Politics: March 2007 Archives

Even More Obama

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Over lunch I read the Rolling Stone profile of Obama from... er... I don't know, maybe February. Interesting fellow, that Obama:

When Obama is finished with his meeting, he comes out of a hut: a skinny American dude, looking more like thirty-five than forty-five, his face treadmilled-thin, all teeth and cheekbones, holding a megaphone at his side. The roar is deafening. For a second, Obama looks stunned. He lifts the megaphone to his lips, but he can't make himself heard. When he lowers it, he's grinning. For the first time, it seems as if some resistance has broken in Obama: His reluctance has been replaced by something deeper and more spontaneous. He raises the megaphone again. "Hello!" he calls out in the local dialect. The wave of sound that greets him is awesome. He half-loses it, just starts yelling into the megaphone: "Everyone here is my brother! Everyone here is my sister! I love Kibera!" The crowd is so loud that he can't be heard more than twenty feet from where he is standing, and so he begins to wade into the crowd, shouting into the megaphone again and again: "You are all my brothers and sisters!" The look on his face is one of pure joy. Months later, his eyes still glitter when he recalls the sheer spectacle of it all. "It was a remarkable experience," he says.

I started thinking about this in relation to Steve Sailer's piece from last month. Sailer casts Obama's story as one of racial anxieties and antagonisms, which is understandable since so much of the hype around Obama is P.C.-ishly racial. But I think the root problem is something different - related perhaps to the point of inseparability, but different.

Obama is simply a child of a broken family.

His backstory reads like a textbook case study of a screwed-up divorced child: his mother, born in Kansas, moves to Hawaii as a child. As an 18 year-old freshman at the University of Hawaii, she meets and married a Kenyan, who becomes Obama's father. Obama Sr. abandons the family when Barack is two, his mother remarries, uproots him to Indonesia for four years, then ships him back to live with her parents in Hawaii, where he wins a scholarship to a posh prep school. Sure, race and class questions must have been in the child's head, but it's hard to imagine that the turmoil of divorce, and separation from both parents wasn't the root cause of his angst.

Sailer, in discussing Obama's years at the Punahou school, says:

In Obama’s eighth grade class picture, at least seven and perhaps as many as ten of the 21 students are non-white. Brian Charlton of the AP threw some cold water on Obama’s adolescent alienation fantasies: “He was known as Barry Obama, and with his dark complexion and mini-Afro, he was one of the few blacks at the privileged Hawaiian school overlooking the Pacific. Yet that hardly made him stand out. Diversity was the norm at the Punahou School, one of the state’s top private schools.” His classmates say he was a popular and cheerful figure, the opposite of the tortured personality described in Dreams, in which he rationalizes his teenage drug use as “something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind . . .”

Children of even the most amicable divorces (to the extent those exist) can tell you all about identity crises, confusion and rebellion, and particularly about "having to choose." In Obama's situation, both of his parents were off in other countries living new lives with new families that apparently had no room for young Barack. It seems perfectly natural that he would harbor resentment for and eventually rebel against the white grandparents who ended up raising him and "choose" to identify with his African heritage. This doesn't make teenage Obama disingenuous or opportunistic, it makes him a child, vulnerable and insecure. Being a child of a biracial divorce provides ample fuel for questions of identity. Even the drug use is absolutely predictable.

Honestly, all of the talk about Obama's race is boring as hell. It would be far more interesting to hear him start talking about being a child of divorce, how it felt to have parents who had agendas that didn't include him, and dealing with the resulting inner conflict and the search for the rootedness that comes from a stable family.My whole generation could relate to that. It would throw the excerpt I started off with into a new and much more fascinating light and even Obama's conversion to Christianity would be given an added dimension many can relate to. Unfortunately, "Broken families really, really screw kids up" doesn't focus-group too well.

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Noonan, Reagan


Catching up on what I missed around the web. Here's Peggy Noonan on Reagan and Republicans.

Could I be correct that they only front-page weeping Republicans, and only laud conservatives when they're dead?

I refer of course to this past week's Time magazine cover, which had a picture of Ronald Reagan with a tear drawn in, to illustrate a piece on the current Republican Party. Actually it was a good piece in that it suggested a simple truth: The portion of the Republican Party that is based in and lives off the American capital has lost its way. They used to stand for conservative principles and now they stand for--well, whatever it is they stand for. I've written the past few years that the modern Democratic Party has been undone in part by its successes, that it achieved what it worked for in terms of Social Security, the safety net and civil rights, and that a great coalition has now devolved into a mere conglomeration of interest groups. I don't see why Time shouldn't similarly indict the Republicans.

It gets better. It's hard for me to think positively about Reagan, because growing up, I don't think anybody I knew (except maybe Tony Duarte) liked him. Peggy Noonan occasionally helps me get over that somewhat.

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That Obama Article


Surely this article on Barack Obama by Steve Sailer from The American Conservative will be creating a great deal of buzz over the coming weeks. Sailer is characteristically blunt in speaking about race, which is usually refreshing, but occasionally toes the line of being out of bounds. You will wince several times reading it. All in all it's a good read, laying waste to much of the Obama mythology.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from March 2007.

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