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Obamarama *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Dec 11, 2006

One of the downsides to writing a column for the Sun-Times is all the nutballs who write me e-mails. Here’s one I received after my latest column appeared about Obama.

You must really be simple. Borat hasn’t done a thing since hes been in office, nothing! When the senate is in cession he only appears three times a week. What’s that all about? And look at all the black trouble makers that would surround him plus he’d be the commander in chief, very scarry thought.

Obama, himself, had some thoughts on this matter.

Race, said Obama, whose father was black and mother white, “is still a factor.” Minority candidates have “a higher threshold in establishing themselves with voters.”

Meanwhile, Hal in comments last week had a pretty good argument about the “experience” issue for Obama.

I’m not that concerned about experience. I favor term limits for national politicians anyhow, so experience isn’t a big deal.

Andrew Greeley on experience:

Honor, intelligence, integrity and self-deprecating humor are superior to “experience” any time.

But what about integrity? Greg Hinz’s column has some new revelations.

Barack Obama made national headlines last month when he loudly enlisted in the campaign to get Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to treat its workers better.

The Chicagoan who would be president — maybe — told members of a union-backed coalition that they have “a moral responsibility to stand up and fight” the big retailer. “The battle to engage Wal-Mart and force them to examine their own corporate values and what their policies and approaches are to their workers . . . is absolutely vital,” the Associated Press quoted the U.S. senator as saying. […]

Which raises a question — not about corporate values but about Mr. Obama’s values. Specifically, while Mr. Obama bashes Wal-Mart, why does his wife, Michelle, make $45,000 a year serving on the board of a Chicago-area company that pays its executives a very hefty amount of money while laying off mostly minority workers in an economically deprived area, a company whose No. 1 customer is — you guessed it — Wal-Mart? […]

Ms. Obama, vice-president for external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals, says she was asked to join the board — five months after her husband took office — after putting out feelers indicating she’d like to get some corporate management experience. She says Mr. Reed’s compensation is benchmarked to that of other food firms and that the firm hopes to expand and hire more workers, many minorities, once it boosts its efficiency.

The person behind some of these negative Obama stories is Joe Novak, a longtime political operator (Vrdolyak, Poshard, etc.) who works for an outfit that is trying to strip not-for-profit hospitals of their tax exempt status because they don’t offer enough charity care. Mrs. Obama is an executive at University of Chicago Hospitals. Novak also has a blog, which is chock full of references to Michelle Obama, and a website called

Here’s a recent post entitled “How to get to a U.S. Senator.

Regular readers will know that I have reported that Senator Obama once appeared on the website of the Service Employees Union with a quote saying “hospitals terrorize the uninsured”.

I also have reported that that quote was removed about the time that his wife Michelle received approximately a $200,000 a year increase in her compensation from The University of Chicago Hospitals.

Another indication that the hospitals had got to him was his refusal to co-sponsor legislation introduced by then Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Il) that would make hospital disclose some of their prices.

His staff saying, “the Senator has some concerns on how this would impact hospitals”.

*** UPDATE *** Is “experience” even a valid argument when it’s judged by years of service or committee rank? The incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who presumably has lots of DC “experience,” doesn’t even know whether Al Qaeda is Shia or Sunni. Unreal.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:24 am:

    I first heard of him when he ran against Rush. You couldn’t help but notice him when you heard him speak. I voted for him for Senator. But man the red flags keep going up with him…

  2. - Backyard Conservative - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:28 am:

    I think being a minority candidate is an advantage these days–certainly it is with Obama.

    Michelle Obama is a professional person and of course has her own career, but as a political wife will have to carefully consider conflicts of interest, real or perceived, with her husband’s political positions and backers. I think when Bob Dole ran Liddy headed the Red Cross.

    Obama was in NH yesterday revving up his campaign.

  3. - Leroy - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:31 am:

    Well Obama, why don’t you propose some laws to fix this Walmart mess? I’d really like to see your solution. And not some “Wanna get rich? Buy low, sell high…it’s just that easy!” platitude. Give me something to work with. You want to fix the problem with socialism? Raising taxes? Cutting taxes? I don’t care how you do it, just tell me.

