Monday, October 27, 2008

Transcription of the Radio Interview Portion of Clip
Barack Obama, Chicago Public Radio Interview, 2001

Here is a transcription of a portion of a morning interview, found here on YouTube, and which we embeded here, that was held with then-State Senator Barack Obama on the radio show, "Odyssey" at public radio station, WBEZ Chicago, 91.5 FM, back in 2001. We have eliminated only the fequent interjections of "uh" and "um" in order to facilitate the ease of reading. Dots . . . indicates a break in the tape. Paragraph breaks are ours, as are any transcription errors.

. . .

Announcer:"Good morning and welcome to 'Odyssey' on WBEZ, Chicago, 91.5 FM. And we're joined by Barack Obama who is Illinois State Senator from the 13th District, and Senior Lecturer in the Law School at the University of Chicago."

Senator Obama: "You know, if you look at the victories and the failures of the Civil Rights movement, and it's 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 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 try 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, at least as it's been interpreted, and more important, 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 and 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."

. . .

Announcer: "Let's talk with Kiran. Good morning, Kiran. You're on Chicago Public Radio."

Questioner: (Kiran) "Hi. The gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasn't terribly radical. My question is -- with economic changes – my question, is it too late for that kind of repairative work economically, and is that the appropriate place for repairative economic work to take place?" (Announcer interjection:) "You mean the court?" (Kiran:) "The court, or would it be legislation at this point?"

Senator Obama: "You know, maybe I'm showing my bias here as a legislator, as well as a law professor, but, you know, I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistribute change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way."

. . .

"You know, you just, say, look at very rare examples during the desegregation era, the Court was willing to, for example, order, you know, changes that cost money to local school districts, and the Court was very uncomfortable with it. It was hard to manage, it was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, you know, in terms of the court monitoring, or, or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time."

. . .

"You know, the Court is just not very good at it, and politically it's just that it's just very hard to legitimize opinions from the Court in that regard. So, I mean, I think that, although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, you know, I think you can, any three of us sitting here could come up with a rational for bringing about economic change through the courts."

. . . .
End of radio interview portion of clip.)

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