At the last Democratic presidential debate Tim Russert interrogated Barack Obama. Russert unearthed the startling fact that Obama’s Halloween costume would consist of a Mitt Romney mask. Days later in a Halloween skit on a comedy show Obama was not wearing a Mitt Romney mask, but rather an Obama mask. No surprise there from this candidate. Hopefully Tim Russert will unearth facts relevant to American voters and desist from acquiring other costume gems this Sunday, when Obama appears on Russert’s comedy show, Meet The Press.
Tim Russert, after the necessary UFO questions, could start the Obama interview with one of his amusing video clips about Obama. We suggest a clip from the last debate when Obama said the following:
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I’m glad that Hillary took the phrase “turn the page.” It’s a good one. But this is an example of not turning the page. We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, as you’re making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem.
Part of what we have to do is invite the American people back to participate in their government again. Part of what we need to do is rebuild trust in our government again.
And that means being open and transparent and accountable to the American people.
And that’s one of the hallmarks of my previous work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate — making sure that Americans know where our money’s going, what earmarks are out there, what kinds of pork barrel spending is being done, who’s bundling money for who. And that, I think, is part of the job of the next president, is making Americans believe that our government is working for them because right now, they don’t feel like it’s working for them. They feel like it’s working for special interests, and it’s working for corporations.
Flowery words from Obama (and by the way inaccurate as they relate to Hillary and presidential papers). What are Obama’s actions regarding those flowery words? The Chicago Tribune hears the flowery words but gets no results when questioning Obama:
Reflecting a new intensity in the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Barack Obama portrayed himself Thursday as more genuine and consistent than his two principal challengers. [snip]
Although Obama has suggested in recent days that Clinton should do more to push for the release of archival documents from her time as first lady, he defended his own lack of a document retention procedure from his Illinois Senate days, saying he had a staff of just one.
“Whatever remaining documents that I have are inevitably incomplete and then the question is going to be where’s this, where’s that,” he said. “Once I start heading down that road, then it puts me in a position that could end up being misleading.”
There is no requirement that correspondence, schedule information or policy memos be made public now that Obama is no longer in the state senate. The Tribune asked him for such documents from his time in Springfield earlier this year, but never received anything.
The Chicago Tribune is rightly miffed at getting stiffed by Obama. The Chicago Sun-Times is not happy with Obama’s openness either:
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson was given the first question, followed by a series of other Iowa-based reporters.
But there was this pesky woman in the front row who refused to be ignored.
“It’s been a while,” said Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, when she was told that preference was being given to Iowa reporters.
But Obama finally gave in.
“Alright, Lynn, go ahead,” he said, as the news conference was winding down.
Sweet asked where documents from his time as a state senate in Springfield are located.
“Nobody has requested specific documents,” he said.
(That’s not entirely true. The Tribune, as was reported in today’s edition, had requested documents from his time in Springfield and never received a response.)
“I was in the state senate for eight years,” Obama continued. “I had one staff person….I don’t have archivists in the state senate. I don’t have the Barack Obama state senate library available to me, so we had a bunch of file cabinets. I do not have a whole bunch of records from those years. Now, if there are particular documents that you are interested in, then you should let us know. But I don’t have – I don’t maintain – a file of eight years of work in the state senate because I didn’t have the resources available to maintain those kinds of records.”
Sweet pressed on: “When the office was packed up, where is the stuff.”
Obama: “I’m not certain…It could have been thrown out. I haven’t been in the state senate now for quite some time.”
This afternoon, Obama’s campaign issued the following statement: “All of the records that the state considers to be public are currently available. This is as opposed to the millions of documents that should be publicly available from the Clinton White House that currently are not. In fact, tens of thousands of documents are currently being kept from public view by a representative of the Clintons.”
As ABC News wrote, regarding John Edwards, … strident criticism of the frontrunner carries a risk — and if you’re going to attack a frontrunner for inconsistencies, it helps if you’re consistent yourself.
