Part II: Obama’s Adviser David L. Boren–How He Screwed Us Long-term in 1993 re: Energy and More

In Part I of this series on Obama’s newest adviser, fmr. Senator David L. Boren, I provided an overview of some of Boren’s activities specific to his “unity” efforts and some of his foreign policy “expertise.” (Part III will delve deeper into his foreign policy activities.)

This post, Part II, will explore Boren’s activities on the domestic front, with a focus on his political background followed by a detailed examination of how he almost single-handedly derailed President Clinton’s 1993 economic plan. The long-term implications of his activities in 1993 haunt us today and it should raise concerns about Obama’s ties to him now…because although these were “domestic” issues, the key parts of the plan involving energy morph into foreign policy concerns as well.

BOREN’S POLITICAL BACKGROUND

Lyle Boren, David L. Boren’s father, served in Congress from 1937 to 1947. He often broke with his party, notably by being against much of FDR’s New Deal. His son also served in the House (1967-1974) and then became governor of Oklahoma in 1975. He was in the U.S. Senate from 1979 until he resigned in 1994 to become President of the University of Oklahoma.

Boren was a member of Skull and Bones at Yale. He has been a member in the National Legal for the Public Interest along with Dick Cheney, Ken Starr and Ted Olson. Other organizations he was involved with include the Forum for International Policy (with Ken Lay of Enron also a member) and the conservative Democratic think tank known as the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (surprise! Bill Richardson is also listed as a member). (See here for more information on these and other organizations.)

Then there are his board positions, which have included Phillips Petroleum and later Conoco-Phillips (1995-2005; Torchmark, a life and health insurance company; and Hiland Partners, L.P., described as “a midstream energy partnership engaged in gathering, compressing, dehydrating, treating, processing and marketing natural gas, and fractionating, or separating natural gas liquids.”

It was during the “gasoline crisis” of the mid-1970s that “Boren rose to prominence on the national scene when he spoke out in favor of deregulation of natural gas prices at the federal level. As a result, Pres. Jimmy Carter appointed him chair of a task force of representatives from thirty states to study the problem,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.

Boren broke with his party by voting in favor of the Supreme Court nominations of Robert H. Bork and Clarence Thomas. (He has since said his vote for Judge Thomas was a mistake.)

Also in the mix is a reported “coming out” by Boren. According to W. Scott Thompson in his book “The Price of Achievement: Coming Out in Reagan Days” (1995), pp. 222-23, Boren “In August 1978, while a candidate for U.S. Senate, Oklahoma Governor Boren held a press conference to deny rumors of his homosexuality, taking an oath to that effect on a Holy Bible.” The bio in the Encyclopedia cited above makes no mention of this press conference, but does report on Boren’s first marriage and divorce and events surrounding his subsequent remarriage that sound a bit odd:

Shortly after graduating from law school, Boren married Janna Lou Little, the daughter of Oklahoma politician Reuel Little of Madill, who ran for governor as the candidate for the American Party in 1970. The couple had two children, Dan and Carrie, before the marriage ended in divorce in 1975. … Extraordinary security surrounded the marriage of Governor Boren to Pontotoc County Special District Judge Molly W. Shi on November 27, 1977. Only Boren’s family and immediate top-level staff members knew of the approaching wedding until hours before the event.

While there’s a distinctly “Republican air” to much of the above background, it’s his time in the Senate that should really raise the eyebrows of the “progressive” blogosphere which seems to be rather uninterested in where Obama’s advisers are coming from.

BOREN’S SENATE SHENANIGANS

A series of three stories in the New York Times from May and June of 1993 (and which are still available online) paints a clear picture of how Boren worked against President Clinton during that time. If you don’t have time to read this entire blog, at least read these three stories!

The first story by David E. Rosenbaum entitled “KEY FOE OF BUDGET SUGGESTS OPTIMISM OVER A COMPROMISE” was published on May 31, 1993 and illustrates how Boren worked with Republicans to force changes in the budget, notably on energy.

The second story by Clilfford Krauss entitled “SENATOR COMMANDS STAGE FAR BIGGER THAN OKLAHOMA BY DEFYING CLINTON” published on June 16, 1993 provides key insights into how Boren essentially broke his word to the President, chose Oklahoma interests over the interests of the country at large, and how he was criticized by many Democrats in the Senate for his teaming up with Republicans.

The third story also by David E. Rosenbaum entitled “SENATORS ON FINANCE PANEL REACH ACCORD ON A BUDGET WITH GAS TAX AND NEW CUTS” was published on June 17, 1993 reviews the final budget and the changes Clinton was forced to accept.

WHAT WERE THE ENERGY PROVISIONS THAT CLINTON/GORE INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL BUDGET?

