Current Bangladesh Time: 4:15:03 AM (Sat)

Who is Barak Obama—Really?

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

On a recent trip to Europe and South Asia, I was struck by press coverage of the American presidential election. If I knew nothing about American politics and used that coverage as the basis for my opinions, I would have to arrive at two conclusions. One is that there really is no point for Republicans to run a candidate because they have no chance of winning.

And two is that the Democratic candidate is something of a mythical figure, something of a rock star; an individual who is captivating America and offers the rest of the world hope for a “new” America, whatever that means. His name is Barack Obama. To be sure, most journalists outside the United States have only a surface understanding of US politics at best; but the fact is that even within my country, the media seem to have a love affair with this particular politician. And a politician is exactly what he is.

I find it extremely difficult to comprehend why people really like this guy. The fact is that—as has been the case throughout his political career—he is blessed with a lot of luck. He is benefiting from the fact that many Americans feel alienated from both political parties. Obama has come along saying: “Vote for me. I’m not like the other guys and don’t have the same baggage that everyone else does.” Of course, that’s really a way to try and get around the fact that he has no experience—something, by the way that is becoming increasingly obvious to more and more voters as the campaign wears on. Still, he has captivated the alienated, the young, and the naïve. Whether or not that translates into the Presidency will become clear after the summer. It is then that the campaign begins in earnest, and it is then that the sort of enthusiasm he generates either will maintain itself or fade away. That is what journalist should be watching come September, although there have been more and more signs that it is on the wane already.

I don’t know if people will continue to ride the fantasy that is Barack Obama; but unlike most of the journalists who write about Senator Obama, I actually have some experience with him. You see, he is from Chicago, and I am from Chicago, where I have seen his history in one of the world’s most political cities. He also represents my state, Illinois, and therefore me in the United States Senate. And I have had some personal contact with him on a serious human rights issue and seen that his fancy rhetoric is so much wind. So, I believe that I have some basis for dispelling the myths of a political messiah that have become current in a swooning international press.

Myth #1: That Barack Obama has done anything in his political career. Whenever I ask Obama supporters to name one thing—just one—that he has accomplished in his political career, they can’t. They might titter and say that he inspires people or brings people together, but they cannot point to anything he actually has done. That’s because there is nothing there. One of a Senator’s most important jobs is to lead by proposing and passing new legislation. Yet, in his three-year Senate career, Obama has not sponsored a single bill that was passed by the US Senate—not one! His name can be found on a few procedural amendments to existing bills, honorific resolutions such as naming a building after someone, or as part of an undifferentiated mass of co-sponsors on someone else’s bill. Legislators add their names to these bills to fulfill party obligations or to pad their statistics. For instance, Obama’s people proposed several bills on the same day (actually around the time he started campaigning for President) with none or almost no co-sponsors; bills that lie dormant never to see the light of day. In contrast, Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, has seen five bills he sponsored become law during that same period; this in addition to his record of leadership on major legislation outlawing torture, funding elections, and ending a judicial impasse.

Myth #2: That Barak Obama is a figure who brings people of both parties together. This is an enormous lie. As a member of the Illinois legislature—the only political office he held before becoming Senator—Barack Obama took every hard left position that presented itself. He was a partisan who built no effective bridges with large groups of people. He is one of the most partisan individuals in the United States Senate, and his votes earned him the rating of the most liberal-left Senator in the United States; that is, he pushes others away rather than works with them. I have seen Barack Obama with other leaders of his party, and the guy simply has neither class nor judgment. Even while other, equally partisan, Democrats took the high road when presented with prime opportunities for a swipe against the opposition, Obama never did. He grabbed the chance for every cheap shot he could take. Part of “bringing people together” is knowing when to attack and when to show respect. Again, his rhetoric does not match his actions. Even his election to the Senate was a fluke. It became a virtual one-man race because his two major rivals had to drop out due to scandals; it was not a function of “bringing people together” as his supporters would have us believe.

Myth #3: That Barack Obama represents a “new” type of politician, untainted by corruption and self-seeking behavior. Obama’s people have been working overtime to keep the Chicago media away from their candidate. Why? Because coming up through the political system in Chicago, Obama has some dirty laundry that would tarnish the image he is trying to craft. An indicted influence peddler and alleged racketeer, Tony Rezko, entered into sweetheart financial deals with Obama that helped the candidate on his way up. That information is beginning to surface, especially since the connection has sparked the interest of the US Attorney. Obama also has built a political machine with Chicago operatives. Does that make him excessively corrupt? No, but it hardly sounds like the “new” sort of politician Obama keeps trying to convince people he is. Back on the streets of Chicago or Philadelphia where I came of age, we would say that Barack Obama “talks a good game” but that’s about all.

