Posted by MataHarley on 18 August, 2008 at 2:34 pm. 12 comments already!

For a man that demands civility in politics, and touts himself as a different kind of politician, his record and behavior are anything but. As more and more pieces of the puzzle are fit together on Obama’s scant past experiences, we’re getting a better picture of a man that had political ambitions from the get go, and engaged in Chicago style politics to knock any opposition out of his path.

A summary from Tim Harper, appearing in the Toronto Star today looks back at Obama’s political strong arm tactics in his 1996 IL Senate run…. with reflections from one of his early civil rights and community organizer advisors, Timuel Black.

There was Obama’s first, aggressive foray into politics, the 1996 election to the Illinois state Senate in which he elbowed an elder off the ballot.


Alice Palmer, a popular state senator from the Hyde Park district, decided to run for the U.S. Congress and endorsed Obama as her successor.

But she lost badly against the unexpected candidacy of Jesse Jackson Jr. and came back to reclaim her state Senate seat.

Obama would not budge and Black was Palmer’s representative as they tried to get the upstart to move aside at a meeting at the home of the late state legislator Lovana “Lou” Jones.

“He said he had already begun to organize and he would not be able to do that,” Black recalls. “He was matter-of-fact. He was not hostile.

“You had to know him as a person. He was very aggressive. Focused. Consider his upbringing and what he had to overcome. I think his attitude was different than a black man raised in black America.”

But Black says he understood Obama’s position, even as it angered many in Hyde Park, including Palmer. “She was very angry,” Black said. “Still is.”

These are relatively kind words from Black. The true story is fraught with examples of a young politican and his handlers, determined to remove all competition from the ballot.

April 30th of 2007, the Chicago Tribune ran a more indepth account of Obama’s campaign methods.

The day after New Year’s 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city’s South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama’s four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.

But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.

A close examination of Obama’s first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.


City authorities had just completed a massive, routine purge of unqualified names that eliminated 15,871 people from the 13th District rolls, court records show.

Obama, himself, was not present in the courtroom. But he demanded daily phone calls on the progress.

Quotes from BHO on his less than appealing tactics reveal little remorse, and instead show a man willing to engage in decidedly questionable tactics and lacking a sense of fair play… as long as it fits the nuanced specificity of rules and law. His weak objections centered not on the sense of moral correctness, but again, around himself.

“He wondered if we should knock everybody off the ballot. How would that look?” said Ronald Davis, the paid Obama campaign consultant whom Obama referred to as his “guru of petitions.”

When queried publicly:

In a recent interview, Obama granted that “there’s a legitimate argument to be made that you shouldn’t create barriers to people getting on the ballot.”

But the unsparing legal tactics were justified, he said, by obvious flaws in his opponents’ signature sheets. “To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up,” Obama recalled.

“I gave some thought to … should people be on the ballot even if they didn’t meet the requirements,” he said. “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.”

Asked whether the district’s primary voters were well-served by having only one candidate, Obama smiled and said: “I think they ended up with a very good state senator.”

Again, the ever present vanity. Offering his Chicago district constituents a choice was not foremost on Obama’s mind. He was, in his own perception, so good that no competition was required. He, in essence, chose for his Chicago constituents simply by denying them any other options.

A month later, CNN picked up on the same story when discussing the heated primary between BHO and HRC, and the quandary presented with Florida nd Michigan delegates. “Rules” were again going to play a large part in delegates that could decide BHO’s nomination over Hillary.

CNN’s Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston minced nothing in their headline “Obama played hardball in first Chicago campaign”.

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 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? 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.”

The Obama campaign, of course, labeled the story a “hit job”, suggesting “that 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 an Obama volunteeer at that time, Will Burns, does remember. And he too has no remorse of the methods employed.

“The rules are there for a reason,” Burns said.

He said that 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.

Another opponent knocked off the path by Obama is Gha-is Askia. Askia, today an Obama supporter, doesn’t seem to hold any hard feelings. Yet his comments on BHO’s campaign strong arming make you wonder why.

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.”

He said the Obama team challenged every single one of his petitions on “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, those petitions also were thrown out.

Askia came up 69 signatures short of the required number to be on the ballot.


Kass, the Chicago Tribune columnist, said the national media are 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. The truth, Kass says, is that 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.”

Apparently, having a “less than honorable” candidate running for the WH doesn’t bother Askia. And evidently using the rules to eliminate the competition is still part of his playbook – knocking Hillary out of the running with the aid of DNC rules and multiple primaries who’s delegates are in question.

Again, Obama gains personal favor by denying constituents their choice.

Twelve years later, and the ambitious Chicago politician is entering the general election period for POTUS. The political bodies of those he’s discarded… from pastor to competitors.. litter his wake. Thus far he’s attempted – with media success – to limit the fair game arenas of criticism of him as a candidate. From “the ears” and “his wife”, to his associations with shady real estate investors, shady bankers, domestic terrorist bombers who are “guilty as hell” but free (and unrepentent) and a religious foundation that places race above Christian brotherhood beyond color… Obama has fielded all critics by playing the victim.

Yet his past shows him to be anything but. In fact, he has a proven record of being the victimizer, playing the political game with the best of more experienced politicians. Look at “the new boss”… who’s “the same as the old boss”… only this time with a very ugly, Chicago mafia style twist.

Right up front… there is absolutely nothing illegal in Obama’s campaign genocide tactics. All actions were within election rules and laws. This, however, is not the example of a man promising a new style of politics and tone in the beltway. He may win, down and dirty, by playing the rules to the edge. He does not, however, hold the moral high ground on which he bases his campaign.

And he defended his use of ballot maneuvers: “If you can win, you should win and get to work doing the people’s business.”

Barack Obama, 1996

Will he again elimate choice for voters? Before it was eliminating other DNC competitors. But, if holding the most powerful position in the free world, perhaps the elimination of choice he engages in next time will be on vital issues to Americans…. but all within the rules and laws, of course.

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