In an article written for the Center for a New American Security by Josh Busby in January 2008 entitled “OVERCOMING POLITICAL BARRIERS to REFORM in ENERGY POLICY” the author writes:

In 1993, the Clinton administration came to power with ambitious goals to support core constituencies in the Democratic Party, including environmentalists. Vice President Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance had just come out. In the book, Gore declared that “it ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a twenty-five year period.”1 Still fresh with optimism about its capability to move legislation through a
Democratic-controlled Congress, the Clinton administration believed that taxes on the energy content of fuel seemed like an attractive way to provide revenue for deficit reduction but also support environmental goals.

In February 1993, the Clinton administration announced as part of its budget proposal that it would impose a Btu (British thermal unit) tax on the energy content of fuel. Designed to raise $71.4 billion over five years, the Btu tax soon became a lightning rod for criticism. In the first proposal of the Btu tax, coal and natural gas were taxed at the same rate, even though coal is more polluting. This was a way to avoid incurring the wrath of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. The Clinton administration made a tactical mistake by then modifying the plan in April 1993 to further appease coal interests. Once this move had been made, other interests piled on in an effort to seek exemptions from the tax while the oil and gas industry opposed it outright. Even though the House voted in favor of the remnant of the Btu tax, influential Democratic senators like David Boren of Oklahoma and John Breaux of Louisiana vigorously opposed it, and the Clinton administration withdrew it before a vote.

Ultimately, the Btu tax was replaced with a modest 4.9 cents per gallon gasoline tax. After all was said and done, the Btu tax effort proved to be a bruising legislative fight, and the gas tax was a largely inconsequential incentive for fuel efficiency or conservation. Indeed, one of the main outcomes of the Btu fight was the Republicans were handed a wedge issue in the 1994 midterm elections in which House members who had voted in favor of the Btu tax were targeted for defeat. The failure to pass the Btu tax had a lasting impact on the White House’s enthusiasm for domestic measures that would directly affect energy prices, especially gasoline. An energy tax, favored by environmentalists, became the proverbial political “third rail.”

The Btu tax episode is illustrative of how the nature of the U.S. system makes it very difficult to achieve more comprehensive and coherent reform in energy policy. It is but one of many examples this country has seen over the past 25 years where interest groups across the political spectrum have mobilized to defeat far-reaching energy policy measures.

Boren held the critical swing vote and according to Rosenbaum’s May 31 story:

Until today, Mr. Boren, one of 11 Democrats on the committee, had been threatening to block the budget by joining the panel’s nine Republicans who have vowed to vote against the package. The Clinton plan was approved by the House of Representatives in a cliffhanger last week and indications were that it would face an even rougher road in the Senate.

But in a television interview, Mr. Boren said signals in the last few days that the White House and Mr. Moynihan would accept deeper spending cuts and modifications in the proposed energy tax “improved the chances by about 100 percent that we’re going to be able to work out an agreement.”

Mr. Moynihan, reached by telephone at his farm in upstate New York after the broadcast of the interview, said: “It is clear that Senator Boren sees that we have to have a deficit-reduction bill. We are going to have a bill more of the kind he has hoped for.”

But, the story continues:

Despite the favorable signs, the plan is not out of the woods yet for two important reasons.

First, as Mr. Boren said today, “the devil is in the details,” and the particulars of a compromise will be difficult to work out.

Second, Mr. Boren has been maddeningly fickle about where he stands, and he could change his mind overnight.

To force the issue, Boren:

joined forces with two moderate Republican Senators, John C. Danforth of Missouri and William S. Cohen of Maine, to offer an alternative plan that contained no energy tax and had much deeper spending cuts for Medicare and Social Security. … The alternative plan itself stands no chance of enactment. The word in the Capitol is that 20 Senators at most would vote for it. But it did provide somewhat of a basis for negotiations.

Mr. Boren has said he is not wedded to this alternative, although like many other lawmakers from energy-producing states he opposes the President’s proposed fuel tax because it would make products like petrochemicals much more expensive.

The story goes on to describe how Boren played games with Clinton.

Mr. Boren’s fickleness is a more complicated matter.

As soon as President Clinton announced his budget plan last February, Mr. Boren began to take shots at it. But 10 days later, he said in an interview that he supported the plan “unconditionally,” and added: “This is the best, most promising budget I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress.”

Early in the spring, he promised Mr. Clinton and Mr. Moynihan he would support the plan in the Finance Committee, but over the last few weeks, he has demanded concessions in return for his vote. Publicly, he has demanded deeper spending cuts. But privately, he has demanded fewer cuts in agriculture programs, which are important in Oklahoma.

In the June 16 article by Clifford Krauss, the reactions to Boren’s maneuverings are fully described:

At home in Oklahoma, Senator David L. Boren was once portrayed by newspaper cartoonists as the Pillsbury Doughboy. In the cloakrooms of the Senate, he was dismissed as a glad-hander who craved approval more than power.

That was before Mr. Boren went on a diet and reassessed his career after the death of his father, an irreverent Democratic Congressman who rebelled against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then the Senator took on President Clinton’s economic package.

More than any other member of Congress, it was Mr. Boren who forced Mr. Clinton to abandon his broad tax on the energy content of fuels. First he threatened to withhold his swing vote on the Senate Finance Committee, and then, breaking an unspoken rule of Congressional conduct, he forcefully lobbied House Democrats to break with their leadership and President.

Further embarrassing the President and infuriating his Democratic colleagues, he is now threatening to withhold his vote unless they cut an additional $50 billion in spending in politically sensitive programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Like Paul Revere?

His critics — and there seem to be more every day — say he is a shill for big oil who is on an ego trip. Mr. Boren compares himself to Paul Revere, saying he is a man with a mission to save President Clinton from the Democratic Party’s liberal wing.

The 52-year-old Senator said in an interview on Monday that he expected to reach a compromise with the White House this week. But he added: “If we don’t, it wouldn’t be the end of the world because we would have to start over again, this time on a bipartisan basis. That could be better for the President and the country, though it would certainly mean an uncomfortable time for me.”

(Gee, it was all about him…sounds familiar)

By contrast, fellow Democrats accuse Mr. Boren of breaking his word to the President that he would stand by him. They note that he first enthusiastically backed Mr. Clinton’s budget, and even argued against farm-program spending cuts that would hurt his state. “People just wonder if a lot of the things he does is not for parochial interests,” said Representative Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of Brooklyn.

Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum, Democrat of Ohio, said: “There are many of us who are very upset with him. It’s obvious he would be more comfortable on the Republican side.”

Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who is the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is so angry with Mr. Boren that he has discussed with several subcommittee chairmen ways of withholding money for military, farming and Indian-affairs programs in Oklahoma.

Mr. Boren concedes that he favors the interests of Oklahoma, and that he was too quick to speak in favor of Mr. Clinton’s economic proposals before he read the fine print. But he says the criticism comes mostly from liberals who are overly committed to spending programs that must be cut if the country is to regain its financial footing and competitiveness.

But Mr. Boren started burning bridges last month, on the day President Clinton tried to quell an uprising by House Democrats by dramatically traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue to plead with the Democratic caucus to stand by his program. Just as it appeared that Mr. Clinton had nipped the revolt in the bud, Mr. Boren threw a new obstacle in his way by announcing that a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans had designed an alternative budget plan with more budget cuts and fewer taxes.

The next day, Mr. Boren walked over to the House side of the Capitol to buck up moderate and conservative Democrats who were wavering under the intense White House lobbying. His tactics stood in stark contrast with those of Senator John B. Breaux of Louisiana, the other oil-state Finance Committee swing vote, who lobbied House members in favor of Mr. Clinton’s package, promising that changes would come later in the legislative process.

In the final article by Rosenbaum published on June 17, Boren “called the bill the senators approved “a great improvement” and added, “It keeps faith with the Democratic Party being on a new course, a centrist course.”

But the long-term effects on the country? The fuel tax would raise only a third of the original $72 billion over five years, far short of what the proposed energy tax would raise. The was little gained in terms of energy conservation and new measures to improve efficiency. To make up for the lost revenue and to put deficit reduction on track, the $50 billion cut in Medicare originally proposed by Clinton was increased by $19 billion. In addition, tax breaks for low-income workers were reduced as were some breaks for business aimed at stimulating investment.

******************************

So here we are in 2008, with Boren an adviser to Obama. Still convinced that Obama will be an agent of change?? Really??

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Part I: Nunn-Boren “Unity” Rears its Ugly Head on Behalf of Obama: With an Introduction to David L. Boren

UPDATE: Parts II and III to follow…

So, former Senators Sam Nunn and David Boren endorsed Obama today. It seemed like a convenient thing to do in light of Obama’s recent juvenile activities involving fingers. Both will now advise on national security. Nunn heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a charitable organization, as Co-Chair and CEO. Boren served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. More on the very scary background of Boren later.

Of course, Nunn and Boren are the the epitome of what Obamaphiles looking for “change” are thirsting for!

Let’s see, Nunn’s record in the Senate includes: being a member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC); voting NO on deducting Social Security payments from income taxes; voting YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage; voting Yes on limiting death penalty appeals; voting YES on limiting product liability punitive damage awards; voting YES on abstinence education funding; and an unknown stance on abortion rights.

Boren’s record is even more conservative. And scary, especially with regard to foreign policy. Sourcewatch, A Project of the Center for Media and Democacy, quotes from a 2001 article entitled “CIA Support for Bin Laden: Who’s Responsible?”:

“The current crisis calls for Americans to investigate the records of all Congress members who approved of any legislation enabling U.S. support for the Afghan rebels during the 1980s. Those who supported this hideous adventure deserve severe judgment.

“As an Oklahoman, I am particularly interested in the record of former Senator David Boren, whose close tie to the CIA is well known. He was appointed to the Intelligence Committee in 1985, and later became its Chairman.

“Boren also has close ties to the extreme right. Political Research Associates, a group whose purpose is to expose the threat to democracy presented by right-wing groups, includes Boren as a member of one of the organizations which they have targeted for concern.

