* This Houston Press article by former Illinois weekly newspaper reporter Todd Spivak is gaining some notoriety on the Intertubes today. The lede centers on how Barack Obama was upset at an article Spivak had written years ago for the Illinois Times…
It’s not quite eight in the morning and Barack Obama is on the phone screaming at me. He liked the story I wrote about him a couple weeks ago, but not this garbage.
* The IT story in question is still online. The basic premise is that some of Obama’s fellow African-American legislators didn’t care for him much (which is accurate) and a few didn’t support his US Senate campaign (also accurate), and that Obama didn’t start winning the black vote until Blair Hull was essentially knocked out of contention (grossly misleading)…
But in the weeks leading up to the election, back when multi-millionaire candidate Blair Hull led the pack of six candidates, polls showed a mere one-third of African-American voters had decided on Obama. It wasn’t until Hull’s campaign imploded, after revelations of a contentious divorce, that Obama’s ambition to become the Senate’s lone black member was dubbed a historic movement.
The IT piece completely ignored the history of how black votes tend to break late. Hull’s implosion had far less to do with Obama picking up black votes than Obama’s wooing of white Chicago-area voters, who were repulsed by the allegations against the newly disgraced millionaire and attracted to Obama’s TV ads.
* But Spivak’s Illinois Times story does cover some ground that reporters in the far more recent past have tried without success to retrace. Black state legislators were much more open with their criticisms back then than they are today, now that Obama is in the hunt for the presidency…
State Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, the original Senate sponsor of both the racial profiling and videotaped confession bills, likewise felt overshadowed by Obama.
“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” says Hendon. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit. […]
“I didn’t get swept up in any movement,” says Lou Jones. “A ‘movement’ didn’t even exist until a week before the election, when the media played it that way.”
Hendon agrees, saying, “There was no real movement. Barack’s no Dr. King or Harold Washington.”
The IT piece is worth a read just for those quotes. Earlier this month, Sen. Hendon was passing out t-shirts with a photo of himself and Obama and the slogan: “Yes, We Can!” Rep. Monique Davis, who was also critical of Obama in that long-ago piece, said nothing but nice things about the man on the campaign trail this year.
* More from today’s Houston Press article…
The morning after the story was posted online, I arrived early at my new offices. I hadn’t taken my coat off when the phone rang. It was Obama.
The [IT] article began, “It can be painful to hear Ivy League-bred Barack Obama talk jive.”
Obama told me he doesn’t speak jive, that he doesn’t say the words “homeboy” or “peeps.”
It seemed so silly; I thought for sure he was joking. He wasn’t.
He said the black legislators I cited in the story were off-base, and that they couldn’t have gotten the bills passed without him.
I started to speak, and he shouted me down.