David Freddoso makes his case against Barack Obama
HH: Special two hours ahead. Do not go anywhere, because if you want to know who Barack Obama is, and why you should not vote for him, you’ll want to listen to the next two hours of this program. I am sure I will replay it as we get closer to the election as well. My guest is David Freddoso. David is the author of a brand new bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise And Unexamined Agenda Of The Media’s Favorite Candidate. It comes out from Regnery-Gateway. David Freddoso has been a longtime figure in Washington, D.C. He learned his trade from Robert Novak. He is now a political reporter for National Review Online. Welcome, David, good to have you on the program.
DF: Hugh, thanks so much for having me.
HH: Let’s start by a little bit of bio on David Freddoso. Where are you from? And how did you end up doing this?
DF: Well, I’m from Northern Indiana, from South Bend. I went to Columbia for journalism school, and started off working there at a neighborhood newspaper, eventually ended up at Human Events here in Washington, and then worked for Robert Novak, who by the way, could use your listeners’ prayers right now with his recent diagnoses of brain cancer. After that, I started with National Review about a year ago, and this year, watching the media adore and worship Senator Obama, I felt the need to do something just to clarify at least for myself, and I hope for a lot of readers, who the man really is, and what he’s all about.
HH: David, where did you go undergrad?
DF: I went to Notre Dame.
HH: That’s why we like you.
DF: The Fighting Irish.
HH: Now what year did you get out of there? We root for…
DF: I got out of there in ’99…
DF: …which was a, yeah, 1999, and did Columbia in 2000.
HH: You got out of there before the Charlie Weiss years begin, but…
DF: I did, yes. Now don’t be too hard on Charlie.
HH: No, I love Charlie Weiss. We are big Domer backers, and they’re going to thrash SC this year. We hate SC at this program.
DF: Good. Well, I feel right at home.
DF: I was there for part of the Holtz years, actually, and then we had some guy who, well, we don’t like to think about Bob Davie.
HH: Yeah, I went back to Notre Dame last year, we’re getting a little off track, to see SC, and it was not a good weekend to go back, first time since I’d been in law school at Michigan that I went to Notre Dame football. So I’ve got to pick a better weekend. Well, let’s get moving forward a little bit now. When did the book get started, The Case Against Barack Obama?
DF: Well, you know, the book, the first reporting for this book, I did back in 2004 when I was covering Senator Obama’s Senate race. Now that, I didn’t think at the time that it was going to be turned into, you know, become part of a book or anything. But it was when I realized that Senator Obama was going to win his election. I sat down with his Republican opponent over lunch with my colleague at Human Events, John Gizzi, this is Jack Ryan, and we knew that Jack Ryan’s divorce files were going to come out soon. And we asked him, point blank, well, is there anything embarrassing in those divorce files. And Jack Ryan, who’s the acress Jeri Ryan’s ex-husband, of course, he said oh, no, no, nothing bad in there. And we were reassured that he’d look like Mother Teresa, and no problems at all. And then about, I think it was about a week later when it came out, all kinds of really embarrassing sexual allegations. It completely destroyed him, and it meant that Barack Obama was not going to have a Republican opponent all summer. And he ended up having Alan Keyes. And that meant that he was guaranteed election to the United States Senate in 2004.
HH: We will come back to the unlikely rise of Barack Obama as we go forward, but I want to let people know how the book is doing. It debuted at what? Number five on the New York Times bestseller list?
DF: Yes, that’s right, number five on the list, and we have high hopes for this week, too.
HH: Yeah, it’s pretty extraordinary. And it’s also extraordinary because it’s in competition with a less well-respected book, the Corsi book. I haven’t had Corsi on the program, because he’s from the fringe, and I can’t trust his reporting. But I do know, because I had read your book, some of the ground he covers is covered much more in detail in your book. Are you being helped or hurt by the fact that Corsi is out there right now?
DF: Well, I don’t know, Hugh. I haven’t actually had the opportunity to read Dr. Corsi’s book. And I know that it has a very different focus from mine, and I would want potential readers to know that. I mean, I don’t, I see what a lot of the people are writing, but like I said, I haven’t really had an opportunity to read him, and so I don’t want to go out and talk about something I don’t know about.