“Boren was co-chairman of the Congressional divison of the National Coalition for Peace through Strength (CPTS), a creature of the American Security Council (ASC). The CPTS believed that the USSR and communism were the greatest evils in the world. Other CPTS members included Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafley, and Jesse Helms. Organizational members have included the American Conservative Union, the American Legion, Citizens for Reagan, Young Americans for Freedom, and Young Republicans. PRA also says that emigre groups with a history of association with Nazis were included in the CPTS membership.

“One of the more prominent ASC members was Major General Milnor Roberts, chairman of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan (CFA). During the 1980s proxy war the CFA promoted U.S. support for the Islamic militants whose successors are now being accused of the September 11 attack.

“Boren has also been a close political ally and Congressional puppet for Eddie Gaylord, the reactionary publisher of The Daily Oklahoman, described as ‘the worst daily newspaper in America’ by a January 1999 article in the Columbia Journalism Review. In the same article, the Review reported that Boren as a Senator had sponsored ‘a one-of-a-kind, multimillion-dollar’ tax break that would benefit only eight wealthy investors — one of whom was Gaylord.

“Additionally, Boren’s relationship with former CIA director Robert Gates deserves critical scrutiny. Robert Gates was essentially a liar used by Reagan to corrupt the CIA away from its mission of providing the government with accurate assessments of Soviet strength. Under Gates, the CIA’s mission came to be the exaggeration of Soviet strength and expansionist tendencies while sabotaging the goal of detente. David Boren was an enthusiastic supporter of Gates and helped push through his nomination as CIA director.

“In a speech available online at the CIA website, Gates boasted about CIA success in Afghanistan, where it supported the anti-Soviet Mujahhadin. He admits that the CIA funneled billions of dollars in supplies and weapons to the Mujahhadin. Oddly enough, he forgot to mention that Bin Laden was one of the beneficiaries.”

Sure does inspire confidence, doesn’t it? He’s going to advise Obama, the great agent of CHANGE?? The one who was a GENIUS in saying he was against the Iraq War but didn’t have to vote on the resolution (but MAY have if he had been in the Senate)? And the one who has continued to vote to fund this unholy mess? And the one who agrees with Condi Rice on the “unpredictability” of planes ramming into tall buildings? The one who knows squat about foreign policy?

Nunn and Boren, if you recall, headed the Oklahoma “unity” conference in January of this year. As reported by Katrina Vanden Heuvel at the time,

“a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, including former Senators San Nunn, David Boren, Gary Hart. Senator Chuck Hagel, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen and former GOP congressman Jim Leach also say they’ll attend. Boren, who’s hosting the meeting at the University of Oklahoma, says that if “we don’t see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy.”

Of course, Unity ’08 “scaled back” their operations and in their parting message opined:

Barack Obama, for example, has made the theme of unity and the necessity of bridging the partisan divide an absolutely central theme of his campaign. And just last week, a group of former and present national office holders – independents, Republicans and Democrats – met in Oklahoma for the sole purpose of stating their belief that at the present perilous moment, a unity government is the only hope of solving the nation’s mounting problems. When you have agreement among the likes of former RNC chairman Bill Brock and Gary Hart, you’re onto something.

So, it’s no surprise that Nunn and Boren have come out at this moment to deflect attention from Obama’s juvenile behavior and poor debate performance in Pennsylvania. As for being “onto something,” I would argue that this unity crew, including Obama, is onto NOTHING good.

Vanden Heuvel continued her comments by quoting Paul Krugman:

As NYT columnist Paul Krugman has argued effectively, “the real source of today’s partisanship is a Republican move to the right on economic issues.” Today’s GOP has overseen the shredding of our already frayed social contract, and currently obsesses about giving the super-rich more tax breaks. There may be some smart people gathering next week in Oklahoma. But they don’t get it if they think you can have national unity with one party waging class war politics.

But I have to say that I think the comment on the World Socialist Web Site really nails it.

The “unity” demanded by Messrs. Boren, Hagel & Co. is essentially unity of the corporate elite against the working class. The billionaire Bloomberg is, therefore, an entirely logical rallying point. Possessed of the wealth required to launch a 50-state independent campaign, at a cost estimated at $500 million to $1 billion, Bloomberg’s message to both parties is: Don’t stray too far from the consensus positions of the financial oligarchy, or I can single-handedly upset all your electoral calculations.

The rhetoric of bipartisanship has also played a major role in the corporate media’s embrace of Barack Obama. There has been a frenzied media campaign over the past two weeks to transform Obama into an unstoppable frontrunner, an effort that was at least temporarily stalled Tuesday by Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory in New Hampshire.

Obama is a conventional bourgeois politician, dependent, like his rivals, on lavish financial support from corporate interests and the wealthy. He is not the product of any sort of genuine movement from below in American society, but rather the latest in a long line of demagogues employed to foster illusions that the big business-controlled political system can serve the interests of ordinary people. …

The campaign for bipartisanship thus has a distinctly antidemocratic and sinister aspect. It is an effort to discipline the political squabbling within the US ruling elite in order to face a far greater danger: an eruption of social conflict produced by the increasingly desperate conditions facing the vast majority of the American people.

