Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A False Dichotomy

Archpundit analyzes Kevin McCullough's mischaracterization of Barack Obama's position on gay marriage and civil unions and determines that Kevin McCullough is either Stupid or Dishonest.

And if you look into the rest of McCullough's column, you will see plenty of evidence for both. For instance, I was particularly stunned by McCullough's closing paragraph:
If Barack Obama is given a seat in the United States Senate it is clear that it will be historic from the viewpoint of his place as an African American, but the larger question will ultimately be - 'Will it be a record that African Americans will be proud of?'"
Thank Heavens there is a white guy out there brave enough and smart enough to let Illinois African Americans know that they shouldn't be proud to send Barack Obama to the United States Senate. What ever would African Americans do without such smart, principled white guys?

And the lack of an editor provides further evidence for AP's first option:
Ryan made his fortune at Goldman-Sachs. But before that he was always conscience of those less fortunate. That was one of the reasons he spent time right out of school, on the Mexican border, assisting those who were trying to get into America to begin a new life. He saw through proper immigration what America could be trying to relocate here. His time spent among the Latino community gave him perspective that many in America do not have - an identity of what it is like to become American.
But don't rule out Dishonest just yet. In his column McCullough leaves some key things out of the biographies of both candidates.

Of Mr. Ryan, McCullough notes that Mr. Ryan is the first Republican to run for the Senate who has spent time teaching in an inner city, African-American school. But when McCullough tells the oft-repeated tale of Republican personal and professional sacrifice to help African-American boys, he omits that -- although Ryan taught at Hales Franciscan from September 2000 to January 2003 and donated most of his $21,717 salary back to the school -- Mr. Ryan never actually left the corporate business world.

The Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reported last November:
Starting in September 2002, Ryan joined the board of First Health Group Corp., headquartered in Downers Grove. The publicly traded company handles group health insurance plans for large private and public employers, an industry that is heavily influenced by federal laws and regulations.

Ryan received a $35,000 director's fee for attending meetings. He also was given options to buy 48,000 shares of the company at a strike price of $25.99 for 32,000 shares and $25.22 for 16,000 shares. A strike price on an option, when exercised, sets the value for a share no matter what the stock is trading at on a particular day.


Ryan's disclosure shows he already holds First Health Group stock worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

In January 2001, Ryan joined the board of a company called K-12 Inc., based in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington. The company is a privately held for-profit educational firm providing supplies to people who home-school their children. K-12 markets materials for a home "virtual academy.''
It sure seems noteworthy to me that Mr. Ryan has a significant financial stake in one of his campaign's centerpiece issues -- federal policies regarding school choice. But apparently McCullough didn't think so.

McCullough also omitted significant portions of Mr. Obama's biography. McCullough stated that
Obama was born in Hawaii, the son of an economist, and eventually attended Hawaii's top prep academy. His father was not only a PhD but a Kenyan government official who later divorced Barack's Kansas born mother. She then married a man who worked in the oil business, and due to this Obama, (who retained his father's name) lived for a while in Indonesia and later returned to Hawaii. Father and son both attended Harvard. Obama eventually became the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama then rocketed through the Illinois Democratic senate ranks.
All fine as far as it goes, but if McCullough is impressed with Mr. Ryan's juggling corporate duties and inner-city employment, he owes it to himself to review Mr. Obama's work on the south-side of Chicago.

Mr. Obama graduated from Columbia University with a degree in political science and a specialty in international relations. He worked as a community organizer in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, helping church groups create job-training programs, reform area schools, and improve city services. It is noteworthy that, like Mr. Ryan, Mr. Obama was paid a salary in the neighborhood of 20K for his work, but that Mr. Obama had neither Ryan's personal fortune, nor Ryan's directors fees, nor Ryan's stock options to subsidize his inner-city work. Mr. Obama didn't just work with the people of the south-side of Chicago, he lived with them.

McCullough states that "Obama eventually became the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review." I can't imagine what was "eventually" about it, but Mr. Obama was not only editor of Harvard Law Review, he also graduated magna cum laude.

After graduating law school, Mr. Obama organized one of the largest voter registration drives in Chicago history, worked as a civil rights lawyer on cutting edge voting rights and employment discrimination cases in federal and state courts, and teaches constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

Any one of those accomplishments would be the highlight of a proud legal career, but none of them made their way into McCullough's biography of Mr. Obama. Surely McCullough was aware of them, which makes their absence a compelling argument for AP's second option.

And thus we return to our original question: Stupid or Dishonest?

Please understand, I sympathize with McCullough.

As shown above, it is hard to compare and contrast Mr. Ryan to Mr. Obama without either 1) appearing Stupid or Dishonest, or 2) highlighting Mr. Obama's amazing life. After all, if you can only respond to Mr. Obama's many achievements and his lifetime of community leadership by saying, "Our multi-millionaire taught school for a while on the south-side," you start to look pretty silly.

And so I think, rather than Stupid or Dishonest, McCullough is just silly.

Silly for trying to tell Illinois' African Americans which candidate they can be proud of.
Silly for trying to hide his candidate's personal financial interests in education policy.
Silly for trying to make Mr. Obama's anti-discrimination policy look sinister.
And silly for trying to win a battle-of-the-biographies by omitting key facts.

Kevin McCullough: Silly.

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