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Barack Obama

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Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States.

Political Offices
2009-2012: U.S. Presidency
2004-2008: U.S. Senator, Illinois
1996-2003: Illinois State Senator
Personal Life
Marriage: Michelle Robinson (1982, October 18)
Children: Malia and Natasha
Parents: Barack H. Obama Sr., Stanley Ann Dunham
* 1988-1991: Harvard Law School (J.D.)
* 1981-1983: Columbia University (B.A.)
* 1979-1981: Occidental College

Barack Obama (born Born::August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii) is the current President of the United States and a Democrat. On January 20, 2009 he was sworn in as the nation's first black president. He was reelected in the 2012 presidential election against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

He is married to Michelle Robinson and has two daughters, Malia and Natasha. Barack Obama was previously the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois (2004-2008) and before that an Illinois state senator (1996-2003). Major accomplishments during his presidency include passage of prominent stimulus and healthcare legislation (the latter nicknamed 'ObamaCare').

President Obama is the controversial recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He has been dogged throughout his political career with charges that he opposed medical care for newborn infants while an Illinois State Senator, an accusation that played a major role in his 2004 and 2008 elections, and was brought up by Newt Gingrich in 2012.


Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was born August 4, 1961[1], to parents Barack Hussein Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham, in Hawaii. The couple would divorce in 1963 due to strain caused by Barack Obama Sr. leaving Hawaii to study economics at Harvard, when Obama was 2 years old, following which his mother married Lolo Soetoro, a geologist. When Barack Obama was age 6 his mother took him to Jakarta, Indonesia for 4 years while she pursued a Ph.D. in Anthropology requiring fieldwork there. She then left him in Hawaii with his grandparents (Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, who had moved to Hawaii in 1959) so he could pursue American education.[2] Other siblings of Obama's include his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and 7 other children born to his father by 4 different women.[3] For much of his early life, prior to his transfer to Columbia University, he went by his nickname, "Barry". In the summer of 1988, before attending Harvard Law School (he'd just been accepted), he visited Kogelo, Kenya, to learn more about his father's family; his father had died in a car accident in 1982. When his mother died in 1995, he and his sister Maya scattered her ashes over Hawaii's south shore.[2]

Personal Life

Michelle (Robinson) Obama, wife of Barack Obama.

Barack Obama met and began dating his future wife, an Attorney named Michelle Robinson, herself a recent Harvard Law School graduate, while he was working at Sidley Austin LLP, a prestigious corporate law firm.[1] The two continued dating long-distance while he finished law school, and on October 18, 1982, were married by Reverend Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church.[2] In 1999, their first child was born, Malia, and in 2001, another daughter, Natasha (often called Sasha).[1]

Obama joined Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church from 1985-1988 during his time as a community organizer (See 1985-1988, Community Organizer section). Obama was married at Trinity United Church, credits Wright with his conversion to Christianity, and had both his daughters, Sasha and Malia, baptized there.[2]


At age 6, Obama attended schools in Indonesia, the first a Catholic School while he was in Kindergarten, and later a public school. While the public school had mostly Muslim students (since most Indonesians were Muslim), claims that it was a Muslim school or Madrassa are false. In 1971, at age 10, Barack Obama moved to Hawaii, and his grandparents helped him gain entrance to the prestigious Punahou Academy in Honolulu through a scholarship, while he was in 5th grade.[2] At his elite high school with 1,200 students he was just 1 of 3 black students, and was on the second string of the state champion basketball team his senior year. During this time he regularly used marijuana and also experimented briefly with cocaine. He wrote a poem for the school's literary magazine, Ka Wai Ola.[3]

