Obama’s “Politically Ruthless Past” Actually Pretty Tame

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, History, Illinois

Okay, so you heard the story from Alan, but let’s be clear about what Obama did here.

He challenged that printed names were not legally valid for petitions and that the petition collectors needed to be properly registered. The laws in Chicago state pretty plainly that people have to get actual signatures on petitions and that all the people who gather petitions have to be identified.

Why?

Ed Morrissey does the math…

If printed names were acceptable and the collectors don’t properly identify themselves, then all a political campaign needs to do is to copy names out of a phonebook and make sure that the work couldn’t be traced by using a false identity for the collector.

Conservatives have rightly demanded proper identification for voters in order to avoid fraud. Certainly, these rules prevent voter fraud as well and should be enforced. We can fault Obama for not being consistent about the issue, but it’s somewhat hypocritical to fault Obama for demanding that the existing rules get enforced.

This seems to be one of those stories where it’s a lot sexier to characterize Obama as playing “hardball” back in the day instead of acknowledging that he was following some pretty basic petition rules.

Ruthless and slick indeed! ;-)


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2008 and is filed under Barack, History, Illinois. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Obama’s “Politically Ruthless Past” Actually Pretty Tame”

  1. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Well, when it comes to politics, I don’t consider ruthlessness as the worst condemnation. It’s not like I said he had a sinister past. But, let’s be honest here — there’s a general understanding in Chicago (and many other cities) that candidates didn’t REALLY have to go get all those signatures, so long as they had enough support to be generally consider viable. That’s why ALL of Obama’s opponents were doing it. Obama, however, used that bad habit against his opponents, thus changing the unwritten rules in favor of the written ones. That’s not a bad thing, per se. But it is politically ruthless. And it’s not like he was doing it to be a “reformer.” He did it to ensure his own victory. Smart. Savvy. And ruthless.

    My point was and remains that this guy isn’t changing the political atmoshphere, he’s just really good at playing the game. That doesn’t invalidate his political ideas, it just brings into question how likely he is to change politics as usual.

  2. krabbie Says:

    Well, Alan, I guess if you want a level playing field and all participants playing by one set of rules, you get to call them ruthless and slick???? I want politititians to be playing by a set of rules that you can be accountable for and to. Besides I have a mimeograph machine in my basement that can put out mucho sigs in no time flat… we need rules and a fair political playing field and no need for you calling BO a “slick” or “ruthless” pol. Don’t we have enough of name slinging on the web???

  3. Justin Gardner Says:

    My point was and remains that this guy isn’t changing the political atmoshphere, he’s just really good at playing the game. That doesn’t invalidate his political ideas, it just brings into question how likely he is to change politics as usual.

    Now hold on…if he wasn’t following the normal “unwritten rules”, then shouldn’t going by the actual rules be seen as changing the political atmosphere? Because he basically helped reform the system by making sure things were done legally and right…right?

    Again, I don’t see how this makes him slick or ruthless. It just makes him smart and ethical.

  4. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Come on, Justin. It’s not reform if you’re only doing it for your own political advantage. After that inial campaign, did he go back and try to reform the signature system? Not that I can find. Did he ever have a problem with the signature system when he was community organizing for others? Again, there’s no record of that. But suddenly, when he sees a personal advantage, he decides to “reform” things.

    Local level politics are often ruthless and its no surprise to find that Obama had the smarts to use a technicality to win rather than actually having to face his opponents in an election. I guess one man’s ruthless is another man’s savvy. But it’s not praiseworthy. And it sure as heck doesn’t show him to be anything but a typical politician. So let’s not pretend it does.

  5. mike mcEachran Says:

    Alan, you’re not making any sense.

    “Did he ever have a problem with the signature system when he was a community organizer for others?”

    No. He didn’t; he followed the rules. I have to follow rules that are very much like campaign rules in my business . I and my colleagues work very hard to follow these rules – like going out door-to-door and getting signatures from actual people. I”m damn sure going to call out one of my competitors who’s taking a shortcut after I’ve done the hard work, ethically. You call that ruthless?? You see how you feel after hours and hours of pounding the pavement only to have one of your competitors try to cut in front of you with unethical behavior. Believe me Alan, you’d be the first one screaming bloody murder.

    And you have the gall to try to turn that around on Obama to call him ‘slick’ and ‘ruthless’, when you yourself admit that his appontents were following the “‘unwritten rule” that they could break the rules. And then on top of all that, you accuse Obama of being disingenuous about being a reformer because why? because he didn’t raise a big public fuss that his competitors broke the rules? What do you expect him to do that would somehow qualify him as an authentic reformer? According to your logic, he should have played the same game that his competitors played by cutting corners, then circled back and had himself and everybody brought up on charges…

    No sense at all.

    “But, let’s be honest here — there’s a general understanding in Chicago (and many other cities) that candidates didn’t REALLY have to go get all those signatures, so long as they had enough support to be generally consider viable. That’s why ALL of Obama’s opponents were doing it. Obama, however, used that bad habit against his opponents, thus changing the unwritten rules in favor of the written ones. That’s not a bad thing, per se. But it is politically ruthless.”

    It’s smart and ethical. Please…

  6. Tully Says:

    “Local level politics are often ruthless and its no surprise to find that Obama had the smarts to use a technicality to win rather than actually having to face his opponents in an election. I guess one man’s ruthless is another man’s savvy. But it’s not praiseworthy.”

    Echo. He preferred to sneak his way to victory rather than actually face a contested election. He did it within the rules, and timed it so his opponents could not re-file. It’s not praiseworthy…but it does call up a bit of sneaking admiration for the slickness. Smart? Yes. Ethical? Pull the other one…he didn’t do it to improve or uphold the system, he did it for his own selfish purposes, to not have to fight for the seat. Ethics is so often in the intent, and the intent there was pretty darn clear. Win by eliminating the competition and thus avoiding the contest.

    It was a sharp move on Obama’s part. But ethical? Not really. But as they say, politics ain’t beanbag. I’ve done much the same thing a few times. I didn’t try to claim some shining rectitude for so doing. As Tessio said:

    “Tell Michael it was just business.”

Leave a Reply


NOTE TO COMMENTERS:


You must ALWAYS fill in the two word CAPTCHA below to submit a comment. And if this is your first time commenting on Donklephant, it will be held in a moderation queue for approval. Please don't resubmit the same comment a couple times. We'll get around to moderating it soon enough.


Also, sometimes even if you've commented before, it may still get placed in a moderation queue and/or sent to the spam folder. If it's just in moderation queue, it'll be published, but it may be deleted if it lands in the spam folder. My apologies if this happens but there are some keywords that push it into the spam folder.


One last note, we will not tolerate comments that disparage people based on age, sex, handicap, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. We reserve the right to delete these comments and ban the people who make them from ever commenting here again.


Thanks for understanding and have a pleasurable commenting experience.


Related Posts: