Here are the key passages from Obama's 2001 radio interview. It's the usual with Obama -- you have to read it very closely to see where he's coming from (i.e., deep left field). I've tried to clean up the spelling and punctuation from FoxNews' awful attempt at a transcript:
“I mean if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy and the court I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples so that I would not have the right to vote would now be able to sit at lunch counter and as long as I could pay for it would be ok. But the supreme court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society and to that extent as radical as 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 has been interpreted and the warren court interpreted it generally in the same way that the constitution is a document of negative liberties-- says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal gov’t can’t do to you but it doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted; and I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.” …
So, Obama is saying that it was a tragedy that the civil rights movement focused too much on winning individual rights and equal opportunity for blacks through the courts and not enough on building “coalitions of power” to achieve “redistributive change.”
This interview shows Obama the law professor and politician saying that to bring redistribution of wealth to blacks, it’s less effective to be, say, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than it is to be, say, President of the United States.
Obama’s statement seems perfectly plausible: he’s spent years studying and teaching Constitutional law and he has concluded that his goal, redistribution of wealth to his race, is more likely to be achieved through politics than through the judiciary.
The subtle point is that Obama sees redistribution as a continuation of the civil rights movement — i.e., it’s for blacks.
"You know, maybe I am showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but you know I am not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way. Just look at very rare examples where during the desegregation era the court was willing to, for example, order, you know, changes that cost money to local school district and the court was very uncomfortable with it."
This is presumably a reference to Kansas City, where a judge ordered a billion dollars extra spending on heavily black schools. Not surprisingly, it didn’t do much for test scores.
"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 engaging in a process that is essentially is administrative and take a lot of time, the court is not very good at it and politically it is hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So I think that -- although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, you know I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts -- I think that as a practical matter that our institutions are just poorly equipped to do it. …"
So, Obama is saying that he is for “bringing about economic change through the courts” in theory, in practice the courts don’t have the administrative staff and power to do it. Instead, Obama’s goal of “redistribution of wealth” should be achieved through the legislative and executive branches.
"Typically, the court can be more or less generous in interpreting actions and initiatives taken, but in terms of funding of abortions and Medicare and Medicaid, the court it not initiating those funding streams. Essentially, what the court is saying is at some point this is a legitimate prohibition or this is not, and I think those are very important battles that need to be fought and I think they have a redistributive aspect to them."
I’m not exactly sure what this means.
In summary, a close reading of “Dreams from My Father” shows that achieving political power to bring about redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks was the main goal of Obama’s life up at least through the book’s writing in 1995.
This interview extends that up through 2001, the year after his soul-crushing defeat in the 2000 Democrat primary for House, where he was rejected by black voters for not being black enough.
Keep in mind that Obama has never been all that big on just cutting checks for poor people. He much prefers to spend money through his political base, social service workers, letting them keep much of the increased spending.
This explains, by the way, why Obama never bothered to publish any legal scholarship, even though he had the same post at the U. of Chicago Law School, “Senior Lecturer,” as Richard Posner. He didn’t see the point: litigation just wasn’t going to be as effective at getting “redistributive change” as would be “coalitions of power.”
As a practical matter, however, he understands that to take money from whites and give it to blacks, which is what he cares about, his dreams from his father, he’ll need to assemble broad “coalitions of power.” He can’t just hand out money on a blacks-only basis. He’s got to cut all sorts of people in on the deal.
The problem with that is that his goal then becomes vastly more expensive. The U.S. can more or less afford to subsidize the descendants of slaves as a form of reparations. What we can’t afford to do is cut everybody else in on the deal in order to make it politically palatable.