Obama's quotes on nuclear energy
Senator Obama's Office Responds to Misleading Harper's Magazine Story
Monday, October 23, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tommy Vietor (202) 997-3462
The latest issue of Harper's Magazine contains a piece titled "BARACK OBAMA INC. The birth of a Washington machine." The story is unfortunately filled with a selective presentation of the facts, innuendo and a cynical assumption of bad faith in our leaders.
While we do not doubt the integrity or the intelligence of the piece's author, Ken Silverstein, we feel that our side of the story was not fairly presented. Below are some misleading passages from the piece, and some facts we believe will help tell the full story.
Misleading Claim #1: Iraq
Harper's Magazine says Obama has changed his rhetoric on Iraq. Silverstein wrote, "The calibration of Obama's own political rhetoric has been particularly evident in regard to the war in Iraq...Since taking office, Obama has become far more measured in his position." [page 38]
Obama has been consistent. He opposed the war from the start, but decided that once we were in Iraq, we needed to plan our withdrawal carefully. Frank Rich of the New York Times puts it succinctly: "On one true test for his party, Iraq, (Obama) was consistent from the start. On the long trail to a hotly competitive senatorial primary in Illinois, he repeatedly questioned the rationale for the war before it began. . . .. He judged Saddam to pose no immediate threat to America and argued for containment over a war . . . . He hasn't changed. In his new book, he gives a specific date (the end of this year) for beginning ''a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. . . ''' [New York Times 10/23/2006].
Misleading Claim #2: - Favors to the Nuclear Industry
Harper's Magazine implies that Obama voted to protect loan guarantees for energy technology on behalf of the nuclear industry. [page 37].
Obama voted with 75 other Senators to promote a wide array of innovative energy technologies. The Sununu amendment in question would have eliminated loan guarantees to encourage emerging clean-energy technologies. These guarantees encouraged a wide array of renewable fuel. Besides nuclear energy, the guarantees can be used for solar and wind power, hybrid cars, hydrogen fuel cells, carbon sequestration, coal gasification and other technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama voted against the Sununu amendment because he supports emerging technologies and believes many companies would not pursue advanced research without financial support. In the end, 76 senators opposed the amendment.
Misleading Claim #3: Support for Other Democrats
Harper's Magazine says Obama only gives funds to moderate, establishment Democrats, failing to note that Obama has donated to every Senate Democrat running for office in 2006. Harper's says "Obama's PAC has given to candidates that have been carefully culled and selected by the Democratic establishment on the basis of their marketability as palatable 'moderates'-even when they are facing more progressive and equally viable challengers." Harper's cites as examples Obama's political donations to Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont, and Tammy Duckworth over Christine Cegelis. [page 37]
Obama donated to every Democratic Senator running for reelection and then contributed to Ned Lamont after he won the primary. Harper's takes exception to Obama's decision to donate money to Senator Lieberman, but fails to note that Obama endorsed Ned Lamont and gave him $5,000 the day after Lamont won the nomination. Obama also donated money to every Senate Democrat up for reelection and to every Democratic challenger in a closely contested Senate race, including Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Amy Klobuchar. Harper's also fails to note that in the most recent polls, Tammy Duckworth is defeating her GOP opponent, while Christine Cegelis only garnered 43 percent of the vote in 2004, a year when Alan Keyes was at the top of the Republican ticket in Illinois. John Kerry received 47 percent of the vote in that district.
Harper's Magazine misrepresents Tammy Duckworth's position on Iraq. Harper's also implies that Duckworth is a pro-war candidate, noting "When asked about her stand on the Iraq war by a reporter, Duckworth had replied, 'There is good and bad in everything.'" [page 37-38] Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, says on her website "invading Iraq was a mistake."
Misleading Claim #4: Ethanol
Harper's Magazine implies that Obama has supported ethanol production because the country's largest ethanol producer, ADM is based in Illinois. Harper's also argues that from a conservation standpoint it is potentially better to drive a standard gasoline car than a flex-fuel vehicle. [page 32].
Senator Obama supports ethanol production because it is a clean, efficient, and domestically produced alternative to oil from the Middle East. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, E85 fuel produces fewer total toxins and lower levels of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds compared to gasoline. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that ethanol production is efficient, creating 1.67 times the energy it takes to produce it. Argonne National Laboratory reports that by switching to ethanol and biomass fuels in our passenger cars and light-duty trucks, drivers can potentially reduce the use of petroleum by at least 68 percent. Blending ethanol with gasoline just at a 10 percent level will translate to savings to consumers of $3.3 billion a year according to independent researchers at LECG (based on 2002 prices).
[Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4]
Senator Obama wants to enable more entrepreneurs and small businesses to develop ethanol. Senator Obama supports a renewable fuels standard that would encourage ethanol production by expanding demand for renewable fuels and further diversifying the ethanol industry, thereby ensuring much greater competition in the U.S. liquid fuels market in the future.
Misleading Claim #5: Democratic Convention Speech
Harper's Magazine suggests that Senator Obama was chosen to speak at the Democratic National Convention only after he had received the blessing of Washington lobbyists and fundraisers. "If the speech was his debut to the wider American public, he had already undergone an equally successful but much quieter audition with Democratic Party leaders and fund-raisers, without whose support he would surely never have had been chosen for such a prominent role at the convention." [page 36]
The decision to choose Senator Obama was made by Senator John Kerry's campaign, not by lobbyists. After Obama's selection as the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Senator Kerry's aides were very clear about their rationale. According to the Chicago Tribune: "For the Kerry campaign, the choice of Obama has great meaning as officials try to dispel criticism that they have done a poor job of reaching out to African-American voters. Kerry began to focus on Obama, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Illinois, for a role at the convention after meeting him for the first time and listening to him speak at a gala fundraiser in Chicago in April. The next day, Kerry and Obama toured the Greater West Town Community Development Project, visited a bakery, and held a town hall meeting together. An aide to Kerry said the Massachusetts senator was struck by Obama's 'passion, eloquence and charisma.' [Chicago Tribune, July 15, 2004]
Misleading Claim #6: Private Jets
Harper's Magazine wrongly says that Obama stopped taking privately subsidized air travel because of bad press. "[A]fter some atypically bad press for accepting flight, Obama imposed a ban at his office on privately subsidized travel." [page 40, footnote]
Obama voluntarily chose to reimburse the full fare for private flights - not just the first-class fare as Senate rules require - because he felt it was right. Obama voluntarily chose to reimburse full fare on private flights despite less stringent Senate rules because he thought it was the right thing to do. Obama's decision actually garnered Obama favorable press coverage. "Senator Barack Obama flew at least nine times on corporate jets last year...each time, he reimbursed the plane's owners at first-class rates, as Senate rules require. But Mr. Obama, freshman Democrat from Illinois, felt queasy about this perk of Senate life, so he said he gave it up. 'This is an example where appearances matter,' he said." [New York Times, March 8, 2006]
Misleading Claim #7: Organized Labor
Harper's Magazine suggests that Obama's hiring of a former staffer for Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin makes him susceptible to policies that hurt organized labor. Harper's writes, "[Obama] hired Karen Kornbluh, a senior aide to Robert Rubin when the latter, as head of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, was a chief advocate for NAFTA and other free-trade policies that decimated the nation's manufacturing sector". [page 33]
Obama has a strong pro-labor voting record. Obama voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement and has said that NAFTA should be renegotiated. Obama has cosponsored many important bills to help workers, including: an increase in the minimum wage, and the Employee Free Choice Act. He also championed efforts in the Senate to help air traffic controllers engaged in a labor dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration
Misleading Claim #8: Calling to Action
Harper's Magazine criticizes Obama for calling on students only to strive for energy independence during a speech in July. "Obama's speech contained just a single call for political action. This was when he had introduced Mark Pike, a law student who then came bounding across the state in a green one-piece mechanic's outfit. As part of a campaign called 'Kick the Oil Habit,' Pike was to depart directly from the conference and drive from Washington to Los Angeles in a 'flex-fuel' vehicle. 'Give it up for Mark!' Obama had urged the crowd, noting that Pike would be refueling only at gas stations that offer E85-which Obama touts as 'a clean, renewable, and domestically produced alternative fuel.'" [page 32]
Obama was specifically asked to touch on only two themes in his speech. The group that organized the event - the Center for American Progress - specifically asked Obama to touch on two themes in his speech, 1) what inspired him to go into politics, and 2) briefly the importance of energy independence.
If Harper's was interested in hearing about other issues, below are speeches by Senator Obama on a range of subjects, which are all available on his U.S. Senate website:
- Commencement Call to Service Speech
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation
- Non-Proliferation and Russia: The Challenges Ahead
- Hurricane Katrina and Energy Security
- National Security: Energy Security is National Security
- Climate Change: Energy Independence and the Safety of Our Planet
- Education Teaching Our Kids in a 21st Century Economy
- Sex/Violence in Media
- Moving Forward in Iraq
- Lobbying Reform
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