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The Super Tuesday Starting Line: Indonesia

Barack Obama's Indonesian grade-school class. (Bloomberg).

By Keith B. Richburg
NEW YORK, Jan. 16 - The first Democratic primary ballots on the mega-primary day of Feb. 5 are scheduled to be cast in faraway Indonesia by members of Democrats Abroad Indonesia. And Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) might be said to hold the hometown advantage.

Obama lived in Indonesia from ages 6 to 10, after his mother married Lolo Soetoro, who was an Indonesian foreign student, and the young Obama attended Indonesian schools. Obama has often spoken of his time abroad as giving him a unique sensitivity to foreign cultures. But what is unclear is whether his experience will also give him an edge for the votes of Americans now living overseas.

There are some 6 million Americans living abroad, a group larger than the populations of all but 17 U.S. states. This year, Democrats Abroad will be sending 22 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Eight of those delegate slots are reserved for DNC members and the rest will be chosen through a serious of "global primaries," leading up to a convention for overseas Democrats in Vancouver, Canada, in April.

In an innovative twist, some Democrats living overseas will be able to cast their primary votes via the Internet and fax, as well as using the traditional walk-in centers.

The polls in Indonesia will open a minute after midnight on Feb. 5, with results released a couple of hours later. Given the time difference to the Pacific, that means Democrats living in Indonesia will have their votes tallied and released a full 12 hours before polling places open in any of the 22 states holding primaries that day.

Arian Ardie, a businessman who chairs the Indonesian chapter of Democrats Abroad, said in an e-mail that he hopes that with the midnight vote, Indonesia can steal a little of the limelight normally associated with the tiny New Hampshire hamlet of Dixville Notch, which has gained international attention for its tradition of having the first recorded votes in primaries and in general elections.

Before the voting starts, Ardie said in the e-mail, candidates' surrogates will be calling in to make their last-minute pitches to voters. Obama will be relying on his Indonesian sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, to make his case.

Democrats Abroad Indonesia has been trying to register as many members as possible before the vote, and has found a novel technique -- distributing official party condoms with a suggestive slogan. Ardie, in his e-mail, said the idea was to shed light on the Bush administration's "arcane family planning and reproductive rights policies."

Republicans, for their part, are not planning on having any overseas delegates seated at the GOP convention in Minneapolis, according to the Republicans Abroad office in Washington.

For the November general election, Americans living overseas will still have to vote the old-fashioned way: find the last state where they lived, and get an absentee ballot.

It is unclear how self-declared independents can vote from abroad, or even whether they will have an independent choice in November. But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has repeatedly said he is not a candidate even while his operatives explore an independent run, visited Indonesia in December for an international environmental conference.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 16, 2008; 3:55 PM ET
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I never suggested that everyone in Barack's immediate and extended family, etc. had to know and keep it secret -- in "The Manchurian Candidate" for example, the mom was the only one here in the U.S. -- that's certainly "possible" in Obama's case too. Also, it's "possible" that I am a fake, liar, making a sleazy attempt to mislead people, a CIA agent trying to destabilize a country, a suicide bomber and/or an inmate of an asylum for dangerous mental patients -- I am not though -- you see how easy that was to deny?

So easy that, in fact, that no, I am not suggesting that Obama STOP his campaign and spend 24X7 addressing made-up stories -- he could just as easily tell us when the last time he used cocaine was, but he hasn't chosen to tell us anything more than the fact he did abuse drugs during high school -- that leaves a lot of "possibilities" open as well. Sorry if you don't think mine are "real questions" -- see you around.

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

JankeD, if you already read that story and viewed those photos, then you know very well these rumors are lies. So just what does that make you?

Now you're claiming that SOMEHOW everyone in Barack's immediate and extended family, everyone who went to school at either of those two schools in Indonesia, everyone who worked with Barack's stepfather in Indonesia, everyone who knew Barack's mother while she was in Indonesia...that's a small enough number to be "involved / kept quiet / been killed themselves"?

Get real. If anyone wants to know where this whole unrban legend began, try Andy Martin and Debbie Schlussel:
Hardly reliable, credible, responsible-adult sources, to say the least.

To say something is "possible and therefore a pending question" normally implies some percentage of probability pretty far upwards from zero. If not, I think it's pretty clear it's a sleazy attempt to mislead people. Lots of things are possible. For example, that you're a CIA agent trying to destabilize a country. That you're a suicide bomber. That you're emailing as an inmate of an asylum for dangerous mental patients. Would you really see a point in "correcting" misinformation like that? Of course not - you'd think people who spread rumors and smears like that were nuts, and you'd expect everyone else to realize that too.

So what are you really suggesting? That Obama STOP his presidential campaign and spend 24X7 addressing made-up stories. Ah. That would suit you very well, wouldn't it?

I thought you had real questions about this issue, but obviously you're a fake who's just trying to derail any serious discussions of the actual campaign issues. Thanks for revealing your true colors.

