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How Many Laws Can One Break?


Mr. Obama’s Aunt Zeituni will not be a major campaign issue—compared to other last minute disclosures such as Obama’s frightening boast about coal that now produces half of our nation’s electricity: “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Yet in retrospect Aunt Zeituni will prove emblematic and raise a few disturbing questions (aside from the ethical matter of someone who was highlighted in a cameo fashion in his memoir as proof of his strong family ties, subsequently languishing as an illegal alien, in violation of a deportation order, in a public housing project a hour’s flight from Chicago). Everyone has relatives that one is not responsible for, but given her symbolic appearance in Dreams from my Father, and at the Obama swearing in in 2005, Auntie Zeituni seems more in the Roger Clinton/Donald Nixon/Billy Carter category.

1) More proof of media bias: The press story is somehow now about who ‘leaked’ information that his aunt had defied a deportation order and was in the country illegally rather than yet another sign that US immigration law is made a mockery of, and its enforcement is a joke, to the rather limited extent the law is even applied. And if one wants to know the extent of government intrusion into the lives of peripheral political figures, the media should at least worry why agencies were put onto Joe the Plumber, who is a US citizen.

2) More of the double standard. David Axlerod is suddenly worried about supposed Axlerod-like leaks of government documents? Aside from Joe the Plumber, he should ask why and how the sealed divorce records of both Obama’s Democratic primary rival and his general election Republican opponent were leaked, imploding both campaigns and ensuring the election of Obama in 2004 to the Senate.

3) Obama’s has offered the defense that his historical rejection of campaign finance (after a promise to abide by the law), and subsequent creation of a $600 million war-chest should not cause worry because so many of the donors were “small”. Hence any questions about fake names, addresses, lack of compliance with identifying donors by name, foreign contributors, and prepaid credit cards were essentially nit-picking or worse, given the historical lift Obama had given the American electoral process.

But if the Obama campaign cannot even guarantee that his own aunt followed the law (it is illegal for foreigners to contribute to US presidential campaigns), what does that say about the millions of others who, we are supposed to believe, on the now dubious assurance of Obama himself were supposedly legitimate and lawful donors? And as a sidelight, how ethical is it for someone who is in violation of immigration law, and receiving some sort of public subsidy, to then donate money, illegally again, to a campaign? Message: defy immigration law; ignore a deporation order; obtain, again illegally, public assistance; donate illegally to a presidential campagin; and then count on the press attacking those who worry about such serial flouting of the law.

4) Here we are within a few hours before the election, and we get yet another reminder that we have little idea who Barack Obama is; and the media, rather than enlightening us about his background, consistency in thought, past behavior, aassociates, and character, instead turns on anyone and anything that stand in the way of his ascension.

5) The only mystery? Whether we get (1) this is not the Aunt Zeituni I remember….; (2) I was only 43 when she was ordered deported and only 47 when she donated illegally; (3) I could no more disown Aunt Zeituni than…; (4) “they” are going to get “ugly” and go after my funny-sounding name and the fact I don’t look like the presidents on the dollar bill.

Can’t we hope this time for? ‘As I have written, I have admired my aunt in the past and value her familial ties to me, and will now make sure that all US laws are followed in her case, and determine to what extent they were not and why, and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.’