There are a few stories circulating about Senator Barack Obama, and you've probably heard at least one of them. Perhaps you've received a few via email.
There's the malicious lie-filled story that claims he's an America-hating Muslim, but that is completely untrue, and I'm tired of seeing it in my email inbox.
More interesting is the story that he's a new kind of politician, a consummate outsider who upsets all the rules and will bridge every divide. I would love for this one to be true, but it's difficult to find any evidence for this other than a fervent desire to make it so. It may be difficult to remember, but in 2000, another candidate declared the same desire. He claimed that he would be a "uniter, not a divider" as President. That pledge didn't survive the day George W. Bush was sworn in, since it seems to have been based on nothing other than a fond hope that everybody would like him in Washington just like they liked him in Texas. Unfortunately, Washington isn't like Illinois any more than it is like Texas.
Is Senator Obama a new kind of politician, delivering change we can believe in, or is he just yet another partisan politician, delivering politics as usual? Is he the new Kennedy? The new Reagan? The new Carter? The new Bush?
Nine out of thirteen members of Senator Obama's national security team were formerly officials in the Clinton administration. Does that seem like a sound basis for change we can believe in, or more like politics as usual?
On June 18, 2008, Patrick Gaspard joined the Obama campaign as Political Director. Gaspard was the Field Director for Americans Coming Together (ACT), a 527 group that hired criminals convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary to collect personal information for voter registration, and was fined $775,000 by the federal government for misusing campaign funds. ACT were accused of other electoral shenanigans as well. Does the hiring of Patrick Gaspard sound like "a new kind of politics," or politics as usual?
You can't tell everything about someone by the company they keep, but you may be able to tell something. Someone who wants to move beyond party politics might have at least one person on his team from the other party, for example, but between Gaspard and the Clinton officials, the Obama campaign staff roster looks a bit like politics as usual.
Obama became a Senator in January 2005, so he has had a few years of being on the record at the federal level. His voting record seems to follow the Democratic party line quite closely. Good news if you're looking for a reliable liberal Democrat, but unfortunate for his image as an outsider or a post-political candidate.