Was ‘Lady Macbeth’ Behind Barack Obama’s Snub of Gordon Brown?

James Delingpole, Telegraph (London), March 5, 2009

On US radio’s Garrison show today, I was asked for my reaction as a true born Englishman to President Obama’s double insult–first the sending back of the Winston Churchill bust, then his snub to Gordon Brown. “Tough one. Really tough one,” I said, torn–as most of surely are–between delight at seeing Brown roundly humiliated, and dismay at having the special relationship so peremptorily, cruelly and bafflingly ruptured.

Iain Martin is quite right here: no matter how utterly rubbish we have become as a nation in the Blair/Brown years, Britain’s friendship is something Obama will come to regret having dispensed with so lightly. This was not the act of a global statesman, but of a hormonal teenager dismissing her bestest of best BFs for no other reason than that she felt like it and she can, so there.

What was the guy thinking? In researching my new book Welcome to Obamaland, I discovered that Obama’s judgment is pretty dreadful–but this? My favourite theory so far–suggested by presenter Greg Garrison–was that it was a move calculated to please his Lady Macbeth. At the moment in Britain, we’re still in the “Doesn’t she look fabulous in a designer frock” stage of understanding of Michelle Obama. Gradually, though, we’ll begin to realise that she is every bit the terrifying executive’s wife that Hillary Clinton was. Or, shudder, Cherie Blair.

We may just LURVE Michelle’s fashion sense. But Michelle doesn’t reciprocate our affection, one bit. Her broad-brush view of history associates Brits with the wicked white global hegemony responsible for the slave trade. Never mind that a white, Tory Englishman–William Wilberforce–brought the slave trade to an end. Judging by her record, Michelle does not make room for such subtle nuance.

Consider her notorious statement that: “For the first time in my adult life I am really proud of my country.” Consider her (till-recently suppressed) Princeton thesis, “Princeton Educated Blacks And The Black Community.”

In it she writes: “I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong. Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second.”

Here we see that she has mastered the authentic voice of grievance culture. She also–the thesis was written in 1985–pre-empts the Macpherson report’s ludicrous, catch-all definition of racism: “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” No matter how hard young Michelle’s white undergraduate contemporaries try to be nice, it’s not their behaviour that counts, but how Michelle feels.

More worrying, though, and dangerous, than young Michelle’s desperate quest for validation through victimhood is the other strain within her thesis. “As I enter my final year at Princeton,” she writes. “I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates–acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals at Princeton are not as clear as before.”

“Yes, exactly, you silly girl” you want to shriek at young Michelle as you give her a good shake. “It’s called ‘opening your mind’, ‘broadening your experience’, ‘allowing youthful dogma to be shaped by reality.’ It’s why people go to university, don’t you know?”

[Editor’s Note: Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis can can be read or downloaded as a PDF file in four parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]


Michelle Obama’s senior year thesis at Princeton University, obtained from the campaign by Politico, shows a document written by a young woman grappling with a society in which a black Princeton alumnus might only be allowed to remain “on the periphery.”

{snip}

The thesis, titled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” and written under her maiden name, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, in 1985, has been the subject of much conjecture on the blogosphere and elsewhere in recent weeks, as it has been “temporarily withdrawn” from Princeton’s library until after this year’s presidential election in November. Some of the material has been written about previously, however, including a story last year in the Newark Star Ledger.

Obama writes that the path she chose by attending Princeton would likely lead to her “further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.”

{snip}

Attempts to retrieve the document through Princeton proved unsuccessful, with school librarians having been pestered so much for access to the thesis that they have resorted to reading from a script when callers inquire about it. Media officers at the prestigious university were similarly unhelpful, claiming it is “not unusual” for a thesis to be restricted and refusing to discuss “the academic work of alumni.”

The Obama campaign, however, quickly responded to a request for the thesis by Politico. {snip}

The 1985 thesis provides a trove of Michelle Obama’s thoughts as a young woman, with many of the paper’s statements describing the student’s world as seen through a race-based prism.

“In defining the concept of identification or the ability to identify with the black community,” the Princeton student wrote, “I based my definition on the premise that there is a distinctive black culture very different from white culture.” Other thesis statements specifically pointed to what was seen by the future Mrs. Obama as racially insensitive practices in a university system populated with mostly Caucasian educators and students: “Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of their enrollments.”

To illustrate the latter statement, she pointed out that Princeton (at the time) had only five black tenured professors on its faculty, and its “Afro-American studies” program “is one of the smallest and most understaffed departments in the university.” In addition, she said only one major university-recognized group on campus was “designed specifically for the intellectual and social interests of blacks and other third world students.” (Her findings also stressed that Princeton was “infamous for being racially the most conservative of the Ivy League universities.”)

Perhaps one of the most germane subjects approached in the thesis is a section in which she conveyed views about political relations between black and white communities. She quotes the work of sociologists James Conyers and Walter Wallace, who discussed “integration of black official(s) into various aspects of politics” and notes “problems which face these black officials who must persuade the white community that they are above issues of race and that they are representing all people and not just black people,” as opposed to creating “two separate social structures.”

To research her thesis, the future Mrs. Obama sent an 18-question survey to a sampling of 400 black Princeton graduates, requesting the respondents define the amount of time and “comfort” level spent interacting with blacks and whites before they attended the school, as well as during and after their University years. Other questions dealt with their individual religious beliefs, living arrangements, careers, role models, economic status, and thoughts about lower class blacks. In addition, those surveyed were asked to choose whether they were more in line with a “separationist and/or pluralist” viewpoint or an “integrationist and/or assimilationist” ideology.

Just under 90 alums responded to the questionnaires (for a response rate of approximately 22 percent) and the conclusions were not what she expected. “I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility.”

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