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Excerpts from Books by and about 2008 candidates
Sen. John McCain (R, AZ)
Why Courage Matters
Sen. Barack Obama(D, IL)
Dreams From My Father
Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE)
Promises to Keep
Gov. Sarah Palin (R, AK)
New Energy for Alaska
Rep. Bob Barr (L)
The Meaning of IS
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (G)
Green Party Debate
Ralph Nader (I)
The Good Fight
Alan Keyes (NAIP)
Our Character, Our Future

Sen. Hillary Clinton
It Takes A Village
Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Leadership
Gov. Mike Huckabee
Character Makes A Difference
Amb. Alan Keyes
Our Character, Our Future
Rep. Ron Paul
Freedom Under Siege
Gov. Mitt Romney
Turnaround

(click a book cover for excerpts and a review or other books by or about the presidency from Amazon.com)

The Obama Nation
Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality
, by Jerome Corsi



(Click for Amazon book review)

BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:

If you've ever listened to conservative Talk Radio's and wondered, "Where do they come up with this stuff?", well, this book is it. There are other sources, but this book is one of the key source materials for attacks on Obama. That's because the author, Jerome Corsi, wrote the anti-Kerry book that provided the fodder which killed Kerry's candidacy. Corsi co-authored "Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry", which dominated the presidential campaign in 2004. Corsi and the conservative Talk Radio hosts were hoping for another knockout blow with this book in 2008. "Obama Nation" failed where the Swift Boat attack succeeded for three major reasons.

First, Kerry was susceptible to the Swift Boat attack because it attacked his strength: Kerry based his campaign on his military service and "Unfit for Command" diminished the importance of his service. "Obama Nation" attacks Obama primarily for his associations: like Rev. Wright; Bill Ayres; Tony Rezko; and Saul Alinsky. But Obama didn't base his campaign on his associations, so the public viewed this attack as peripheral to the campaign.

Second, Kerry failed to respond to the Swift Boat attacks, while Obama promptly responded. Yes, each of the "guilt-by-association" attacks on Obama dominated the news for a week -- but then they faded away. Kerry's attack should have done the same -- but Kerry never responded, so it never faded away. Kerry ignored the Swift Boaters until it was too late. Obama learned that lesson, and responded to each attack with a substantive speech in which he not only explained his side of the story, but also changed his behavior to address the attack (e.g., he quit Rev. Wright's church).

Third, the "Swift Boat" attack rang true at its core, while the "Obama Nation" attack did not. Neither attack was literally true -- both of Corsi's books distorted the facts and presented both candidates in the worst possible light. But the subtext of the "Swift Boat" attack was that Kerry answered questions about his Vietnam record with shades of truth, and by extension Kerry answered every question with shades of truth. That core attack felt true to the public. The subtext of the "Obama Nation" attack is that Obama's associates are corrupt, criminal, and/or anti-American, and by extension that Obama's presidential administration would be corrupt, criminal, and/or anti-American. That just did not ring true to the public. The title of the book is a play on the term "abomination" -- Corsi says that Obama's presidency would be an abomination of corrupt criminal anti-Americanism -- and the public simply rejected that opinion.

* * *

Ok, so what are the specifics of the "Obama Nation" attack? Anyone reading campaign news in the summer and autumn of 2008 is familiar with most of them:

  1. Rev. Jeremiah Wright gets an entire chapter: chapter 7 in part two, "The Making of a Radical Politician" (pp. 176-208). Corsi explains that Wright is a "Black Liberation theologian," and that because Obama knew must have known that, he was therefore a radical. Obama responded by disassociating himself from Rev. Wright's words, then from his church.
  2. Bill Ayres was a member of the Weather Underground (a 1960s radical group), who was convicted of terrorism and served a sentence. Ayres was (years later) Obama's neighbor, as well as serving on some organization's boards together (p. 146-8). Corsi never accuses Obama of agreeing with the Weather Underground's principles; just of associating with one of its members. Obama responded by pointing out that the Republican Governor of South Carolina similarly served on boards with Ayres.
  3. Tony Rezko also gets a full chapter, "The Chicago Way" (pp. 152-175). Rezko was corrupt, and supported Obama in many campaigns as well as in Obama buying his home -- and therefore, according to Corsi, Obama is corrupt by association. But Corsi goes too far in associating, as he went too far in the "Swift Boat" attack by making Kerry seem the worst officer in Vietnam. In Obama's case, Corsi goes too far by associating Obama via Rezko to Saddam Hussein (because Rezko did business with Nadhmi Auchi, Saddam Hussein's cousin). The extreme "guilt by association" weakens the anti-Obama attacks by being too extreme and hence non-credible.
  4. Saul Alinsky gets mentioned frequently as Obama's philosophical mentor (the same Saul Alinsky who is claimed as Hillary Clinton's philosophical mentor). On page 159, for example, Corsi writes that Obama "was instructed in the Machiavellian power politics of Saul Alinsky's radical activism." The problem here is that Alinsky is a well-respected community organizer -- I myself have been similarly "instructed," and have followed, many of Alinsky's methods, because they are well-established as successful community organizing methods. Alinsky's methods work to politically empower disempowered groups, including black communities, so of course Obama was familiar with Alinsky. Corsi's characterization of Alinsky as "Machiavellian" is equivalent to saying that community organizing is inherently radical.

