Barack Obama

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Barack Obama
U.S. Junior Senator, Illinois
Image:BarackObama.jpg
Party Democratic
Assumed office (class 3)

January 4, 2005
Serving with Richard Durbin

Preceded by Peter Fitzgerald
Committees

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Born August 4, 1961
Spouse Michelle Obama
Religion Christian (Protestant)


President Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is 44th and current President of the United States of America and former junior senator from Illionis.

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Biography

Obama's father was a Kenyan international student in Hawaii when he met Obama's mother. (Thus, Obama is not a descendant of slaves not that there's anything wrong with that.) She was 18 when they married. The couple separated when Obama's father left to attend Harvard University. She later remarried, this time to an Indonesian oil manager, and moved with Obama to Jakarta from when he was six to when he was ten. In his teen years he was brought up mostly by his Caucasian grandparents. Obama has stated that questions related to his racial identity caused him such problems that he initially attempted to cope by snorting cocaine. Realizing that that was not a path he wanted to take, he embarked on a trip to Africa to learn more about his father and his heritage. From his experiences there he created his book Dreams from My Father.

After college he worked for three years with a church organization on Chicago's south side helping people cope with plant closings. He then went to Harvard Law School where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

He turned down a clerkship at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which likely would have led to one at the Supreme Court. Instead, he aimed for grassroots activism: he went to work for a civil rights law firm in Chicago and became a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school. He leapt at a chance to run for state senate when it came up and unsuccessfully challenged four term congressman Bobby Rush in a primary in 2000. Obama has not served in the military - he was too young to be drafted for Vietnam. [1] He lives in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood with his wife and two young daughters, Malia (born 1999) and Sasha (born 2001). Obama became a Christian as an adult, and he has been a member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ since 1988.

Political career

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate. In 2000, he had an unsuccessful run for the Illinois first congressional district. In 2004, he successfully ran for US Senate, racking up a 70% majority.

Obama was an early opponent to the Iraq war and was recently part of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of military personnel in the Illinois National Guard. In his career as a state senator he helped pass legislation requiring videotaped interrogations of suspected criminals and in curbing racial profiling. Other initiatives he's led include health care legislation which brought health care to 20,000 uninsured children, earned income tax credit, and campaign finance reform.

Paul Simon was one of Obama's mentors and he endorsed Obama for U.S. Senate before he died. Simon's daughter Sheila filmed a campaign commercial which helped Obama win his heavily contentious primary.

Obama is also a leader in using the blogosphere to communicate with his supporters and provide fresh information on the issues and the direction of his campaign.

After a slow start, Obama won his primary handily, getting more votes than all the Republicans combined. He led his Republican rival, Jack Ryan, by up to 20 points in some polls, and there were increasing signs that Ryan would go to great lengths (including hiring a video stalker to heckle Obama at public appearances and even tape his private phone conversations with his wife and follow him to the bathroom). However, in late June 2004, Ryan dropped out of the race following a tawdry sex or no-sex scandal, and every major Illinois Republican politician who could have posed a threat to Obama refused to run. During the 6-week scramble for a candidate, the GOP got so desperate that they pushed for an unsuccessful attempt to recruit former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. The situation became so absurd that the "liberal" New York Times demanded in an editorial that the IL GOP find a candidate to run against Obama, who they derided as "smooth-talking" and implied that his win would be worthless unless he has an opponent. Ditka, looking at the poll numbers or at his ad revenue drying up, declined to enter the race.

To national acclaim, Obama gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Both Republicans and Democrats were awed by his speech. Obama was noted as a rising political superstar and there was talk that he had the potential to be the first black President of the United States.

In early August 2004, Obama wrapped up a 5-day downstate tour, drawing record crowds in the most liberal and conservative of cities and towns. He released a slightly updated version of his Dreams of my Father. He also learned that his opponent would be 4-time political loser, far-right extremist, and carpetbagger Alan Keyes, making this the first Senate race in history to feature two black candidates from both major parties. The charismatic Obama received international media coverage for his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, delivered while he was still an Illinois State Senator. That same year, he was elected to the United States Senate.