Posted by: TomJx | January 17, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse


I've seen that story already -- thanks though for the cite -- I agree it would be a stretch to maintain his family would somehow "not notice". Isn't that the very definition of CONSPIRACY? BTW: I don't think I ever said I believe this "conspiracy theory" is probable -- I simply said it's possible and therefore a pending question -- unlike all the THOUSANDS of people who would have had to be involved / kept quiet / been killed themselves for WTC & Pentagon "conspiracy theories" to be possible. As you pointed out, Occam's Razor cuts those down fairly easy.

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

btw - here's the story about the teachers wearing miniskirts when Barack was a sturdent:,0,2024665.story?coll=chi_news_politics_obama_promo

And enjoy the pictures (all 26) - Barack was obviously a happy, all-American kid surrounded by loving family. What did you expect?

Posted by: TomJx | January 17, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

JakeD appears to be the one who is brainwashed. ;-)

Let's try looking at the big picture. Barack's grandparents moved to Mercer Island and lived in a small apartment just so their daughter could attend Mercer Island Middle School and High School. Why? Because it was the best school system in Seattle. When they moved in Hawaii, his mother attended the University of Hawaii, living at home to save money. When she moved to Indonesia, she tried to find the best schools available for her son (one public, one Catholic). She woke him up at 4 am every morning to teach him using correspondence courses - that's how much she valued his education. When he was 10 and had the opportunity to attend Punahou School in Hawaii, he lived with his grandparents (in another small apartment) because again his family wanted him to have the best education possible. His mother earned a Ph.D in anthropology. Barack became president of the Harvard Law Review. He later taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

Now connect the dots. You're trying to claim it's even a "possibility" Barack was brainwashed and his family somehow "didn't notice" or was a part of some nefarious plan? His family has a long record of valuing education and hard work. So does his wife's family (Michelle and her brother grew up in a tiny apartment in Chicago and both earned scholarships to Princeton.)

How could anyone know all that, and still claim there's some "nefarious plan"? Do you believe in lots of other conspiracy theories too? Occam's Razor, my friend. Occam's Razor.

Posted by: TomJx | January 17, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

GOOGLE search of "obama is fluent" comes back with no hits.

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what language Obama was taught in Indonesia and is he still fluent in it?

Posted by: khlong | January 17, 2008 6:39 AM | Report abuse

It's not a documentary -- neither was "An Inconvenient Truth" -- they are still both a possibility.

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

I spot the problem. JakeD thinks The Manchurian Candidate was a documentary. ;-)

Posted by: TomJx | January 16, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse


No, but did you ever see that movie, The Manchurian Candidate? It's not the kids in front of the camera I'm asking about ; )

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Just look at his classmates(and the teacher in sunglasses and eating)- do they really, seriously, incite fear to some of you?

Posted by: kwahju | January 16, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, majdy_mp -- are you qualified to vote in American elections?

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

@ terje2 : Great post. Couldn't agree more. However, I have to make a little correction, some of muslim school in Indonesia DO called "Madrassa". I know that because I'm Indonesian.

Posted by: majdy_mp | January 16, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

The teachers wore miniskirts BACK THEN?! I will grant you that all the stories I've seen state the school is not a madrassah today.

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

And Obama people, really, do you have to snap at every provocation? It makes you sound defensive, and JakeD happy. Neither results I expect you desire.

Posted by: zukermand | January 16, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Judging from the muddled potpourri of bits and pieces above, either Mr Richburg is enjoying recreational drugs or this is "the international post" and we won't be hearing much more on this topic.

Posted by: zukermand | January 16, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse


Throwing around a word like "brainwashed" without any evidence or cause is pretty far off the mark

For the record, Obama never attended a "madrassa"

CNN investigated this rumor and showed it was unequivocably false (Jan 23, 2007) - they visited the school, interviewed classmates, etc. Kim Barker (a reporter for the Chicago Tribune) did a thorough investigation of this question (published in the Trib March 25, 2007) that includes extensive interviews with others who know Barack then and attended the same school.

Obama attended show for 4 years in Indonesia (67-71)

For the first three years, he attended a Catholic school (maybe he was "brainwashed by the Vatican?)

The final year he attended a public school in Indonesia, not a religious school . According to the Tribune : "... the school described as an Islamic madrassa in media reports actually was a public school, so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas."

Some kind of brainwashing, no?

"Madrassa" is an Arabic word that means "school". Indonesia is not an Arabic speaking country - therefore the school would not have been called a "Madrassa".

It is a particularly odious to use the word incorrectly, because so many Americans have come to associate "madassa" with the kind of hard line religious schools that have been publicized in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. Using the word in conjunction with Obama is nothing more than an inaccurate and ugly smear,

Posted by: terje2 | January 16, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I have not been brainwashed by the Clintons -- I wouldn't vote for her in a million years -- that doesn't mean I hate her, or Barack, for that matter. See how easy it is to answer questions?

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Jaked you sure have been brain washed by the Clinton's. I see you on every site and all you say is Obama is bad. Question. Why do you hate Obama so much??

Posted by: TennGurl | January 16, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

The question is whether the young Obama was "brainwashed" when he attended said Indonesian schools / madrassahs? Perhaps Americans living there will have better insight on that issue . . .

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

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