Myth #4: That Barack Obama would not be a tremendous disaster for the United States, and all peoples fighting an onslaught of Islamist terror. This is the most important myth of all to burst. Obama has stated numerous times that if he becomes president, he would sit down and talk with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and other terror supporter in the world without preconditions. Like many of his followers, Obama totally misreads the threat of international jihad. He has made it clear that he is ready to make compromises to win over these terrorists, and he does not see them as the existential threat they are. He seems not to realize that the United States and Iran are engaged in ongoing dialogue even now; but it is not taking place at the Presidential level. Obama is oblivious to the fact that direct involvement by the US President confers a level of prestige that Ahmedinejad does not deserve according to the majority of Americans. An individual with any experience—or sense in the matter—would know that precisely because direct talks with the US President is highly valued, it should not be given away for free, if you will, without demanding some concessions in return. Finally, Obama seems not to understand the propaganda and recruiting value such a meeting would have for Ahemedinjad—an advantage that would further oppress the growing opposition in Iran.

But has Barack Obama already sent signals that if President, he would start retreating in the war on terror? While he has sponsored little legislation, one of those resolutions he has sponsored would disallow the US to use force against Iran, whether to stop their nuclear bomb program or to prevent an attack on European or Asian allies. Fortunately, his measure has not found a single co-sponsor in the Senate—not one; that is how out of touch he is with the American people. Obama also voted against the Foreign Intelligence Bill and conveniently stayed away from the vote on implementing recommendations of a commission studying the September 11, 2001, attacks. And he is one of only ten Senators who voted against funding for US troops in Iraq because the legislation did not have a retreat date for the US.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

But Obama is, on top of all that a moral coward and someone who does not have the internal fortitude to stand up for victims of Islamist terror. In 2003, I began fighting to free Weekly Blitz editor and publisher, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, from imprisonment and torture. I personally approached about 15 percent of the US Congress for support in my struggle; and either personally or through associates approached a handful of Senators. The response was overwhelming. Everyone was supportive; everyone took public action. As a whole, both houses have held up Bangladeshi trade legislation as part of their response. In fact, within the span of a few days, I approached a US Senator about as far to the political left as we find and a US Senator equally far on the political right. Both responded positively and identically. In fact, of all the Senators and Congressmen I approached, everyone wanted to help, everyone took action. Everyone, that is except one; that’s right, Barack Obama. He was the only member of Congress who did not take action on this human rights issue. I spoke to him personally about it twice, spoke to his aides, and at their request sent them volumes of evidence. But they did nothing. Right now, the world does not need a US President who will cower in the face of Islamist terror.

Obama has a consistent record of failure when it comes to standing up for principle. At one point, he told Israel supporters that an undivided Jerusalem should remain Israel’s capital. But a few days later, after getting criticism from Hamas and others, he changed his tune. As Weekly Blitz correspondent, Amitabh Tripathi told me, “If he will change his position on a topic that is important to US voters, how can we expect that he will be strong and defend South Asians against the terrorists we face?” He will not even stand up for himself. His name, as most people know, is Barack Hussein Obama, but anyone who uses his full name received a barrage of criticism from the Obama campaign, as if the candidate wants to stay away from his own Muslim roots. When his pastor’s racist comments were made public, Obama first defended the man; and repudiated him only after he was personally insulted by the pastor’s comment about acting out of political self-interest. And despite his speeches, he has backed off from confronting Islamist terrorism every real chance he has had.

And that, my friends, is the real Barack Obama!

Did you know……

While Democratic Barack Obama speaks as if Bangladesh simply does not exist, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, has a very special tie to Bangladesh: his youngest daughter, Bridget McCain.

Bridget is Bangladeshi, John and Cindy McCain adopted her after Mrs. McCain saw her at Mother Theresa’s orphanage during a visit to Bangladesh. According to the Republican Presidential candidate: “There were two little baby girls there. One had a heart problem the other a severe cleft palate. Cindy was very concerned about their ability to survive and their need for medical treatment, so she decided to bring them here for medical treatment. She fell in love with both of them. We decided to adopt Bridget. Two close friends of ours adopted Mickey, the other child.”

When McCain ran against George Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000, some people attacked him with racist remarks because of his daughter’s dark, Bengali skin. But McCain stood up to them even if it cost him votes, saying, “I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those.”

And that, my friends, is John McCain.