The Five Myths Plaguing Barack Obama
Senator Barack Obama‘s task has become clear as day as the polls tighten, swaying to favor his ticket or McCain-Palin from one day to the next. He is no stranger to the flash, as we’ve seen from the primary season, where a rumble of support helped him win 12 straight primary contests at one point. But the national stage will test his ability to connect with voters outside of his party, the ones who will largely determine victory or defeat. Some criticism of Mr. Obama (both inside and outside of his party) points to problems he has not been able to buck since becoming a candidate. Although some of the claims are poorly justified, they still resonate with voters who are not otherwise inclined to do the research on his biography.
Obama the Elitist
The GOP story remains the same to this day: Barack Obama is a favorite among politicians and cosmopolitan supporters because of his highly-esteemed education, and subsequent rise to the top ranks of Illinois politics. However, when his background is carefully examined, he is far from an elite. After accepting a 12,000 dollar salary in his first year out of the nation’s most prestigious law school, Senator Obama also dabbled in private practice (the real money draw) for only five years, two in New York and three in Chicago. Even in those posts, he worked as a community advocate, mounting voter drives, and organizing job training support for depressed areas. Once he advanced to his fellowship and professor stint at the University of Chicago, he earned 90,000 dollars. As a state senator, where salaries are mandated, he made 154,000 dollars. So from his background in the middle-income environs of Hawaii to the modest family life in Kansas with his grandmother (which included enrolling for food stamps when times were tough), Obama has had only educational brushes with the elite. His first memoir Dreams of My Father flew up the NYTimes bestseller list in 2005, the first real significant income spike as it netted him 1.6 million from sales.
Obama the Muslim
In the world of political theater, image is everything. That theory proved literal for Barack Obama when an image of him surfaced in e-mail chains wearing a turban while visiting his father’s native country Kenya. The e-mail was meant to describe him as an outsider to anyone reading and conflated the fact that Obama attended a Catholic school in Indonesia at six years old while his mother was married to a Muslim man and his current faith affiliation as a Christian. Despite having been listed on school records as Muslim, Barack Obama never professed a faith in his personal life until the late 80s when he married and joined the Trinity United Church.
Obama the Radical Liberal
Senator Obama was allegedly tied to a man named William Ayers, who was part of a group called the Weathermen Underground. Weathermen Underground used radical (and sometimes violent tactics like bombing) to push his radical agenda of government reform in the 1960s and 70s. Ayers has since accepted a position at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is a tenured professor. When Ayers was at the height of his radical protest movement, Mr. Obama was a mere child. In addition, the men met through a series of fundraisers for an educational organization they were both part of. In other words, their ties were not close and the result of a media fabrication during the Democratic primary race. Barack Obama has denounced Mr. Ayer’s violent past and separated himself from the rumor.
Obama the Foreign Sympathizer
Barack Obama has enjoyed the support of foreign leaders almost overwhelmingly since it was revealed he would win the nomination for his party. In addition, he’s been open about how he would seek to repair the fractured nature of U.S. foreign relations in the wake of our unpopular run under Pres. George W. Bush. Somehow, this had led our leadership (mostly on the conservative side) to question how tough he would be on U.S. enemies. He has stated declaratively that he would respond swiftly to nuclear threats and sanction leaders involved in genocide, and human rights violations designated by the United Nations. The motive for portraying him as soft on terrorism is a scare tactic by opposition forces, invoking the fears still affecting Americans since September 11th. What’s important to note is that since the war in Iraq, the U.S. has only emboldened its detractors by invading and occupying with little regard to terrorist alliances. George W. Bush has admitted, after much harping in the early going, that Iraq and Al-Qaida are not linked in the War on Terror. Barack Obama has favored breaking up the terrorist regime in Afghanistan, long thought to be a training ground for fighters in radical Islam. He also understands that the pressing issues facing Americans have shifted from just homeland security to that and the economic downturn.
Obama the Celebrity
The Senator’s eloquence, once admired in figures like Kennedy, Clinton and Roosevelt, has been used as a sign of his detachment even more than his supposed elitist affiliations. Hollywood celebrities and politicians alike have come out in support of Mr. Obama (not unlike many of the past Democratic candidates). As a public figure, it’s inevitable the other public figures (in this case actors) will endorse him. Barack Obama’s moving speeches caused the media to swoon but has been a double-edged sword as the race winds down. In order for him to take advantage of his larger-than-life image, he must balance it with Ronald Reagan’s ability to be soft-spoken and humble.
If Sen. Obama attends to these delicate image issues, he will not be guaranteed a win by any means but he will give himself a better shot at pushing his actual change agendas. His “Change” message will seem hollow if he is not able to register his populist will with the population that so needs it. If he does not, he will be the radical Islamic elitist Black Panther who lost the biggest contest of his life.