Of course, the WSWS doesn’t approve of Clinton, either. But at least she talks like Democrat and hasn’t morphed into the Obama “Unity” campaign.

The Nunn-Boren endorsement is another signal to run from Obama. Because it’s getting harder and harder to place ANY trust in him at all, because, obviously, the bipartisan pooh-bahs DO.

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Is Jimmy Carter Letting Democratic Voters Down??

On Monday (April 14) I caught a brief comment by Jimmy Carter about the Nepal elections on the BBC World Service. Carter, who was in Nepal to monitor the polling, said that whatever problems occurred had “paled” compared to the overall success of the vote. (Unfortunately, the audio report is no longer available.)

In a report issued on April 15 entitled Trip Report by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to Nepal: April 6-14, 2008, Carter wrote in great detail about all the efforts made to ensure a free and fair election.

We have maintained a staff of long-term election observers for more than fifteen months. They have visited all 75 districts and had an opportunity to become familiar with the entire nation and its various and conflicting political factions.

After our arrival from Atlanta, we joined Dr. John Hardman and began receiving extensive briefings from former U.S Ambassador Peter Burleigh, David Pottie, Darren Nance, Sarah Levit-Shore, and others. Most of our 60 international observers, from 21 nations, had been deployed to the more remote areas by helicopter, all-terrain vehicles, and by foot. My co-chairman was Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister of Thailand, who was a key partner and essential to the mission’s success. Our team was joined by international observers from the European Union, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), and by several thousand domestic observers. …

On election day we visited as many polling sites as possible in the valley that surrounds Kathmandu and found the election commission’s procedures were being largely followed. There were long and separate lines of men and women in a celebratory mood, the total turnout being above 60 percent. Despite some problems, our observers throughout the nation found the same situation among a total of 400 sites visited. Ballot boxes were required to be delivered to 75 central locations for counting, and we observed a number of these procedures.

Impressive, no?

But how does this square with Carter’s silence on the Florida and Michigan primary situation?? Well, he hasn’t been TOTALLY silent, because in early April he tossed out a tantalizing hint as to whom he supported while in Nigeria:

Former President Carter hints at Obama support

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Carter wouldn’t quite say it, but he left little doubt this week about whom he’d like to see in the White House next year.

Speaking to local reporters Wednesday on a trip to Nigeria, the former Democratic president noted that Barack Obama had won his home state of Georgia and his hometown of Plains.

“My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama,” he said at a news conference, according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day. “As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess.”

Carter’s spokeswoman confirmed the remarks.

Now, of course, Carter offers a perfectly good reason to support Obama since the latter won the Georgia contest; Carter can justifiably claim that he is supporting the will of the voters in his home state.

But that support does NOT explain why he has been silent on the issue of the voters of Michigan and Florida being disenfranchised. Isn’t it ironic that a man who has dedicated himself to monitoring 70 elections has nothing to say about what’s been going on during his own party’s primary season?

This is the same man who, along with the late Gerald Ford, headed a blue-ribbon commission following the 2000 election and followed up in September 2004 with a Washington Post op-ed entitled Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote in which he pointed out that many of the elements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which resulted from the commission findings were not being carried out either because of funding shortfalls or political games.

The question is, why has Jimmy Carter chosen to remain silent now, while Florida (and Michigan) voters are AGAIN being given short-shrift? Why is Carter not publicly calling for these votes to be counted?

It certainly is within his rights to choose to support Obama…but it seems that this support is TRUMPING the rights of voters in Florida and Michigan.

While it is inspiring to read about the care and planning that the Carter Center has expended on the voting process in Nepal, why can’t Democratic voters expect the same attention? Doesn’t voting in Florida and Michigan carry as much value as a vote in Nepal?? Is Jimmy Carter letting us down?


Housekeeping: Computer Fan is on the Fritz…

so I can only stay online a short time without burning up my PC…

Hopefully, Best Buy’s method of shipping parts out will work and it will be fixed on Friday…

Fingers crossed!

If I can get my mothers 56K dial up to cooperate, I’ll try to post something I’ve been planning to do…

Thanks,

GRL

Obama’s Lessons to be Learned: Odinga Yields in Kenya, Positions Himself for Next Election

In a previous post, I discussed the link between Obama and Raila Odinga and the almost eerie demands by Odinga for a 50-50 split of cabinet posts in Kenya. It now appears that a compromise has been worked out…

According to the BBC, a power-sharing agreement was reached on Saturday. Odinga, apparently, is more willing to compromise than his cousin (?) Obama.

Mr Odinga and his party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), insisted an equal share of power included not just numerical parity in the cabinet, but also “portfolio parity”.

At issue were the foreign affairs, cabinet affairs, energy, roads and local government portfolios.

President Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) appeared unwilling to yield anything and, with talks deadlocked Mr Odinga announced that the ODM would take no further part in any negotiations.

Getting the five cabinet posts represented “our irreducible minimum”, he said.

So, when word came through that a deal had been done, the assumption was that the ODM had secured what they were after.

Three of the five cabinet positions did not go to Odinga’s party and one was eliminated. So, Odinga clearly made concessions that resulted in dropping below his “irreducible mininum” of cabinet posts.

However, as expected, Odinga has been named to be the new prime minster and a supporter is now the minister of land.

Bitter historical arguments over land lay at the heart of much of the violence which broke out earlier this year and the ODM’s influence here could be crucial.

It is also widely believed that the current administration will not make it through a five-year term and that ODM will be using the positions they have been allocated to plan for the next election.

Probably most important of all is what Mr Odinga makes of his new role as prime minister.

He insists it carries genuine executive power. How he wields that power and how skilful he is at making his mark right across the administration will be vital.

So, Odinga has made a strategic decision to yield on his demands for a 50-50 split of cabinet posts with an eye on the future. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., Obama refuses to budge on the FL and MI delegate issue. With his inexperience showing through a string of gaffes that does not bode well if he is the nominee, not to mention a campaign that has helped split the Democratic party along racial lines, Obama presses forward with the help of party poo-bahs towards a Pyhrric victory in the primaries.

Are the party “leaders” are so intent on ridding themselves of the Clintons that they are willing to tear the party to shreds? It there some pathological mindset in every one of them? Is there no consideration of the long-term consequences of this lemming-like behavior?

If Obama had more political sense he might be looking at Odinga and thinking more strategically. He could pull back and live to fight another day when he is more seasoned and has more distance between himself and albatrosses like Rev. Wright and Rezko. He could run a truly inspiring campaign without playing on race. He’s just starting his Washington career…why the rush? The bitterness he is leaving in his wake may come back to bite him if he loses the nomination or if he wins it by disenfranchising voters and then loses the general election. While Obama preaches hope, it seems the forces pushing him are operating from a place of irrational hostility toward a former President who, with all his faults, managed to leave office with sky-hight approval marks.

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Obama: Big Ego, Big Mouth, Big Trouble = Unity Ticket??

These have been an unsettling few days courtesy Obama’s big mouth and ego.

He started out with his pontificating on the subject of abortion. Using GOP framing, of course. This has been fully discussed over at The Confluence, so I won’t rehash all the problems with Obama’s statements here. But, dissing pro-choice folks by insinuating that ALL of them haven’t been willing to “acknowledge the wrenching moral issues involved in it” is completely inaccurate and demeaning. Declaring that “That nobody is pro-abortion, abortion is never a good thing” is another sweeping statement that doesn’t consider the very real heath concerns of women and the tragedies played out in the deaths of women who have been denied proper medical care. I recall a friend of mine who had an ectopic pregnancy…she was rushed to the nearest hospital, which happened to be a Catholic institution. Denied care there, she was then rushed to a public hospital where she had surgery that saved her life. I’m sure she and her husband considered that procedure to be a “good” thing.

Then we get to the latest faux pas (and that may be putting it kindly) about “small towns” which broke yesterday (Friday, 4/11). You can argue about context all you want, but the media doesn’t do context. So, next time you speak at fundraisers (especially those in “elite, liberal San Francisco), don’t say things like:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama on small-town PA: Clinging to guns, religion, xenophopia

Nothing like showing off your arrogance, superiority, and effete-ism to the well-heeled in San Francisco! (Is Nancy Pelosi cringing yet?) You also have to wonder how Obama squares his mention of religion with his own “clinging” to Rev. Wright for about 20 years.

John Edwards must be glad he has kept his powder dry over issuing an endorsement. Wife Elizabeth, of course, has come out with favorable comments about Clinton’s healthcare plans versus Obama’s which gives some insight into how the wheels might be turning in the Edwards camp.

But I do disagree with Elizabeth in her idea about a “Unity Ticket” even if it hints that Clinton should be at the top of it.

My thoughts are that Obama would drag such a ticket DOWN, because his weaknesses would continue to be prime fodder for the GOP and their 527’s, even surpassing Clinton’s. Sure, black voters may stay home, but not all of them. Some voters in largely black small towns and rural areas who have strong church ties might be insulted or, at the very least, confused by Obama’s statements. Or is he only talking about “white towns” in PA?

Of course, Obama’s comments add fuel to the Democratic Party’s problems with already shedding voters from the process in FL and MI, which Obama is helping perpetuate. The great “uniter” isn’t doing much uniting lately.

Yesterday I heard a pundit comment that McCain should pick Condi Rice as his running mate because she’s the only one left in this Administration that is “liked.” So does that mean Obama would be an effective counterweight to her presence on the ticket (am I racist for saying that?). Well, he certainly couldn’t argue effectively about her problems with that memo about planes flying into buildings before 911 because HE also apparently thinks no one could even have predicted a 911. His appearance on Hardball April 2 has been fully discussed by Kirsten Bretweiser, who considers Obama’s response to Chris Matthews “glib.” See 911: Where Barack Obama and Condi Rice Sound Alarmingly Alike

So, I’m not entirely convinced that Obama on the ticket will make a Democratic victory a sure thing.

