Byron York at the Washington Examiner has a piece on this biography of Barack Obama which has been excerpted in Vanity Fair (it’s the biography which contains the goofy story about Obama’s admission that he wrote about a “composite” girlfriend in his/Bill Ayers’ book Dreams From My Father and the even goofier story about a real woman he dated in New York who says he’d hang around the house wearing a skirt and smoking cigarettes).
York notes that the story about Obama’s life the public had available to them in 2008 was the one Obama/Ayers presented in Dreams From My Father, and that was a very incomplete record – and a contrived one at that. It was fictionalized and misleading in a large measure.
But the new biography, by former Washington Post reporter David Maraniss, may fill in some of the gaps and pierce that contrived picture Obama’s campaign put together four years ago and John McCain never challenged.
What might remain if it does could have an effect on the election. As York writes…
The excerpt focuses on Obama’s brief time in New York after his graduation from Columbia University. The son of a Kenyan father and an American expatriate mother, Obama emerges as a man questioning whether he viewed himself, or wanted to be viewed by others, as an American. Not in a citizenship sense — Obama was born in the United States and that was that — but in the sense of how he saw the world and wanted to be seen by it.
Obama had a lot of Pakistani friends; Maraniss writes that if Obama and his girlfriend socialized as a couple, “it was almost always with the Pakistanis.” Obama appeared to identify with his friends as fellow non-Americans. “For years when Barack was around them, he seemed to share their attitudes as sophisticated outsiders who looked at politics from an international perspective,” Maraniss writes. “He was one of them, in that sense.”
But Obama was ambitious. Appalled by the “dirty deeds” of “Reagan and his minions” (as he wrote in “Dreams from My Father”), Obama became increasingly interested in, as Maraniss writes, “gaining power in order to change things.” He couldn’t do that as an international guy hanging around with his Pakistani friends; he needed to become an American.
So he did. One of those Pakistani friends, Beenu Mahmood, saw a major change in Obama. Mahmood calls Obama “the most deliberate person I ever met in terms of constructing his own identity,” according to Maraniss. The time after college, Mahmood says, “was an important period for him, first the shift from not international but American, number one, and then not white, but black.”
Mahmood, Maraniss writes, “could see Obama slowly but carefully distancing himself as a necessary step in establishing his political identity as an American.”
Years later, the picture of Obama as a young adult wondering whether or not he was really an American was precisely the image that the Hillary Clinton campaign wanted to impose on the middle-aged Obama. In internal memos, top Clinton strategist Mark Penn questioned Obama’s “lack of American roots,” writing that “Obama’s roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
Clinton didn’t come out and say that during the campaign, but she did everything she could to present herself as the all-American candidate in the race. Her campaign didn’t play Tom Petty’s “American Girl” at all her rallies for nothing.
McCain presented himself as a military veteran and a Vietnam POW, but he never exploited the fact that his opponent wasn’t really an American. And that was a mistake.
The Maraniss biography cuts out when Obama went off to Harvard Law School at age 27. Presumably by then Obama had adopted an American identity, but of course the identity he adopted was of the Jeremiah Wright/Ayers/Saul Alinsky Americanism. Y’know, the kind of Americanism whereby folks who don’t share your ideological bent often question your patriotism and you freak out about it.
In other words, Obama went from a dog-eating Citizen Of The World whose college friends were all Pakistanis to something more mainstream – and what he ended up with was straddling the crooked Chicago Democrat Machine and the Alinskyite/Cloward-Piven/ACORN destruction of capitalism as his identity.
And this was never fully exploited by the McCain campaign. McCain wouldn’t even talk about Jeremiah Wright until the very end of the campaign.
That was stupid. Ever since Obama got elected the American people have recognized a fundamental disconnect between Obama and mainstream American culture. That’s why a large number of Americans suspect he’s a Muslim, and that’s why the birth certificate thing has never gone away despite the concerted efforts even by Obama’s opponents to make it go away.
Americans know this guy is something foreign. The Left whines about people attempting to make him The Other, but of course they expose their fundamental dishonesty by doing that. The fact is that the Left LIKES the fact that Obama is The Other. The Left doesn’t like Regular America, which it regards as white, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, illiterate, sexist, uncultured, fat, violent and stupid. And of course Obama is none of those things, the Left says, so he’s qualified to make America better.
That Obama was The Other was his drawing card last cycle. He was something different, remember? The first black president. Someone the world could see as evidence America really wasn’t all those things the Left has been telling the world we are.
And now that it’s becoming more and more obvious that Obama doesn’t share the culture and values of the rest of the country, which has suffered horribly over the past four years of terrible policies, he’s not so cute anymore. As Dick Morris noted on Hannity last night, Obama’s likability ratings are coming down in several key states, meaning it’s not as risky to begin pointing out that culturally he’s divorced from most of us, doesn’t respect our traditions and worldview and lacks our philosophical grounding – which makes him dangerous should he get a second term and be no longer bound by the prospect of having to run for re-election.
That’s where the “I can be more flexible after the election” quote to Dmitry Medvedev on that hot mic comes in, or his missile defense giveaway, or his assault on the coal and oil and gas industries, and so forth. Regular folks who aren’t on board with Obama policy-wise but have never been presented with any reason not to like him personally – and have been informed that if they don’t like him personally they’ve got to be racist, and you sure don’t want to be called a racist in America nowadays – need to be asked to examine whether Obama’s worldview looks anything like their own, and can you really be comfortable with a second-term president who you don’t identify with on a personal level.
Not to mention the idea that Obama presented himself in 2008 to be something much different from what he really was. And was never laid bare in this, the era of political rectal exams, when the slightest misdemeanor arrest can ruin a political career.
The Romney campaign should certainly focus on Obama’s economic record and profligate spending. But this concept that Romney is out of touch with Regular America because he made a fortune in the venture capital and equity business and Obama the International Student who chose an American identity in a Black Liberation church and Bill Ayers’ living room shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
Obama is The Other. The Left likes the fact he is. But Regular America probably doesn’t, particularly given that The Other doesn’t appear to govern very well. Missing the opportunity to make the point with the electorate that we should have a president who identifies with us as we are and as we want to be – not as what he can make us – is akin to leaving a weak point unmolested. And it isn’t just a weak point for Obama; it’s a weak point for the Left in general, and they know it.