In 1979, he began a 2-year stint at Occidental College college in Los Angeles[1], and then transferred to Columbia University in New York, which he graduated from in 1983.[4] During this time he allegedly spoke at an Anti-Apartheid rally on campus,[2] although several prominent student leaders said they did not remember him there. Professor Michael L. Baron was impressed by Obama and wrote him a recommendation for Harvard Law School.[5] In the winter of 1988 Barack Obama decided to attend Harvard Law School, and left Chicago for Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his 2nd year he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, following a "marathon voting session" in which he was elected on the 19th ballot.[3] This led to national attention and numerous job offers, which Obama passed up, at age 30, to pursue a political career in Chicago.[1][2]

Non-Political Employment

1983-1984, Financial Analyst and Writer

In 1984 Obama worked as a writer and financial analyst for Business International Corporation, a small newsletter-publishing and research firm which aided multinational companies understand overseas markets. Obama served as a writer/researcher for a company reference service, Financing Foreign Operations, and wrote for a newsletter, Business International Money Report. His Supervisor was Cathy Lazere, and he worked at the company to pay off his student loans.[5][6]

1984-1988, Community Organizer

In 1984, Obama was hired by the New York Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit organization promoting environmental, consumer, and government reforms. He also was paid just under $10,000 annually as a full-time organizer for Harlem's City College to mobilize student volunteers.[5] From 1985-88, Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, for which he was paid $1,000 a year, with $2,000 extra for a car. He helped Loretta Herron gain city approval for a local community job center. [2][7] During this time Obama joined Reverend Wright's Trinity United Church because in the words of Suzanne Malveaux of CNN, "It was the church to join if you wanted to be one of Chicago's black movers and shakers." At the time, community organizing involved close affiliation with churches, which was how Obama met Wright. The slow progress in fighting asbestos contamination in the Altgeld Gardens housing project led to Obama's departure from Chicago, and enrollment at Harvard Law School in the winter of 1988.[2]

1988-1996, Law Practice

In 1988 Obama gained work as a Summer Associate at one of the most prestigious corporate law firms in the world, Sidley Austin LLP[8][2], owned by Newton Minow, thanks to the recommendation of Minow's daughter Martha, a professor at Harvard Law School. It was at Minow's law firm that Obama would meet Michelle Robinson, his future wife.[3] From 1993-96 he practiced civil rights law, after graduating from Harvard, at Miner, Barnhill, & Galland, a small politically-connected law firm.[8] It was at Miner, Barnhill, & Galland that he would meet influential real estate developer Tony Rezko.[2]

1992-2004, Law Professor at University of Chicago

Obama taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School[3] from 1992-2004. He was a Lecturer from 1992-96, teaching 3 courses per year, and a Senior Lecturer from 1996-2004. Senior Lecturers are considered Law School faculty and regarded as professors but not full-time or tenured. Obama was invited to become a Senior Lecturer several times during this period but declined each time.[9]

1995, Author

In 1995 Obama published "Dreams From My Father" about his life and family background.[1]

Personal Awards

2009 Nobel Peace Prize

On October 9, 2009 Barack H. Obama became the third sitting U.S. President[10] to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".[11] Obama stated that he was "surprised and deeply humbled" to receive the unexpected award,[12] and also said, "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who have inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace".[10] The award was widely criticized given Obama's then lack of accomplishments.[13]

Political Career

1991-1992, Project Vote

In 1991 Obama was recruited by Sandy Newman to head the Chicago chapter of Project Vote![2], and in 1992 was the Executive Director, overseeing a voter registration drive which registered 125,000 black voters and was credited with helping elect U.S. Senator Carol Mosely Braun.[3][4]

1996-2003, Illinois State Senate

1996 Election

Barack Obama ran for the Illinois state senate in 1996. He was initially supported by incumbent Alice Palmer, who declared she would run for the U.S. Congress. However, when her bid for Congress failed on November 28, 1995, she tried to run for her old seat in the March 1996 election. Her supporters asked Obama to step aside, although whether this was with her permission remains uncertain.[4] Not only did Obama not step down, he gathered a team of high-priced lawyers, including fellow Harvard Law School graduate Thomas Johnson, to challenge his opponent's petition signatures on technicalities after the filing deadline had passed. Such tactics are legal and frequently used in Chicago; in 2006 they eliminated 67 of the 245 aldermanic candidates;[14] yet nevertheless led to the term "hardball" by the New York Times[4] and "cutthroat" by David Mendel as reported by both CNN[2] and MSNBC.[1] The Chicago Tribune declared Obama had mastered "the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics", noting "The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it."[14] As one of Obama's four opponents, eliminated through his ballot challenges, would put it:

"Why say you're for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates? He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?"

