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Obama video reveals everything ... that we already knew

COMMENTARY

October 03, 2012|By James Rainey

The right-wing outrage machine began touting a blockbuster, “never-before-seen” video of Barack Obama during the day Tuesday, building to a crescendo and then the delivery of 5-year-old footage that revealed the following blockbusters: Then-senator from Illinois could lay on the Southern, Baptist preacher patois and lay it on thick; he felt New Orleans got screwed in the response to Hurricane Katrina and, finally, he favored special programs to help the urban poor, some of whom he suggested might be, yes, African American.

Y’all oughta give the video a listen just to enjoy Obama’s over-the-top Sunday-goin’-ta-meetin’ stylings. He made the speech in June 2007 before a group of black ministers and others at Hampton University in Virginia. Other than the semantic extremes the candidate invoked to related to his audience, the other “revelations” will be mightily disappointing.

The video reveals the senator from Illinois speaking warmly about his then-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama would dump almost a year later, when the fiery minister’s “God damn America” pronouncement came to light. But we already knew that Obama embraced, then cast aside, the firebrand minister.

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The video also reveals Obama postulating on the roots of urban despair and anger, as exposed by the 1992 Los Angeles riots and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and also touting a series of programs to alleviate poverty. But we already knew that Obama talked about those things.

Conservatives have been desperately casting about for a “gotcha” video to attack Obama since last month. That’s when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney created a furor with his misguided remarks about the “47%.”  In a video first released by liberal Mother Jones magazine, Romney told a group of rich donors how 47% of Americans consider themselves “victims” and enjoy being dependent. He said he could not worry about those people whom he described as “unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.”  Polls have revealed that many Americans felt outraged by those comments.

The Republicans’ first swing at a rebuttal came last month, when they released a 14-year-old audio clip in which Obama told a college audience that he favored “redistribution.” Sure confirmation of the president’s socialist sensibilities, partisans declared. The attack floundered, though, as the full recording showed Obama had actually been speaking more expansively about making government efficient and endorsing “competition” in the “marketplace.”

The latest attempt was heralded Tuesday with a blaring headline on the Drudge Report, the conservative-oriented news aggregator.  The site teased the video, promising “THE ACCENT... THE ANGER... THE ACCUSATIONS... THE SERMON...” 

Fox News' Sean Hannity then introduced the video on his evening program with Daily Caller boss Tucker Carlson, who “broke” the big story. The two expressed shock and dread at Obama’s performance. “This is not a dog whistle, this is a dog siren, appeals to racial solidarity,” said Carlson. “This,” he added, “is what a demagogue does and it’s wrong.”

DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?

A close listen to the nearly-40-minute video won't reveal anything about "white majority profits"--so it's unclear where that sentiment comes from, other than the author's desire to stir resentment among white voters.

What the video does show is Obama at one point questioning why relief for Hurricane Katrina was conditioned on local matching payments under something called the Stafford Act, when New York and Florida made no such payments after the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Andrew, respectively. This is also not new, since Obama already had raised the issue of matching payments at a (not exactly top-secret) congressional hearing earlier in 2007.

Some critics have theorized that New Orleans got less federal support because of its largely African American population. But the full tape shows Obama addressed that point directly, saying people had asked him “was race the reason” for the inadequate response. “I said ‘No, this administration was colorblind in its incompetence.’”

The rest of the Obama speech is the kind of disquisition on urban poverty which Obama and other Democrats have delivered for years. The candidate told the largely African American audience that the 1992 L.A. riots didn’t erupt overnight but built from a “quiet riot” over many years.

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