Politics

Rediscovered 2004 Senate ad shows Obama pitching similar rhetorical themes

A rediscovered video from Barack Obama’s 2004 Senate race shows him road-testing his current rhetorical techniques, pitching far-left policies, and depicting business and the marketplace as negative forces.

“We all have a set of mutual obligations towards each other — we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper — and that those mutual obligations have to express themselves through government policies,” he said at the tail end of a soft-focus, five-minute autobiographical video entitled “Introducing Barack Obama” that he released during his 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate.

They’re “the kind of values that I’ve been trying to promote through my career,” he says.

Obama won the primary in a landslide. He easily won the 2004 election against a weak GOP opponent, after his main GOP rival quit the race when a Democratic-appointed judge unsealed damaging divorce testimony.

The 2004 video also showcases several recurring features of Obama’s speeches — his use of the passive tense to glide past controversial issues, his passive-aggressive portrayal of himself as the reasonable moderate among extremists, and his promises of benefits without costs.

The video features several segments of Obama pitching himself in an African-American church, complete with a minister’s Sunday cadence. “I believe we can provide homes to the homeless, food to hungry, clothes to the naked,” he preaches while an organist backs him up.

He cites his work as a “political organizer” working with several churches to ameliorate the impact of steel-industry shutdowns. But doesn’t offer any examples where his work, or entrepreneurs’ work, helped attract or create new jobs. However, he does say that his organizing work registered more people to vote for the Democratic Party.

He cites his attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ without mentioning the controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

He mentions his work in the state assembly to further regulate police forces, and to provide more state health care programs, and he brings up his career as a “civil rights” lawyer.

He uses the passive tense to mention his 1996 race for a state Senate seat. That passive-voice phrase — “seven years ago, this opportunity came up to serve in the General Assembly in Illinois” — avoids any mention of the sharp-elbowed tactics that he used to snatch the seat from a veteran, female African-American Democratic incumbent.

He also displayed a personal interest in what he saw as Arab discrimination in post-9/11 America.

“If there is an Arab American somewhere getting rounded up by [Attorney General] John Ashcroft, without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties even if I am not an immigrant,” he declares, three years after the 9/11 attacks. Ashcroft was not “rounding up” Arab immigrants in 2004, but was actually resisting efforts by police agencies to expand surveillance.

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