped working on behalf of EKI (which ended his agreement not to contact government agencies on behalf of Blackwell), Blackwell asked him to help get a $20,000 state tourism grant for another company owned by Blackwell, Killerspin, which runs ping-pong tournaments. Still, this story is meant to be the concluding bombshell of Freddoso's book, and it amounts to evidence of no wrongdoing.
For all of his ridiculous attacks on Obama, Freddoso acknowledges that Obama is not worse than any other politician: "he's like all the rest of them. Not a reformer. Not a Messiah. Just like all the rest of them in Washington."(233)
Even though Freddoso rejects the lunatic ideas such as Obama being a "closeted Muslim," he blames this on "Obama's ambiguity" rather than right-wing nuts and equates anyone who thinks Obama "is a reformer" with the bigoted morons who think Obama is a secret Muslim, claiming that both ideas are equally false and have the "same origin."(55)
Freddoso's embarrassing excuse for a critique has received virtually no critical attention, thanks to the right-wing press promoting it and the compliant mainstream outlets. A fawning story in the Politico called Freddoso's book "serious" and "a fact-based critique." According to the Politico, it occupies "a small island in the often-shrill sea of criticism of Obama." In reality, Freddoso's book is one more example of that polluted sea of criticism, filled with numerous factual errors, unproven innuendo, guilt by association attacks, and lunatic conspiracy theories that would be laughable if not for the seriousness of these false accusations.
Read more at John K. Wilson's Daily Kos Diary