Palmer served the district in the Illinois Senate for much of the 1990s. Decades earlier, she was working as a community organizer in the area when Obama was growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. She risked her safe seat to run for Congress and touted Obama as a suitable successor, according to news accounts and interviews.But, to be fair, this was before he took his all-inclusive Hope and Change/Dr. FeelGood roadshow to a town near you. So, at that time he clearly didn't have the smoke and mirrors to make the bitter masses swoon and all his enemies kneel before him. He had to rely on sketchy ballot signatures and unsealed depositions like everybody else.
But when Palmer got clobbered in that November 1995 special congressional race, her supporters asked Obama to fold his campaign so she could easily retain her state Senate seat.
Obama not only refused to step aside, he filed challenges that nullified Palmer's hastily gathered nominating petitions, forcing her to withdraw.
"I liked Alice Palmer a lot. I thought she was a good public servant," Obama said. "It was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently."
His choice divided veteran Chicago political activists.
"There was friction about the decision he made," said City Colleges of Chicago professor emeritus Timuel Black, who tried to negotiate with Obama on Palmer's behalf. "There were deep disagreements."
And then there's Jeremiah Wright, who has now been thoroughly denounced by Obama for the umpteenth time. But I guess for Obama-tons (and by Obama-tons I mean the media) it always feels like the first time, so yesterday it was all-Barack and Jeremiah, all the time on cable news. The usual suspects were trotted out, again, to read the chicken entrails and rend their garments over the twenty-year pastor/poseur relationship, and pronounce Obama's campaign both dead and alive.
Barack Obama has built his appeal on the claim that he's different from the usual political player. How ironic, then, as recent events have shown, that he may be the biggest player of the them all. All of his campaign's problems have been there from the beginning. There have been no surprises. But to deal with them before his campaign got off the ground was to admit to the duplicity that has made Barack all things to all people. He played Alice Palmer to gain entry into Southside Chicago political circles, and for her blessing. He played Jeremiah Wright and Trinity church to establish bourgeois nationalist street cred. He played Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn for their white liberal, lapsed '60's radical, Hyde Park intellectual bona fides. By insisting that his faith was central to his politics he played his white, Christian supporters, for whom he figured one church would be as good as another.
He waltzed with all of them but had no intention of taking any of them down the aisle.