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Dem Convention Notebook 2

Yeah, Michelle Obama is a bad-ass.

*

From the Beachwood vault:

"When her husband ran for Congress in 2000, Michelle Obama groused so much about handshaking and fund-raising that Arthur Sussman, then her boss at the University of Chicago, finally asked if she truly could not find a single thing about campaigning to enjoy," Jodi Kantor reported in 2008 in the New York Times.

"Michelle Obama thought for a moment. Visiting so many living rooms had given her some new decorating ideas, she allowed."

*

"Earlier in their 15-year marriage, [Michelle] was often furious with her husband," Vanity Fair reported in December 2007. "'I have chosen a life with a ridiculous schedule, a life that requires me to be gone from Michelle and the girls for long stretches of time and that exposes Michelle to all sorts of stress,' Barack wrote in his best-seller The Audacity of Hope."

Available to reporters since it was published in December 2006.

"By the time their second child was born, he reported, 'my wife's anger toward me seemed barely contained. "You only think of yourself," she would tell me. "I never thought I'd have to raise a family alone."

"Mrs. Obama finally got tired of being enraged and miserable. 'One day I woke up and said, I can't live my life mad. This is just no fun,' she reports. 'For a period in my life, I thought the help I needed had to come from Barack. It wasn't that he didn't care, but he wasn't there. So I enlisted moms and babysitters and got help with the housecleaning, and I built that community myself.'"

*

In Audacity of Hope, Barack recalls Michelle telling him that she never expected she'd have to be a single mother.

*

From June 2008:

"She's the real deal, not some overcoached, carefully packaged facsimile."
- Sun-Times editorial on Michelle Obama, today

"Now her husband's presidential campaign is giving her image a subtle makeover, with a new speech in the works to emphasize her humble roots and a tough new chief of staff. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will do a guest turn on The View, the daytime talk show on ABC, with an eye toward softening her reputation."

- The New York Times, yesterday on the front page

*

From February 2008:

"In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, on Monday, Mr. Obama's wife, Michelle, was asked if she would work to support Mrs. Clinton if she won. 'I'd have to think about that,' she replied."

*

Noted feminist Barack Obama accompanied Michelle to her job interview in Daley's City Hall. The Tribune picks up the story:

"Jarrett left City Hall to lead the Chicago Transit Authority and recruited Michelle Obama to 'the transit agency's citizen advisory committee' [Daley's chief of staff David Mosena], who now is president of the Museum of Science and Industry, served with [Michelle] Obama on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks . . .

"City Hall records show Michelle Obama, then still named Robinson, began work as a $60,000-a-year mayoral assistant in September of 1991. She didn't stay long in the mayor's office. Within weeks, Daley promoted Jarrett to run the new Department of Planning and Development. Obama followed.

"She had no background in economic development, but Obama served as a troubleshooter for Jarrett.

"After only 18 months at the city, she left to launch the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, a group that sought to build future community leaders by arranging apprenticeships for young adults with non-profit organizations. Barack Obama was on the founding board of Public Allies, and it was he who recommended his new wife for the job as the Chicago chapter's first executive director, recalled Paul Schmitz, the current president of the group, which is now headquartered in Milwaukee and has chapters in many cities."

She's just like us.

*

From the Beachwood vault, April 2007:

The Tribune also had some interesting Obama reporting over the weekend in its profile of his wife, Michelle.

First, there's the specter of Michelle spinning her job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which apparently has been to keep poor people out of its emergency room. Her explanation for representing the hospital's budget instead of its most needy patients is right out of the Ronald Reagan handbook: "It's mutual responsibility."

See, poor people have a responsibility to take better care of themselves so they don't get sick, and the University of Chicago has a responsibility to take better care of its budget so it can continue to pay annual salaries like the $273,618 it pays Michelle Obama. How else is she supposed to be able to afford real estate deals with Tony Rezko?

Of course, that's not her only source of income.

"Not long after Barack Obama entered the U.S. Senate, for instance, his wife was offered a position on the board of TreeHouse Foods, a Westchester-based maker of specialty foods." TreeHouse's biggest customer, by far, is Wal-Mart.

Michelle Obama's compensation pacakge from TreeHouse last year was $101,083, the Tribune reports.

But her main gig is at the U of C, where her boss is . . . Susan Sher. That's Susan Sher, the city's former Corporation Counsel, whom Michelle worked with while she was employed in the Daley Administration. (Yes, she worked in the Daley Administration. Go figure.)

So when Obama says "our politics feels very much like an insider's game," he knows of what he speaks.

*

Oh, but she apparently gave a boffo speech last night!

*

"That's the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him," she said. "I see the concern in his eyes . . . and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, 'You won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. . It's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do."

Well, that's believable, if only because he has a history of poring over letters from concerned constituents, like those looking to build housing in his senate district (but not from the media asking questions about that housing.)

From the Beachwood vault, April 2007:

The Sun-Times expands today on Barack Obama's relationship with indicted political wheel Tony Rezko in the first of a two-part investigation, this part called "Obama and His Slumlord Patron."

The paper reports that "new facts [have] come to light that paint Rezko as a landlord overseeing dilapidated housing in the middle of Obama's former state Senate district," and that "Obama did legal work on some Rezko deals."

As the paper acknowledges, the scope of Obama's work remains unknown. But his involvement at some level is unmistakable - as is the absence of evidence Obama ever spoke up for the low-income citizens in his district whose lives were made miserable by the crappy housing Rezko built for them, even as he was taking campaign contributions from Rezko. On that score, the campaign would only say - in a written statement - that "Senator Obama did follow up on constituency complaints about housing as a matter of routine."

