May 1st, 2008
09:23 AM ET

Just who is Barack Obama anyway?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/04/29/obama.wright/art.obama.tues.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday denounced comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright."]
Ed Rollins
GOP Strategist and Former Huckabee National Campaign Chairman

Who is Barack Obama? What does he really believe?

These are the unanswered questions about a man who could be the 44th president.

That is why there is such a curiosity about him and why the public and media is looking closely at his wife, and his minister and, before this is over, every other element of his life.

Here is what we do know. He is extremely articulate and extremely ambitious. You can throw bright into the mix, too. But what he really is, is inexperienced. No one in recent times has jumped to the front of the Presidential express quicker or with a thinner resume.

He served a few years in the part-time Illinois state Senate and worked part-time as a junior associate lawyer drafting wills and real estate documents.

Prior to law school, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago, whatever that means. He ran voter registration drives and through knowledge he learned from that experience, he got elected in 1996 to a State Senate seat.

Conveniently, Obama ran virtually unopposed after he legally challenged the qualifying petitions of the incumbent and his other three primary opponents and got them thrown off the ballot. Winning the Democrat primary meant victory because Republicans offered only token opposition in the most overwhelming Democrat district in the state.

Before he had served out his term, Obama ran for Congress and got crushed by incumbent Bobby Rush in a primary. He also chose not to vote on many controversial measures in the legislature.

When a vacant U.S. Senate seat opened up 2004, he was off to the races. And when a series of soap opera events hit his primary and general election opponents, he faced a token opponent, perennial right-wing kook presidential candidate Allan Keyes, who lived in Maryland and had been destroyed when he ran for the Senate in that state. Add lucky to the other qualities listed above.

Because of his speaking skills, Sen. John Kerry picked Obama (still a state senator) to keynote the 2004 convention. He was sworn in as newly elected senator in January 2005, and in February 2007, after just two years in the Senate, he announces for President.

All we know about his Senate career was that Obama was the most liberal voting member of the Senate in those first two years, according to the National Journal, and was anti-war, anti-gun and pro-immigration.

That is why influences in his life, the thoughts and beliefs of his wife, and the rantings of his pastor and mentor all matter: because it might help us know more about the man from Illinois, Indonesia, Hawaii, California and New York.

Obama has run up until now a brilliant campaign and excited millions of voters by talking about change. Now the rest of us want to know, "Who is this guy?"

And, to steal a line from Walter Mondale that he used in the '84 campaign against Gary Hart: Where's the beef?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Ed Rollins • Raw Politics • Rev. Jeremiah Wright
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Steven Jlopleh

    Mr. Rollins ,I must say that I watch you almost every night on CNN and you are a very bright and politically astute strategist. Most of the times, your comments and analyses are on point and intellectually enriching. However, with all due respect to your esteemed level of political intelligence and sophestication, you comments about Barrack Obama and the questions you raised about him are nothing more than just a partisan jab aimed at one of the most brilliant, inspiring, politically skilled and academically literate presidential candidates this country has seen in a long time. I don't know if your qusetion regarding who Sen. Obama is refers to his level of qualification with respect to being president? If so, I expect a person of your understanding of politics to know that nothing really prepares a person for the American presidency. Every president is faced with different domestic and international realities, so counting on a person's past experience as a basis of qualification for the American presidency is only part of what is needed. George Bush was a two term governor with Executive experience, look what his experience has done to America! John McCain has been in the United Senate for more than two decades, yet his vote on the authorization of war in Iraq reflected everything but the kind of judgment that experience is expected to engender or facilitate.

    July 6, 2008 at 8:32 pm |
  2. LaVon K Hummel

    who is Obama? This is a question I wish we had asked of Bush before he took office. We didn't and were paying for it now. I guess just because Bush was very well known so we thought he might be alright., wrong. What I like to know is what kind of answer do you expect by asking a open ended question like that? Its the unknown that causes fear. And just by asking that who is he ? . The shadows start to form . All I know is he has proven to me that he articulate and highly intelligent, and I know Bush isn't That's all I need to know. Stop asking loaded questions like that just because you can, and I think it will be a honer getting to (know) Barack Obama.

    May 18, 2008 at 4:08 am |
  3. Spider

    I'm getting really tired of the Obominations bringing up "obliterating" Iran. Have any of you heard the question she was answering?

    "What would you do if Iran used a nuclear weapon on Israel?"

    What would Barack's reply to that question be?

    "I would ask Iran to CHANGE and HOPE that they would do that for me."

    May 3, 2008 at 9:29 am |
  4. Spider


    Come on! It's a campaign. You don't see the same thing with Obama?
    The man went bowling, for pity's sake!! He obviously, from his skills, has never even been in a bowling alley. He did it to get votes. That is what a campaign is. Get out and introduce yourself to all kinds of people. Cowboys, barflys, farmers, college students, and, yes, even bowlers.
    Goofy and shallow? Goofy is a politician trying to get votes. Shallow is saying Hope and Change but having no plan to accomplish it.

    May 3, 2008 at 8:32 am |
  5. Jeanne Illinois

    He is most likely much like you and me, but smarter, more gracious, steadfast, convicted, professional, kind, altruistic, and most of all PRESIDENTIAl. And just like you and I, he probable didn't mold his character after his once a week ministerial sermon. Come on get off of it now. Let's talk more about someone who blatantly told a grandiose "uh let's see oh yeah the word was MISSPEAK" an outrageous bold face lie to the entire country. You just don't forget something like "hostile fire" while traveling in a foreign land with your your young daughter. I want the entire media to get back on THAT TOPIC for a good week or more after all Cybil, I mean Hillary deserves equal time. What a pathetic phony... man she has a different face and persona for each state. I have seen her rodeo, guzzle booze, ride tractors, endorse guns, whatever it takes she will say it ... you may think it makes her "strong" as I see it it only makes her goofy and shallow, not to mention insulting the intelligence of most Americans.

    May 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  6. Helen

    Obama is getting a raw deal. The whole Rev. Wright ordeal gets 6 days of press but Clinton's outright lies ... "oh, my, sniper filer?" ... that means nothing. If Obama does not get the nomination it is because the press (and to point a direct finger at Fox) have been tossing him under the bus! He cannot possibly control what Wright does or says. Have you not ever known someone who hit some mild life crisis and flip out? The press can make or break any person. My question is why? Blame it on Wright? No ... blame it on the press! Come up with some new news please!!!!

    May 1, 2008 at 11:37 pm |
  7. clay

    I know who Obama is, he is the next UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:) I think it is sad when all of you people acts as though Obama commited some kind of crime. I am willing to bet that all of you have something that someone knows about you and you are afraid they will expose you also. No one is perfect, except maybe Bush. Oh, I forgot, he went AWOL during his time in the military, managed to take screw up any business his dad started for him, will go down in history as the worst governor of Texas, signed the death penalty to more criminals then any other states, including to the mentally retarted, took us into a war for the sake of "winning" lied and said we are winning the war on terror,need I say more?You are so afraid that we have the opportunity to have someone more decent in the WHITE HOUSE and someone who knows what all of us are experiencing. High unemployment, loosing our homes, high gas prices, no health care and living from pay check to pay check. Answer this question? What have the last 8 years of Bush taught us. That he will take our country into a war that was not ours from the start. We are fighting with the wrong people, Where is Bin Ladin? Somewhere laughing at how we are so divided.

    May 1, 2008 at 11:35 pm |
  8. Bobbie

    Letter from missionaries in Africa/Obama

    Celeste and Loren Davis are Missionaries in Africa and can shed some light on one of our Presidential candidates.
    Celeste was married to my (Billy Sam Elliott) first cousin and is the
    mother of his three children. She remarried Missionary Loren Davis at Woodville and has been involved in his ministry ever since. They have made numerous mission trips to Africa and actually had their DC-3 shot down on one of their trips.I haven't seen Celeste in several years, but I communicate with her by e-mail frequently.

