Slummin' with Barry
By Michael M. Bates
Mrs. Clinton assumed full taunting mode in a January Democratic presidential candidate debate. She aggressively battled "bad" Republican ideas, she told Obama, "when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slumlord business in inner-city Chicago."
Obama feebly replied he was merely an associate at a law firm that represented a church group working with "this individual" and had done a few hours legal work. Hillary could have attacked Obama for accepting political contributions from Tony Rezko at the same time the real estate wheeler-dealer victimized African-Americans struggling for survival in his properties' squalid living conditions.
It's a persistent situation. Barry's a millionaire, yet seems unable or unwilling to shake his connection with slums.
The law firm he worked for helped Rezko's company obtain more than $43 million in government funding to rehab buildings for the poor. Like many a Democrat, Tony found that he could do very well for himself by doing "good." With extensive financial support from taxpayers, natch.
In October, we learned that Obama's Auntie Zeituni, written so warmly about in his 1995 memoir, was in the U.S. illegally, living in a Boston slum. Slum might be too strong a description, but not by much. The British newspaper the Times, covering a story American news outlets didn't, reported the aunt "lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston." Her condition was so reduced that she was only able to give her favorite nephew $260 in illegal (since she's not a citizen) campaign contributions.
She'd been ordered out of the U.S. in 2004 by an immigration judge. Yet the following year, she attended Obama's swearing-in as a senator. Unsurprisingly, he denies any knowledge of where she's lived for all these years.
In August, a story emerged from the Italian edition of Vanity Fair that Barry's youngest half sibling, George Obama, lives in a roughly two by three yard hut in a Kenyan slum on about a dollar a month. Some conservative pundits had a field day with the story. Why didn't Obama, who quotes the Bible about caring for the least of my brothers, take care of his own brother?
George Obama didn't want to harm the Illinois senator politically. He denied his situation is as dire as described. The British Times carried the story on its Web site with the great headline, "Life is good in my Nairobi slum, says Barack Obama's younger brother." Much better.
As you may possibly have heard, the Obamas themselves are opting for public housing in a few weeks. Despite movin' on up to the White House, Barry isn't terminating his relationship with slums, or at least those who run them. He's named Valerie Jarrett as a top-level adviser. The Associated Press simply reported that Ms. Jarrett "has a background in real estate and politics in Chicago." Does she ever.
A very close personal friend of the Obamas, for the past dozen years she's been with the Habitat Company. That enterprise is a real estate development and management company. She's the president and chief executive officer.
One of the properties that Habitat managed was Grove Parc Plaza. In June, the Boston Globe exposed how Grove Parc deteriorated under Habitat's supervision:
"The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can't afford to live anywhere else.
"But it's not safe to live here.
"About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale - a score so bad the buildings now face demolition."
The story went on to note that Jarrett's company managed the slum from 2001 until last winter. Moreover, Habitat also co-managed an even larger Chicago complex that had so many violations it was seized by the Federal government in 2006.
Obama's Web site change.gov audaciously claims on its page devoted to Valerie Jarrett: "The Habitat Company is one of the nation's premier developers and managers of residential apartments and condominiums."
Sure, all premier property managers provide residents with mice, sewer backups and collapsed roofs. Obama should turn over management of the White House to Ms. Jarrett's company.
If it's good enough for people he claims to care for so much, it should be good enough for him.
This Mike Bates column appeared in the November 20, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.