Warner Todd Huston
October 15, 2008
Barack Obama has little history of 'reaching out across the aisle'
By Warner Todd Huston

The mantra from Obama's supporters as well as the candidate himself is that he is the one candidate most likely to "reach out across the aisle to get things done." Unfortunately for the junior Senator from Illinois, there is no real history of him doing so. On the other hand, John McCain has done so repeatedly during his Senate career. But, let us focus here on Barack Obama's claims.

The last time Obama made this claim was in an August campaign ad on what he claims are his efforts to secure loose nukes around the world. In this ad, Obama claimed that he "passed a law to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists." Also in that ad he claims to have reached across the aisle to work with Republican Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to do so and is pictured with Lugar. He is also depicted in the ad as visiting Ukraine and viewing ordnance of all sorts strewn carelessly about. It would appear from the ad that this legislation was Obama's idea and that Lugar was but a helper in it all.

It is true that in 2005 Lugar and Obama wrote an op-ed (read their staff wrote it and they put their names on it) about the legislation they sponsored to coordinate efforts with other nations to reduce weapon stockpiles and smuggling. The measure was later passed as part of a larger bill. But the ad misleads on Obama's hand in that legislation.

In the ad Obama speaks of his work on the bill. "The single most important national security threat we face is the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar, Republican, to help lock down loose nuclear weapons," Obama says in the ad.

Sounds great, right?

The problem is it never happened the way Obama makes it sound. In reality, Public Law 109-472 (signed into law by President Bush on Jan. 11, 2007) was not crafted by Obama at all. Also, his part in its passage was minor at best. The initial bill was sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar and presented with no co-sponsors. Instead of Barack Obama, Lugar had at the early stages the able assistance of John Bolton, then the Undersecretary of State.

So what did Obama have to do with this bill? Kenneth Timmerman reported on August 1 what Lugar's office told them of Obama's part in it.

    Aides to Lugar tell Newsmax that Obama and his staff helped craft a key portion of the final bill that was introduced as a stand-alone measure on April 6, 2006 with broad bipartisan support.

In other words, Obama did not sponsor any legislation, did not "reach across the aisle" to do so, and was not the originator of this legislation as his ad portrays.

A little later that same month, during the August Saddleback forum, Obama made another claim of "reaching across the aisle" that tuned out to be a wild exaggeration. During the forum Obama claimed he and John McCain worked on ethics legislation together but FactCheck.org labeled this a "blooper" and a "misrepresentation."

    "I worked with John McCain" on ethics legislation. In fact, the two worked together for barely a week, after which McCain accused Obama of "partisan posturing" and added, "I won't make the same mistake again." McCain later voted against the ethics bill that Obama supported, stating that it was written by Democrats with "no input" from Republicans.

    Obama offered a twisted account of his working with a Republican and "against party loyalty." He said he "worked with John McCain" on ethics legislation, when in fact their short-lived collaboration collapsed into bitter public wrangling long before any bill resulted. And the legislation that became law was backed by Democrats and only opposed by Republicans in the Senate, including McCain.

Once again, this supposed "reaching out across the aisle" does not have much to it.

Of course, this isn't the only time he's claimed he had a large hand in passing important ethics legislation. Back in his days as a state legislator, one of Obama's early claims was that he passed a "major" ethics bill in Springfield, Illinois the State Capitol. But, author David Freddoso's research for the book The Case Against Barack Obama finds that Obama didn't actually write the legislation but that Illinois State Senator Emil Jones merely allowed him to take the lead of an already crafted bill. Freddoso calls Obama's role "bill-jacking" as opposed to crafting.

    ...Abner Mikva, a former congressman and federal judge, had recommended to Jones that he give Obama a popular piece of legislation barring political fundraising on state property and barring lobbyists and contractors from giving gifts to legislators. The bill had enough loopholes to be relatively harmless, but it was a step in the direction of reform. Jones gave it to Obama. Obama proposed it. It passed, 52-4.18 The "Friends and Family" man, the old ward-heeler, was even capable of making Obama look like a reformer.

Instead of taking the lead in writing and proposing legislation, it has been Obama's practice to join bills crafted by other people and attempt to take a partial or full measure of credit not due him. The fact of the matter is, Barack Obama has little history of reaching across the aisle, has little history of being a major factor in originating legislation, and is not known for working against his own party.

If you want someone that does have a deserved reputation for both working against his own party's positions as well as reaching across the aisle and the history to back it up, then your man should be John McCain. Barack Obama has little else but claims on his side. McCain has an actual record.

© Warner Todd Huston

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Warner Todd Huston

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