What Obama really said in 2001

McCain shamelessly distorted a radio interview about the best way to deal with the legacy of slavery.

Published October 28, 2008 10:18AM (EDT)

John McCain hit a new low Monday with his claim about a suddenly "revealed" interview with Barack Obama from 2001 proving that Obama favors "redistributive change" and that Obama is a "redistributor" (sorry, but that's not going to make it onto a bumper sticker). Did McCain or anyone in his campaign listen to the interview? Did Matt Drudge before linking to it? Open Salon's Kris Broughton broke it down in all its complexity earlier today, and Tom Schaller had it here.

Obama's interview with Chicago's WBEZ was specifically about the civil rights movement, and the best ways to remedy the conditions of black people after slavery and Jim Crow. When Obama talks about "redistributive change," it's in the context of what needed to be done for Americans who were slaves, who owned nothing; in fact, they were owned. Anyone who's honest knows that the legacy of African-American family poverty can be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow. Obama is not ranting wildly about income distribution in the interview; he's talking calmly and thoughtfully about the array of strategies needed to erase that legacy.

The greatest irony is that Obama sounds conservative themes in the interview. He says the civil rights movement relied too much on the courts, and not enough on legislation, community organizing and political will. This is exactly what conservatives have said about the movements of the 1960s -- that they relied too much on judges, rather than the legislative system. But what's really remarkable about the interview is listening to Obama talk with nuance and insight and compassion about issues that have moral, legal and political ramifications. Listen to it, and imagine having a president who talks this way. I can't wait for next Tuesday.



By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections