Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obama's Rise [UPDATE]

Little is known outside of Ilinois about Obama's sudden rise from state legislator to US Senator.

Much of this history is finally explained in a article that comes out today in a Houston Press article written by the reporter who  covered him for the local Hyde Park, Chicago community newspaper.

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Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. was Obama's kingmaker. "I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'"

Cover Story: Barack Obama and Me

Thu Feb 28, 2008 ews/barack-obama-screamed-at-me/

I used to talk to Barack Obama on a regular basis back when he was a rank-and-file state legislator in Illinois and I worked for a pair of community newspapers there. I lived two blocks away from him and worked in the same building that housed his favorite barbershop.

Obama's rise from political unknown to political icon has been astounding. In 2004, when Obama was running for U.S. Senate, I followed him on a tour of small churches on the Chicago South Side. The pews were empty, and his speeches received lukewarm applause, at best.

Last Tuesday, 19,000 people packed Houston's Toyota Center for Obama. Many waited outside for ten hours to hear him speak for 40 minutes. You should have heard the roar when he finally hit the stage.

Obama may well make an excellent president. But he was a largely ineffective lawmaker during most of his career in the Illinois General Assembly.

It isn't well known that Obama built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year. Or that he spent most of his tenure evading leadership on key community issues in and around his district. Or that he first skated into elective office uncontested by using aggressive legal tactics to knock all other candidates off the ballot.

Wearing his ambitions on his sleeve, Obama has run for a more powerful political position every three years since being elected in 1996 to the Illinois legislature.

Four years ago, while writing for the Illinois Times in the capital city of Springfield - where Obama later announced his presidential bid - I broke a story about how black Chicago lawmakers who had worked with Obama resented him and supported other candidates in the U.S. Senate election that catapulted him to the national stage. (I really suggest you read this. Its still available here: ntent?oid=oid%3A3015)

The morning after the story ran, Obama called me up and screamed at me. Today it's tough to imagine Obama losing his cool - especially at some young reporter working for some obscure newspaper. But, then, things change.

- Todd Spivak


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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

About 70% of this million-word feature centers on the writer’s start in the journalism business, so let’s summarize the parts anyone will give a shit about:

* Barack’s entire record of state legislation that he touts now was done in his first year as a state senator, so that he could have some record when he wanted to run for higher office, immediately. But he lost a Congressional run in 2000 because he was like four years old.

* Then, in 2002, black Democrats took over the state legislature and were led by the powerful Majority Leader Emil Jones Jr. (“a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor”). Since Jones was powerful and black, Barack — and this has been reported before — asked Jones to make him a U.S. Senator. “I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator,” Jones said to a friend.

* Jones “appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.” And then Jones “further helped raise Obama’s profile by having him craft legislation addressing the day-to-day tragedies that dominated local news ­headlines.” What didn’t Jones do? Is Barack Obama just a hologram of this “Jones”?

* Then Obama ignored black community issues in his district, to avoid being the black candidate. “Obama’s aloofness on key community issues for years frustrated Lucas and many other South Siders. Now they believe he was just afraid of making political enemies or being pigeonholed as a black candidate.”

* Barack only won his Senate seat in 1996 by finding petty flaws in the other candidates petitions — HE PULLED A HARVARD ON THE COMMON FOLKS.

* In 2004, the article’s author profiled Barack Obama and included many complaints from other black politicians in the state legislature, about Barack’s cheating record.

* Then, the climax: Obama YELLED AT THIS REPORTER ON THE PHONE, ANGRILY. Because of this, we have an article today that Wonkette can nicely summarize in bullet points.

Tags: obama (all tags)



Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

Another day, another series of Obama hit-pieces on myDD. Congratulations.

by marcotom 2008-02-28 04:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

I am looking forward to the day when these attacks will no longer come from people who call themselves Democrats.

We have come to a stage in this primary where supporters of Sen. Clinton on this web site do not even try to advocate their candidacy, they rather enjoy themselves in tearing down Sen. Obama's.

by marcotom 2008-02-28 04:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Emil Jones looks pretty intereresting...

Exactly...and I bet Emil wouldn't threaten you during the course of dinner.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-28 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Emil Jones looks pretty intereresting...

And he wouldn't poison you either. So what exactly are you saying?

by marcotom 2008-02-28 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Emil Jones looks pretty intereresting...

Sit at the dinner table?

