Obama spokesman: McCain's redistribution charge 'desperate, false'
Nick Juliano and David Edwards
Published: Monday October 27, 2008

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Facing a rapidly disappearing path to victory in the presidential race, Republicans are using heavily edited, out-of-context quotes from several years ago to claim victory in their last-ditch campaign to smear Barack Obama as a socialist.

During a public affairs show on Chicago Public Radio in 2001, Obama noted that none of the Supreme Court's landmark civil rights cases had mandated any "redistribution" of resources to achieve their goals. As an example he cited Brown v. Board of Education, which mandated equal opportunity education, regardless of race, but left funding decisions to the legislature.

The term "redistributive" came up a couple more times during the hourlong broadcast, which right-wing operatives spliced into a four minute YouTube clip. Listening to the entire broadcast it is clear that Obama is in no way advocating any sort of radical redistribution of wealth, and he's following a line of argument that sounds very similar to conservative appeals for judicial restraint and avoidance of legislating from the bench.

That didn't stop the Republican National Committee and the McCain campaign from parroting scores of conservative bloggers claiming that the clip was evidence he harbors some kind of subversive socialist perspective. Claiming Obama's support for a progressive tax system that has existed for generations is akin to socialism has been a leitmotif for McCain since "Joe the Plumber" first burst onto the scene.

Obama's campaign pushed back, with a spokesman decrying the attack as one of the most dishonest yet from a campaign that's been run almost exclusively on an attack strategy for months.

“This is a fake news controversy drummed up by the all too common alliance of Fox News, the Drudge Report and John McCain, who apparently decided to close out his campaign with the same false, desperate attacks that have failed for months. In this seven year old interview, Senator Obama did not say that the courts should get into the business of redistributing wealth at all. Americans know that the real choice in this election is between four more years of Bush-McCain policies that redistribute billions to billionaires and big corporations and Barack Obama’s plan to help the middle class by giving tax relief to 95% of workers and companies that create new jobs here in America. That’s the change we need, and no amount of eleventh-hour distractions from the McCain campaign will change that,” said Obama-Biden campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

The campaign also pointed reporters to comments from Obama adviser Cass Sunstein explaining his position.

Sunstein argued that Obama is discussing redistribution in a relatively narrow legal context: The discussion in the 1970s of whether the Supreme Court would create the right to a social safety net -- to things like education and welfare. He also noted that in the interview, Obama appears to express support for the court's rejection of that line of argument, saying instead that the civil rights movement should aim for the same goals through legislative action.

"What the critics are missing is that the term 'redistribution' didn’t [mean] in the Constitutional context equalized wealth or anything like that. It meant some positive rights, most prominently the right to education, and also the right to a lawyer," Sunstein said. "What he’s saying – this is the irony of it – he’s basically taking the side of the conservatives then and now against the liberals."
The edited YouTube video of Obama's remarks was posted Sunday afternoon and quickly rocketed around the conservative blogosphere. Fox News did several segments on the interview, and a link to the clip led the Drudge Report for much of the day Monday. One wonders how long the RNC has been sitting on this little nugget of opposition research, waiting for the perfect opportunity to inject it into the conversation. Judging by the amount of ground McCain has to make up with just a week until Election Day, the latest smear may be too late.

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast October 27, 2008.

Download video via RawReplay.com