Patterico's Pontifications

8/26/2008

Fisking Michelle Obama’s Speech — A Few Thoughts

Filed under: General — WLS @ 2:39 pm



[Posted by WLS]

Michelle Obama’s speech is going to slip away like ether into the atmosphere in the next 24 hours. Before it does I want to take a look at some of the actual words she spoke. The quality of a presentation can sometimes interfere with a listener’s understanding of what is being said. There is no question that Michelle Obama delivered a very eloquent speech last night. But what did she really say when you look at the text?

First, overall, as I’ve seen mentioned in a couple of places, the text of the speech represented a concession by the campaign that MO is a net vote loser in the role of campaign surrogate. Last night’s speech could have been given by Laura Bush, and its text and tone was significantly different from the stump speech she gives at campaign stops. Lets see which Michelle reappears on the campaign trail starting next week.

Next, I was struck by this line:

that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do…

Talk about leading with your chin — I guess they expect everyone to just forget about the campaign finance pledge, and his vow to the left wing of his own party to filibuster the FISA reform. What’s that “bond” made from — clay? I’m sure there are many other examples that could be worked into a commercial.

And then there was this:

And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he’d done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down, and jobs dried up.

This is simply a blatant lie — and it seems to even lack the kind of fudge on timing that might make it literally true. Obama graduated from Columbia in the spring of 1983, but didn’t go to Chicago until 1985. Here is what he said in the commencement speech he delivered in place of Ted Kennedy at Wesleyan Univ. in May:

But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me —hard work, honesty, empathy — had resurfaced after a long hibernation. . . .

I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of. And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.

But Obama didn’t start his community organizer job until June 1985. From his graduation in 1983 until June 1985, he did work for a NY business — a publishing, research, and consulting company called Business International Corporation.

Maybe the literal truth of her speech comes from the fact that BIC’s address wasn’t on “Wall Street.”

I’ll update this later when I have more time.

[NOTE from DRJ 8/27/2008: There is a debate Foo Bar objects in the comments regarding WLS’s statement of Barack Obama’s employment from 1983-1985. According to this New York Times’ article, Obama worked at Business International Corporation for a year after his graduation from Columbia University. He spent his second year in New York working at the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization.

In addition, Patterico asked me to clarify that, if the New York Times article is correct, WLS overstated the length of Obama’s initial employment by a year. Regardless, WLS was dead-on in his observation that Michelle Obama’s speech was misleading.]

55 Responses to “Fisking Michelle Obama’s Speech — A Few Thoughts”

  1. Business International Corp… sounds so familiar. It’s interesting that we never hear of old co-workers. Or are they like the classmates who aren’t supposed to speak w/o approval from Axelrod?

    I give Michelle full credit for being a good speaker. It’s not that easy what with the behind the scenes stuff involved. Still doesn’t change the fact that the campaign isn’t exactly sticking to her ‘moral code’ in any way.

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  2. This is simply a blatant lie — and it seems to even lack the kind of fudge on timing that might make it literally true. Obama graduated from Columbia in the spring of 1983, but didn’t go to Chicago until 1985.

    Oh stop it with the “gotcha” crap. She said “when he first moved to Chicago” not “when he moved to Chicago first.”

    As I understand it, some point after college was when he “first moved to Chicago,” the place he now calls home.

    She doesn’t say “he moved to Chicago immediately after graduation.” Neither does he. Yeah, he skips irrellivant stuff in between, but that’s not a “blatant lie.” The point is, he was a college grad and he was doing something other than grubbing for money on wall street.

    Anyway, I’m not even interested in defending Obama, really, since he finally drove me into not caring at all who wins the presidency by picking Biden as his mate. I just wish more people on this blog did something besides parse words in order to try a and smear candidates they’ve already made up their mind they don’t like . . . something like actually talking substance.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  3. I thought the most telling aspect that was glaring in its omission in her “values” speech was the white-washing of their religious choices.

    JD (5f0e11)

  4. Racists.

    JD (5f0e11)

  5. Instead of going to Wall Street” — Her statement is true only if you rest your defense on the fact that BIC is not “on Wall Street”.

    The fact is that he didn’t go to Chicago “instead of” working in New York. He did work in New York after graduating from Columbia, and later moved to Chicago to pursue a different career path.

