NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 2, 2008

How would Barack Obama govern if he were elected?  The answer, says author David Freddoso, in his new book, "The Case Against Barack Obama," is in the tension between Obama's public persona and his practical politics.

Key, says Freddoso, is the Chicago world in which Obama made himself first a community organizer and then a state senator (1997-2004), before heading off to Washington in 2005.  It is by viewing Chicago that the gap between Obama's rhetoric about reform and his career as a conventional Chicago politician is most visible.

Chicago, let it be said, is a place in decline: 

  • In recent years -- and well before the current economic turmoil -- it has lost its two leading banks and thousands of jobs in the futures and commodities markets.
  • Not only does it have the highest retail sales tax in the country, at 10.25 percent, it is the only city with a head tax on employment.
  • Its public schools are in terrible shape.
  • The city's middle-class population continues to flee; between 2000 and 2006, 63,000 people left the Chicago.
  • Meanwhile corruption and crime, not to mention machine politics, continues to thrive; the murder rate is three times that of New York.

If there were ever a place in need of "change" and "reform," it is Chicago.  And yet, Freddoso argues, reform for Obama "is something to discuss during election campaigns, not to be implemented or followed," when it might jeopardize his ambitions.  However, Freddoso cannot find a single example of a cause on which Obama has risked his political capital.

This fact "does not separate him from most other politicians in either part."  It simply means that he is "like most of the others," concludes Freddoso.

Source: Fred Siegel, "Politics, Still Local," Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2008; based upon: David Freddoso, "The Case Against Barack Obama," Regnery, 2008.

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