Some of my friends on the Right are puzzled whenever I say I’d like to vote for Barack Obama, while others nod in agreement. As the Democrats convene in Denver, it is becoming clearer by the hour why there is no way I will do so.
For many months, Obama’s appeal to this Reaganaut since the night of The Speech in 1964 consisted of two elements, one personal and the other a consideration that transcends any particular political or ideological consideration.
The first can be summarized in two words — Coburn-Obama, aka the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. That’s the landmark bill that resulted in the establishment of a Google-like, searchable database of most federal spending. You can see it at USAspending.gov.
I’d worked for years before 2006 seeking such a Web site, and the fact that the concept united two senators representing ideological opposites — Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is as conservative as Obama is liberal — suggested the possibility of a genuinely transpartisan politics emerging from the seamy cauldron of American partisanship.
Conservatives and liberals will probably never agree on the proper role and scope of the federal government, I reasoned, but we could at least agree that taxpayers should know in great detail how their tax dollars are being spent and thus be able to hold government officials accountable for their actions in powerful new ways. And, if we could agree on that idea, perhaps others — such as shining the light of transparency on such fetid outrages from the inner workings of Congress as earmarks and related abuses designed to advance narrow political and ideological agendas in both parties — would logically follow.
The other reason for Obama’s appeal to me as a Reagan conservative was my conviction that electing a black man or woman as president would be the final act in forever erasing the dark stain of slavery and Jim Crow from America’s soul.
As a son of the South and a man whose heart never fails to be stirred by the Star Spangled Banner, the prospect of an African-American in the White House has an appeal that goes to and beyond those mystic chords of memory Lincoln invoked on the eve of the Civil War.
But alas, as I have painfully observed in recent weeks, the hollowness of Obama’s claim to be something new in American politics has become all too clear.
Among the last straws was the lurid revelation of Obama’s $1 million earmark to the University of Chicago Medical Center that put hundreds of thousands of dollars in his own pocket via his wife’s paycheck. When challenged on it, Obama said only that somebody else should have sponsored the earmark.
Then there is the hypocritical way he tries to obscure his relationship with terrorist William Ayers and their joint work on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). Ayers is the former Weather Underground SDSer who spent his youth robbing banks, bombing the U.S. Capitol and killing cops. To this day, his lone regret is not planting more bombs.
Obama wants us to think that Ayers was just some guy “in the neighborhood.” The truth is Obama and Ayers worked closely together on the CAC for years and thus bear mutual responsibility for the waste of $110 million intended to make Chicago schools better.
Last week, University of Illinois officials denied journalist Stanley Kurtz access to the official CAC papers, which would provide definitive evidence about the Obama-Ayers relationship. If Obama has nothing to hide, he should ask the responsible officials with custody of the CAC papers to release all of the documents immediately.
Do I sound bitter? Well, I still believe an African-American in the White House would be a great thing for America. I wanted to believe Obama was the one. But what America doesn’t need in the Oval Office, ever, is a smooth-talking political huckster of any color — from Chicago or anywhere else.