    WLS (26b1e5)

  6. Either way, it sounds funny. A lot of Wall Street is pumping money into Obama’s campaign.

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  7. Didn’t you think those kids of hers were uppity?

    David Ehrenstein (1d6679)

  8. Phil, are you a joke?

    I haven’t verified the contents of the post, but it indicated that Michelle referred to the time that Obama “first moved to Chicago after college” and then, in the immediate following sentence, says “Instead of heading to Wall Street.” The implication is that he graduated from college and headed somewhere else other than Wall Street.

    You pretend that at “some point after college was when he ‘first moved to Chicago,’ the place he now calls home.” Uh huh, go back to Daily Kos. That’s such an insulting interpretation of the English language.

    Michael Hall (df882e)

  9. The New York Times describes Business International Corporation as “a small newsletter-publishing and research firm, with about 250 employees worldwide, that helped companies with foreign operations … understand overseas markets.”

    I’m not sure that qualifies as “a big business outfit in New York.”

    steve (783bb8)

  10. “I just wish more people on this blog did something besides parse words in order to try a and smear candidates they’ve already made up their mind they don’t like . . . something like actually talking substance.”

    Phil complains so much about what people say here it’s almost like someone is forcing him to com here and read comments against his will. He keeps forgetting that there are other blogs more in tune with his views that would be less painful for him to read.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  11. These people are really so stupid as to not even know when they’ve been caught lying ? Or so brazen, that they think they can steal from Bill Clinton’s style of daring to be called a liar?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. I didn’t hear her mention George Hussein Obama. I’m curious about how much fresh fruit he can purchase on his <$1.00 per month allowance. Perhaps Phil knows the answer.

    Old Coot (62fd89)

  13. “he was a college grad and he was doing something other than grubbing for money on wall street.”
    And you just prove the point that the intended audience is simple minded fools like you, facts and chronology be damned. Obama’s foray into the private sector isn’t delectable to the sycophants that belittle any praise of profit making, private sector work so it gets casually removed from the narrative. Can’t let a perfectly crafted narrative of saving humanity suffer the inconvenience of the dry world of the button-down office, right?

    Jack Klompus (b0e238)

  14. But Obama didn’t start his community organizer job until June 1985. From his graduation in 1983 until June 1985, he did work for a NY business — a publishing, research, and consulting company called Business International Corporation.

    This is false. Please fix.

    He did not work all the way up through June 1985 for BIC. In between working for BIC and moving to Chicago, he worked for New York Public Interest Research Group as a campus organizer. The exact timing isn’t clear. The Politico link I just provided has him starting in January 1984, although this NYT piece has him still at BIC in 1984. Both the NYT and FactCheck.org have him at BIC for a year and then moving on to NYPIRG. So he certainly didn’t work the whole time at BIC.

    This is simply a blatant lie

    I see that you’re fairly generous with the “lie” accusation. I don’t like to throw that accusation around quite as generously, given that it’s hard to know when something stems instead from ignorance or imprecise phrasing. I’ll only point out that (1) the NYPIRG stint is hardly some super-obscure factoid, given that it’s on his Wiki bio and (2) mentioning it would have significantly lessened the oomph of your “blatant lie” accusation.

    If you’re going to get that nitty-gritty about his career timeline, you really ought to provide a supporting link. Had you endeavoured to do so, you probably would have realized your mistake in skipping over the NYPIRG stint.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  15. Business International Corp. had one purpose, providing information on foreign markets and the advantages of locating off shore. So would BIC hire someone who was against offshoring? Hardly.

    Now BO says we offshore too many jobs. I wonder if the BO campaign would like to provide the numbers of jobs lost on U.S. soil by BIC helping them relocate.

    retire05 (8da142)

  16. Unlike M. Obama, I was proud to be an American decades before I made six figures.

    Perfect Sense (9d1b08)

  17. The entire tone of that speech was that of selflessness. This is a lie.

    Beginning, at a minimum, from the time he brokered his way into the Illinois Senate by gaming the incumbent, every vote he ever made was calculated to give BHO longevity in the political realm. Many votes he didn’t make weren’t made precisely to avoid taking sides.

    Selfless, my never proud of BHO behind.