For now, I'd just like to focus on the part of the story that once again belies Obama's professed desire for a new kind of politics, one that would presumably include transparency and accountability of our elected officials, and that's the way he and his staff have tried to manage this story.

"For five weeks, the Sun-Times sought to interview Obama about Rezko and the housing deals," the paper says. "His staff wanted written questions. It responded Sunday but left many questions unanswered. Other answers didn't directly address the question."

The paper says it submitted questions in writing on March 14. It received an e-mail response yesterday. And not much of a response. "They didn't say what deals he worked on - or how much work he did."

Others have closed ranks about Obama too. The paper asked Judson Miner, a partner in the law firm Obama worked at - the one that partnered with Rezko in his ill-fated housing developments - about the cases Obama worked on.

"We'll put together a list of the cases he worked on involving Rezko/Rezmar in the next day or two," Miner told the Sun-Times.

"That was March 13," the paper reports. "He never provided the information."

*

Stuttering and Sincerity.

Rahm's World
If Rahm Emanuel's address to the DNC matched his efforts as Chicago mayor, he would have called for breaking the teachers' unions, building more charter schools, cutting taxes on corporations, privatizing more public assets, hiring financiers to run government more like a business and closing down mental health clinics "we can't afford." And he would have also been right at home at last week's GOP convention.

That's Pat!
"President Barack Obama's campaign tapped Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as an attack dog tonight, using a speech at the Democratic National Convention to call GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney an 'extreme conservative man' backed by Republicans who fail to tell the truth," the Tribune reports.

"But the Democratic governor also failed to tell the whole story when he used the convention stage to blast Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin over their plans to alter the federal Medicare health care system for the elderly."

Democrats, sheesh. They think their lies don't stink.

*

Wait, who's cutting Medicare?

That's Tammy!
From the Beachwood vault, November 2006:

Emanuel "muscled weaker Democrats out of races in favor of stronger ones." This statement by the Trib assumes that the candidates Emanuel rejected were indeed weaker than the ones he backed. But using the Tammy Duckworth campaign as an example backfires. The paper notes that Emanuel trained all the big guns at his disposal, including George Stephanopolous and David Axelord, at Christine Cegelis in Illinois' Sixth District. "Cegelis could not compete with this, losing 44 percent to 40 percent to Duckworth in the March primary," the Trib reports. But those numbers clearly show Cegelis could compete - she only lost by four percent going up against the party's own campaign committee chair! As a war amputee, Duckworth was an international sensation. Yet, she only increased the percentage of the vote Cegelis got two years ago by 4.5 percent - and only garned 1.5 percent more than John Kerry got in the district in 2004 - in an election year in which the war was front-and-center. Not only that, but she lost to a conservative - not a moderate - in a district trending to the center.

* And those ballyhooed candidate recruiting skills? "Emanuel and his staff judged a candidate almost entirley by how much money he or she brought in," the Trib reported.

Way Off The Mark
"Republicans can't tell America's auto workers they would have been better off if Obama had just let their employers go bankrupt," Mark Brown writes for the Sun-Times.

Maybe Brown was out sick that day.

"I consider myself better off with Obama in the White House because decision by decision - whether it's on immigration, tax policy, gay rights, military intervention or health care - he has demonstrated he's more likely to make the choices I would want made than Bush did or Mitt Romney would."

Really?

* Immigration.

* Tax policy.

* Gay rights.

* Military intervention.

* Health care.

Chicago Whitewashed
Carol Marin knows how Chicago politics works, but now she's drinking the Kool-Aid that's making a lot of folks around here defensive and amnesiac about our unique culture of corruption.

"If any of the prominent Chicago speakers at the Democratic convention could be viewed as a lightning rod or a thorn deep in the side of the GOP, it was Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel," Marin writes.

"And yes, he is a master par excellence of the fine art of Chicago politics."

So there is a unique style of "Chicago politics." Go on.

"He was the beneficiary of an army of political patronage workers in his first congressional bid. And the recipient of a Clinton administration patronage job on the board of Freddie Mac, a board that somehow didn't spot the contours of the impending mortgage meltdown."

Exactly.

"But Rahm Emanuel in his relentless efforts as mayor to restore Chicago to a sound financial footing has demonstrated on a number of fronts that he is greater than the sum of his political parts."

What? What does that even mean? Which fronts? Schools? Crime? Corporate tax breaks? Transparency?

"So why do Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keep on harping about Chicago-style ward politics?"

I don't know, why have you been harping about Chicago-style ward politics for decades?

"'Because there's such a proud tradition of honest politics in New Jersey?' wondered Quigley dryly."

Mike Quigley, reformer.

"Whatever."

What do you mean, whatever, Carol?

Does Quigley mean to tell us that the state of New Jersey is just as corrupt as the city of Chicago? Have all the films and literature and NBC5 reports and Chicago Tonight panels just been wrong? Algren, Royko? Out of their minds?

"But 'Chicago-style?' The GOP should use the term to order its pizza."

Ah ha ha ha!

But it's not like they can't get Chicago-style pizza in New Jersey. But Jersey-style politics here? That's child's play, Carol, and you know it.

-

See also:
* Dem Convention Notebook 1: Bullshit and Bedbugs.

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Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on September 5, 2012


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BOOKS - Green Books Are Back.

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