If one is going to examine Jerome Corsi’s The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, one probably ought to also read David Freddoso’s book on the Democratic nominee, The Case Against Barack Obama.
Freddoso is one of our own, and he thanks me in the acknowledgments. So take that into account as you read the review.
#ad#Of the two books, Corsi’s has garnered a lot more attention, and that’s unfortunate. Obama himself has talked about Corsi’s book, saying it “just kind of sprung full bore out of this guy’s head,” at a San Francisco fundraiser. Obama’s campaign put out a 41-page response, and they seem eager to point to it as an example of unfair and inaccurate “smears.”
Even if Freddoso had made as many errors as Corsi (he hasn’t), his book has an advantage: focus. Corsi’s book swerves from topic to topic, with criticisms of the candidate thrown together into an overloaded bouillabaisse. One chapter purportedly about “the Cult of Personality” covers the career of David Axelrod, Chris Matthews’s infamous “thrill going up my leg” comment, Obama using phrases from campaign speeches of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, Michelle Obama’s anger, her Princeton thesis, and Obama’s smoking habit.
In contrast, Freddoso hones in on one aspect of the Obama message, the idea that Obama is a reformer, and obliterates it in the manner of a professional demolitions crew. When Obama tried to argue that he was actually a supporter of Second Amendment rights, gun owners wondered why he’d never spoken out against Chicago’s handgun ban. Freddoso applies the same “where was Obama, anyway?” logic to the city’s endemic corruption.
Where was Obama when a reform-minded liberal was challenging Cook County political boss John Stroger in 2006? Silent, until Stroger fell ill and his son ran in his place, winning Obama’s endorsement.
Where was he when Alderman Dorothy Tillman — who reportedly brandished a .38-caliber pistol during a ward redistricting session — faced a tough reelection fight in 2007? Endorsing her. (Finally, Obama is willing to stand up for a gun owner.)
Where was Obama when indictments were flying in patronage scandals surrounding Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley in 2005? Saying to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter that the scandals gave him “huge pause,” before calling back the reporter an hour later to explain that the city had never looked better. Obama ultimately endorsed Daley’s reelection.
This might be old news to the Chicago press, but it’s new to the rest of the country.
Obama’s campaign hasn’t offered a comprehensive response to Freddoso’s book, instead outsourcing the deed to Media Matters. The site makes such startling objections as this one, to Freddoso’s citing of Boston Herald reporter Jessica Van Sack: “But while Van Sack did address fainting at Obama rallies, she made no comparison to other campaigns, as Freddoso claims.”
#ad#They also insist it is a lie when Freddoso says Obama got his rivals thrown off the ballot on technicalities in his first Senate race. Yes, some signers didn’t live in the right district to vote in that race, and there were allegations that some signatures were forged. But others were thrown out for being in print instead of cursive, and one woman’s was deemed invalid because she signed under her married name and was still registered to vote under her maiden name. These are “technicalities.”
They contend that Freddoso “lies” when he says Obama is the least experienced politician to get his party’s nomination in the past 100 years, pointing to Obama’s eight years in the state legislature and three years and change in the U.S. Senate. If Obama’s supporters want to argue to undecided voters that their man is more prepared for the presidency than Dwight Eisenhower was, they’re welcome to. These voters know that experience means not just time spent in office but also actions that demonstrate leadership.
Freddoso spotlights little ironies that every other correspondent (including yours truly) should have seen earlier — like Obama writing in The Audacity of Hope that his first political victory was attributable to “a pretty convincing speech” and “enough of [the voters] appreciated my earnestness and youthful swagger.” The removal of all rivals from the ballot is left unmentioned. He notes opponents of preemptive war applauding Obama’s call to bomb targets in Pakistan without that government’s permission, and the liberal magazine The Nation applauding Obama’s support of a farm bill with massive giveaways to corporations.
If Corsi’s book is well-trod ground, Freddoso has managed to find anecdotes and details to illustrate the mania that has surrounded Obama’s rise and the corruption around him. One Obama supporter’s euphoric tale of shaking the hand of a man who shook Obama’s hand is beyond parody:
I noticed that a six foot tall guy who was standing in front of me had stretched far enough above the crowd and shook hands with Barack. As the guy drew back his hand I asked him, “You shook his hand didn’t you?” Happily the guy said “Yes.” I then said, “give me some of that” and the guy shook my hand with the same hand he had just clasped with Barack’s. A woman friend of mine who was standing next to me saw me shake hands with the guy. I turned to her and said “He [the guy] just shook hands with Barack,” to which she responded…”Hey, give it up.” We then shook hands. She then turned to the person next to her and shook hands. This chain of hand shakes went on for about five or six more persons.
I did not know the tall guy in front of me; he is white, I am black. But at the moment we shook hands, I felt some solidarity with this stranger, consummated by a handshake and signifying some unspoken agreement presumably about Barack Obama and his core message of UNITY!
The Obama Nation debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number one, and The Case Against Barack Obama debuted at number five. The success of both books, two very different critical approaches to the same topic, suggests that there is an enormous appetite for new information on Obama. If Obama falls short of his presidential aspiration, his supporters will be quick to attribute it to “false smears” in Corsi’s book. But any Obama defeat is more likely to be a result of the hard truths in Freddoso’s.
– Jim Geraghty writes the “Campaign Spot” blog on NRO.