    Ed (ddaac8)

  18. Foo, while I am happy to see actual facts described, citing to Wikipedia is not credible.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  19. Foo, while I am happy to see actual facts described, citing to Wikipedia is not credible.

    It is when the Wiki article is itself rich in web links supporting its assertions, such as in the the case of the Obama bio, which backs up the NYPIRG factoid with a link to the NYT.

    If you’re writing about someone’s bio, you might not want to cite a Wiki article unsubstantiated by web links (even though this one is substantiated). Nonetheless, if you want to make sure you’ve got the timeline right, you ought be looking over the Wiki bio to see if you missed something. There’s a chance the Wiki bio might be wrong, but in this case it would have been easy to verify with a quick Google search that the Wiki article was right on this point- even if the Wiki article itself hadn’t supplied links.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  20. Foo Bar, then use the links, not the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is well discredited.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  21. When Obama left Harvard Law school he turned down a job in a big law firm and returned to Chicago to do community work. That is a fact confirmed by other Harvard law school classmates. Why would Michelle Obama need to get up a lie!! Speak what you know and not what you do not know.

    Babsbdc (b4e8cf)

  22. The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn’t support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren’t asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work – they wanted to contribute. They believed – like you and I believe – that America should be a place where you can make it if you try.

    Apologies for pulling more out of Mrs. Obama’s speech but this portion seemed self-contradictory: on on hand she is extolling the virtues of her parent’s generation and the one before where people were proud and hardworking with a strong work ethic. Jobs disappeared (due to economic downturns, slowdowns in certain industries, etc) and still they wanted to work and sought jobs.

    How does she reconcile that beautiful portion of the speech (which really could’ve come out of a Springsteen song) with her’s and Barack’s support of every possible government handout program and social subsidization possible? And why would she want people to become dependent on the government in this year 2008, when generations before the very opposite of dependence on the government is what brings her such great pride? Its an enormous disconnect.

    It evidences to me that she is very out of touch with this modern society where generational acceptance of government dependence continues to increase. As if it were owed to them. And working to the bone was what one did to provide for theirs. And they did not wait to be provided for….

    Dana, Who Isn't Really a Photographer, just really loves her camera (084de8)

  23. Foo Bar @ 5:33 pm

    Look , the point is that he worked two post-college jobs, as you say, rather than don a Superman cape to correct the ills of Chicago. It’s nuance; but he didn’t make the decision while wearing a cap & gown, ready to put to use his “mother’s values” of honesty, hard work and empathy. Obama’s (greasy) climb through the IL Senate should be proof that HARD WORK and HONESTY were at a bare minimum, if at all part of his strategy. He appropriated others’ work, took ownership of fellow legislators’ bills and racked up those present votes for a purely ambitious, less than honest reason.

    As we’ve gotten to know Obama, whatever empathy he claims to have conveniently ties in with his pet projects, radical racial agenda and his general inability to reach across the aisle. Vote for the young black Senator if you ‘believe.’ But admit then that the older seasoned Senator McCain has a concrete record of truly reaching across the aisle and crafting legislation to benefit both parties (frequently to the dismay of members and constituents who are Republican).

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  24. argh. forgot to change name back…

    Dana (084de8)

  25. #16 (6:01pm)

    The entire tone of that speech was that of selflessness. This is a lie.

    Jeez, I should’ve read Ed. All to the point.

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  26. And Dana: You have some really nice photos and great colors on your blog. (#23, 21)

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  27. Thanks, VN…. and speaking of color (since no one has addressed this most important issue), Michelle Obama looked absolutely lovely – the woman knows what flatters her.

    Dana (084de8)

  28. Phil,

    Why did choosing Biden sour you on Obama?

    DRJ (7568a2)

  29. Foo Bar, then use the links, not the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is well discredited.

    I did. I gave you a Politico link, an NYT link, and a factcheck.org link.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  30. Mr. Ehrenstein, I don’t think the minor Obamas are “uppity.”

    I do think they lack the requisite experience to be president of the United States.

    Obviously that makes me a racist.