HH: All right, what was the existing work on Obama when you dove in? Is it rich or is it thin?
DF: Oh, look, when I began, I really felt that people were being told practically nothing real about Senator Obama. It seemed to me that there was almost no middle ground between the falsehoods about him being a Muslim and not saluting the flag, and being sworn in on the Koran. That stuff was of the same cloth, you can almost say, as this shiny, bright, happy idea of him as the big, great agent of positive change, reform, hope. It was all, all of it, positive and negative, very unsubstantial and unsubstantiated. And I felt like we need a real examination of this man’s record. It has to be real. I mean, fine, I’m a conservative, and I set out to write a book, I mean, it’s called The Case Against Barack Obama, so it’s not a pro-Obama book in any way. But I felt like if I look at his record in a way that fine, it’s a negative treatment, but it’s fair, and it doesn’t try to distort facts, and is responsibly presented in a way that, you know, doesn’t try to say things that aren’t true, I felt that I’d be doing a service for people. And fine, you know, I also wanted to write a book. It’s my first book. So I saw it as a project that served many important purposes, and would also be very educational for people, and would also hopefully give people some sign that no, this man should not be elected president of the United States.
HH: And I want the audience to know as well, they don’t have to worry about falling prey to a bunch of lies and rumor and innuendo, as David Freddoso just pointed out. In The Case Against Barack Obama, again and again, he goes out of his way to say no, he’s not a Muslim, no he did not get sworn in on the Koran, and basically, to avoid the fringe stuff which I frankly think helps Obama, since it’s so easy to swat down. And I’m very glad you approached the book in a very responsible way. By the way, how much time did you spend with Dreams From My Father, one of the more interesting memoirs ever written by a major presidential candidate ever?
DF: I probably put more post-it notes in both of Senator Obama’s published books than most people use in their lifetime. I really pored over them carefully. And you know, he’s not a bad writer. I really think that he’s good. He…and it was just a fascinating read. There are so many things in there that are kind of interesting, revealing, some of them perhaps damaging to him. Others, I think, made me think a lot better of the man than what I knew when I started it.
HH: Were you surprised that he recorded his own book on tape? I’ve used some of that tape on this program before. He edited selectively what he recorded, but he still put in some things which are just jarring to hear a presidential candidate way, like the N word.
DF: Yeah, no, that is right. It was used somewhat liberally at some points, and other words as well that I wouldn’t repeat on the air. But in a way, you know, it was kind of frank in some places. It was, I really, just, I tried to digest those, and just spent as much time as possible trying to understand…before I really went onto the other things that are contained in the book, particularly other things about his time as a politician. I really wanted to digest everything that he wrote about himself, because I think that’s the most revealing Barack Obama, is the one who is writing Dreams From My Father. I think you learn a lot more about the man there certainly than you do listening to these speeches about hope and change that don’t necessarily contain much substance.
HH: I couldn’t agree with you more.
DF: There’s a lot more, yeah.
HH: Now before we get to the end of the first segment, as we being the review of the spine of The Case Against Barack Obama, obviously a comprehensive book, even in two hours, we cannot do justice to it. But the spine of it is this assertion, I think, Barack Obama is not a reformer, he is not a moderate, he is not accomplished. He is, however, a wonderfully presented candidate. Is that a fair summary, David Freddoso?
DF: I would say that, and I would add one more thing, which is namely that he has very poor judgment that anyone considering a vote for him should be concerned about. And that is particularly where some of the radical associations come in. You know, Hugh, I’m not a believer in the idea of guilt by association. However, when you get a chance to choose your associates, you’re making choices about people, you’re judging others’ intentions. When you show you can’t do that, or at least you can’t do it well at all, and you keep doing it badly again and again, what’s, how are you going to be able to judge the intentions of foreign leaders, some of whom are rather hostile, some of whom Obama has promised to meet with? Judgment is so key to the position of president of the United States.
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HH: Let’s put aside, David, the early childhood. It’s been much remarked upon, other people can write about it at length. And I want to focus on the political life of Barack Obama, which really begins with his first state senate race. Can you tell people how me managed to muscle aside Alice Palmer?
DF: Certainly. You know, what’s interesting about this race is that Senator Obama is kind of embarrassed today about the way he won it. And we know that because if you turn to the Audacity of Hope, his 2006 political memoir, what you’ll find is that he offers a very fictionalized account of what happened. And he talks about how he would go around the neighborhoods of Chicago’s south side preaching hope and change, and people would tell him well, but look, all these politicians have let us down, there’s reasons to be cynical about politics, and Obama writes in response, I would usually smile and nod, and say that I understood the skepticism, but that there was another tradition to politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of the country’s founding to the glory of the Civil Rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart. And that’s all really nice, and he says it was a pretty convincing speech, I thought, and although I’m not sure the people who heard me deliver it were similarly impressed, enough of them appreciated my earnestness and youthful swagger that I made it to the Illinois Legislature. And that, Hugh, is fiction, because what actually happened…
HH: (laughing) That’s well put, yes.
DF: …is that Senator Obama threw all of his opponents off the ballot by challenging their petition signatures. And that was how he was elected to the Illinois Senate. That was his first election.
HH: Heavily Democratic district, he got rid of all the Democrats, and he coasted, okay.
DF: Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly right. And he threw even the incumbent state senator, as you mentioned, Alice Palmer, there were some exceptional circumstances there. It’s not usually easy to get an incumbent thrown off the ballot. But what Senator Obama, the story behind this is interesting. Palmer had been an ally of Obama. She was sort of a community activist as well who had come into office eventually. She had previously had a very colorful career. She went to the Soviet Union for a congress. She very much preferred the Soviet Union to the Reagan administration. She wrote about it, a very, very interesting character. But she had represented Chicago’s, the 13th Illinois Senate district for I believe three terms at this point. And she had seen an opportunity to run for Congress. This was when a seat opened up on the South Side. One of the Congressmen there was indicted, and so she threw her hat in the ring first, and she said Obama, I want you to be the guy who succeeds me. Her seat was up for reelection that coming year for 1996. So Senator Obama started making the preparations for a run. He went to Tony Rezko, whom he’d met a few years ago and started raising money.
HH: $15,000 grand Tony raised for him in this race, according to your book.
DF: Yes, that’s right, and that is actually quite a bit in an Illinois Senate race for one person to raise for you.
HH: Sure it is.
DF: He only, you know, state senate runs, considering that he didn’t actually have a conventional contested election, it’s almost an infinite amount. But when there’s no one else on the ballot, you’re going to win anyway. But still, that is a good amount. And he raised money from several other people. Alice Palmer actually brought him to the house of William Ayers, who only gave $200 bucks, but he threw a little fundraiser for Obama, where he raised some more. During that race, however, that November, Alice Palmer suddenly realized that she had brought a knife to a gunfight, as they say in Chicago. She had planned on throwing her hat in the ring, and running for Congress, and not having serious enough opponents that it would have made a difference. What ended up happening was that Jesse Jackson, Jr. got into the race, and so did Emil Jones, the president of the Illinois Senate. When these two candidates got in, it basically meant that they crowded out the money, because they were both big names. So they’re crowding out the money and the regional support. Jones is representing an adjacent senate district that took up another part of the Congressional district. And in the end, she came in a distant third. And so when she lost that race, she wanted her state senate seat back. And she came back to Barack Obama and said step aside and wait your turn, and he said no, I’m not going to do that. And he stayed in the race. And she only had, if she wanted to appear on the ballot for reelection, she had to gather at least 757 valid signatures. And the deadline was very tight. She only had a couple of weeks to do it. So the signatures she ended up presenting were going to be suspect for that reason alone, if for no other. She was able to present about 1,600 signatures, but again, they were gathered in such haste that sometimes, you try to gather many times the required number just because you might end up having a lot of people sign them who aren’t really registered to vote, don’t live in the right district. Some people will make mistakes, sign, you know, they’ll print their name instead of signing it. There was, one of the petition signatures that Senator Obama managed to throw out was of a woman who had signed her married name but was registered to vote under her maiden name. And Senator Obama, beginning just after the deadline had passed and the signatures were all filed, he had his volunteers and his petitions guru orchestrate a campaign to go before the election judges and start challenging signature after signature after signature.
HH: And hardball works. It worked.
DF: Oh yeah, it worked. It sure did.
HH: But now, here’s the interesting thing, David Freddoso. I’m sure you read the push back document that came out about the Corsi book.