On Social Security, one of Russert’s favorite topics, Obama is confused at best too. Hillary at the last debate made her position on Social Security clear, only to be attacked by Russert and Obama, among others. John Edwards even misled voters with a slimy YouTube ad about this issue. Here is some of what Hillary said at the debate:
Hillary: But on specific issues I’ve come out with very specific plans.
With respect to Social Security, I do have a plan. It’s called start with fiscal responsibility. That’s what we were doing in the 1990s, and we had Social Security on a much better path than it is today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush and the Republican Congress.
If there are some of the long-term challenges that we need to address, let’s do it in the context of having fiscal responsibility, and then let’s put together a bipartisan commission and look at how we’re going to deal with these long-term challenges. But I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle-class Americans. Let’s start taking the tax cuts away from the wealthy. Let’s take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start imposing a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle-class workers. I don’t think that’s necessary.
So I have a very specific plan. My friends may not agree with it, but I’ve been saying it and talking about it for many months.
You know, part of the idea in the ’90s was not just so Bill would have a check mark next to his name in history, but so that we would have the resources to deal with a lot of these entitlement problems. George Bush understood that, the Republicans understood that. They wanted to decimate that balanced budget and a surplus because they knew that that would give them a free hand to try to privatize Social Security. I am not going to be repeating Republican talking points.
So when somebody asks me, would something like this be considered? Well, anything can be considered when we get to a bipartisan commission, but personally, I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, but everybody knows what the possibilities are, Tim. Everybody knows that. But I do not — I do not advocate it, I do not support it. I have laid out what I do believe, and I’m going to continue to emphasize that. I think for us to act like Social Security is in crisis is a Republican trap. We’re playing on the Republican field, and I don’t intend to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: You called it a Republican talking point. Georgetown University, February 9th, 1998: We are in a — you’re heading to a looming fiscal crisis in Social Security. If nothing is done, it will require a huge tax increase in the payroll tax or 25 percent in Social Security benefits, Bill Clinton, 1998.
That’s recent history, only two years to go in his term. Is that a Republican talking point?
SEN. CLINTON: No, but what he did was to move us toward a balanced budget and a surplus. And if you go back and you look at the numbers, they really took off, starting in ’98, ’99, 2000, 2001. And that would have given a president who actually believed in Social Security, which George Bush does not, the resources and the options to make decisions, but not the kind of draconian decisions and certainly not the move toward privatization, which is what the Republicans have been advocating for as long as I can remember.
Obama, questioned by Russert at the debate, contradicted himself several times. But at least Obama did repudiate “Republican talking points” by declaring Social Security was not in crisis.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you said in May that, quote, “Everything is on the table” when it comes to Social Security. You now have an ad up in Iowa which says that any benefit cuts are off, and raising retirement age are off. Why have you changed your mind?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, what I say is, is that that is not my plan.
Now, I just want to go back to — to what Senator Clinton said, because I think it’s important for us not to engage in business as usual on Social Security, and talk straight. Everybody on this stage is against privatization, and we all fought against it, everybody.
I absolutely agree that Social Security is not in crisis. It is a fundamentally sound system, but it does have a problem, long term.
Obama at the debate agreed that Social Security is not in crisis. However, when Obama talks to young people, such as his New York University rally, Obama frequently refers to a “Social Security crisis“. Obama’s latest “Social Security crisis” talk came after the debate in an interview with The National Journal:
Q: So, welcome to Senator Barack Obama. Welcome to “National Journal On Air.” Let me start right away by asking you about the contrasts that you are drawing between yourself and Hillary Clinton. Her campaign people, the people who support her, say by calling her somebody whose word can’t be trusted, by suggesting that she’s disingenuous, that that’s really a character attack — that that’s the very thing that you said you weren’t going to do in this campaign.