    Daryl Herbert (4ecd4c)

  31. DRJ, regarding Biden, Balko said it better than I could:

    http://www.theagitator.com/2008/08/23/biden/

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  32. (this is in response to comments made in the Sampley/Swift Boat thread which are more on-topic here):

    And all these attmepts by people like Foo Bar at making brief stints in entry-level jobs in the private sector look like a career come off as silly

    That’s not at all what I’m trying to do. If you follow the thread from the beginning (going back to the original WLS post attempting to fisk Michelle Obama’s speech) you’ll see that I was pointing out that Obama’s private sector stint was shorter than WLS alleges. The sequence is as follows:

    1) WLS suggests Obama is exaggerating his do-gooder bona-fides by skipping over a 2 year stint in the private sector
    2) I point out that it was only 1 year, and that Obama also skips over a do-gooder community organizing job at NYPIRG
    3) Rick Ballard suggests he left the private sector because he lacked ability and couldn’t hack it.
    4) I produce quotes from a supervisor and an editor praising his intellect and ability
    5) Rick shifts his criticism to say that Obama was a slacker and claims there’s no evidence BIC was sorry to see him go
    6) I point out that his editor clearly tried to persuade him to stay at BIC, since he told him he was making a mistake by leaving.

    Dmac:


    When I managed a sales staff and was in danger of losing one of the high – performing reps, the first thing I asked them is what would it take to get them to stay; more salary, more bonuses, more vacation, etc.

    But nowhere in that article is there any mention of how badly (or if at all) they tried to keep him in their employ

    This doesn’t make much sense. Obama is clearly leaving in order to so something that pays less (community organizing). It’s obviously the nature of the job and not insufficient pay that leads Obama to quit.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  33. Your powers of prognostication must be a lot better than mine, obviously. Again, his supporters see what they wish to see – there is no way to determine that your viewpoint is the accurate one.

    Dmac (874677)

  34. Daryl Herbert @ #30,
    Please don’t feed the troll.

    Bradley J. Fikes (0ea407)

  35. Bradley, Foo Fighting-for-his-sanity is not a troll. . . .

    As per Patterico, he is a prick. 😉

    Icy Truth (a1e931)

  36. There is a debate in the comments regarding Barack Obama’s employment from 1983-1985

    Where is this “debate”? I don’t see anyone challenging my claims, documented by numerous links, that (1) Obama did not work for BIC through June ’85 and in fact only worked there for about a year and (2) also worked for a non-profit in New York before moving to Chicago.

    Where is the other side of this debate, in which someone argues that WLS was correct that Obama worked for BIC from graduation through June ’85?

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  37. Fool Bar,
    The minutiae of this isn’t as important as the fact that the story being spread by every arm of the Obama campaign is that right out of college he eschewed the corporate world in favor of community service. They seem to be conveniently forgetting this little interlude (however long it was) because it weakens the impact of the selfless sacrifice tale. Isn’t his story good enough to be told in a completely straightforward manner?

    Icy Truth (a1e931)

  38. Foo Bar,

    Your comment debated a point made in WLS’s post. I tried to clarify the facts as I understand them in my note. Did Obama work 2 years on Wall Street? Apparently not, but he did work for one year for the purpose of making money to repay his student loans. To imply that Obama went directly into community organizing is not correct, and I think that was WLS’s point.

    DRJ (7568a2)

  39. right out of college

    Where do they say “right out of college” or “immediately after college”? They generally skip over 2 jobs, one of which was in the private sector and one of which was a community service job, and neither of which lasted long enough to really be important to mention.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  40. Icy – No need to let the truth get in the way of Teh Narrative.

    JD (5f0e11)

  41. Your comment debated a point made in WLS’s post

    Right, so a debate doesn’t exist in the comments. That implies that within the comments people are arguing both sides of the question of whether Obama worked for BIC for 2 years. It implies that there is a serious possibility that WLS was correct to assert that he worked there through June ’85 because some people are still arguing that this is true (i.e. a “debate” is going on), when in fact nobody has been arguing that this is true subsequent to my comment that supplied links that showed otherwise.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  42. Foo Bar, the bigger question is how to vote for a candidate who has no management or business experience. His organizing results on the South Side didn’t turn out too well and he worked very hard to leave no trail of legislative or Senate accomplishments. So he’s always been about ‘the run.’ (Bigger fish to fry; Manhattan; ca 1984).

