Kurtz: Barack Obama’s Lost Years

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Stanley Kurtz has an article in the Weekly Standard about the more than 40 columns Barack Obama wrote for the Hyde Park Herald between 1996 and 2004: Barack Obama’s Lost Years.

Obama moved to Chicago in order to place himself in what he understood to be the de facto “capital” of black America. For well over 100 years, the Chicago Defender has been the voice of that capital, and therefore a paper of national significance for African Americans. Early on in his political career, Obama complained of being slighted by major media, like the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Yet extensive and continuous coverage in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald presents a remarkable resource for understanding who Obama is. Reportage in these two papers is particularly significant because Obama’s early political career-the time between his first campaign for the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and his race for U.S. Senate in 2004-can fairly be called the “lost years,” the period Obama seems least eager to talk about, in contrast to his formative years in Hawaii, California, and New York or his days as a community organizer, both of which are recounted in his memoir, Dreams from My Father. The pages of the Hyde Park Herald and the Chicago Defender thus offer entrée into Obama’s heretofore hidden world.

What they portray is a Barack Obama sharply at variance with the image of the post-racial, post-ideological, bipartisan, culture-war-shunning politician familiar from current media coverage and purveyed by the Obama campaign. As details of Obama’s early political career emerge into the light, his associations with such radical figures as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Reverend James Meeks, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn look less like peculiar instances of personal misjudgment and more like intentional political partnerships. At his core, in other words, the politician chronicled here is profoundly race-conscious, exceedingly liberal, free-spending even in the face of looming state budget deficits, and partisan. Elected president, this man would presumably shift the country sharply to the left on all the key issues of the day-culture-war issues included. It’s no wonder Obama has passed over his Springfield years in relative silence.

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