    Dear Billy Sam,

    Thanks for sending out an alert about Obama. We are living and working > in Kenya for almost twelve years now and know his family (tribe) well. They are the ones who were behind the recent Presidential election chaos here. Thousands of people have been displaced by election violence(over 350,000) and I don't know the last count of the dead. Obama under "friends of Obama" gave almost a million dollars to the opposition campaign who just happened to be his cousin, Raila Odinga, who is a socialist trained in east germany . He has been trying to bring Kenya down for years and the last president threw him in prison for trying to subvert this country! December 27th elections brought cries from ODM (Odinga Camp) of rigged election. Obama and Raila speak daily.As we watch Obama rise in the US we are sure that whatever happens, he will use the same tactic, crying rigged election if he doesn't win and possibly cause a race war in America .

    What we would like you to know is what the american press has been keeping a dirty little secret. Obama IS a muslim and he IS a racist and this is a fullfilllment of the 911 threat that was just the beginning. Jihad is the only true muslim way. We have been working with them for 20 years this July! He is not an american as we know it. Please encourage your friends and associates not to be taken in by those that are promoting him. It is world wide jihad.All our friends in Europe are very disturbed by the mulsim infiltration into their countries. By the way. His true name is Barak Hussein Muhammed Obama. Won't that sound sweet to our enemies as they swear him in on the Koran!
    God Bless you.

    Pray for us here in Kenya . We are still fighting for our nation to
    withstand the same kind of as sult that every nation, including America, is fighting. Takeover from the outside to fit the new world order. As believers, this means we will be the first targets. Here in Kenya , not one mosque was burned down, but hundreds of churches were burned down, some with people in them, burned alive. Jesus Christ is our peace but the new world order of Globalism has infiltrated the church and confused believers into thinking that they can compromise and survive. It won't be so. I will send you a newsletter we sent out in February documenting in a more cohesive manner what I've tried to say in a few paragraphs.
    Love, Celeste

    Celeste and Loren Davis

    May 1, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  9. Dianne - Haslett, MI

    Take a look at Rev. Wrights sermons and the fact that Obama sat in his pew for 20 years and actually took his two young daughters to that church to hear such racial hatred.

    Then look at the slum lords in Chicago.

    Then look at his empty record in the Senate in both Illinois and Washington DC.

    Then look at how many meetings he has called on Afgahnastain. ZERO.

    Then look at how he was unable to answer questions in his last debate, especially the follow-up questions.

    The "true" Obama is right before everyones eyes. Obama is a fake candidate who has the ability to deliver a speach.

    America needs a President who can stand up to our foreign enemies, solve our infra-sturcture problems and bring our country out of recession. That candidate is not Obama.

    May 1, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  10. Diane

    Ed, Ed, Ed,

    Remember the "old" Clinton slogan, "It's the economy stupid"? In 2008, "It's change...." The "old" and "very old" and familiar we know all to well. White or yellow washing this excellent race is not going to work. That's "old", too.

    May 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  11. Cathy

    Mr. Rollins, I think you are being a bit tough on him by implying this talented man ,who has spent much of his adult life as a public servant, has no accomplishments.

    May 1, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  12. kevin lynch

    Barrack Hussein Obama has been exposed as a TRUE politician. He sways with the wind. If tomorrow rev wright got backing and it was proven that he really isnt a racist then Obama would make a televised prime time speach as he will blame the media for driving him into a corner to go against wright!
    Political posturing is Obamas strong suit. He is an oportunist,doesnt believe in anything! He has become the smooth and proven liar; kind of like a good attorney?

    May 1, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  13. Jagdish Khanduja

    Mr. Rollins cracks me up.

    Obama: Inexperienced and therefore not fit?! Consider the following:

    Cheney, Powell et al were all very experienced. Bush claimed to be a savvy business manager. Did not quiet work out this experience? Lincoln had very little experience when he became the President. Does Mr. Rollins have an explanation?

    Hillary is implied to be experienced. Then Mr. Rollins should explain the following: Ms. Clinton started the primary season as the heir presumptive with all the right insider and power broker connections, with claims to lots of experience and wisdom and thus a sure shoo in as the Democrat party nominee. Then she lost her lead to an inexperienced unknown, ran into funding and organizational problems and started becoming increasingly extremist and demagogic in her views. Now she claims that she is an underdog!
    Her campaign so far has been equivalent to a dominant company that starts out with high market share but with competition starts losing markets share, then runs into liquidity and solvency problems that lead to organizational turmoil which then is followed by distress sales and appeals for state subsidies and lamentation about the risk of losing the crown jewel of the corporate sector.