DF: Yes, I did.
HH: And on Page 18 of that, they quote the Corsi book as saying instead of stepping aside in deference to Palmer, Obama decided to fight her for the nomination. They branded that a lie, and they describe as reality, Team Obama did, Palmer pulled her own plug. That’s just a bald-face lie, David.
DF: Yeah, I think they had a bunch of college sophomores put that document together. I’ve been through it. I couldn’t believe some of the things in there, the way that they try to defend William Ayers and some various things. But you’re exactly right. Senator Palmer didn’t pull her own plug. That was the way someone described it at the time as a sort of metaphorical. She was cutting her own throat by what she did. That wasn’t what actually happened, though. Senator Obama threw her off the ballot. That was how he beat her. And you know, he did it well, you’ve got to give him credit.
HH: Yeah, credit. Now we also have to talk about, and it’s going to take up the last minute of this segment and the next segment, the Chicago machine…
HH: The Strogers and the machine generally. Let’s get a head start here. When he goes into the Chicago, into the Illinois State Senate, he becomes part of the machine. How big is the machine?
DF: Oh, well, I think it’s very important, first of all, to understand what a political machine is. The Stroger machine consisted of, the basic building blocks of it anyway, consisted of this, that you keep a standing, you know, most of the time, campaigns have to pay for staff. They have to pay to have people, it’s expensive, and you have people knocking on doors, you have various things. And then you have some volunteers. But most of it is expensive. And what a political machine does is they load up the entire government payroll with these contributors, small contributors, door knockers, people who are basically kicking back the government funds into the campaign, and devoting their time to the campaign. So you don’t have to pay for your campaign. The taxpayers pay for your campaign.
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HH: David, when we were going to break, we set up what a political machine is. Describe the Cook County machine and Barack Obama’s relationship with it.
DF: In The Case Against Barack Obama, I go into, I go deep into court papers showing exactly how it works. And what’s very important to understand is that everyone knew that this is how it works. There is illegal patronage hiring going on that is now, you know, all of these civil servants who were abused and bullied into doing political work, who were passed up for promotions in favor of the political cronies of the Stroger family, they filed all of these complaints which are amazing to read, in some cases. Senator Obama, as every politically savvy Chicagoan knew in 2006, this is the way things work here, and it’s bad. And that is why in that year, liberals and conservatives began to come together behind the idea we have to get rid of John Stroger as president of the Cook County board of commissioners.
HH: And the Cook County Board of Commissioners has 17 members, and it controls pretty much every aspect of life in a very large and rich governmental entity known as Cook County, Illinois.
DF: That’s right, it includes the entire city of Chicago, and several suburban areas as well. This, the county government is not, it does not have the same magnitude in terms of budget as the city government does. So the Stroger machine is kind of a poor man’s version of the Daley machine. However, it was so overtly crooked, it was so incredible to see John Stroger fire the people who clean the toilets and perform basic services, laying them off, you know, hiring cronies to six figure jobs on the government payroll, raising taxes so that he could afford more of this sort of thing, this is what people saw, and they were so sick and tired of it, liberals and conservatives alike. I think it’s very important to understand there are liberal reformers, and there are conservative reformers. And there are a lot of Democrats who go along with whatever the existing power structure is, and a lot of Republicans who do that, too. The reformers were fighting against the Stroger machine. They coalesced, liberals and conservatives, behind a progressive reform candidate who was going to knock him off.
HH: Forrest Claypool was his name.
DF: Forrest Claypool was his name. And he was someone who really spoke out against the problems in Cook County, who brought in all these Republicans to support him. The move for this, to get rid of John Stroger, was so great that the other candidate in the race dropped out, and said I’m supporting Forrest Claypool, because if we both run against Stroger, we’re going to split the reform vote. So we’re all going to unite behind Forrest Claypool.
HH: And it wasn’t about politics. It was just about cleaning up the dirt and the utter corruption of the Cook County machine.
HH: Where was Barack Obama in this effort?
