A CNN REPORT/05/29/2008:
Obama played hardball in first Chicago campaign
(CNN) — When the Democratic National Committee meets Saturday on the thorny issue of seating the Florida and Michigan delegations at its August convention, party officials will have to fashion a solution that satisfies supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton and presidential nominee front-runner Sen. Barack Obama.
Sen. Barack Obama showed he was willing to use bare-knuckle tactics during his first race in Chicago.
It may take a Solomon-like decision to appease both candidates.
Clinton has argued the primary results of two of the nation’s largest states should count because otherwise millions of voters are being disenfranchised. Obama has said he is willing to work out some compromise.
But he is insistent the primary results are invalid since the two states failed to follow party rules and the rules are the rules.
The DNC has not seated the Florida and Michigan delegates because the two states violated party edicts in holding their primaries early.
Although neither candidate campaigned in the two states, Clinton won about 50 percent of the Florida vote, compared to 33 percent for Obama. She won 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, where Obama’s name was not on the ballot.
In his first race for office, seeking a state Senate seat on Chicago’s gritty South Side in 1996, Obama effectively used election rules to eliminate his Democratic competition.
As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of new voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.
The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.
“That was Chicago politics,” said John Kass, a veteran Chicago Tribune columnist. “Knock out your opposition, challenge their petitions, destroy your enemy, right?” Kass said. “It is how Barack Obama destroyed his enemies back in 1996 that conflicts with his message today. He may have gotten his start registering thousands of voters. But in that first race he made sure voters had just one choice.”
Obama’s challenge was perfectly legal, said Jay Stewart, with the Chicago’s Better Government Association. While records of the challenges are no longer on file for review with the election board, Stewart said Obama is not the only politician to resort to petition challenges to eliminate the competition.
“He came from Chicago politics,” Stewart said. “Politics ain’t beanbag as they say in Chicago. You play with your elbows up and you’re pretty tough and ruthless when you have to be. Sen. Obama felt that’s what was necessary at the time, that’s what he did. Does it fit in with the rhetoric now? Perhaps not.”
The Obama campaign called this report “a hit job.” They insisted CNN talk to a state representative who supports Obama, because, according to an Obama spokesman, she would be objective. But when we called her she said she can’t recall details of petition challenges, who engineered them for the Obama campaign or why all the candidates were challenged.
But Will Burns does. Now running himself for a seat in the Illinois legislature, Burns was a young Obama volunteer during the presidential candidate’s first race.
Burns was one of the contingents of volunteers and lawyers who had the tedious task of going over each and every petition submitted by the other candidates, including those of Alice Palmer.
“The rules are there for a reason,” Burns told CNN.
He said challenging petitions is a smart way to avoid having to run a full-blown expensive race.
“One of the first things you do whenever you’re in the middle of a primary race, especially in primaries in Chicago, because if you don’t have signatures to get on the ballot, you save yourself a lot of time and effort from having to raise money and have a full blown campaign effort against an incumbent,” Burns said.
Burns said he believed Obama did not enjoy using the tactic to knock off Palmer.
“It was not something he particularly relished,” Burns said. “It was not something that I thought he was happy about doing.”
But Obama did it anyway, clearing the field of any real competition.
Obama’s staff would not comment on what the senator thinks about that petition challenge now. Instead, it referred CNN to this 2007 comment made by Obama to the Chicago Tribune.
“To my mind we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up,” the senator is quoted in the Tribune. “My conclusion was that if you couldn’t run a successful petition drive, then that raised questions in terms of how effective a representative you were going to be.”
But in that same newspaper story Obama praised Palmer.
“I thought she was a good public servant,” he said.
Palmer, who has campaigned for Clinton, told CNN, she did not want to be part of this story. Obama supporters claim Palmer has only herself to blame since she indicated she would not run for the 1996 state Senate and instead aimed for Congress. After losing in that bid she returned to running for the state Senate seat — a move Obama supporters claim amounted to reneging on a promise not to run.
But Palmer supporters, who did not want to be identified, said she never anointed Obama as her successor and the retelling of the story by Obama supporters is designed to distract from the fact he muscled his way into office.