    Personally, I think we have enough politicians that lecture us about how crummy our society is. I don’t see what is so special about this ‘Obama brand’ of castigation. He doesn’t make me feel any more guilty than any other politician. When he wagged his finger at me for being addicted to foreign oil and then proceeded to put his staff in a fleet of SUVs and drive off, I just shrugged.

  4. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:31 am:

    …anyone’s spouse has to be concerned about conflict of interest.

    A private corp wouldn’t tolerate these kinds of conflicts with an Exec.. much less the purchasing agent.

  5. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:54 am:

    Obama reminds me of John Culver in Iowa. I met Culver when he was running for Senator in 74 at Grinnell. He would go off on this preachy left-progressive stuff that sort of wag the finger at voters.

    He got elected but didn’t last more then a term.

  6. - Pat Hickey - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 8:25 am:

    Senator Obama is held down by the, as Bill Baar points out so well,’preachy left-progressive stuff that sort of wag the finger at voters.’

    The Dean - Website Wonksters Who Forget To Vote Before 7PM on Election Day Because There Was An Awesome ‘Friends Marathon’ Playing on TBS Demi-crats - want to establish Senator Obama as Moral High Ground ‘finger wagger.’ Much is the pity. A smart, savvy, sophisticated and selfless Senator will get torn to pieces by the politically powerful Clintons and ground under fot by the Progressive pontificators.

    Senator, get some effective politicians in your corner. You are going to need some good cut-men and soon.

  7. - Fellow Dawg - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 8:36 am:

    Let’s try to put the situation in context. John McCain (who I have immense respect for) is now pushing “common sense conservatism”. Too late! Sen. Obama’s already been sharing the common sense message for some time now. The man is a unifying voice for the Country as well as Democratic Party. President or not, he’s going to be defining the future of national politics. I personally look forward to an end (however indefinite it might be) to the politics of fear and xenophobic nationalism. Sen. Obama might just be the individual to facilitate this shift in whatever capacity necessary.

  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 8:39 am:

    While racial politics has evolved over the years, Obama is correct that race is still a factor.

    In the old days, white people simply didn’t vote for black people.

    Now adays, whites are much more open to vote for blacks and Latinos, but black candidates must overcome presumptions of incompetence and “big governmentism.”

    When a black candidate is accused of corruption, there is no presumption of innocence. If Obama’s office had been accused of everything Mayor Daley’s office is accused of, they’d be forming a lynch mob.

    Then of course, there is the army of cynics out there, many of whom like John Kass make their living off of conspiracy theories. Obama represents a threat to them because they operate on the theory that all power corrupts. If Obama, as powerful a national political figure as he is, isn’t corrupt, that forces them to either develop a more complex world view or have a going-out-of-business sale.

    What is Obama supposed to do about Wal-Mart? That’s a great question. Unfortunately, there’s not much that anyone can do nationally about Wal-Mart, except talk about their record and discourage folks from shopping there. Given the recent report in drop at sales at Wal-Mart, that campaign is working.

    What Wal-Mart sales slump proves is that a strategy of “low, low prices” based on “low, low wages” and “low, low quality” is not sustainable. Quality goods, quality wages and a reasonable price is a winner.

  9. - Home Alone - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 8:51 am:

    Baar did you ever work at corrections

  10. - Snidely Whiplash - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 8:53 am:

    And the lovely Mrs. Obama would’ve gotten her board seat, pay raise and other perks if she were not married to the annointed one? MmmmmmHmmmm …

    These situations in which politicians hide behind their spouses, who after all should have “their own lives,” are a sad joke on the sheep who pull the levers (or these days, press the touch screens) in the voting booths. When an opportunity presents itself which would however put the public official into a conflict of interest (or at best, a publicly embarassing fix), the goodies are shifted to the missus, and all are left to admire the public officials brave devotion to his spouse: he’ll foght for her keep her right to independence, whether he is compromised or not.

    So, instead of being publicly flogged as he should be, he is suddenly a devoted spouse.

    Keep asking yourselves, people: how much money and influene would the Mrs. Obama’s, Blago’s etc. have if they had married, for example, John Q. Public?

    Baaaaaaa! Baaaaa! Baaaaaa! Line up for fleecing, my sheep.

  11. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:04 am:

    Baar did you ever work at corrections

    only after three cups and this sw doesn’t give a second chance….

    everyone misspells my name… I get used too it.

