The [Thursday] Papers
Barack Obama "invited" CNN's Wolf Blitzer into his Senate office on Wednesday for an "exclusive" interview that proved unsatisfying - but revealing - on both ends.
* Blitzer showed a video of Obama speaking before the New Trier Democratic Organization in 2003 saying he would vote against an $87 billion Iraq war funding bill. As Blitzer noted, Obama actually ended up voting for it.
Obama's explanation? His particular concern about the bill was $20 billion in no-bid reconstruction contracts. But the video clearly showed Obama thundering that Congress should say "no to George Bush."
* Obama again said "I don't think gays and lesbians are any more immoral than heterosexuals."
In other words, we're all sinners? Why can't Obama just say "I don't believe homosexuality is immoral" - or say that he does in fact find homosexuality immoral based on his Christian faith?
Instead, he continues to dodge and weave - even blaming the media for the original New York Times story that got this ball rolling. "I'm not sure that the story got out there properly," he said, explaining that the reason he didn't respond to the question asking his position in the aftermath of Peter Pace's remarks was that he was getting into a car and not responding to any questions. The Times report, however, said Obama "sidestepped the morality question three times" before the campaign put out a statement later that night that did not address morality. That happened in a further statement a day later.
* Blitzer asked Obama about gay marriage. "Marriage has a religious connotation in this society," Obama said. "In our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. As a consequence it would be extraordinarily difficult and distracting to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians."
But marriage is a civil act in our society. Anyone can go have a church ceremony, but it is the legal filing of the marriage certificate that bestows status on a union. And plenty of people get married before judges. In fact, I've heard that even atheists sometimes get married.
Now, if Obama wants to propose civil unions for heterosexuals too - and leave marriage to the religious - that might make sense. Somehow, though, I think that's an even tougher road to hoe than simply moving for gay marriage. [NOTE: A reader points out the proper phrase is "row to hoe," though "road to hoe" has taken on a life of its own. My bad.]
(Advocating a separate-but-equal status for gays and lesbians is also striking given his recent appearance in Selma, where the civil rights movement didn't find it prudent to wait for a "consensus" on voting rights and desegregation.)
* Blitzer failed to ask Obama about how his religious beliefs inform his view of gay marriage, despite Obama's past statements about just that.
* Obama also blamed the media for reports of a rift between him and Al Sharpton. But Blitzer failed to ask Obama about one of Sharpton's chief criticisms (which the media didn't exactly gin up): How could a candidate who is now bragging about his anti-war stance (but has been criticized by anti-war activists, as Blitzer alluded to, for falling silent once he got to the Senate) have gone to Connecticut to raise money and endorse Joe Lieberman?
Actually, it's not that Blitzer didn't ask, it's that he asked in one of those questions that actually included four or five questions, and it's not one Obama chose to address.
Blitzer didn't ask Obama about that pesky little problem, illuminated in the Tribune's Sunday story about assertions by Obama in the book that simply are not true, according to the paper's reporting.
* "Chicago aviation officials told members of a House transportation subcommittee Wednesday that an airline ticket tax increase of up to 67 percent is needed to help cover the costs of upgrading and expanding airports," AP reports.
* "The total cost to attend the University of Chicago will exceed $47,000 next year, the school announced Wednesday," the Sun-Times reports (unavailable online).
* Oompa Loompa.
"The Trust's Board of Directors meets twice a year to consider grant requests. Grants are awarded only if they meet strict requirements. For example, the Trust will not award grants to organizations aimed at furthering religious doctrines, for scholarships, medical research, benefit dinners, advertisements, or tables at fundraising events. The Trust raises money by hosting large Chicago-area fundraisers.
"Most donations funded by the Chicago Sun-Times are made by the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust, the mission of which is to provide "financial support to arts, cultural and social service programs in the Chicago metropolitan area." In accordance with the Trust's grant application guidelines, grants are typically small, ranging between $1,000 and $5,000.307
"At least on a few occasions, Radler appears to have caused the Chicago Sun-Times to make donations outside the confines of the Trust and its guidelines. Disbursement information from the Chicago Sun-Times shows donations in 2001 for $35,000 and in 2002 for $25,000 to Haifa University, a college in Israel to which Hollinger's New York office and the Jerusalem Post Charitable Fund each also donated $25,000 in 2002. Haifa University bestowed an honorary degree on Radler in May 2002.
According to Tom Rose, former publisher of the Jerusalem Post, the Post operates three large charitable funds and a not-for-profit organization in the United States. The three charitable funds were created more than 70 years ago and are independently chartered. They operate under local laws and filing requirements, and make contributions consistent with the Jerusalem Post's mission or contributors' wishes, or to longstanding recipients.
"A June 19, 1997 memo from Radler responding to a request that the Sun-Times donate to the United Jewish Appeal states that the Jerusalem Post Charity Funds 'raise and distribute over $500,000 US per year.'
"Rose sent a memo to Radler in May 2001 expressing concern about donations to Haifa University from the Jerusalem Post Charitable Fund:
'Your suggestion that we pay for the table at the Haifa U. dinner in your honor with monies from the funds might not be such a good idea. I have been advised that authorities are getting more serious about insuring [sic] that non-profit payment guidelines are followed.
'The problem, theoretically at least, is that the funds must be spent in Israel and this organization is not recognized in Israel.'
"Rose reiterated this concern in a 2002 e-mail:
'Avi has arranged to give Yael from Haifa University $50,000 later this week. The two checks from the CST funds arrived in the package you sent last week. And at your instruction we will pay the balance from our own charitable funds; roughly $25,000.
'Are you sure that you are OK with this? As I have indicated this makes me nervous. While I completely agree that you can argue you subsidize Israel to the tune of funding Post losses each year, I think that using funds from donors to our charitable funds sets us up for all kinds of problems.'
"The Special Committee has found no document reflecting that Radler ever responded to these concerns."
The Beachwood Tip Line: Accepting charity.
Posted on March 29, 2007
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