WTF is this? American Idol?

by IndyRobin 2008-02-28 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

I am also looking forward to the day when misogynistic attacks against Hillary Clinton will not come from people who call themselves Democrats.

We have long been at the stage where supporters of Barack all over the internet do not even try to advocate their candidate, but rather enjoy themselves in tearing down Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

by BigB 2008-02-28 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

Hear no evil! see no evil! Obama is lord! Hallowed be thy Obama!

by owl06 2008-02-28 06:08AM | 0 recs
You better pray that, since

you'll be dining on shit sandwiches for six months.

by CarolinaNumber23 2008-02-28 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: You better pray that, since
by sricki 2008-02-28 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: You better pray that, since

Typical Obama supporter.

by BigB 2008-02-28 01:24PM | 0 recs
Chicago slap down?

hey, it's the primary season and Mr. Obama is trying to stack his deck. it's politics, and so is this.  We have not yet chosen the party leader and I'd like party members to choose.  What's true is true, and this is hardly a hit. We he not running against a girl, his opponent would probably  have also engaged in Chicago slap down.  He names the game and he plays the game to win, and he'll take a technical win, or one that involved favors. But favors aren't usually free, and let's ask him to show his hand and we can take an up or down vote on whether or not we think he can go the distance with his baggage.  whatever it is.  

by anna shane 2008-02-28 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Chicago slap down?

Fine. Then please come up with something substantive soon because what I have seen on this site in the last week does not pass the smell test.

by marcotom 2008-02-28 01:05PM | 0 recs
No matter what you think

No matter what you think of this diary, this is minor stuff compared to what the righties will do.

If he is the nominee, can he stand up to this?

I think his main saving grace is the devastation of the 8 years of bush and crew, the oddity of mccain and the high likelihood of almost ANY Democrat winning the Presidency this year and more Democrats winning congressional seats because of it.

by kevin22262 2008-02-28 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

It kills me that Obama followers consider any discussion of his life that doesn't show him about to be cannanized into sainthood is a hit piece.  That covers just about every discussion there is. If Obama didn't want his life, history, or even political moves discussed maybe he shouldn't have had any to discuss in the first place.  Sheesh.

by Scotch 2008-02-28 03:21PM | 0 recs

Spivak -- and the paper's he's written for -- are nothing, small-time rags.

For each of them - I can give you contrary articles from the Chicago Reader, the Windy City times, you name it.

In a city of 7 million, with several dozen papers -- finding someone to write something bad about a candidate takes about 5 minutes of googling.

Spivak's always been an ass -- it's why he got run out of Chicago.

by zonk 2008-02-28 04:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Please...


The point, my slow friend, is that "covered him back when" does not equal "The Truth".

Don Wade, a conservative talk show host from Chicago, has "covered Obama back in the day" too.... Should we accept what he says as "The Truth"?

by zonk 2008-02-28 05:00AM | 0 recs
Re: cult like

I read the entire article.

The fact is that Spivak is a hatchet artist, pure and simple.

Find me a Spivak article that praises an elected official.... you won't.   He's a Geraldo Rivera attack man.

He's Lou Dobbs without the racism -- all politicians are BAD, BAD, BAD.   If he were from North Carolina, I guarantee that he'd have plenty bad to say about John Edwards.  If he were from Arkansas or New York, he'd had plenty bad to say about Hillary Clinton.   If he were from whereever it is Ralph Nader hails from - he'd had plenty bad to say about Nader.

He's simply one of those types of folks that the job of a journalist is to attack those he covers.

by zonk 2008-02-28 06:03AM | 0 recs
Re: cult like

The article is 5 pages of fluff bragging about knowing Obama "back when" with a couple attack lines (which you've conveniently extracted) sounding bitter and vindictive.  This is the best you have?  Obama is terrible because other Chicago politicians are jealous of him and didn't support his Senate bid?  

Your diary is more of a hit piece in that you cut out the 5 pages of fluff and just left the bitter vindictive sniping.

Only 5 more days of the Clinton smear machine.

by NJIndependent 2008-02-28 06:12AM | 0 recs

I guess Obama didn't make every single person in the world happy.  He's not going to win 100% of the vote?  It's hopeless!  We're doomed!

by thezzyzx 2008-02-28 04:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn!

And what is most worrisome: he didn't even get 100% of the vote in Illinois!

by marcotom 2008-02-28 04:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn!

OH NOES!!11!1!!11eleven1!!!!

by thezzyzx 2008-02-28 04:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Damn!

