Obama Polishes His Resume
June 21, 2008
His first ad of the post-primary season puffs up his legislative accomplishments.
Obama has released his first post-primary ad, a 60-second spot that's airing in 18 battleground states. In effect, "Country I Love" is Obama's first ad of the general election campaign, and as such it invites scrutiny. (FactCheck will address McCain's first general election ads in a separate article.) We don't find this ad egregiously misleading, but it paints a picture of Obama's accomplishments that could leave viewers with a misimpression or two.
His description of his upbringing and work history are accurate. He describes the "strong values" he says he learned from his mother and her parents. But when Obama discusses his legislative accomplishments, he leaves out some important context.
The ad talks about laws that Obama "passed," but in fact, he sponsored only one of the three bills mentioned and cosponsored another. The third included provisions from some bills he'd sponsored earlier, but his name wasn't attached to the one that passed. And two of the three laws were accomplishments of the Illinois Legislature, not the U.S. Senate.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama's first ad of the general election aims to play up his Midwestern roots, his patriotism and his concern for working families.
Obama for America Ad: "Country I Love"
Obama: America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life's been blessed by both. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn't have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up. Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you'd like to be treated. It's what guided me as I worked my way up -- taking jobs and loans to make it through college. It's what led me to pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed. That's why I passed laws moving people from welfare to work, cut taxes for working families and extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected. I approved this message because I'll never forget those values, and if I have the honor of taking the oath of office as president, it will be with a deep and abiding faith in the country I love.
The basic details that Obama provides about his family are correct. His books and various news reports confirm that Obama was raised in Hawaii by his mother and grandparents, who were transplants from Kansas. They weren't rich, though young Obama did attend an elite private school. Obama worked at least one job during college, a construction job that he mentions in "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," and he took out loans to pay for his undergraduate and law school education. After law school, Obama worked for church-based community action groups and tenants' rights organizations in poor Chicago neighborhoods.
So for Obama to say that he "passed a law" casts him as a legislative Lone Ranger, hogging credit that properly belongs to other parties as well.
Obama, Barack. "Dreams From My Father." New York: Crown Publishers, 2004.
Pickler, Nedra. "Obama Visits Grandfather's Kansas Town." USA Today, 29 Jan. 2008.
Mendell, David. "Barack Obama: Democrat for U.S. Senate." Chicago Tribune, 22 Oct. 2004.
Pickler, Nedra. "Obama Promises Tuition Tax Credit." Associated Press, 17 Jun. 2008.
Secter, Bob, and John McCormick. "Portrait of a Pragmatist." Chicago Tribune, 30 Mar. 2007.
Kurtz, Howard. "Obama's Patriotic Pitch." Washington Post, 20 Jun. 2008.
Scott, Janny. "Obama’s Account of New York Years Often Differs From What Others Say." New York Times, 30 Oct. 2007.
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