-Gha-is Askia, 1996 Illinois Senate candidate[15]

Mark Ewell, another candidate, filed 1,286 signatures, and Obama's challenges left him 86 short of the minimum requirement (757[16]). Ewell filed a federal lawsuit contesting the election board's decision but Tom Johnson intervened, and Ewell's case was dismissed just a few days later. Ewell and other Obama opponents were using early 1995 polling sheets to verify signatures of registered voters, but city authorities had just purged 15,871 unqualified people from the 13th district list, and Obama's challenges used the more recent, updated list. Askia was left 69 signatures short of the requirement. If names were printed instead of signed in cursive, they were declared invalid. If they were good but the person registering the signatures wasn't a registered voter (e.g. underage) they were invalid.[17] Palmer had according to Obama campaign consult Ronald Davis, used two children to help gather her petition signatures. To this day Palmer denies the challenges were valid, and maintains she could have overcome the objections with more time and resources.[14] Thanks to his lawyers, Obama would win the election without a single other candidate on the ballot.

2000 Election

Main Article: Illinois 1st congressional district election, 2000

In 2000, Obama lost his only political election when he chose to run against experienced incumbent and former Black Panther Bobby L. Rush for the U.S. Congress in a 65% black district. Rush's name recognition began at 90%, Obama's at 11%. As media consultant and former Rush campaign staffer Eric Adelstein noted, "Nobody said he’s ‘not black enough.’ They said he’s a professor, a Harvard elite who lives in Hyde Park." Todd Spivak would give voice to this impression of Obama, noting that

"My view of Obama then wasn't all that different from the image he projects now. He was smart, confident, charismatic and liberal. One thing I can say is, I never heard him launch into the preacher-man voice he now employs during speeches. He sounded vanilla, and activists in his mostly black district often chided him for it."[16]

Rush would go on to win the Primary with 61.02% of the vote; Obama received 30.36%.[7] The loss led to Obama considering dropping out of politics altogether, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, since his name sounds similar to "Osama bin Laden".[1]

2003 Emil Jones Deal

Main Article: 2003 Barack Obama deal with Emil Jones

When Illinois' U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald announced he would be retiring in April 2003, Obama jumped at the opportunity, declaring that he would be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004.[1] To boost his chances at reaching the U.S. Congress in the 2004 elections, in 2003 Barack Obama approached the newly crowned head of the Illinois Senate, Emil Jones Jr., with a proposal. According to Jones, who Obama has since called his "godfather"[18] the conversation went as follows:

Left to Right, Rod Blagojevich, Emil Jones, and Jeffrey Schoenberg.
"After I was elected president, in 2003, he came to see me, a couple months later. And he said to me, he said, ‘You’re the senate president now, and with that, you have a lot of pow-er.’  And I told Barack, ‘You think I got a lot of pow-er now?,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, you got a lot of pow-er.’ And I said, ‘What kind of pow-er do I have?’ He said, ‘You have the pow-er to make a United States sen-a-tor!’  I said to Barack, I said, ‘That sounds good!’ I said, ‘I haven’t even thought of that.’ I said, ‘Do you have someone in mind you think I could make?,’ and he said, ‘Yeah. Me.’ "[3][4]

