WASHINGTON (CBS WASHINGTON) — In 1994, a young Barack Obama gave a lecture to Nebraska students ridiculing the “values” articulated by leading Democratic figures Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson.
In previously unheard audio released exclusively to BuzzFeed, Obama offers a glimpse of his views as a rising liberal Illinois politician and attorney. The recording was supplied to BuzzFeed by “a Republican source” and it was recorded at Nebraska Wesleyan University on Sept. 9, 1994.
In the recording, Obama argued that the talk of values was empty without social action, and without a vigorous government role: “It’s not easy to live up to your ideals, it requires sacrifice. It may require taxes on the part of the society. It may require that you go without certain luxuries that you become accustomed to.”
Obama told the students in Lincoln, Neb. that “values are dynamic,” and he dismissed appeals from everyone from Bill Clinton to Dan Quayle to “static” or “Ozzie and Harriet” values. Obama suggested those values — “The wife is at home, she’s not working, Dad’s got his 9 to 5, there are no African-Americans in these family values” — were ridiculously out of date.
Obama also offered students an early glimpse of his own story, one that he said he would be putting in a memoir whose working title he gave as “Mixing Blood: Stories of Inheritance.” In actuality, the book was published the next year as “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.”
The recording is of Obama before he began calibrating his political positions to a statewide and then national audience, a journey that moved him right on a range of issues including marriage — he endorsed same-sex marriage, and then opposed it, before endorsing it again this year on a national scale.
A sample of the audio as transcribed by BuzzFeed:
“First as I said I think values are dynamic. Part of the reason I don’t trust Dan Quayle talking about values and I often don’t trust Bill Clinton talking about values is they tend to have a static notion of values. Dan Quayle talks about values in terms of Ozzie and Harriet values.
…And my wife who is an attorney, she likes to watch old TV re-runs and so she watches the Dick Van Dyke Show and Ozzie and Harriet and things like that.
I’m always struck by values that are embodied in these television shows which I think are the values that people have in mind when they talk about return to American values. The wife is at home, she’s not working, Dad’s got his 9 to 5, there are no African-Americans in these family values. There’s no discussion of poverty in these values. There’s not much talk about a nuclear arms race that was taking place on the television programs. So the notion is that we can somehow return to that time and recapture those values without acknowledging all the things that were left out. Well, that’s not the case.”
The audio recording is one of several moments in the 1990s in which Obama made clear that he didn’t consider himself a Clinton Democrat. It’s also an early precursor to the intra-party battle between Clinton Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary as Hillary Clinton competed for the nomination.
Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker chronicled this time period in which Obama’s team looked to frame the Clintons as untrustworthy political opportunists who were ready to abandon their principles.
Despite this, however, former President Clinton is expected to make a sweeping endorsement of President Obama at the Democratic National convention tonight in Charlotte.