Monday, March 03
At a recent Barack Obama appearance, an onlooker asked an Obama sign-holder, "Why are you supporting him for president? What's he ever done?" A good question that deserves a substantive answer, particularly on the candidate's voting pattern. Legislators' votes show where their beliefs and convictions are.

Sen. Obama has had an 11-year career as a legislator, eight years in Illinois and three years in the U.S. Senate. As an Illinois senator, in his last two years alone, he sponsored more than 780 bills that included welfare reform, blocking the Bush administration's overtime restrictions on workers, extending the state's Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor, and death penalty reform on interrogations and confessions, which he pushed through both houses of the legislature, including an incredible 35-to-0 vote in the Senate. He also expanded the KidCare program. Among his fellow senators, Obama built a reputation for being highly talented at working both sides of the aisle.

As a U.S. senator, Obama has cast more than 1,100 votes, including "no" votes on Supreme Court candidates Roberts and Alito — arguing that they far too often promoted the strong against the weak — and against measures denying status to illegal immigrants.

He cast "yes" votes to the McCain-Kennedy bill creating a guest worker program for immigrants, and the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act where he joined with Senators Joe Lieberman, and Bernie Sanders along with 37 other Democrats, and 12 Republicans.

Obama has also voted in support of abortion rights, and granting habeas corpus rights to alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. He voted against a bill extending tax cuts on capital gains to 2010, and to a bill repealing the tax on inherited wealth, and did not support a bill that required Medicare beneficiaries with incomes over $160,000 to pay higher premiums for prescription drugs.

On Iraq, Sen. Obama voted in favor of Sen. Feingold's measure requiring President Bush to begin withdrawing most U.S. forces by a certain date and allowing a smaller number to stay for maintaining security. He became the Democrats' spokesman on ethics reform and was one of the chief promoters of the Senate's passing an ethics reform package.

Finally, Obama partnered with the powerful former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, to pass legislation that controlled the spread of nuclear weapons. Lugar said this about Obama: "He has a sense of idealism and principled leadership, a vision of the future. At certain points in history, certain people are the ones that are most likely to have the vision or imagination to identify talent and to manage other people's ideas. He does this well."

This tribute to Sen. Obama from a distinguished Republican says it all.

TELA ZASLOFF

Williamstown