Because of the deal, Obama's entire Illinois Senate legislative record was, as longtime Obama reporter Todd Spivak put it, built in a single year. During his 7th and final year in the Illinois Senate, Obama sponsored an incredible 26 bills into law, including many he now points to when criticized as inexperienced[16] - as CNN's Suzanne Malveaux observed, "With help from on high, Obama got his name on hundreds of bills that he pushed through."[2] Jones not only had Obama craft legislation addressing daily tragedies to raise his political profile[18], he also appointed Obama head of almost all high-profile legislation in the Illinois Senate, angering other state legislators with more seniority who'd spent years supporting the bills.[16] Illinois State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of the famous racial profiling bill requiring videotaped confessions in police interrogations, complained bitterly about Jones' decision.[2][19] Jones' influence had a major impact on Obama's chances in the 2004 elections, preventing major political players from backing Obama's opponents. To quote Emil Jones,

"He knew if he had me in the run for the Senate, it would put a block on the current mayor. The current mayor and the father of the controller, which was Dan Hynes, they were roommates in Springfield when the mayor was a state senator, so they had a relationship. Another big financial backer for the governor was Blair Hull. Barack knew if he had me it would checkmate the governor, ’cause the governor couldn’t come out and go with Blair Hull, ’cause the governor needs me. Same with the mayor. So he had analyzed and figured all of that out. He knew I could help him with labor support. And I could put a checkmate on some of the local politicians that didn’t know him, but they couldn’t really go against me."

-Emil Jones[3]

2004-2008, U.S. Senate

2004 U.S. Senate Election

Main Article: United States Senate election in Illinois, 2004
2004 Primary Election

Despite initially trailing in the polls to frontrunner Blair Hull[19], Obama greatly benefited from what the Chicago Tribune called "the most inglorious campaign implosion in Illinois political history"[20] when pressure from journalists and opposing candidates, just weeks before the election, forced the unsealing of Hull's messy divorce files.[21] The files revealed Hull's ex-wife's accusations of verbal and physical abuse.[16] Hull would afterwards criticize the media, stating, "As for the press, I will never read the newspaper the same way again."[20] Obama would go on to win the Primary with 53% of the vote.[21] Obama's unexpected victory led to him being termed a "rising star" by the media.[22]

2004 General Election, Jack Ryan

Once again Obama found himself trailing to popular frontrunner Jack Ryan, and once again a candidate's campaign imploded thanks to media intervention. In an unprecedented move, the Chicago Tribune and local TV station WLS sued to force the unsealing of Ryan's divorce files, despite opposition from both Ryan and his wife, Jeri Ryan, who in the files accused Jack Ryan of trying to coerce her to perform sex acts in public. Though Ryan advisors told him he could still win if using a negative attack on Obama, Ryan refused to engage in what he considered dirty politics.[23] Ryan then dropped out of the race (per request by the Illinois GOP[24]), following which the Illinois GOP scrambled to find a replacement, leaving Obama uncontested for weeks to campaign and build up public support. On top of all this, Obama was selected to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (July 27[25]), catapulting him into the national spotlight, and leading to further media publicity terming him a "rising star".[26]

2004 General Election, Alan Keyes
Main Article: Obama born alive controversy
Alan Keyes.

After a number of candidates including former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka declined to run[27], the Illinois GOP finally settled on fiery Alan Keyes, a former Ambassador to the Economic and Social Counsel of the United Nations[16], with less than 3 months left before the November 2004 election.[1] His sudden entrance into the state for the election was initially attacked in the press as "carpetbagging".[28][29] Keyes repeatedly claimed his primary motivation for entering a race he had seemingly no chance of winning was his disgust at Obama's votes on the popular Born Alive bills.[30] Keyes, from his first day of arriving in Illinois (August 9, 2004)[31], accused Obama of having voted against bills mandating medical care for newborn children, and supporting "infanticide" (the term twice used in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act[32]) where hospitals left newborn infants to die like garbage.[33] Obama in a debate on October 13, 2004, defended himself against Keyes' accusations of infanticide by claiming that Illinois law was already sufficient.[34]

