"The Obama Tapes," a so-called "report" about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama by attorney and KHOW radio host Dan Caplis (pictured), is considerably less than advertised. Rather than spotlighting fresh information capable of bolstering Caplis' contention that Obama's election would endanger America in a slew of different (and terrible) ways, the offering, which is expected to be at the center of numerous upcoming programs, is merely a collection of excerpts from Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, a book Obama wrote in 1995. Caplis has shared this same material with listeners over recent weeks and months, consistently presenting it as a prosecutor might -- by robbing it of context, giving it the most negative spin imaginable, and ignoring or dismissing any evidence that contradicts his interpretation.
"Tapes" essentially consists of an introduction by Caplis, followed by 28 segments from Dreams (some of them riddled with typographical errors) accompanied by audio clips that let web surfers hear either Obama or, in several cases, Caplis read the printed words. Here's how Caplis leads into the material:
It is my hope that this report will be valuable to voters in a lot of different ways. I think it will help people see that Barack Obama’s choice of Jeremiah Wright as a minister, advisor and virtual "member of the family" was not a fluke. Obama’s own words confirm that he believes that a constant attack on whites is justified if it will produce results. Obama’s own words make it clear that he has held other racial views that most people of all races will find archaic, offensive and divisive.
I think this report will help people see that Barack Obama stereotypes the American people based on race, and that those stereotypes are grossly negative. I think it will help people see that his racial prejudice and anger are unfortunately a fundamental part of him, which, in his words are "…aspects of myself which resist conscious choice." I think this report will also help people see the irony in Barack Obama’s claim that his opponents are playing the "race card," when his own words show that he is the one with negative racial views.
As for the subsequent snippets, Caplis provides each with a headline and a brief lead-in. The first reads:
1. OBAMA CONCLUDES "THAT'S JUST HOW WHITE FOLKS WILL DO YOU"
After listing a few examples of racism directed at him by whites, Obama concludes:
"That's just how white folks will do you. It wasn't merely the cruelty involved; I was learning that black people could be mean and then some.It was a particular brand of arrogance, an obtuseness in otherwise sane people that brought forth our bitter laughter. It was as if whites didn't know that they were being cruel in the first place. Or at leadst thought you deserving of their scorn." pg 80
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The implication is clear: This is the way Obama feels today. But as most of the millions who've read the book understand, Dreams depicts Obama's struggle through his childhood and formative years to come to grips with his racial identity, among other things, and in each chapter, he writes about his thought processes at the time. Hence, the lines above -- from page 80, very early in a book that runs 480 pages in paperback -- reflect the thinking of his youth, not his adulthood.
Nonetheless, Caplis plays this game again and again. In a long text block about black nationalism, for instance, Obama discusses the appeal the movement once had for him, as well as for other African-Americans trying to find themselves -- and because the passage isn't followed immediately by a statement along the lines of, "I now recognize the error of my ways," it opens the door for Caplis to hint that such views still linger. Never mind that Obama's delivered speech after speech in the thirteen years since writing these words in which he details the ways in which his thinking has evolved over the course of his life and is now light years away from his nascent beliefs.
If Caplis had unearthed new evidence that Obama nurses hate-whitey sentiments, his compendium might have had some real impact. Without it, however, his partisan attempts to argue that Obama still clings to every dubious view he ever held is the equivalent of saying that President George W. Bush remains a closet party animal and drinker with an unhealthy appreciation for male cheerleading. I look forward to that "report" in the future. -- Michael Roberts