Hearing the brouhaha over the July New Yorker cover, one would think that the New Yorker had never done a satirical cover before. The cover of the magazine set off a hailstorm of racism charges and in the downpour of outrage the contents of the well-written article have been ignored.
The in-depth analysis in How Chicago Shaped Obama, gives us a new look at Barack Obama, and what we see is a picture of the consummate politician.
Contrary to his claim to want a new kind of politics, Obama has learned well how to use the old politics to further his ambitions. One of the early examples of his dissimulating was the denial from his campaign that it had made accusations of racism against the Clintons while in fact the Obama campaign was circulating a memo with detailed charges of perceived racism.
Love him or hate him, credit must be given to Barack Obama for his ability to use the people around him to his advantage and to know when to cut them loose. "Throwing people under the bus" is an art form with Obama. I’m sure we all remember his word regarding Rev. Wright in March, 2008 – "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother…..” (Source) And yet, in April 2008, Obama holds a press conference to unequivocally denounce Wright, saying "I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Rev. Wright has changed, he said. "I don't think he showed much concern for me … and what we are trying to do in this campaign." (Source)
When distancing himself from supporters and mentors who have become a liability, Obama has stated on a number of occasions that the person he now finds no more use for isn't the person he knew. I wondered how that could be – how could he "know" a person for years but not really know him? I have come to believe that Obama sees people through a filter of "what can they do for me" and chooses his associates accordingly. That practice doesn’t necessarily lend itself to having close personal relationships and truly knowing a person.
In what I can only call calculating moves Obama sought out the right church, the right friends and the right neighborhood to further his political career.
Obama is portrayed in the New Yorker article as a cocky (but smart) opportunist who not only knows how to use people but also recognizes the importance of timing. When Obama ran for the Illinois Senate in 2004, the Illinois Republican Party was mired down in corruption and scandals and the timing was right for the message of hope and change. And Obama realized that the conditions were much the same for the presidential election of 2008 as Bush's popularity plummets and Republicans in Washington deal with scandals of their own – thus, the “fierce urgency of now.”
While Obama often condemns politics as usual he doesn't fore go politics as usual, and it's this practice that has stunned some of his supporters. His yes vote on the FISA bill infuriated and stunned many of his more liberal supporters, but had they just done a bit of research they wouldn't have been surprised.
I finished the New Yorker article feeling disgusted that once again millions of American voters were taken in by empty words of hope and change and a promise for a new kind of politics. One would think that by the year 2008 most voters would realize they have heard this all before and that Obama is in fact just another politician selling snake oil.