Obama won election by a margin of over 50 points. He also shared 1 million votes with George W. Bush, illustrating his cross-over appeal.

On January 16, 2007, Obama announced via his web site that he would be forming a presidential exploratory committee. He announced his run for president on February 10, 2007.

Senate Record

As of February 21, 2008 Obama has (co-)sponsored 570 bills in the 109th and 110th Congress of which 15 bills have become law: [2]

Presidential campaign

Obama's campaign was off to a great start, winning the Iowa caucus with 32% of the vote ahead of Clinton (25%) and Edwards (24%). A struggle with Clinton continued upto Super Tuesday where he won 13 of 22 participating states. Obama continued with even more electoral success in February 2008, [3] winning all 11 state and territorial-level contests following Super Tuesday, and "chipping-away" at Clinton's core supporters in key states. [4].

As of February 29, 2008, Obama is trailing Hillary Clinton by 51 superdelegates, however leading his opponent by 102 total delegates. [5]

Obama later became the Democratic presidential nominee.

Platform

Iraq

Obama was an early opponent of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and on January 30, 2007 introduced the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007 with goal of eventually removing all combat troops by March 31, 2008. Obama has not consistently voted against funding the war [6].

Obama's goals for the Presidency is "bringing a responsible end" to the war in Iraq and refocusing on the broader region, [7] and plans to have the troops home within 16 months. [8]

Health Care

Obama is a proponent of universal health care [9] with a new national health plan with guaranteed eligibility for all, comparable to the one available to members of Congress [10]. The health plan will not force people to purchase health insurance. [11]

Environment

Obama is on record that global warming must be addressed and pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 by creating a market-based cap-and-trade system [12]

Economy

Obama plans include a tax relief plan of $80 billion in cuts for the poor and middle class [13].

The precarious budget situation needs to be dealt with by returning to PayGo, among others. Obama is committed to free trade, however he wishes to revise NAFTA. [14]

Foreign Policy

"I will end the war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore Habeas Corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda."

Barack Obama, Des Moines, Iowa, November 10, 2007

On Iran Obama wants to engage in direct presidential diplomacy without preconditions and to apply economic pressure and political isolation. [15]

On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Obama is the proponent of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, however there are no specifics yet. [16] Obama considers Israel our strongest ally in the region and wants to maintain the defense relationship. [17]

The overall platform calls for more engaging in diplomacy, actively persuing nuclear disarmament, and generally more openness. [18]

Civil and Human Rights

Obama voted in favor of the 2006 version of the Patriot Act. [19] Obama voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006. [20] Obama opposes torture [21] and warrantless wiretaps [22]

Obama calls for stricter Civil Rights Enforcement and wants to pass the Fair Pay Act [23]

Obama supports civil unions between gay couples, however he believes that same-sex marriages is wrong. [24]

Obama is in favor of legalized abortion in accordance with Roe v. Wade. [25]

Obama believes the death penalty is used too frequently and inconsistently. He is still in favor of it for cases in which "the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage. [26]

Unlike W Obama is massively popular.[27]

Quotations

  • "Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
excerpt from the Keynote Address at the 2004 DNC
  • "I'll give him [Alan Keyes] credit. He'll take an argument...and run off a cliff with it."
excerpt from Chicago Tonight interview, August 13, 2004
excerpt from interview with Charlie Rose, November 23, 2004

Attacks against Obama

Principled criticism of Obama since his accession to the presidency cover a number of areas: among others, that he has been unwilling or unable to take his distance from his corporate backers, and ignored the groundswell of support from the people; despite receiving the Nobel peace prize he has made insufficient contribution to the peace process in Afghanistan and Iraq; his healthcare bill made too many concessions to vested interests; his refusal to criticize the coup in Honduras puts his commitment to democracy in doubt.

Committees

See also

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