    May 1, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    For the last 8 years we the people have suffered under what is probably the most inept President in US history – G..W.Bush. If his goal was to see just how much he could mess up in America I would say he excelled at reaching that goal.

    Now after Bush can we as a nation really afford to elect someone as inexperienced as Obama to the Presidency?? To clean up and fix all the things that Bush and Cheney have done in the past 8 years plus cope with current crises shouldn't we be looking at someone with a lot more experience than Obama has? Obama might make a good president one day but he needs more experience before that – the Presidency doesn't come with an instruction manual.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  15. Winghunter

    Why have we waited until now to be asking these questions?

    Where was the main stream media 6 months to a year ago?

    We didn't have this many who are incapable of their own governance making up the supporters of an elitist nobody who is the exact oppposite of corrupt "change"...what specific progressive regressions do we owe this abandonment of what works?? More importantly, how do we get back to a semblance of sanity!?

    May 1, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  16. xtina, chicago IL

    seems as if he spent more time campaigning for office than he did actually working on behalf of the people of Illinois. he wasn't known as a person of change here in Illinois and wasn't known as being different than any other political figure. If you hire someone based on what they promise and how well they interview, then YES, he's a good candidate for the job. But if you hire someone who has actually walked the walk and done what they say they believe in, then no, I just don't see on what credibility people are basing their support of him.

    May 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  17. B. King

    This election, I fear, has become a matter of voting for the lesser of three evils. You have the GOP running behind a war-hawk like John McCain, you have Hillary Clinton with her money-spending policies and flip-flopping antics, and you have Obama's mirror-image policies with some of Hillary's beliefs.

    Merely because I am disgusted with what the GOP has become and because Obama is a little bit more tolerable, I will be voting for him coming November.

    May 1, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  18. Pat M Canada

    Unbelivable comments here. If Hillary Rodham Clinton was endorsed by Hamas and their countrymen wrote in American Newspapers that they can't wait for her to be nominated President – would it not send a Red Flag for you? I should think so....

    Well start hoisting the Stars and Stripes as this is all took place but the subject of the story was Obama! Wake Up People! If you think terrorists are scary miles away just imagine how scary they will be right in the USA!

    May 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  19. JC

    Barack Obama is exactly who he is and not the person so many want him to be; he's inexperienced; he's a guy who looks good in a suit; he's articulate; he talks a good game; he actually writes a good game; he's a self promoter; he hasn't accomplished much that would be worthy of a book but heck why not write one or two any way; he is a follower; a follower of his wife then a follower of Rev. Wright; he is a man who was in a lousy financial position until he got a book advance; he wants political change but hangs out with the Kennedys; he wants people to come together but then for twenty years supports the devisive Rev. Wright; he's meek; he's weak; he hangs with Tony Rezko; he had a $8000 monthly retainer from a Chicago entrepreneur who he then gave hundreds of thousands of dollars of Tourism Board money to; if he was in corporate America, he would be like so many others; a person with a lot of potential who would be overlooked by less qualified executives; I think he's kind of like a venture capital company; invest in me because we might just make it together; this late nineties dot com way of thinking does not work; I think some of us know who Obama is.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  20. Terry

    Is it better to be lucky or experienced?

    May 1, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  21. Shirley Nord

    I heard this morning that the Clinton campaign is supporting and financing the Rev. Wright's attack on Obama. Any comment?

    May 1, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  22. Barb

    No one will know who the real Obama is , if he can claim the Rev. Wright as a family member, but not know him is scary, when he wants too talk too country's that hate america how will his judgement be then, this is something the american people need too think about.
    Obama never disowned the Rev. Wright until it he thought it could hurt his chances at the white house.
    Obama wants too be america's friend, people overlook the flaws in their friends and that is what Obama is hoping for in his campaign.
    He really should have followed in his mentor's, (Rev.Wright's) foot steps and became a preacher, he's good at conning the public with his speaches, but falls flat on his face when he is questioned about his screw-ups.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  23. T.Solomon

    He is someone that does not want anymore people to die in iraq, he is someone that brings honesty to the white house, he is someone that is tired of our elected officals in washington not doing their jobs, he is someone that knows that we can not transfer something we have not got, he is someone that believes justice is for all, he is someone that can operate a coffey machine, and he is someone who will not tell you that saving 30 bucks in 3 months on gas is a wonderful saving, HE IS YOUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. They have all been there and look where we are? he is someone that can do no worst,and from where I sit I can see we have nowhere to go but up?