However, Keyes' rhetoric, calling Obama's votes "the slaveholder's position"[31] and saying "Jesus Christ would not vote for Obama"[35] was widely ridiculed by the press. Keyes' unabashed criticism of homosexuality as "selfish hedonism" was also targeted.[29][36] Obama would ultimately win the election, 70% to 27%.[37]

2008 Presidential Election

Main Article: United States presidential election, 2008

Primary Election

In 2007-08, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton cleverly resurrected the "Born Alive" controversy surrounding Obama that had lain largely dormant since 2004 (notwithstanding the continuing mentions by Jill Stanek), by accusing Obama of not being pro-choice for voting "Present" on a number of abortion-related bills[38] - including the Born Alive ones,[39] and cowardly ducking the votes.[40] This led to criticism of Obama by two pro-choice organizations, Emily's List, and the National Organization for Women.[41] However, Pam Sutherland, the long-time head of Illinois Planned Parenthood, came to Obama's aid, criticizing Clinton for making the attack, and stating repeatedly that Obama's present votes were part of a broader strategy used by Planned Parenthood to keep Illinois voters from knowing their state senators were voting against the controversial and popular bills.[42]

"He came to me and said: ‘My members are being attacked. We need to figure out a way to protect members and to protect women. A ‘present’ vote was hard to pigeonhole which is exactly what Obama wanted. What it did was give cover to moderate Democrats who wanted to vote with us but were afraid to do so" because of how their votes would be used against them electorally. A ‘present’ vote would protect them. Your senator voted ‘present.’ Most of the electorate is not going to know what that means."

-Pam Sutherland, President/CEO of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, 1980-2012[43]

Clinton also made the claim repeatedly that while Obama was leading in Delegates she was winning the Popular Vote[44], though this was in part because Obama hadn't been registered in Michigan.[45] On June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton withdrew from the Primaries, conceding the race and endorsing her opponent[46], when Obama passed the 2,118 Delegates required; winning 2,201 delegates to Clinton's 1,896.[47]

General Election

Left to Right, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Joe Biden.

On June 30, 2008, Obama's voting record on the "Born Alive" bills came once more to the forefront when CNN gave voice to the growing controversy and revealed the defense Obama had been using since 2004-2008, that the Illinois bills he'd voted against were different from the federal bill, was false, since he'd brought up for a vote a bill word for word identical to the federal bill in the Health and Human Services Committee he chaired, and voted against it, defeating it.[48] This led in August to a confrontation between Obama and the NRLC.[49] After Obama accused critics of 'lying'[50] the NRLC challenged the assertion, and the Obama campaign conceded he "misspoke" and had voted against an identical bill to the "federal bill that everybody supported" but focused on Obama's new claim, that Illinois law was already sufficient to protect newborn children.[51] The NRLC promptly declared "Senator Barack Obama's four-year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions continues to unravel."[52]

Left to Right, Todd Palin, Sarah Palin, Cindy McCain, and John McCain.

Obama made an effort to portray John McCain as similar to George W. Bush, drawing attention to McCain's refusal to criticize the unpopular president. McCain was particularly criticized for saying of how many years we should be willing to stay in Iraq, "Make it a hundred."[53]

"John McCain went on television and said that there has been great progress economically over the last seven-and-a-half years. John McCain thinks our economy has made great progress under George W. Bush? How could somebody who has been traveling across this country, somebody who came to Erie, Pennsylvania, say we’ve made great progress?"

