Politics

Obama’s Politically Ruthless Past

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As if Barack Obama’s skilled defeat of Hillary Clinton hasn’t already proved his political muscle, now we get this story about how Obama won his first election:

In his first race for office, seeking a state Senate seat on Chicago’s gritty South Side in 1996, Obama effectively used election rules to eliminate his Democratic competition.

As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.

The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.

Mind you, he didn’t do anything illegal and ruthlessness is part of Chicago politics. But this story is just one more piece of evidence that, under the soaring rhetoric, is a very slick politician. Now, you don’t become president without knowing how to play politics but Obama seems almost preternaturally good at the game. You just have to ask, is he really offering a new kind of politics or just the same old tricks repackaged for the current national mood.