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Posted by on Oct 27, 2008 in At TMV | 27 comments

Obama’s “Redistribution of Wealth” Quote In Context

John McCain is apparently set on continuing his current socialism-themed attack on Obama based on “newly-discovered” comments Obama made in 2001 while discussing the civil rights movement on NPR. The line of attack can basically be summed up with the headline Drudge is running right now: “2001 Obama: Tragedy That ‘Redistribution of Wealth’ Not Pursued By Supreme Court.”

Now, there’s taking quotes out of context, and there’s just making stuff up, and this one falls into the latter category. Read the full quote and listen to the audio below (do your best to ignore the dramatic commentary in the YouTube video). If you can get outraged at that, you probably weren’t voting for Obama anyway.

“If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.”

“But,” Obama said, “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”

Obama said “one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that.”

H/T to Andrew Sullivan