* * *

Corsi makes sure to emphasize that he has a PhD, by saying so on top of every even-numbered page. But his emphasis begs the reader to question the academic standards that Corsi employs in this book -- alas, those standards are pretty low. In a normal opinion book, non-academic standards are acceptable -- but because Corsi claims his PhD as his primary credential, he then should apply academic standards.

The most important academic standard is to use "primary sources," which means citing original speakers. A "secondary source" means, for example, citing a newspaper article which cites the original speaker. A "tertiary source" means citing an opinion piece based on newspaper articles. At OnTheIssues, we try to use mostly primary sources (speech transcripts; book excerpts; and so on) and sometimes use secondary sources; but we never use tertiary sources unless no other sources are available. OnTheIssues does not claim to live up to academic standards -- but Corsi does, but routinely cites tertiary sources.

For example, on pp. 199-200, Corsi associates Obama with Father Pfegler, whom Corsi labels "a Radical Catholic Priest." The evidence of Pfegler's radicalism is cited from "TheCapitalFaxBlog.com, a well-read Chicago blog." Citing a blog is fine for casual conversation, but not for a PhD-level work. Hence the reader feels misled by Corsi's mixing of academic credentials with non-academic citations. More importantly, the reader wonders why Corsi did not investigate enough to find the original speaker -- and must conclude that at best, Corsi was too rushed to do research, or at worst, that Corsi could not actually locate the original material.

* * *

Overall, this is an important book because the "Swift Boat" attack was so successful. (But few people actually read that book either!) The primary readers of both attacks are the strongest anti-Democratic partisans. The rest of us will hear the details through conservative Talk Radio hosts endlessly -- even after the 2008 election!

-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, September 2008
Click here for 48 full quotes from Barack Obama in the book The Obama Nation.
OR click on an issue category below for a subset.
Abortion
   Opposed legislation protecting born-alive failed abortions.
   1997: opposed bill preventing partial-birth abortion.
Civil Rights
   Admired repeated acts of "self-creation" by Malcolm X.
Foreign Policy
   Dressed in Africa in traditional garb, not "Muslim attire".
   Global Poverty Act: spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
Gun Control
   Opposed bill okaying illegal gun use in home invasions.
Health Care
   CDC estimate: a half million would follow Obama's AIDS test.
   Include everyone who wants insurance in national pool.
Homeland Security
   Goal is a world without nuclear weapons.
   A New Beginning: seek world with no nuclear weapons.
Jobs
   Small towns get bitter over long-term joblessness.
Principles & Values
   Father's car crash death may have included alcohol.
   Father had wife in Africa when he met and married Ann Dunham.
   Father left family for Harvard education.
   Father's upbringing was Muslim, although never religious.
   Visited Africa 3 times; 1986, then 1992 & 2006 with Michelle.
   Father had 3 or 4 wives; Barack has at least 5 half-siblings.
   Father came to US on student airlift; JFK funded 2nd airlift.
   Mother named "Stanley Ann" because grandfather wanted a son.
   Many attribute mother's marriages to being anthropologist.
   Lived with grandparents in Hawaii over mother in Indonesia.
   No madrassa, but was introduced to Islam as a child.
   Apocryphal story: race awareness began with skin-bleach ad.
   Nicknamed "Barry the O'Bomber" in prep school basketball.
   OpEd: Racial angst from paternal abandonment, not injustice.
   Would be first president to have extended family abroad.
   Neighbor Bill Ayres admits 1970s violent radicalism.
   OpEd: Distances himself from 1970s radical Bill Ayres.
   Obama worked in same community as Saul Alinsky.
   OpEd: Obama implements Alinsky's ideas of radical change.
   Used community organizer skills as State Senator.
   Handpicked as successor by retiring State Senator.
   1995: Participated in Million Man March.
   Tony Rezko: large contributor & active member of campaigns.
   Headed "Project Vote!" in Chicago in 1990s.
   Ally Tony Rezko indicted for kickbacks from Gov. Blagojevich.
   Tony Rezko helped Obama buy home in prestigious neighborhood.
   Obama's Trinity Church is based on black-liberation theology.
   Moved to & attended church in neighborhood he was organizing.
   Segments of Wright sermons were "caricatures of the church".
   Just words? "I have a dream," Just words?.
   Borrowed "Just Words" speech from Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick.
   Don't take a chance on me; take a chance on your aspirations.
   Borrowed "Yes, we can" slogan from Cesar Chavez 1960s UFW.
   Photographed without hand over heart during national anthem.
   OpEd: Themes of "hope" and "change" has numerous antecedents.
   OpEd: Behind "hope & change" rhetoric lays radical views.
Tax Reform
   Adjust capital gains tax up to where Reagan set it.


The above quotations are from The Obama Nation
Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality
, by Jerome Corsi.

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