Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama's Legislative Substance Overlooked?

Post by Ken Burch
Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews had a brief interview with a representative of the Barack Obama campaign in Texas. Matthews cornered the spokesman by asking him to name one of Obama's legislative accomplishments. When the man squirmed and tried to avoid the question by talking about the future changes of which Obama often speaks, Matthews would not let him off the hook--insisting that the spokesman name just one legislative accomplishment achieved by Obama, and he couldn't do it.

So this spokesman (his name escapes me) was clearly not qualified to be put in front of a camera on national television to speak for the Obama campaign, but what's just as striking is that Matthews and his cohort Keith Olbermann apparently have not bothered to study Obama's legislative achievements either. Matthews appeared to be asking the question because he himself did not know. Shouldn't a nationally televised political analyst know? If he or Olbermann did know, they kept it to themselves.

As Charles Peters said in a recent Washington Post editorial: "Since most of Obama's legislation was enacted in Illinois, most of the evidence is found there -- and it has been largely ignored by the media in a kind of Washington snobbery that assumes state legislatures are not to be taken seriously. (Another factor is reporters' fascination with the horse race at the expense of substance that they assume is boring, a fascination that continues to dominate political journalism.) "In his service in the Illinois legislature, one exemplary bill into which Obama put his full effort addressed the problem of too many criminal confessions being violently coerced by law enforcement. The senator proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped. This seemed likely to stop the violent interrogations, but the bill aroused immediate opposition from the police--who were accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes--and, ironically, death penalty abolitionists, some of whom argued that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument against capital punishment.

Peters' article went on to report that Obama proved persuasive enough that the interrogations bill eventually passed both houses of the legislature--the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Governor Rod Blagojevich eventually signed the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama also played a major role in passing many other bills in Illinois, including the state's first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Washington Post story said made Illinois "one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure"). Obama's commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who "bundle" contributions for them.

As Peters points out: "Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard calls a unique ability to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people. In other words, Obama's campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric."END OF POST
Leave a Comment

1 comment:

Albert said...

The Obama spokesman in question was Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin. Senator Clinton referred to Watson's embarrassing MSNBC interview in tonight's CNN debate in Texas.