    May 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  24. vicijoy

    Who is Obama? Hummmmmm……

    Obama is a person who thinks he can talk his way to White House.

    Obama is a person who will throw anybody under the bus to get what he wants.

    Obama is a person who thinks white will think he’s white and black will think he’s black.

    Obama is a person who lectures people.

    Obama is a person who thinks 18 months senate experience is enough to run the most important government in the whole world.

    One of my foreign friend asks me “ I guess if 18 months senate experience is enough to run the U.S. government, I don’t think U.S. standard is that high, isn’t?’ I need some help to answer this question.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  25. Larry

    Do we really want to know anything about Barack Obama other than he is African-American, in his mid-40s, overwhelmingly won the Senate Democratic seat in Illinois, is opposed to everything that Hillary Clinton is in support of, articulate speaker. Nope we don't want to know anything else, why should we?

    May 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  26. Paul-Williams

    Right on point, Ed. Mr. Obama is a fraud and a liar. A so-so orator with no experience, who promises hope and unification. Who does he plan to unite? Ayres, Wright and Rkeso? I'm sorry, did I forget Farachan?

    May 1, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  27. Grammie in Somewhere, OK

    Barack Obama has used his adult life to distort his childhood, his school years, his grandmother, his father, his supporters and now his mentor, close friend and pastor. If someone ask questions about his honesty and character, he considers himself being victimized. He is a good orator and says things that people hope is true and then uses these believers for his own political purposes.
    He is really a pathic wanna- be politican who will say and do anything to gain the approval of voters.
    It is so sad that so many people have believed this man with his bogus promises of hope and change.
    A vote for Clinton is certainly more rational. Obama is a weakling.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:05 pm |
  28. Kristi from AZ.

    Well. who is Ed Rollins? Nothing but a right-wing strategist who is continuing the fear mongering that the Repubs started to derail the campaign of Obama? Why? Because they are afraid to run against him with McCain as their nominee. Well, the fear card won't work this time as it did in 2004. Barack Obama is a brillant man, who is TRYING to run a different kind of campaign. A campaign that is free of mud-slinging. A kind of campaign that the Repubs. know nothing about. Oh,by the way, Ed it is Democratic Primary and Democratic District. Make sure you say it that way from now on.

    May 1, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  29. jennifer

    Obama is an opportunist! He disowned his preacher for election. You can not trust him!

    May 1, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  30. Slater

    This is a good article. The fact is, he has no experience, which speaks for itself.

    He has rode on the white horse of voting against the war, failed to mention the important fact that he stayed away from voting for controversial matters in the senate. So what the heck did he do for 2 years?

    This man is completely riding on things that really don't matter when it comes to substance. I am fearful because if we really do want to vote a dem in office, how is this man going to win against McCain, who is very popular with both the media and much of working class America?

    My feeling is that the Americans have let him get this far because as a country we want to get past skin color. This is a positive thing. However, why not wait until the candidate has the experience needed to run our country, irrespective of race?

    On one hand we claim this "race" is not about "race", but can you really say that it is not, given the fact that this man has 3 things in his favor: articulateness, education, and brown skin?

    May 1, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
  31. Mike in NYC

    Michael, NC wrote:

    "As much as I hate to see such a direct cut-throat attack on my favorite blog site, it is undeniably true. I couldn’t agree more."

    I much prefer that to the feel-good, pie-in-the-sky fluff posts that abound on this blog.

    Lori S. wrote:

    "They know Obama is likely to beat McCain in the general election."

    Wishful thinking. Beyond blacks and liberal whites, BO's support is flimsy. The last NC poll that I saw had him ahead by only five points. If the NC primary goes that way, he’s toast.

    May 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
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