-Barack Obama[54]

On August 22nd, Obama selected Joe Biden as his running mate for the vice presidency[55], which would be contrasted one week later with John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin.[56]

On November 2, 2008, Barack Obama won the presidential election with 365 electoral votes to John McCain's 173.[57] Obama received 53% of the popular vote to John McCain's 46%.[58]

2009-2012, U.S. Presidency

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th U.S. President, succeeding former President George W. Bush (2000-2008).[59]

2009 Stimulus

In early 2009, Obama lobbied Congress and the public to pass sweeping Stimulus legislation for the ailing economy[60] known as The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1)[61], ignoring a report by the Congressional Budget Office that the legislation would ultimately harm the economy.[62] Contrary to his earlier promises of bipartisanship[63], the bill passed the House 244-188 without a single Republican vote on January 28, 2009,[64] and received just 3 Republican votes when passing the Senate 61-37.[65] One third of the massive $838 billion bill consisted of tax cuts[66] and the rest spending on "just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years."[67] In responding to criticism of the broken bipartisanship promise at the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously quipped, "We won the election. We wrote the bill."[68] On February 18, 2009, the Stimulus was signed into law by Obama.[69] In August 2009, Republicans and Democratic Senator David Obey drew attention to mistakes on the site claiming Stimulus jobs created that didn't exist. Obama responded by saying the errors just indicate the accounting is an "inexact science".[70]

2009-2011 Iraq Troop Withdrawal

On February 10, 2007, Barack Obama announced his campaign for the U.S. presidency while stating he had a "plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008."[71] Later, Obama campaigned on having troops entirely out of Iraq within 16 months, but in February 2009 revised this promise to withdrawing all but 35-50 thousand troops by December 2011.[72] However, some of the newly withdrawn troops were simply redirected from Iraq to Afghanistan - Obama in Summer 2009 ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan.[73]

"But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake. Today we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives that could have been. America, it's time to start bringing our troops home. It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war. That's why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008. Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace."

-Barack Obama, February 10, 2007 Presidential Campaign Announcement Speech[71]

Ultimately, it was the Status of Forces Agreement signed by George W. Bush on November 17, 2008 which forced U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities, villages, and localities by June 30, 2009, and from Iraq entirely by December 31st 2011.[74] Obama privately contacted the Iraq government in an attempt to persuade them to let 10,000 troops stay, but was rejected.[75] Newsweek's Michael Ware accused Obama of a "War Crime" for "falsely taking credit for finally bringing Iraq to a close—a war actually ended by the Bush administration back in 2008" and stated, "The U.S. troops who fought and died in that war, the Iraqis who perished, and the American people deserve far better."[76]

2010 Healthcare Bill

Main Article: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Obama during the 2008 elections had campaigned on healthcare reform, promising that the negotiations would not be behind closed doors, but televised publicly on C-Span.[77] He had also promised Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, that "reproductive care" would be central to the coming healthcare bill, and that he believed it important for Planned Parenthood to be part of the system[78]:

"Well, look, in my mind, reproductive care is essential care. It is basic care. So it is at the center and at the heart of the plan that I propose... Essentially what we are doing is to say that we're going to set up a public plan that all persons, and all women, can access if they don't have health insurance. It'll be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services, as well as mental health services, and disease-management services, because part of our interest is to make sure that we're putting more money into preventive care. And so many of women's diseases are preventable if they're getting access to regular care. So we subsidize women who don't have health insurance, or can't afford low group rates. We also will subsidize those who prefer to stay in the private insurance market, except the insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care, and mental care services, and they won't be able to keep people out as a consequence of pre-existing conditions. So, that's going to be absolutely vital... I still believe that it is important for organizations like Planned Parenthood to be part of that system, because many young women for example may be much more comfortable when they're in college, or universities, or in other places, going to Planned Parenthood clinics and services, to get contraception, for example."