  12. - Fellow Dawg - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:06 am:

    Whereas likes of Ryan, Cunningham, Ney, and many many more take the spoils up front? Commendable!

  13. - Home Alone - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:10 am:

    But did you ever work there

  14. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:15 am:

    OK, Baar’s work at Corrections seems somewhat if not totally irrelevant to the discussion. Move on.

  15. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:26 am:

    “Michelle, make[s] $45,000 a year serving on the board of a Chicago-area company that pays its executives a very hefty amount of money while laying off mostly minority workers in an economically deprived area, a company whose No. 1 customer is — you guessed it — Wal-Mart?”

    Isn’t Wal-Mart the biggest retailer on the planet? Doesn’t any business that sells a product have to do business with Wal-Mart? Doesn’t the corporation’s charter — demanding maximization of profits — require its doing business with Wal-Mart?

    Complaining that the Obamas’ face a conflict of interest because TreeHouse Foods Inc. sells its products via Wal-Mart is a bit of a stretch.

    Is it a conflict of interest that Obama promotes alt-energy while his wife does business with Big Oil by filling the family gas tank?

    Just as there is no alternative to dealing with Big Oil when driving the car, there is no alternative to dealing with Wal-Mart when selling goods.

    Rather than being an example of an alleged integrity failure, I would suggest it is an example of how the almighty Invisible Hand of the Market has once again failed Americans.

  16. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:36 am:

    She works for a hospital that’s heavily regulated and probably does maybe a third or more of it’s business as a contractor to the Fed Gov i.e Medicare / Medicaid.

    Sort of problematic….

  17. - Home Alone - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 9:45 am:

    Your Rs must face the fact the guy will be the next Pres. While we worry about his wife’s hospital doing business with medicare and medicaid(like 95% of the hosp in the us) you dont worry about Dick Cheney spending 10 billion dollars without a bidding process with Haliburton after he made 80 million while their ceo on questionable accounting. And to the experience issue i think the Os response of do you need experience like w and rumsfolly to screww things up in Iraq is that the type of experience he needs my kid could have done that.You may get away with it here but the general pblic wont buy it but keep selling it keeps you off the real issues.

  18. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:00 am:

    I’d have a problem if Cheney or his kids went to work with any Defense Contractor.

    There is a Medical Industrial Complex out there. It lobbies hared. It’s heavily dependent on Gov contracts. If you’re politics, you need to be real careful about family members who work for it.

  19. - Angie - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:04 am:

    Well, hey, if Obama wants the critics off his back, then how about coming out and supporting Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s push to hold the hospitals accountable to some reasonable level of charity care in return for enjoying their tax breaks? The hospitals keep giving the bloggers, activists, and political operatives something to crow about all the time. They bring this stuff upon themselves, and then they promote wives of popular Senators to high-paying positions, no doubt hoping it’ll get the politicians to keep hushed about the issues.

    Go Google “non-profit hospitals Medicare fraud” and look at all of the False Claims (qui tam, I do believe, if I have that right?) litigation out there. They have a ton of explaining to do, don’t you think?

    Alderman Mell’s ward just overwhelmingly supported a referendum related to the hospital issue and AG Madigan is proposing legislation, so it would sort of behoove the Rock Star Senator to get on the right side of the issue and back Madigan.

    That’s his chance to really DO something for the little people and not just the big $$$ people for a change. If he’s a man of the people, then get involved and be forceful about it, otherwise, you’re just giving the operatives a ton of ammo handed to them on a silver platter.

    Side with Madigan and not Blagojevich on the charity care/billing/collections issue, because she’s got the right idea.

  20. - Fellow Dawg - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:05 am:

    Oh Heck YEAH! Actually, Home Alone is being polite. But, let us not forget our girl Rodham that hails from the ChiTown burbs. Once again, Illinois comes through.

  21. - Home Alone - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:05 am:

    So Dick Cheny and Haliburton can make Millions and billions off of the feds but Mrs O cant make a dime i see your reasoning keep selling it nobodys buying it.

  22. - zatoichi - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:06 am:

    To paraphrase Neal Young, “the sharks never sleep”. Is Obama the greatest thing? Got me. He clearly has the smooth video/speech stuff down pretty well and his likeability sure draws the crowds. Still, the sharks are looking for every real, imagined, re-interpreted, or inconsistent incident of his life to find something useful for or against him. Think Hinkey got it right. Get some good cut-men.

