The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Power Plants and Political Opinions

As regular readers already know, I’m struggling to understand the man behind the politician who is Barack Obama. Is he, as he and his many followers contend, the great uniter—a new kind of politician who will make good on his promises to reinstill hope and instantiate change throughout the fabric of our society?

Or, is he just another corruptible Chicago politician, driven by a far-Left ideology that sits well with his base, but would be antithetical to the American center—the people who elect presidents?

As I’ve mentioned in many posts, his record and experience are very thin and offer almost no clue about who this man really is, how he’d make decisions, what kind of policies/legislation he’d promote, how he’d deal with our friends and our adversaries. Since he’s never done any of this, it’s really hard to tell.

But clues are beginning to emerge, not from a MSM that has already decided he is above reproach and far too charismatic to bother with substantive policy questions. Rather these clues come from his own words and the actions of his close associates. But even here, Obama’s followers and the MSM object, arguing that it is “McCarthyism” to suggest that Obama’s associations are fair game, that questions should not be asked about the people he has been close to on his way up.

In a fascinating analysis of Obama’s positions (note the plural) on the Iraq war, Richard Fernandez draws a time line that is worthy of consideration. He introduces his analysis in the following manner:
Barack Obama’s position on Iraq has shifted significantly over the last six years. What is interesting is how his position on Iraq matches up with developments in Chicago. Specifically, there appears to be a direct correlation between the rising and falling prospects of his longtime friend and fundraiser Tony Rezko’s attempts to secure multi-million-dollar contracts to build and operate a power plant in Kurdish Iraq and the senator’s Iraq flip-flops.

In earlier posts, I’ve suggested that there’s much more to the Tony Resko trial and conviction relative to Barack Obama than the MSM wants us to understand. But I’ve also noted that its an extremely complicated case with many Middle Eastern players. I also believe that the complexity of the Resko case will act to insulate Obama from what I’m beginning to believe is sleazy Chicago politics—the very kind of politics that Barack Obama so sanctimoniously condemns.

In October, 2002, when he was a state senator, Obama opposed the US invasion of Iraq in a much vaunted speech. It’s worth noting that Obama was an obscure state politician at the time and his speech got absolutely no national coverage—why would it?

Fernandez fast forwards two years to April, 2004, a bloody month in Iraq for US troops. He notes that Obama insisted that we NOT withdraw troops.
Obama’s change of tone in 2004 was so noticeable that Howard Kurtz couldn’t help but notice how striking the Illinois senator’s position was in mid-2004. Obama was quoted as saying:

There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.

But Rezko Watch, a blog following the trial of the Chicago political operative and Obama’s close friend and contributor Tony Rezko, remembered that something else took place in April 2004. Obama was at a party on April 3 — two days before the video– with Nadhmi Auchi, a London-based Iraqi billionaire who attended a Tony Rezko party in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune blog covered Obama’s recollection of the party in depth.

At the time Resko, a “supporter” and friend of Obama, was trying to land the rights to build a $150 million power plant in Kurdish Iraq. He did not have the assets to fund such a deal. Fernandez continues:
But if Rezko had no money to build or finance the Chamchamal Power Project, how could he convince the Iraqi government to give him a letter of credit and where would the “other financing” come from? Subsequent events suggest the letter of credit would be arranged by another local connection, a Chicago Iraqi-American named Aiham Alsammarae, who is a one-time classmate of Tony Rezko and had been appointed as Iraq’s Minister of Electricity by L. Paul Bremer in July 2003. With Alsammarae at the head of the ministry, a letter of credit was possible. The money (”other financing”) would likely come from Nahdmi Auchi, who according to the Times Online, practically owned Tony Rezko.

Throughout 2004 as Obama made his run to the US Senate and into 2005, Obama's position remainded the same. Fernandez tells us that November 2005, Obama said:
I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq. The strategic goals should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled with a shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies our efforts to train Iraqi forces.

At the same time, sufficient numbers of U.S. troops should be left in place to prevent Iraq from exploding into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and a haven for terrorism.

We must find the right balance — offering enough security to serve as a buffer and carry out a targeted, effective counter-insurgency strategy, but not so much of a presence that we serve as an aggravation. It is this balance that will be critical to finding our way forward.

Second, we need not a time-table, in the sense of a precise date for U.S. troop pull-outs, but a time-frame for such a phased withdrawal. More specifically, we need to be very clear about key issues, such as bases and the level of troops in Iraq. We need to say that there will be no bases in Iraq a decade from now and the United States armed forces cannot stand up and support an Iraqi government in perpetuity — pushing the Iraqis to take ownership over the situation and placing pressure on various factions to reach the broad-based political settlement that is so essential to defeating the insurgency.

Very reasonable words from my point of view. In fact, shockingly different than his more recent primary and campaign rhetoric, don’t you think?

Even after visiting Iraq in 2006 and the onset of a bloody counter insurgency, Obama maintained this reasonable (and today, unmentioned) position.

But in November, 2006 he changed his tone and began to offer his current position—withdrawal in a matter of months.

At first blush, you might argue that he was simply positioning himself to best woo the Left-leaning, anti-war primary base of the Democratic party. But Fernandez offers another contributing factor:
What had changed between June and November 2006 to alter Obama’s position? Possibly the situation on the ground. But one circumstance that had also changed was that the Rezko Chamchamal contract had been finally and irrevocably canceled only two weeks before.

Hmmm. It's reasonable to suggest that Obama’s friend Resko needed long term stability in Iraq to build his power plant and make a fortune. While the power plant was in play, Resko’s friend, Barack Obama was loath to suggest the withdrawal of US forces. In fact, he argued that they should stay. But when the power plant deal was killed (that’s another interesting story with still more questionable Middle-Eastern players with Obama connections), Obama pivoted to better serve his own political ambitions.

Politics as usual from a guy who tells us he’s something special, somebody different, an agent of change.

Of course, none of this will appear on 60 Minutes or Dateline or Nightline or any of the other “investigative” network shows. Nobody will ask Obama to explain why his opinions on Iraq seem to synch with Resko’s financial dealings in that country. Too complex, too subtle—nothing to see here, move on.