The PJ Tatler

No, Obama's Divisive 2007 Speech is Not 'Old News' (Updates: Ugly?)

Some Republicans today are dismissing the 2007 tape of then-Sen. Barack Obama delivering an address at Hampton University as nothing new. Some on the left are suggesting that it’s old news. The latter focus on the shout-out to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, which had been played on network TV when Wright first stirred controversy for Obama in 2007. But the networks never aired the most important part of the speech. That part of the address reveals a divisive, race-baiting version of Obama that the man and his handlers have successfully kept under wraps for years.

The most important, and most divisive, part of the speech is when the future president explains his version of events following Hurricane Katrina. Obama’s version of events puts race at the center of the tragedy. Obama also put race at the center of the national response to the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01.

“Down in New Orleans, where they still have not rebuilt twenty months later there’s a law, federal law — when you get reconstruction money from the federal government — called the Stafford Act,” Obama told his audience in 2007. “And basically it says, when you get federal money, you gotta give a ten percent match. The local government’s gotta come up with ten percent. Every ten dollars the federal government comes up with, local government’s gotta give a dollar.

“Now here’s the thing. When 9-11 happened in New York City, they waived the Stafford Act — said, ‘This is too serious a problem. We can’t expect New York City to rebuild on its own. Forget that dollar you gotta put in. Well, here’s ten dollars.’ And that was the right thing to do. When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said, ‘Look at this devastation. We don’t expect you to come up with y’own money, here. Here’s the money to rebuild. We’re not gonna wait for you to scratch it together — because you’re part of the American family.’

“What’s happening down in New Orleans? Where’s your dollar? Where’s your Stafford Act money? Makes no sense! Tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans they don’t care about as much!”

As a senator, Barack Obama was in a position to know both where New Orleans’ money was and that the Stafford Act had been waived several times for the people of New Orleans. He was also in a position to know that the Bush administration had offered assistance to Louisiana and to New Orleans before the hurricane struck, but the local governor and mayor — both Democrats, and one of them black — had turned the administration’s offer down. Obama was also in a position to know that at the height of the disaster, as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin screamed “Where are the buses?” to get people evacuated, dozens of city-owned buses had been left unused, and they flooded. The city of New Orleans, it turned out, had dozens of ghost police officers on the rolls to pad their federal grant money, and did not even have a comprehensive list of its city school bus drivers, so they could be contacted to help evacuate stranded citizens. Sen. Obama was in a position to know all of this, yet he chose to channel Kanye West and suggest that the disaster in New Orleans was a result of racism.

He did this off the script. It’s what he really believes, or at least believed in 2007. That is not old news.

Obama and his handlers have also been aware, for five years, just how incendiary and dishonest, and potentially damaging, his off-the-cuff Hampton speech comments were. The version of that speech that BuzzFeed posted Tuesday afternoon had been edited to remove the inflammatory sections, effectively sanitizing the speech. The media dutifully reported that speech in 2007, minus the racist conspiracy theory. The quote above doesn’t appear anywhere on the Internet prior to last night.

So, obviously, it’s not “old news.” It’s an old speech that tells us something new about Barack Obama.

The unedited address should destroy Obama’s carefully cultivated image as a unifier and healer and a nice guy. Unifiers don’t suggest that the L.A. riots and 9-11 and Katrina have anything in common other than the fact that they happened in America. Unifiers and nice guys don’t lie about the U.S. government’s actions just to stir up a sympathetic audience. Unifiers don’t go out of their way, and off their script, to pit one race against another.

Obama does that explicitly in another part of the speech that is also not “old news.”

“We need additional federal public transportation dollars flowing to the highest need communities. We don’t need to build more highways out in the suburbs,” where, the implication is, the rich white people live. Instead, Obama says, federal money should flow to “our neighborhoods”: “We should be investing in minority-owned businesses, in our neighborhoods, so people don’t have to travel from miles away.”

The solution, Obama says, is a series of new federal programs, including one to teach punctuality to the poor: “We can’t expect them to have all the skills they need to work. They may need help with basic skills, how to shop, how to show up for work on time, how to wear the right clothes, how to act appropriately in an office. We have to help them get there.”

“Our” neighborhoods? Obama lived in Chicago’s tony Hyde Park and still maintains a residence there. Hyde Park is one of the city’s richest neighborhoods.

In the “roads” and “neighborhoods” riff, Obama pits the suburbs against the city and says that taxpayer dollars should be used to “invest” in “minority-owned businesses.” That attitude that government has the right to “invest” in this way turns up all over Obama’s current policies, though most of his administration’s high-profile investments have gone to political supporters touting the latest “green” energy scheme, not necessarily minority investors. The suburbs and neighborhoods passage also show that Barack Obama is at heart a redistributionist when it comes to wealth. We have known this since his famous encounter with Joe the Plumber four years ago, but this speech plus the other videos that have been unearthed this year show that redistribution has remained a consistent idea driving Obama’s politics.

In dismissing the suburbs and discussing “our” neighborhoods, Obama sounds like Eric Holder, who in congressional testimony referred to “my people” when talking about the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. Though Holder’s controversial and divisive comment is old news now, it’s not old news that the president got there first several years ago.

It’s also not old news that some in the news media knew that this tape was out there five years ago, yet chose not to report it. It’s not old news that many in the media are dismissing it now.

More: So, according to Ann Althouse, those of us pointing out Obama’s race-baiting in this video “look ugly,” but the man in the video who is engaging in the race-baiting doesn’t. With all due respect to the professor, that’s ridiculous.

More: Althouse also walled off the Obama phone video in the same post. So tell us then, what’s acceptable to talk about? The Obama phone lady provides evidence that the president is buying votes in a swing state and increasing dependency on the government. The 2007 video provides evidence that Obama is a race hustler who lied in order to stir up racial tensions. Why should this be out of bounds to talk about?

More: Shorter Ann Althouse: Romney and Ryan had nothing to do with the 2007 video, but it’s dragging them down. It’s not dragging down the man on the video doing the race-baiting, and never will, and never should. Because, racism.

Is that about right?