  23. - Angie (again) - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:10 am:

    Lisa Madigan was also overwhelmingly voted back into office as Attorney General, too. Even Republicans liked her.

    I wouldn’t bet against her in this state.

  24. - Pat Hickey - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:13 am:

    The only people who seem to care where anyone or their family works ar ethe progressive hair-shirts who throw Dick-Cheney/Kids?Contracts/ Iraq/ and Bill Maher’s Breakfast up when they try to get their feet out of their mouths.

    Senator Obama’s wife’s business is her business and it would stay her business, if progressive -pains-in-the-pulpit would not make it such an issue every nano-second. When a candidate, they happen to approve of, is discovered leading the life of every other person on the planet they immediately begin asking ‘Where do you work? Where do your kids work? where does YOUR wife work?’

  25. - Bill - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:18 am:

    cut men?
    It sounds like Obama needs you and me. Wanna sign up?

  26. - Bill Baar - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:37 am:

    So Dick Cheny and Haliburton can make Millions and billions off of the feds but Mrs O cant make a dime i see your reasoning keep selling it nobodys buying it.

    Cheney quit Halliburton and ran for VP. If Cheney’s wife had gone to work for Halliburtion, it would have been a problem.

    If Cheney’s web page had said Defense Contractors terrorize the poor etc and then Cheney took it down when his wife went to work for Halliburtion…

    …see what I mean.

    Obama is just racking up a whole string of question marks which Sen Clinton is going to skewer him with.

  27. - Pat Hickey - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:44 am:


    I’d scare the children with my Elephant Man good looks. You are the very type of man I am refering to, in my rants. Obama could use good people in his foxhole, instead of the hair-shirt Brook Farm wannabes.

  28. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:47 am:

    “Bill,” Obama could do a lot worse than hiring you to post defenses on blogs. I’ll be a reference.

  29. - Bill - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:49 am:

    Thanks,that is a real compliment coming from a pro like you!
    When is the party?

  30. - VanillaMan - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 10:58 am:

    Bill is one of the best bloggers around. He can always be counted on to swing a needed punch around. If Obama can hire Bill, that would be a smart move.

    I don’t want to see Obama strip searched. No one does. But that is what happens when you run for office. Barak missed out when he ran in 2004. Now the Clintons will do it for us.

    Face it, we all want a messiah. But, as adults, we have to recognize that we cannot expect one. The Obama boomlet is based on childish expectations. Lets grow up and act like adults.

  31. - Reaganman - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 12:23 pm:

    Lets all remember, Obama himself, not any Republican brought up race

    Of course, this will be forgotten by his adoring media in the months and years to come

  32. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 12:25 pm:

    “Reaganman,” how did Obama “bring up race”? Because he’s black? His comment above was almost assuredly in response to a question.

  33. - Stuck with Sen. CPA - Monday, Dec 11, 06 @ 7:40 pm:

    Wow, and Obama leads off Monday Night Football tonight. No wonder the knives are out from our GOP friends here.

  34. - Angie - Tuesday, Dec 12, 06 @ 9:03 am:

    What knives? We just bring up issues that Senator Obama claims to care about, like healthcare for example.

    Read the section on “Nonprofit Hospital Charity Care and Collection Issues” here…

    “Nevertheless, until the health care system is changed, nonprofit hospitals must do their part not to bankrupt the uninsured. Nonprofit hospitals benefit from generous tax exemptions at the local, state, and federal levels. As a result of these exemptions and their nonprofit status, they owe the community a duty to treat the uninsured in a fair and humane fashion.”

    In other words, it will take time to fix our broken healthcare system, so what can people like “the messiah” do NOW? I suggest getting on this issue pronto. Then, we’ll put away the “knives.”

  35. - Anna - Thursday, Jan 4, 07 @ 11:50 pm:

    If Obama supports good government, then why did he join the corrupt Democratic machine led by Mayor Daley in endorsing Todd Stroger. Todd Stroger and his father refused to endorse Obama against Hynes. If Obama had integrity he would have joined Forest Claypool and not endorse any candidate. By the way, Forest Claypool, unlike the Strogers, endorsed Obama against Hynes.
    Obama does not stand for REFORM when he stands with Daley and Stroger

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