The Corner

Another New Video: Obama’s 2002 MLK Speech

Over at Big Government John Sexton offers some helpful commentary on yet another newly released pre-presidential Obama video, this one from a Martin Luther King Day speech at the University of Chicago in 2002. It’s certainly an interesting address. As always, Obama clothes his leftist message in superficially bipartisan tones. He duly nods to both collective and individual responsibility, for example, yet clearly stresses the collective while knocking “privatization” in its many forms. There’s a class-warfare framework, here as well, with “the powerful” as targets.

Obviously, Obama’s most controversial statement is his dismissive treatment of opposition to violence by the rich. When the rich speak out in favor of non-violence, it’s just way of making sure “folks don’t take their stuff,” says Obama. Non-violence “only makes sense if the powerful can be made to recognize themselves in the powerless,” Obama tells us. So sometimes non-violence doesn’t make sense? And how exactly can the powerful be “made” to exhibit the requisite empathy? This talk, as well as Obama’s comments on the hidden violence of our economic system, treads a bit more closely to the thinking of his radical pals than I would have expected from Obama in a major public address, even in 2002.

Sexton is right that Obama’s sharp attack on our locally-based school-funding system, including a swipe at suburban Winnetka, shows him pushing the same regionalist policies I describe in Spreading the Wealth.

No way that’s all in the past. Obama is advancing these policies right now, setting up initiatives that will block suburban highway construction (as in the 2002 video address to African-American pastors), press for regional tax-base sharing (as in the 1998 Loyola video’s call for restructuring governments to pool resources for redistribution), equalize local school funding (as in today’s video), and other plans of the sort we’ve been getting glimpses of in all of these newly released tapes.

With their passing, but revealing, anti-suburban regionalist remarks, we’re learning more from these old videos about Obama’s second-term plans than President Obama himself has been willing to tell us. If you’re wondering why Obama hasn’t itemized his second-term agenda, it’s because his plans come straight out of the policy menu on display in these videos.


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