No doubt.  What a disappointment that he could only top out at a 47 point victory in his Senate election.  Goes to show there are out of touch wingnuts everywhere...

by NJIndependent 2008-02-28 04:50AM | 0 recs
Nope, he didn't get 100% of the vote in 2004

He only got 70% of the vote.


by Walt Starr 2008-02-28 04:55AM | 0 recs
Re: cult like

Yes I did.  When the best "slams" that people can come up with on Obama are that other people who worked with him didn't like him and that Obama screamed at him, well I'm amazed that he's that scandal free.

"Don't vote for Obama!  He might have yelled at a reporter once!"

I love how even the non-issue of Obama losing his temper once, doesn't even have evidence for it.

I'm not in the cult of Obama.  I like him, but I also like Clinton.  I'd be willing to be wooed to her side.  However, the more that her side talked about nonsense like this instead of explaining what makes Clinton good, the less likely that is to happen.  If you're going to go negative, you better have a good negative to go with.

by thezzyzx 2008-02-28 05:01AM | 0 recs
Re: cult like

Plus, if dem dem and the rest of the right wing hate mongers are going to try to run a general election campaign on who has the worst temper, they're going to lose very, very badly.

by NJIndependent 2008-02-28 05:10AM | 0 recs
Re: cult like

You know, I'm starting to understand the whole "Obama has not been vetted" meme.  I can't figure out why it's so powerful when he's been running in a presidential primary for a year now.  People have been digging and searching.

I finally figured it out.  Nothing has been found.  The cynical assumption is that everyone has to be corrupt.  If we haven't found a scandal yet, it just means that Obama is better at hiding it, not that he might actually be clean.

Maybe there's something still lurking out there, but if a scandal hungry press, the advance scouts of the Republican party, and the diehard Clinton fans haven't been able to find it yet, I'm starting to suspect that it doesn't exist.

by thezzyzx 2008-02-28 05:18AM | 0 recs
You've got it


I think people have this mistaken impression that our respected media sources --- from the tribune to the Sun-Times to the Chicago Reader to the local radio and TV reporters --- somehow don't do their jobs... that they're somehow covering for local politicians.

Far from it -- our media actually does a magnificent job illuminating corruption.   You can't watch the local news, pick up a local paper, or listen to local radio without an "exclusive", a "breaking report", or a story on government waste or corruption.   Unfortunately - Chicago voters just don't always vote their conscience.

The reason none of the local sleaze - and truthfully, Chicago is really not that much worse than any other metropolitan area - has followed Obama national is because there simply isn't anything there.

He's not spotless - no politician anywhere is - but set him besides his geographic colleagues and yeah, he looks pretty darn saintly.

by zonk 2008-02-28 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

What?!?!? Royko was the last real journalist in Chicago, these hacks just make stuff up. When's the last time the Trib or the Sun-Times actually broke a story that we didn't all see coming six months and a dozen lawyers away?

by funemployed 2008-02-28 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

Hire a truck?

Minority contract front companies?

Corruption and malfeasance by the Cook County hospital security force?

Hell... just this morning - all our media outlets were buzzing over the story of Cook County Board Pres Todd Stroger taking flying (and lodging and per diem, etc) 7 people to DC for a "county government convention" at the same time the county board is trying to close a big budget hole by raising taxes.

Or take the Rezko matter --- the local media was all over this well before he was ever indicted.... too bad - unlike HIllbots - they're actually chasing the real story -- Rod Blagojevich's naming of Rezko to the teacher's retirement board fund -- then using that position to shake down folks.

by zonk 2008-02-28 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

Ok, you've got more tolerance for crap than I do to wade through all that and find the real stories, but c'mon. OMG Stroger is corrupt? I couldn't tell when they forged a stroke victim's signature to put him in office. OMG Cook County hires incompetent workers? Can you see where I'm going with this? Anyways I'll concede the point. Sometimes our local media breaks a story, but they don't write good and if you can name for me some decent journalists who cover local politics I really will be actually grateful.