-Barack Obama before Planned Parenthood, July 17, 2007[79]


On April 28, 2009, the 2008 Wall Street Journal's prediction of a 'Liberal Supermajority'[80] proved correct; as the defection of Senator Arlen Specter from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party put the Democrats on the verge of one of the rarest blessings in politics, a Supermajority - complete control of the House, Senate, and Presidency so that they wouldn't need a single Republican vote to pass bills.[81] Senator Bernie Sanders then urged the Democrat party to pursue single-payer healthcare reform.[82] On May 16, 2009, Barack Obama urged Congress to pass health care reform within the year, stating, "Our businesses will not be able to compete; our families will not be able to save or spend; our budgets will remain unsustainable unless we get health care costs under control".[83] On July 1, 2009, Al Franken was finally declared the winner of his election (narrowly winning by 312 votes[84]), giving the Democrats their desired Supermajority, and a clear path towards healthcare reform which Republicans would be powerless to stop.[85] Nevertheless, sickness of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd along with several other facts led to question marks about the supermajority's strength.[86] Democrats maintained this Supermajority until February 5, 2010, when Republican Scott Brown was sworn in to replace deceased Senator Edward Kennedy.[87]

Locking Out Republicans, Literally

Democrats were so confident that the 2008 elections displayed American backing for the Democratic Party that in October 2009 they even changed the door locks for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to keep Republicans from meeting when Democrats weren't present.[88] The debacle occurred because Republicans were trying to launch an investigation into corruption by Edolphus Towns.[89] Democrats canceled the meeting by secretly leaving before the meeting was to begin, and a GOP staffer caught this on videotape, set it to the tune of "Hit the Road, Jack", and posted it on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s minority webpage for the press. Towns and the Democrats then had the locks changed in retaliation.[90]

Public Option Removed

On July 8, 2009, Barack Obama met with hospital lobbyists and struck a deal with the hospital industry to remove the public option in exchange for the industry's support of the bill, while also reducing costs for hospitals under the plan.[91]

"Not to worry, Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff, told the hospital lobbyists, according to White House officials and lobbyists briefed on the call. The White House was standing behind the deal, Mr. Messina told them, capping the industry’s costs at a maximum of $155 billion over 10 years in exchange for its political support... Several hospital lobbyists involved in the White House deals said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan paying Medicare rates — generally 80 percent of private sector rates — or controlled by the secretary of health and human services. 'We have an agreement with the White House that I’m very confident will be seen all the way through conference,' one of the industry lobbyists, Chip Kahn, director of the Federation of American Hospitals, told a Capitol Hill newsletter."

-David Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Obama is Taking an Active Role in Talks on Health Care Plan[92]

In November 2009, an amendment proposed by Dennis Kucinich to let states have single-payer healthcare systems without insurance industry lawsuits was stripped from the healthcare bill because Nancy Pelosi said it would break Obama's promise to let people keep their current insurance plans if they liked them.[93] Kucinich expressed frustration with the move, stating, "They took single-payer off the table right at the beginning, because the table was set by insurance companies."[94] On March 25, 2010, Obama claimed the public option wasn't included "Because we couldn"t get it through Congress, that's why." He also on December 22, 2009 erroneously[95] claimed that he hadn't campaigned on a public option.[96] Following Obama's claim, a liberal group, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, began airing television ads accusing Obama of breaking his promise of a single-payer healthcare plan.[97]

Pro-Life Democrats

In June and July 2009 some 200 Planned Parenthood activists arrived in Washington[98] and a number of Pro-Choice bills began receiving support, as the Pro-Choice movement sought to ensure abortion would be mandated in health care reform.[99] The Republicans would find an unlikely ally in the Pro-Life Democrats (Democrats for Life of America). On June 25, 2009, 19 of them sent a letter to House leader Nancy Pelosi expressing refusal to support any healthcare bill with an abortion agenda[100], which firmly stated, "Therefore, we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan... By ensuring that abortions are not funded through any health care reform package, we will take this controversial issue off the table so that Congress can focus on crafting a broadly-supported health care reform bill."[101]

"Republican congressional leaders have to be chuckling right now. In the end, all the tea-party town halls, Glenn Beck rallies and 'death panel' rumors may have less of a hand in bringing down health care reform than an intraparty Democratic culture war. Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, whose amendment restricting abortion coverage on all policies sold through the new insurance exchange paved the way for passage of health reform in the House of Representatives, vows that 'there will be hell to pay' if his language gets stripped out of, or weakened in, the final legislation."