    Vermont Neighbor (a066ed)

  43. neither of which lasted long enough to really be important to mention

    — I don’t really have a comment here; just thought I’d highlight the “If they fibbed they had a good reason for doing it” claim.

    Icy Truth (64f9d0)

  44. Obama may be the least accomplished Presidential candidate of any major party. I can’t think of any that had fewer accomplishments off the top of my head.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. Obama has fewer accomplishments than any Vice Presidential candidate I can think of.

    Icy Truth (64f9d0)

  46. We’ve had unaccomplished candidates for county supervisor here in L.A.Co. with bigger resumes.

    Another Drew (7e1367)

  47. Foo bar,

    Fact-based corrections are helpful and appropriate, and I appreciate your effort to raise the point that Obama worked for BIC for one year and not two years. However, I think you undermined your point by acting like Obama’s first job at BIC doesn’t matter. It mattered once Michelle/the Obama campaign portrayed Obama as someone who always put community service first, when in fact he spent a year working for money like most Americans.

    DRJ (7568a2)

  48. That implies that within the comments people are arguing both sides of the question of whether Obama worked for BIC for 2 years.
    Comment by Foo Bar — 8/27/2008 @ 8:40 pm

    I call bullshit. The update clearly acknowledges what you asserted. The debate is over the precise dates and their significance. To baldly state (rather than just imply) that DRJ’s update implies people still might think the entire 2 years was at BIC is bullshit. Get your panties out of a wad and participate or not, it’s up to you. Your lying is much worse than a minor error that WLS made that was not central to the point that he did stay in NY and work before going to Chicago. Sheesh, talk about nit-picking to evade the fact that the story by Obama was misleading at best.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  49. Fact-based corrections are helpful and appropriate

    Well, it doesn’t look like a correction to your readers. Because of your phrasing, it looks like there’s a “debate” going on in the comments, i.e., the NYT might be right or WLS might be right, but we’re not sure.

    It mattered once Michelle/the Obama campaign portrayed Obama as someone who always put community service first,

    Where is the “always”? This is your insertion.

    I concede that it might have been a bit better to say that he’d been involved in public service since age 22 or something along those lines.

    Still, it’s not as if she/they said he’d never worked a day for a for-profit firm. Nobody expects a politician’s speech to reflect every bullet point on his resume, no matter how minor.

    Foo Bar (03f778)

  50. Foo Bar – What does his official biography say about this period as opposed to Wikipedia or the New York Times? Doesn’t it gloss over the BIC job and imply public service from the start?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  51. “…it doesn’t look like a correction to me your readers…”

    There FooBar, fixed that for you.

    Another Drew (7e1367)

  52. Foo Bar,

    I don’t have personal knowledge of the details of Obama’s employment history, and the best I can do is provide the most accurate information I can find. I think the New York Times’ article is credible so I provided that. However, I’m not going to issue a correction on a post that wasn’t mine where the underlying point of the post remains valid: Michelle Obama implied Barack went straight into community service work after college but he didn’t.

    DRJ (7568a2)

  53. Independent of Foo Bar’s carping, I have sent DRJ language that more clearly says 1) WLS erred on the length of Obama’s first stint, if the NYT article is right, and 2) WLS’s main point, that Michelle Obama’s speech was misleading, is dead-on, even in light of the correction.

    This may or may not satisfy Foo Bar, but I don’t care about that. It satisfies our ethical obligations, and that’s what I care about.

    Patterico (a4560c)

  54. Foo Bar,

    I’ve updated my Note in the original post to state you objected to WLS’s recitation of Obama’s employment history and to add a statement from Patterico.

    DRJ (7568a2)

  55. From Barack Obama’s bio on his campaign website:

    Barack’s father eventually returned to Kenya, and Barack grew up with his mother in Hawaii, and for a few years in Indonesia. Later, he moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1983.

    And now, the very next sentence of the bio [emphasis mine]:

    Remembering the values of empathy and service that his mother taught him, Barack put law school and corporate life on hold after college and moved to Chicago in 1985, where he became a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods plagued with crime and high unemployment.

    There is no attempt whatsoever to explain what he actually did during those two years. What there is, instead, is a diversion: he “put law school and corporate life on hold after college”. They are trying to give the impression that he went straight into community organizing, because it makes him appear to be more selfless.

    Icy Truth (64f9d0)


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