One other opponent who Obama eliminated by challenging his petitions, Gha-is Askia, said he has no hard feelings today about the challenge and supports Obama’s presidential aspirations.
But back at the time he was running for state Senate, Askia said he was dismayed Obama would use such tactics.
“It wasn’t honorable,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done it. That’s what I am saying.”
He said the Obama team challenged every single one of his petitions on what Askia called “technicalities.”
If names were printed instead of signed in cursive writing, they were declared invalid. If signatures were good but the person gathering the signatures wasn’t properly registered, then those petitions also were thrown out.
Askia came up 69 signatures short of the required needed to be on the ballot.
Kass, the Chicago Tribune columnist, said the national media is naive when it comes to Chicago politics, which is a serious business.
He said they have bought into a narrative that Obama is strictly a reformer. When the truth, Kass says, is he is a bare-knuckled politician. And using the rules to win his first office is part of who Obama is.
“It’s not the tactics of ‘let’s all people come together and put your best ideas forward and the best ideas win,’ ” Kass said. “That’s the spin, that’s in the Kool-Aid. You can have some. Any flavor. But the real deal was get rid of Alice Palmer.
“There are those who think that registering people to vote and getting them involved in politics and then using this tactic in terms of denying Alice Palmer the right to compete, that these things are inconsistent. And guess what? They are. They are inconsistent. But that’s the politics he plays.”
And this weekend DNC delegates will have to decide what kind of rules it will invoke in helping choose its next candidate.
the eve of destruction: will hillary (satan) bring down barack (chocolate jesus) or go down like the whore she is?
nice shot, huh.
well i thought i’d weigh in again — over the last several weeks i’ve again witnessed a rather colossal load of shit piled upon THE GREAT SATAN as she had the audacity to win a contest, put some of her ideas out there, and even take some pride in her momentum.
too bad she’s the evil whore who is, according to the readers comments i’ve been tracking at CNN, NYTIMES, SALON.COM, THE HUFFINGTON REPORT, THE CAFFERTY REPORT, and out of the mouths of my obamarama friends:
“she should know when to quit. she’s damaging the party by staying in the race this long.”
“she is more interested in power and fame than in what’s good for the country.”
“her staying in the race is destroying barrack’s chances of winning–the people have spoken and it’s barrack’s new ideas about change that the country wants” (this one truly puzzles me, since the electorate is pretty much evenly divided between them at this point, and i still have no idea what the specifics of the “change” are beyond lip service and the REALLY slick pamphlet we got in the mail from barrack’s campaign that doesn’t have anything but sound bits and glossy pictures on it, just like every other politicians publicity materials…)
“what the fuck is wrong with her? the clintons just want to maintain their power and wealth.”
“while she’s cramming herself down the throats of the american public, he’s having to fight off her attacks when he could be preparing for the real race.” (somehow the reverse is not true, since, as we’ve noted, she’s a satanic power hungry whore, and not the first woman to run for president.)
“it’s the clinton political machine that has played the race card and made sure that the reverend wright fiasco has center stage.” (what?)
“her negative ads are shameful.”
“her staying in the race is destructive of hope.” (what?
i did get a kick out of gloria steinem’s take on all this — but then she’s an evil, outdated, old hag feminist from back in the day, right, and they all need to crawl away before they shame the new modern women, but anyway, she maintains that: “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life,” that “It’s time for feminists to say that Senator Obama has no monopoly on inspiration,” and “They acknowledge racism—not enough, but somewhat . . . They would probably be less likely to acknowledge that the most likely way a pregnant woman is to die is murder from her male partner. There are six million female lives lost in the world every year simply because they are female.”
Oh and this one: “Men are loved if they win and Hillary is loved if she loses. … But maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of an open convention that actually decides something. After all, it was an open convention in New York City that gave us Abraham Lincoln.”
if we’re waving goodbye to hillary, could we admit she’s a pretty tough opponent, or are we still invested in demonizing the crap out of her?
and if she’s sticking around, could we quit whining? this IS what the voters have chosen. be careful what you wish for.
oh and obama? it’s MATT, not TIM, and i don’t need to turn my television off to educate my child, and autoworkers don’t need to be told that fuel efficiency is more important than a living wage and universal health care.
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