PS Cubs or Sox I see you here and at DKos and I need to know whether to hate you or not.

by funemployed 2008-02-28 06:49AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

It speaks to how hard it actually was for me to support Obama, an admitted White Sox booster, that I, a Cubs fan, have found a way to support him.

by zonk 2008-02-28 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

Yes. Cubs for Obama. We need a support group. I think I can turn him.

by funemployed 2008-02-28 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

There's a group of Cubs Fans for Obama on

If he's a decent enough singer to not make a fool of himself, he should to the stretch.  

by freedom78 2008-02-28 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: You've got it

I'm a Cubs fan too... on Monday I'm delivering a pair of custom 8" Baseball Sconces to go outside of the new Harey Carey's on Sheffield. I usually get bleacher seats to a handful of games a year, but this year isn't looking too hot (my new baby is strapping my finances).

Maybe after I get my economic stimulus check I'll blow it on Cubs tickets. Or $600 worth of waffles.

by dantes 2008-02-28 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One

I see the disgusting Clinton smear machine hasn't given up the ghost yet.  I admire you tenacity, no, wait, no I don't, I don't admire anything about vile character assassination hit pieces.

Only 5 more days...

by NJIndependent 2008-02-28 04:46AM | 0 recs
Re: $100 bucks this goes on

So when Obama wins TX, you're going to show up here to congratulate him.  Right?

by Cycloptichorn 2008-02-28 05:46AM | 0 recs
gotta love

that 4 point lead in PA

by omar little 2008-02-28 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: $100 bucks this goes on

You know for a fact that it does?

How?  What information do you use to derive this knowledge?

by Cycloptichorn 2008-02-28 07:15AM | 0 recs
The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

I read the whole thing and was amazed by it. It isn't a hit piece. It is actual REAL journalism from a REAL journalist. Finally the truth is seeping out.

by Fleaflicker 2008-02-28 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

Bah. It's a hit piece. Contrary to this reporter's claim, Obama was an accomplished state senator who moved some truly progressive legislation through a Republican-dominated state senate.

And contrary to this guy's claim that his fellow state senators didn't like him, Obama received the support of Democratic and even Republican state senators in his bid for U.S. Senate because he was so respected.

In fact, a rival for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Dan Hynes (now Illinois Comptroller), was a state senator with Obama and now heads his campaign in Illinois. They have been friends for years.

So the fact that you and the rest of the Clinton crew want to take one guy's word on Obama's state senate career marks you as naive and uninformed.

by Bob Johnson 2008-02-28 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

Bah, I know more about Obama and his record in the state senate than you will ever know.

He was popular with both sides of the aisle because he was trustworthy and he was able to get things done as a result. Even things that the Republican majority would not typically want to do like getting police to tape all murder interrogations.

The difference is, I know what I'm talking about and you don't.

by Bob Johnson 2008-02-28 07:08AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

This IS a hit piece because of how it was written, although there are shades of truth. And, what's more, completely unrelated to how good of a President Senator Obama can (and will) be. But, since you're all so in love with these irrelevancies and validating "narrative" politics, let's play.

Hey!, Bob Johnson, I'll match you state Senate record for state Senate record on Senator Obama.

If you're being honest (and not just claiming deep knowledge because you've read campaign biographies) then you'd know what everybody knew, that Senate President Jones DID muscle every piece of Senator Obama's legislation through in 2003 in preparation for his senate run, and that during the '04 campaign, all but one of the pieces of legislation he touted (expansion of children's health insurance; funding for breast exams; police interrogation; buying Israel bonds; and a handful of others) were passed in '03.

You could fairly counter that we had a GOP governor until 2002 (sworn in in '03) but that puts the lie to the popular conception that he was constantly passing bipartisan bills in the Illinois state Senate. He wasn't.

Do me a favor, though. Type "Blagojevich" and "legislative ally" into google, and see whose name comes up. I won't even do it: I'm that confident that the first five results at least, if not the first two pages will be...Emil Jones. Wow, so Senator Obama's political and legislative sponsor was also the legislative muscle for the new governor! Are you really asserting that this had nothing to do with the "centerpiece" legislation that Obama touted in '04, almost all of which was passed in '03?

The police interrogations was a great piece of legislation, that was supported by the Governor, who won with his support downstate and from Jones' South Side organization (in conjunction with a huge push from SEIU in black wards).

Emil Jones helped Senator Obama pad his legislative record in the run up to the 2004 election.

It's a good thing he did, too, because it helped Obama win, which is a good thing.

The knifing of Alice Palmer is an old story, too. That is up to interpretation: calling in the lawyers to have signatures thrown out on technicalities (they weren't "forgeries" like some claim) can be viewed as shrewd campaigning or anti-democratic; that is up to interpretation. What isn't up to interpretation is that Alice Palmer was Senator Obama's political sponsor, and his getting her booted off the ballot--not letting the voters decide--left a bad taste in some people's mouth. But, it's up to interpretation.