DF: Well, you know, you would think that given that this is a post-partisan effort, and it reaches across party divides, I think you’ve probably heard a lot of language from Senator Obama about those ideas. But in fact, Senator Obama was not among the reformers in this election. Senator Obama, during this Democratic primary, simply stayed away. He kind of went into hiding. He did not want to endorse the reformer, even though if he were this great agent of positive change, and this reformer that he claims to be, you would think he could at least say hey, Forrest Claypool’s the guy, we’re tired of the corruption, we want to end it. Obama instead just sort of stayed in the background. He doesn’t say anything.
HH: And the same sort of go along to get along with a corrupt party machine displayed toward Mayor Richard Daley, also a machine politician in the finest Chicago story. And of course, Barack Obama endorsed Richard Daley in ’07.
DF: That’s right.
HH: Even after the hired truck scandal which you detail in The Case Against Barack Obama.
DF: That’s right.
HH: And those scandals continue to explode.
DF: No, and that is correct. It’s important to understand really carefully why it is Senator Obama can’t get involved in fighting for real reform in Chicago, or really, I mean, this is just the beginning of a very broad pattern that characterizes his entire career. It’s not just in Chicago, it’s also in Springfield, it’s in Washington. Senator Obama couldn’t get behind a reformer like Forrest Claypool, he couldn’t refuse to endorse Mayor Daley, because these are the people, and the people tied to them, who control all of the political money in Chicago. Tony Rezko was finance chairman for John Stroger. He had raised and donated $150,000 dollars to him. He had an awful lot invested in him, because look, he’s a low income housing developer, and you need to get permits when you’re a low income housing developer. There are a lot of different things that developers generally rely on government for. And so here you start to see how the machine is connected with these other, the basic parts of the machine are connected with these higher dollar problems, with people like Tony Rezko.
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HH: Time for the Springfield years, David Freddoso. My summary is he’s associated with some pretty slippery guys, Emil Jones, he has a slippery approach to his job, he votes present 130 times. He has a love of earmarks, and he is a hard left Democrat. Am I right?
DF: No, that is exactly right, Hugh. Among the many interesting points in his career, several of them have been picked over his career in Springfield, the present votes. I think it’s very interesting to see that he earmarked hundreds of thousands of dollars for people who, that I think it’s obvious doesn’t serve the public good, such as Reverend, I guess it’s just Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger, to name two. And you also see that Senator Obama has at times earmarked funds for contributors, et cetera. But what I found most interesting, and what has basically not been reported at all in the mainstream media, it was touched on in one excellent story in the Boston Globe in June, but what’s been completely ignored is all the legislation that Senator Obama co-sponsored and voted for to help Tony Rezko become a millionaire, and other low income subsidized developers, because he’s surrounded by these folks. And they were his favorite special interest, they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him. And in Chapter 11 of The Case Against Barack Obama, I identify six different bills that Obama co-sponsored that benefited this group. And we’re talking about handing taxpayer’s money over to them. We’re talking about getting them special rent subsidy funds, and building subsidy funds, and maintenance subsidy funds. We’re talking about bills that artificially increase the demand for the kinds of low income housing that they’re building, that let them circumvent local zoning laws. So this is the kind of special interest legislation…
HH: Oh, it’s dirty pool. It’s such dirty stuff…
HH: And it’s obviously done for developers who then go out and raise him money, and not just Rezko. But I’m curious about, I didn’t know about this, the $1 million dollar earmark to the University of Chicago Medical Center. Michelle Obama is a vice president there. After that earmark arrived, and you’re not making the argument it was related, she ended up getting a $200,000 dollar raise when Obama became Senator. How can he send, or help send a million bucks to the University of Chicago Medical Center?
DF: Well you know, this is very typical, just like those other things, just like what you’re talking about now, the enormous raise, she got a $200,000 dollar raise right after he was elected to the United States Senate, and he proceeded a year later to earmark a million dollars for her employer. And people can decide for themselves what that looks like. I think it is an appearance of impropriety anyway. But you hear Senator Obama talk a lot about how the problem in Washington is that people with good lobbyists and good connections, and who donate the most money, always end up getting what they want. Well, I would submit that the reason for that is there are so many politicians like Senator Obama, because that’s basically what he’s done throughout his entire career. It’s a really remarkable and audacious claim he makes about hope and change, just considering how he is right up there with all of the worst practices that he criticizes. He’s performing them. He votes for the Bridge To Nowhere, whose purpose was the funnel millions of dollars to contractors who would build it, and to help people whose land values on a worthless island in Alaska with no people on it, so that their land prices would suddenly explode.
