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article imageOp-Ed: Five Myths Plaguing Barack Obama He Must Undue

By Sadiq Green     Sep 22, 2008 in Politics
The upcoming debates will test Barack Obama’s ability to connect with voters outside of his party, the ones who will largely determine victory or defeat.
The Sarah Palin, GOP convention bounce has dropped down to pre-convention levels, and the national polls have leveled off Barack Obama and his rival John McCain. Both candidates need strong showings in the debates to shore up their own parties support.
Some criticism of Mr. Obama - both inside and outside of his party - points to problems he has not been able to buck since becoming a candidate. Although these claims are poorly substantiated, they still run rampant on the Internet, and they still resonate with potential voters who are not wont to do the research on his biography.
Obama the Elitist
The GOP story remains the same to this day: Barack Obama is favored amongst politicians and his affluent supporters because of his education, and subsequent rise to the top ranks of Illinois politics. However, when his background examined, he is far from an elite. After graduating from Columbia University where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations in 1983, he worked for a year at the Business International Corporation and then at the New York Public Interest Research Group. After four years in New York City, Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer for three years as director of the Developing Communities Project a church-based community organization on Chicago's South Side. Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, another community organizing institute.
After three years working in the community, hardly the work of an elitist, Obama entered Harvard Law School in late 1988. In February 1990, in his second year, he was elected president of the Law Review. After graduating with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago where he accepted a $12,000 dollar annual salary in his first year out of the nation's most prestigious law school. Senator Obama worked as a private practice attorney for a mere five years, two in New York and three in Chicago. Even in those posts, he worked as a community advocate, mounting voter drives, and organizing job training support for depressed areas. As a fellow and professor stint at the University of Chicago, he earned $90,000 dollars.
As an Illinois state senator, where salaries are mandated by the legislature, he made $154,000 dollars. So from his background in the middle-income environment of Hawaii to the modest family life in Kansas with his grandmother Obama’s only brushes with the elite came while attending Ivy League colleges and his earned income hardly placed him in that stratosphere. It was only when his first memoir Dreams of My Father rose to the top of The New York Times’ bestseller list in 2005, that Obama earned his first significant income spike as it netted him 1.6 million from sales.
Obama the Muslim
In the world of political theater, image is everything. That theory proved literal for Barack Obama when an image of him surfaced in e-mail chains wearing a turban while visiting his father's native country Kenya. The e-mail, originally sent by a Clinton supporter during the contentious primary season, was meant to portray Obama as less than an American to anyone reading it. Other Internet posts have conflated the fact that he attended a Catholic school in Indonesia at six years old while his mother was married to a Muslim man and his current faith affiliation as a Christian. Despite having been listed on school records as Muslim – something that he could not have done as a six year old - Barack Obama never professed a faith in his personal life until the late 80’s when he married Michelle Robinson and joined the Trinity United Church.
His relatively recent gaffe on the issue when being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos added some fuel to that fire, but that flame has since diminished. He however must deftly handle that question in the upcoming national security debate.
Obama the Radical Liberal
Senator Obama was allegedly tied to a man named William Ayers, who was part of a group called the Weathermen Underground. The Weathermen used radical and sometimes violent tactics to push its radical agenda of government reform in the 1960s and 70s. When Ayers was at the height of his radical protest movement, Mr. Obama was a mere child.
After leaving the underground, Ayers earned an Masters in Education from Bank Street College in Early Childhood Education (1984), and a Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in Early Childhood Education (1987) and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University in Curriculum and Instruction (1987). Ayers subsequently accepted a position at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is a tenured professor.
Obama and Ayers met through a series of fundraisers for an educational organization they were both part of. In other words, their ties were not close and the result of a media fabrication during the Democratic primary race. Barack Obama has denounced Mr. Ayer's violent past and has attempted to separate himself from the rumor.
Obama the Foreign Sympathizer
Barack Obama has overwhelmingly enjoyed the support of foreign leaders since it was apparent he would win the Democratic nomination for President. In addition, he's been open about how he would seek to repair U.S. foreign relations in the wake of our unpopular run under current President George W. Bush mostly stemming from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This has led America’s conservative leadership mostly on the conservative side to question how tough he would be on U.S. enemies. Obama has stated unequivocally that he would respond swiftly to nuclear threats and sanction leaders involved in genocide, and human rights violations designated by the United Nations.
The motive for portraying him as soft on terrorism is a scare tactic by the Republican Party, invoking the fears Americans still fear since the attacks of September 11th. It is important to note is that the U.S. has only emboldened its detractors by invading and occupying Iraq with little regard to its territorial alliances on the premise that Saddam Hussein had sponsored terrorism. George W. Bush has admitted, after much harping in the early going, that Iraq and Al-Qaeda were not linked. Barack Obama favored breaking up the terrorist regime in Afghanistan, long thought to be a training ground for fighters in radical Islam.
Obama may have to answer a question or two about a column written by a former Iraqi exile Amir Taheri that purports that Obama tried to stall a Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States. He may be wise to bring up the October Surprise issue from the Carter/Regan election of 1980 to point out how much credibility a story like that has.
Barack Obama must grasp that the pressing issue facing Americans has just linked the homeland security aspect to that of the economic downturn. With America borrowing money from all of its allies to pay for the occupation of Iraq, how will countries now deal with an America that owes them money when Americans do not have any.
Obama the Celebrity
The Senator's eloquence, admired in figures like FDR, Kennedy and Clinton has been used as a sign of his detachment even more than his supposed elitist affiliations. Hollywood celebrities and politicians alike have come out in support of Mr. Obama as they have with many of the past Democratic candidates. As a public figure, it's inevitable the other public figures will endorse him. Barack Obama has made some incredibly moving speeches that have caused his supporters and the media to swoon. However, in order for him to take advantage of his larger-than-life image, he must balance it with say, Ronald Reagan's ability to be soft-spoken and humble.
If Senator Obama attends to these delicate image issues, he will still not be guaranteed a win by any means but he will have a better shot at pushing the authentic “Change” agenda and not the manufactured change agenda of John McCain. His ‘Change We Need' slogan will ring hollow if he cannot register his populist will with the population that needs it. If he does not, he will be the radical Islamic elitist Black Panther who lost the biggest contest of his life.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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