Besides, maybe we’ll have nothing to worry about on that score since Obama has said that he won’t accept the VP nod because he is really only running for the Presidency. For once, I hope he actually means what he he has said…he could do a lot of healing if he gracefully declined and encouraged his followers to vote for the Democratic nominee in November.

But I have very little faith that he will keep to his word and not want VP and that he will do something graceful and good for the party. Of course, John Edwards has also stated that he doesn’t want the VP spot, but I sure wish he would change his mind, if it’s even a firm decision. At this point I’d settle for a Clinton-Edwards ticket so that the campaign wouldn’t be so enveloped in the racial divide that the media will exploit and which will continue what the primaries have started. There are some black commentators who feel Obama’s campaign has already set black Americans back years (See Four More Years of Black Irrelevance at The Black Agenda Report).

I guess I figure that if we are getting ready to lose in November, at least it should be with less ammunition for the Republicans to use in future elections to paint their image of the Democratic party. If Democrats really do some soul-searching and start with a new slate of candidates who have had no direct involvement with this unholy mess next time, perhaps the party can be rescued long term. Perhaps.

In the meantime, I keep having a recurring dream of John Edwards being nominated for President by acclamation at the convention…it’s not

Obama-Odinga:50-50 Split Demands Sound SOOOO FAMILIAR…(UPDATE 1X–Author of “The Obama Nation” Detained in Kenya; UPDATE 2X–Corsi Released, Odinga Official Website)

SCROLL to end for UPDATES

Tuesday (4/8) night’s BBC America news report on renewed fighting in Kenya piqued my interest, especially when I heard that Raila Odinga, Obama’s cousin (?) has suspended power-sharing talks and is now demanding a 50-50 split in the cabinet. I couldn’t help but immediately think of MICHIGAN and Obama’s “solution” to the delegate “problem”–namely, a 50-50 split!! Needless to say, it put the whole Obama-Odinga relationship in back on my radar. The BBC website filed this report Wednesday, 4/9:

Kenya opposition urges restraint

Kenya’s main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has appealed to his supporters to exercise restraint after violence broke out in the capital, Nairobi. Mr Odinga suspended talks on forming a power-sharing government on Tuesday.”It is better to take slightly longer and get it right then to rush it and make mistakes which will lead to regrets,” he told the BBC. Mr Odinga says he wants a 50-50 split in cabinet posts as promised by an accord to end post-poll violence. Some 1,500 people died and 600,000 were displaced in January and February. …

In a piece written by Travis Kavulla for the National Review which was posted at CBS News, he commented that the December 2007 election was run with a distinct “Western” flavor…right down to the purported hiring of Dick Morris by the Odinga campaign.

This time around, the campaign season was an extravaganza aimed at the workaday voter – a remarkable notion in African politics. Pork was promised wide and far. The candidates were branded (the incumbent Mwai Kibaki cast as the elderly economist who quietly gets things done; his challenger Raila Odinga, the visionary populist who had been imprisoned under the dictatorship for the sake of Kenya’s democracy). Each presidential campaign spent millions of dollars on television advertisements. Mwai Kibaki, the president seeking a second term, had a special campaign targeting the disabled; Raila Odinga, his challenger, hired Dick Morris as a consultant. The campaigns, in short, were as refined as a Western democracy’s.

The story about Morris is that former Clinton aides who are now working for Obama supposedly dispatched Morris to help Odinga. Unfortunately, the link to this storry at news aggregator AllAfrica.com is no longer active (“cannot be ‘retrieved’ at this time”).

Former Clinton aides currently working for Obama were the “mutual acquaintances” who directed Dick Morris to Kenya to advise the Odinga campaign in November of 2007, shortly after Odinga visited with Obama in America. Morris was an extremely divisive factor in the Kenyan elections, as a foreigner, a white man, and the creator of an antagonistic “have vs. have nots” campaign platform for Odinga’s ODM. He also suggested the current campaign of civil disobedience to protest the election result, including a “Million Person March”, a la Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

When things got out of hand following the election, Obama called Odinga repeatedly, but Mwai Kibaki, the leader of the Government would not return his calls as he perceives Obama to be biased toward his Luo relative Odinga in the conflict. Obama is featured prominently in ODM campaign posters, slogans, and songs in Kenya, and the plaintive phrase “A Luo will become President in America before a Luo will become President in Kenya” is often heard.

The BBC also reported:

Odinga also told the BBC that Obama had … taken time out of campaigning for the New Hampshire primary to call him twice, to express his concern, and to say that he would also be calling Mr Kibaki. (Odinga says Obama is his cousin, BBC News)

More fascinating details about Odinga’s charisma and ways of organizing (that sound awful familiar) can be found in this Newsweek International piece, entitled “The Man Who Would be President.”