Yes, Kirk Dillard has come out and talked about how beloved Senator Obama was...but take the word of that Republican, and to be fair you have to take the words of this one:

[em]Brady also recalled a tendency to have it both ways and to dodge difficult votes that might hurt him later in life: "I saw great ambition in him, no question. He had an agenda."

As for his voting performance, Brady agreed Obama liked sitting on the fence. He is recalled for taking full advantage of an Illinois rule that lets you vote "present" if you don't want to commit yourself.

Brady recalled: "I learned very quickly that the 'present' vote, where the button you press is very appropriately coloured yellow, is the chicken's way out."

But that did not mean Obama lacked convictions. On the contrary, when it suited him he would vote as far Left as he could. "No one was further Left. He would do things that were unrealistic to prove he was Left.

"He was not far Left for political benefit but because he was a true believer.

"But these would be on broad-brush issues - unlike, say, detailed abortion laws - where it was unlikely to be held against him. I have never heard anyone say so little about detailed policies . . . He has moderated his tones, but I don't think he has moderated his beliefs," said Brady.

Relevance to Presidency? Nothing.

You have to admit (but you won't) that while his record in Springfield was good, and that while he was well-liked, and respected (all true) he wasn't perfect; he had defects. He was very reliant for Jones (based on the legislation he himself touted). Some people didn't like him. Some people thought he was a "young man in a hurry" as they say; his record is good--maybe even great--but not perfect.

Oh my God--the truth lies in the middle!?!? What are the chances.

by chicagolife 2008-02-28 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

Agree with you, Fleaflicker. This article is a MUST READ.... from the perspective of a young cubby reporter who covered Obama in the Illinois BEFORE he became "Senator Jesus."

Another interesting excerpt:

"He was just 35 when in 1996 he won his first bid for political
office. Even many of his staunchest supporters, such as Black, still
resent the strong-arm tactics Obama employed to win his seat in the
Illinois Legislature.

Obama hired fellow Harvard Law alum and election law expert Thomas
Johnson to challenge the nominating petitions of four other
candidates, including the popular incumbent, Alice Palmer, a liberal
activist who had held the seat for several years, according to an
April 2007 Chicago Tribune report.

Obama found enough flaws in the petition sheets -- to appear on the
ballot, candidates needed 757 signatures from registered voters
living within the district -- to knock off all the other Democratic
contenders. He won the seat unopposed.

"A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he
has cultivated throughout his political career," wrote Tribune
political reporters David Jackson and Ray Long. "The man now running
for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first
entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by
clearing it."

by KnowVox 2008-02-28 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama
Have a donut for handing out TR's for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama
"lame, nerdy"?!? "ugh"? LOL. Oh, our stupid discourse.
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 07:29AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama
Only by the DINO's....
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: quite lame
Lame, but true.
by John in Chicago 2008-02-28 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The Lie Behind State Senator Obama

Obama challenged illegal petitions. At least one of those candidates (in the Trib article) confessed he bought sheets of signed petitions from unsavory sources.

Alice Palmer was the incumbent, but she hadn't meant to be. She was originally running for a Federal seat, and lost that election. After already endorsing Obama as her successor, she tried jumping back into her old race a few weeks before petitions were due.

She called him and asked him to drop out, but he didn't.

by dantes 2008-02-28 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam
see no evil, hear no evil,
hold on to your believe,
how many times we fall for the wrong guy.
by JoeySky18 2008-02-28 06:16AM | 0 recs
fall for the wrong guy?

Interesting, are you referring to Bush? Because Democrats did NOT fall for Bush. Maybe it's just you.  

by JoeCoaster 2008-02-28 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

What I found most interesting about the article is that BO wasn't able to get anything done until the congress was all democratic and he was being helped by the leadership. I mean, why didn't he reach across the aisle and bring Illinois together? Certainly that's got to be easier than bringing America together.

All talk, no action.

by seattlegonz 2008-02-28 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

Why do you rely on hit-pieces to get your information?

by marcotom 2008-02-28 06:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Chosen One:The Truth Behind State Senator Obam

I have the strong feeling that you don't get that the Wonkette piece is a sarcastic summary laced with disdain for the article.

by mattw 2008-02-28 11:19AM | 0 recs


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