Obama: Well, I strongly disagree. Look we are offering our plans for the future on health care, on education, on energy, and the American people have a right to judge how clear and how consistent have the candidates been in their positions. Because if they’re not clear and consistent, then it’s pretty hard to gauge how much they’re going to fight on these issues. You know, Senator Clinton says that she’s concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren’t going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her. And that’s the kind of leadership I think that the Democratic Party has to offer in the years to come.
We agree with Senator Obama when he says that the American people should judge candidates on “how consistent” and how “clear” they are on issues. We too are concerned, that without such clarity “it’s pretty hard to gauge how much they’re going to fight on these issues”. Where we part company with Obama is his how he misrepresents Hillary’s views and his almost constant use of Ripublican talking points such as “Social Security crisis”.
Again, as ABC News wrote, regarding John Edwards, … if you’re going to attack a frontrunner for inconsistencies, it helps if you’re consistent yourself.
As to consistency, Russert could ask Obama about his hire of Jeffrey Liebman who wrote a loathesome plan to destroy Social Security under the guise of reforming the great New Deal program. Obama is the one who demands consistency and clarity – ask him Tim, pretend he’s Hillary.
We speculated in Is Barack Obama A Closeted Ripublican why Obama employs the Ripublican “crisis” narrative on Social Security. We also posted this video which Russert might want Obama to comment on:
Other questions, in no particular order which Tim Russert could ask Obama:
Did Obama, as alleged, peddle the story about Norman Hsu, a donor Obama himself solicited, to the media in order to trash Hillary? Norman Hsu made a reference to “a politician who pledged ‘hope and change'” in his suicide note – what does Obama know?
Why did Obama circulate “a negative, and ultimately false, story about Bill Clinton – that he allegedly made money giving a speech on September 11, 2006.” Is this the “new” politics? Has Obama apologized to Bill Clinton for this intentional and acknowledged smear? Why not?
Why did Obama say his campaign had nothing to do with, nor did not know who De Vellis, was -De Vellis who circulated a smear video which portrayed Hillary as fascist Big Brother? De Vellis was known to Obama’s press secretary because they used to be room mates. What really happened? Was that video a Gibbs dirty trick operation?
Why is Obama planting sex stories in the press about other candidates and their spouses? Is Obama trying to do in the presidential race what he did in his own senate race – planting sex stories?
Did Obama plant the Edwards $400 haircut story in the media?
What exactly was the Obama campaign’s role in knocking Stephen Colbert off the South Carolina ballot? Is Obama doing in the presidential race what he did in his previous local elections?
On open records, when will Obama deliver the goods? Obama keeps promising, but the Chicago Sun-Times is still waiting:
• • An Obama spokesman, Ben Labolt, last week declined to say where Obama’s records from his years in the Illinois State Senate are located. There is no law mandating the state to archive the records. The records from Obama’s office — if he kept them — would potentially show appointments with lobbyists, policy memos, meetings, etc.
• • Obama has supported more earmark disclosure to bolster government transparency. Last June, Obama disclosed the earmarks he requested for Illinois and national interests. However, his office, after repeated requests since June, has yet to disclose earmarks Obama sought in 2006, before he was running for president.
• • Obama does list the names of hundreds of bundlers — people committed to raising at least $50,000 for the campaign — on his Web site. He brags about the disclosure on the stump. But that’s literally all Obama does, list a name. No cities or states, information that is available to his campaign. Some names are well known because the bundlers are celebrities or longtime activists. But it’s a big country, and there are more than one Bob Clark and Lou Cohen. Just listing a name does lip service to meaningful disclosure.
• • Obama’s campaign has refused to identify the biggest bundlers, people who are raising at least $200,000 for him and are given membership in his National Finance Council. Obama, as all major candidates, declines most of the time to disclose details about most fund-raising events.
• • During a town hall meeting last month in Dover, N.H., Obama pledged that he would post all meetings he would hold as president on the Internet. As a senator, Obama has never done that.