Obama visited Kenya in 2006 with CNN reporting a hero’s welcome (Screaming crowds welcome U.S. Senator ‘home’). At the time of the visit, Odinga capitalized on Obama’s visit and there are pictures of Odinga and Obama together greeting crowds, which may or may not be real, according to Kenyan immigrant Edwin Okong’o at the PBS FrontlineWorld blog in a piece entitled Obama: the Kenya Connection.

Because of poor governance and the corrupt nature of the Kenyan political system, which gives the president absolute power to dispense funds, many Kenyans, particularly the poor and less educated, mistakenly believe that if elected president of the United States, Obama would have the sole discretion to write a blank check to end their poverty. … Ordinary Kenyans are not the only ones who see Obama as a messiah. Kenyan politicians have been using his popularity as political capital. In 2006, opposition leader Raila Odinga tried to portray Obama’s trip to Kenya as a personal endorsement. Odinga’s supporters created T-shirts and posters with cleverly computer-altered images that showed Obama and Odinga standing side by side, arms around each other. More recently, on January 8th, Odinga told the BBC that Obama is his maternal cousin. Those who understand Kenyan politics know that Odinga’s claim is meant to rally Kenyans behind him as he tries to fight his way into the State House, Kenya’s highest office, which he contends Kibaki robbed him of by rigging the December 27 elections. But given Odinga’s controversial background and the continued ethnic violence in Kenya, his attempts to invoke Obama’s name may undermine Obama’s campaign in the U.S. … Odinga is the son of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first vice-president, a socialist who sent his son to Communist East Germany for college. The younger Odinga named one of his sons Fidel Castro and has also admitted to being one of the masterminds of a 1982 attempted coup against Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second president. In American Op-Ed pages and in the blogosphere, many of Obama’s political foes are already capitalizing on his supposed ties to Odinga.

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The picture in question

Odinga and Obama’s father come from the same Luo tribe and Odinga’s claim that he is Obama’s cousin has neither been confirmed or denied by Obama.

The violence that erupted following the December 2007 election involved some acts by Odinga followers that were horrific, including the burning of a locked church in which 50 people perished (MSNBC). At the time of this violence, Odinga made a point of rejecting talks with the government, using terms that sound eerily familiar (recall discussions of possible scenarios in which Obama agrees to seat MI and FL delegates…)

But opposition candidate Raila Odinga refused, saying he would meet Kibaki only “if he announces that he was not elected.”

That statement and the current push for a 50-50 split of the Kenyan cabinet sure does sound “refined” doesn’t it?? And coming from a “visionary populist,” no less!

Of course, there’s more to worry about than whether Odinga is Obama’s real cousin versus just a member of the same tribal background or whether Dick Morris really worked for Odinga or not. A few months ago there were documents circulating that showed that Odinga was pushing for Sharia law in Kenya. (I saw these posted myself.) In November 2007, Kenyan Muslim leaders denied this was the case.

From the BBC, this report: Kenyan Muslims deny Sharia claims

Kenyan Muslim leaders have dismissed as propaganda allegations that an opposition party promised to introduce Sharia for Muslims if it won elections.

The National Muslim Leaders Forum said its deal with the Orange Democratic Movement was to end the current discrimination against Muslims.

Christian leaders have been calling for the pact to be made public to end angry speculation ahead of December’s polls. …

Muslim leaders decided to make the pact public after a document circulated on the internet claimed that Mr Odinga’s ODM had pledged to introduce Sharia in parts of the country where Muslims are in the majority.

“There was a fear that Muslims will force their faith on other people, Islam does not allow suppression of other religions and we will be the last to advocate for this,” said Abdullahi Abdi of the National Muslim Leaders Forum.

Instead the memorandum of understanding, signed in August, states that Mr Odinga has pledged to defend Muslims against harassment and victimisation by state security forces who claim to be fighting terrorism.

However, you can bet that this story will resurface if Obama is nominated, particularly if the situation in Kenya continues to be volatile. Sooner or later, the Obama-Odinga connection will be “explored.” I haven’t been able to find other stories I saw a few months ago that claimed that many Odinga’s followers were members of groups with ties to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Why those stories have suddenly disappeared is something I can’t explain.

All in all, it’s a murky picture of relationships, possible political ties between Obama and Odinga’s campaign and differing stories about Islamist interests and Odinga’s political background. Rest assured, when you throw Obama’s name into the mix if he’s the nominee, the 527’s working on the Republican side will help things become even murkier…and not to Obama’s benefit.

UPDATE  10/7/08

Jerome Corsi, best-selling author of The Obama Nation: Leftist Pollitics and the Cult of Personality has been detained in Kenya…

Story followed here at Uppity Woman, mirrored here at No Quarter…

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UPDATE 10/13/08

Corsi has been released.

ALSO: Here is the Official Raila Odinga website…where he touts himself as “The People’s President” and as
“Your Agent for Change.”