-Amy Sullivan, Time Magazine, Can Dems Resolve Their Abortion Split?[102]

On July 17, 2009, Obama once more urged rapid passage of the healthcare bill.[103] Republicans criticized the lack of tort reform and insistence on covering 5.6 million illegal immigrants.[104] Obama predicted he would be held responsible if the bill failed, stating:

"You know, I intend to be president for a while and once the bill passes, I own it. And if people look and say, 'You know what? This hasn't reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25 percent, insurance companies are still jerking me around,' I'm the one who's going to be held responsible."[105]

On November 8, 2009, Obama said it was time for the Senate to "take the baton"[106] and on November 18 the U.S. Senate under Senate Leader Harry Reid introduced its own health care bill (H.R. 3963 The Affordable Health Care for America Act), separate from the House bill. Obama called this bill a 'milestone' and urged Congress to pass it quickly.[107]

2012 Presidential Campaign

2011, Birth Certificate Released

Main Article: Barack_Obama_controversies#Birth_Certificate

On April 27, 2011[108], a long-running controversy surrounding Obama's birth was largely put to rest[109] when Obama had his long-form birth certificate posted at[110] Donald Trump, who had attacked Obama on the Birth Certificate issue and was then leading Republicans in polls for the upcoming GOP primary[111], was effectively knocked out of the race because of this.[112]

The following is a timeline of previous events leading up to the release:

  • In June 2008 the Obama campaign allowed to look at his “Certificate of Live Birth” and take photos.[113]
  • In July 2008 a blogger discovered a birth announcement from the Honolulu Advertiser from August 13, 1961 for Barack Obama. It has since been discovered another newspaper, the Star Bulletin, also documented the birth.[114]
  • PolitiFact went to extreme lengths to verify Obama’s citizenship, attaining scanned copies of his 1992 marriage certificate from Cook County, IL, his driver’s license record, and his registration and disciplinary record. PolitiFact also addressed a number of concerns about the documentation.[115]
  • In October 2008 Hawaii’s Department of Health released a statement by Dr. Chiyome Fukino verifying that Obama’s birth certificate was on record.[116]
  • In August 2009 it was revealed that an alleged Kenyan birth certificate for Obama was a hoax.[117] Another website allows you to create your own imitation Kenyan birth certificates online.[118]

2011, Osama Bin Laden Confirmed Dead

On May 1, 2011, Obama announced in a press conference[119] that Osama Bin Laden was dead after a U.S. assault force infiltrated his military compound in Abottobad, Pakistan.[120] Bin Laden was reportedly shot in the head after a helicopter raid ferried Navy SEAL Team Six and CIA paramilitary operatives into Pakistan on April 29.[121] Reuters obtained photos of unidentified dead bodies from the raid, none of which look like bin Laden. However, the White House had the body of Osama bin Laden disposed of at sea because it claimed this was "in accordance with Islamic tradition" and didn't want to give Bin Laden followers a gravesite shrine.[122] The White House also refused to publicly reveal photos or evidence of the body, because Obama claimed that "given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk."[123] The burial at sea was criticized by Islamic scholars[124] and 9/11 families.[125] The lack of photos resulted in skepticism about the death from a variety of sources, including the Taliban,[126] and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.[127]

The death of bin Laden, coupled with the revealing of Obama's long-form Birth Certificate, resulted in a boost of Obama's job approval from 46% to 57% within one month.[128] In 2012, relations between the U.S. and Pakistan remain sour because the U.S. did not involve Pakistan fully in the raid to ensure success.[129] Pakistan has denied White House claims that there was a deal with it allowing the raid.[130]

External Links

See Also


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