Eaton: New book reveals more about Obama’s rise
By Fran Eaton Always Right/illinoisreview.typepad.com May 17, 2012 9:34PM
Updated: June 29, 2012 8:41AM
Another book about the Obamas hit the stands this week, and it reveals more about his rapid rise to the presidency, including an interesting tidbit about the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Obamas’ longtime pastor and spiritual advisor and a Tinley Park resident.
After videos of his fiery sermons became public knowledge in March 2008, the Obama campaign — desperate to contain Wright’s inflammatory, anti-American rhetoric — tried its best to get Wright to quiet down.
In an interview with Edward Klein, author of “The Amateur,” Wright said a member of his church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, who was a close ally of Barack Obama, went so far as to offer Wright via email $150,000 to stop preaching until after the election.
The book says that when Wright didn’t agree, then-U.S. Sen. Obama set up a private meeting with Wright. Secret Services logs confirm that the meeting took place. Obama left the meeting frustrated because Wright refused to cooperate and take a back seat, according to Klein’s book.
“I’m sorry you don’t see it the way I do. Do you know what your problem is? Your problem is you have to tell the truth,” Obama said to Wright.
“That’s a good problem to have,” Wright said.
Obama warned him that things would get worse, and “he was so right,” Wright told Klein.
The rest is history. Wright did continue to speak out but eventually faded off the front pages as Democrats circled the wagons around their nominee to ward off any right-wing zealots who persisted in bringing up Wright’s cursing of America.
Klein chose not to reveal the identity of Obama’s ally in “The Amateur,” waiting until the day before the book’s release to identify him as former Illinois public health director Eric Whitaker, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top health official who oversaw the scandal-plagued Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.
During the Blagojevich years, that board was used at times to solicit kickbacks and payoffs to the likes of convicted felon Tony Rezko and associates, who controlled the board. Whitaker denied involvement in the board’s daily operations and claimed no knowledge of how Rezko corrupted its decisions.
Whitaker, who golfs and vacations with Obama, is now executive vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center — overseeing its Urban Health Initiative, which last week received a $5.9 million federal grant to expand its programs.
At the same time that the Obamas’ close friend, Valerie Jarrett, was chairman of the medical center’s board, Michelle Obama created and developed the Urban Health Initiative before taking a leave of absence to support her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The UHI project is itself controversial — suggested by some to be a fiscal plan to return poor patients to local health clinics, a practice the health insurance industry refers to as “cherry-picking” wealthier, insured patients over the poor and uninsured.
Interesting. In a few short paragraphs, we’re able to link Wright, President Obama, Whitaker, Blagojevich, Rezko, Michelle Obama and Jarrett. Doesn’t get much cozier among Chicago Democrats, does it?
Follow the trail a little further, and you’ll find that Jarrett and Michelle Obama met while working for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Of course, current Mayor Rahm Emanuel was Obama’s White House chief of staff for the first two years of his presidency.
Klein recalls much of this political lineage, reviewing how the Obama administration works the so-called “Chicago Way” and will continue to do so if Obama is re-elected in November.
Klein’s book is sketchy and slightly inaccurate concerning Obama’s history with the Illinois Senate, most notably his recollection of the efforts by Jill Stanek, a former nurse at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, who in 1999 publicized the practice at Advocate Health Care hospitals of allowing induced-labor abortions of fetuses with genetic defects.
Overall, though, the book’s assertions about the Obama White House and his inner circle ring true and add more pieces to the puzzle of how a charming community organizer evolved into the world’s most powerful leader in less than 20 years.
There’s no question Klein is an Obama critic, so if you’re looking for Obama accolades, don’t pick up “The Amateur.” But Klein digs for the truth, gathering insight from more than 200 people who’ve known the Obamas over the years.
And while telling the truth may be a problem for Obama and some of his admirers on the South Side, Rev. Wright got at least one thing right — telling the truth is a good problem to have.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com