Ask him these questions Tim. Don’t be shy. Pretend he’s Hillary.
And as we wrote last week:
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about the indicted pal Rezko’s documents the Chicago Sun-Times has been asking for months and months to see? [Obama says he did only 5 hours worth of work for his pal and now indicted friend Antoin “Tony” Rezko, but won’t produce any records which his law firm should have. Let’s see those records Senator, which you promised long ago, but have yet to deliver. Ask him Tim. Here’s a quote to get you going: Just what legal work — and how much — Obama did on those deals is unknown. His campaign staff acknowledges he worked on some of them. But the Rezmar-related work amounted to just five hours over the six years it said Obama was affiliated with the law firm, the staff said in an e-mail in February. Obama, however, was associated with the firm for more than nine years, his staff acknowledged Sunday in an e-mail response to questions submitted March 14 by the Sun-Times. They didn’t say what deals he worked on — or how much work he did. While you’re at it Tim ask Obama about this: Obama spent the next eight years serving in the Illinois Senate and continued to work for the Davis law firm. Ask Obama Tim where Obama was when For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago’s South Side. Did Obama know about the conditions his former “community” organizer friends were suffering under while he was doing legal work on those very same buildings – getting millions of government money for his friend Rezko? We wrote about it Tim, in The Case of the Missing State Senator. Read up.]
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about Obama’s gay bashing tour in South Carolina? [Ask why every single performer Obama obtained for his campaign was a homophobe? Ask Obama about his Macaca Weekend. Is this an Obama example of being a national uniter?]
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about his ‘attack Pakistan’ speech which led to demonstrations and American flag burnings in Pakistan? [Is this how Obama is going to be an international “uniter”?]
Will Tim Russert ask Obama the $925,000 question? [We help again: The actual Obama house story stripped to its essentials actually appears to be rather simple: (a) Barack Obama and/or his wife decided they wanted to buy a certain house — but unfortunately the house cost $2,305,000; (b) the Obamas either did not want to have the appearance of such luxury digs snuff out their Lincolnesqe facade or they actually did not have the money; (c) in either case, Barack Obama somehow saw the deal to a successful end when the sellers of the house divided the property into 2 separate lots; (d) one lot contained the house and; (e) the other lot contained the large yard; (f) the Obamas then purchased the lot with the house (at a discount of $300,000) for $1.65 million; (g) they were happy; (h) on the very same exact day a rich friend of Obama purchased the lot with the yard at full price ($625,000); (i) eventually Obama would buy from his friend a chunk of the yard. Tim, the friend who gets Obama the house is the now indicted Rezko who owned all those tenements without heat in winter. The same tenements Obama ignored as State Senator. Obama worked all along for the law firm that obtained about a hundred million for Rezko. Are you getting the connections Tim? Does this interest you?]
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about his ties to Alex Giannoulias and the connection to Michael “Jaws” Giordiano?
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about his ties to Antoin “Tony” Rezko?
Will Tim Russert ask Obama about Obama’s failure to vote on key issues (Kyl/Lieberman, MoveOn) in the U.S. Senate, in Illinois?
[Ask him Tim, why Senator Joe Biden says “I wonder why he wasn’t there to vote,” Biden said. “We all knew that this vote was coming up.” Why did CNN report: And I have an important point to make about that Iran amendment, which Obama has made such as important part of his campaign. Now, again, his campaign contends that Obama did not get enough notice to return to D.C. to make that vote, but two Democratic Senate sources tells CNN that all senators were advised the night before that the vote would come up the next day, and Senator Obama should have known that vote was coming.?]
We won’t be so impolite as to ask about all the additional money that came Michelle’s way when Obama became a Senator, nor the ugly hospital connections – Tim we are sure would not ask a candidate about their spouse’s finances.
Whatever happened to the politics of hope, Tim? Ask? Pretend Obama is Hillary.