HH: You also explain how he once voted because Tom Coburn set it up this way, the great Oklahoma Senator, in favor of bike paths over bridges reconstructions. But we’ll come back to that next hour. I want to finish with the associates, the corrupt associates. He’s a big supporter of Alex Giannoulias. Now Alex Giannoulias, as you discussed towards the end of the book, was, he got the backing of Obama when he ran statewide. But his family bank has made a lot of questionable loans. Has this received any scrutiny outside of The Case Against Barack Obama, David?
DF: Well, only in the Chicago press. The Chicago press, I just want to point out, that when we talk about the mainstream media ignoring all the problems around Barack Obama, the Chicago press has actually done an admirable job of covering these issues. And the media that sets the national tone in New York and in Washington, and to some degree in Los Angeles, completely ignores everything that they’ve done, which is just a shame, because all it would require is for people to read the newspaper and have a bit of intellectual curiosity. Giannoulias, his family bank, and he personally was involved, he actually went to Miami to look at one of the properties for which he was loaning money, to loaning money to people who served time, I believe yeah, we’re talking about people who are connected to the Mob. It became an issue later. Most of the Democrats in Illinois would not support Giannoulias. They supported another man named Paul Mangieri, but…for the position of state Treasurer. But Giannoulias ended up getting Obama’s support. Obama was one of the guys who supported him. Giannoulias is in the process now of raising a six figure amount for Obama’s presidential campaign. Obama’s campaigns have always used his bank, the same bank that’s loaning to…
HH: Very questionable characters, yup.
DF: Yes. No, and you know, he is one of so many politicians, we were talking before about John Stroger, Senator Obama refrained from endorsing in that election, but then there was a crazy situation by which he was incapacitated. His son ended up on the ballot, same kind of guy, dirty machine. Obama endorses him. Obama endorses Mayor Daley. Obama endorses an older woman, an alderman, a female alderman, who pulls a gun on her colleagues during a redistricting hearing.
HH: And Emil Jones. I mean, this guy’s shady.
DF: Yes, and Emil Jones is one of these guys who has managed to get every, he is just, by the way, retiring. He has announced his retirement. He is one…and who knows, maybe he’ll get a federal appointment in an Obama administration. But this is one of those guys who has made sure that every member of his family is on the state payroll, or has state contract. His stepson has a contract with the major utility company, I’m sorry, with the parent company of the major utility in Illinois, and until people figured this out, until the Chicago Sun Times figured this out, no one could understand why Emil Jones was basically on a crusade against lowering utility rates.
HH: Because the money was going to recycle…that’s another friend of Obama. More when we come back with David Freddoso.
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HH: I want to conclude, David Freddoso, at the Civility Forum at the Saddleback Valley Community Church on August 17th. Barack Obama was asked by Rick Warren to name an instance where he worked across the party aisle against the interest of his party or himself. And incredibly, and I had just read your book, so I knew this, incredibly, he brought up the Senate Ethics Reform package that he said he had worked with John McCain on. As is detailed in your book, that’s just a lie.
DF: No, it is actually, it’s amazing. I mean, another really audacious claim, because it is so counterfactual. What actually happened there is that at first, Obama and McCain were talking about working together, and then Obama simply reneged and left when his party leaders schooled him, and said no, you’re not going to do that. He went in posing as a reformer, and talked with McCain about possibly working on something. They were there with the chairmen of the relevant committees, so this was an effort to pass an ethics reform bill at a time when each party had its own reasons for resisting this. But this was just back in 2006, it’s before all of the presidential hysteria had begun, and Obama did not work with John McCain. In fact, John McCain wrote him an angry letter after Obama reneged. He said you know, you’ve just disabused me of any notion that you’re serious about this, because you know, you promised me you were going to work with me, and then you didn’t. So I don’t know what he was thinking when he gave that answer.
HH: But did anyone call him on it? I called him on it on my blog, and I’ll talk about it on my radio show. But did anyone in mainstream media even know that this was a bald-face lie?
DF: You know, Marc Ambinder, when it actually happened more than two years ago, Marc Ambinder certainly noticed it. People at the time in Washington noticed it, and understood what had happened.