Part I, available here, described how Barack Obama has agonized over his multi-racial identity. Part II, available here, explored his deep resentment of whites, including his white mother and grandparents.
Mr. Obama’s ethnic interests are selective. He worries constantly about the “brothers and sisters,” but shows little concern for any other group. He mentions Latinos briefly but always in the context of how they have linked their cause to that of blacks. There are also a few token waves at various types of Asians.
The one group whose ethnic interests he never considers is whites. He shows no awareness that they have any ethnic interest, at least none they have any right to defend. Early on in AOH (pp. 36–37.) he makes this claim:
The victories that the sixties generation brought about–the admission of minorities and women into full citizenship, the strengthening of individual liberties and the healthy willingness to question authority–have made America a far better place for all its citizens.
Better for all? The “victories” of the sixties ushered in racial preferences that deny opportunities to whites. They brought about an immigration policy that is reducing whites to a minority. They required whites, especially men, to bow the knee to all sorts of insults about their motives, their history, and their very legitimacy. But whites, of course, have no interests, so all this is invisible to Mr. Obama.
Sometimes his obtuseness to white thinking is astonishing. In AOH, he writes, “The process by which I was selected as the keynote speaker [at the 2004 Democratic Convention] remains something of a mystery to me.” (AOH p354.)
A mystery? How can it not have occurred to him that he was chosen for one reason only: he was that great rarity, a black senator. One wonders whether Mr. Obama actually believe what he writes about race or simply uses race as a means to power.
When Mr. Obama’s ran for the Senate the Republicans put up a black candidate, Alan Keyes, to oppose him. Mr. Obama claims that “one Republican colleague of mine in the state senate provided me with a blunt explanation of their strategy: ‘We got our own Harvard-educated conservative black guy to go up against the Harvard-educated liberal black guy. He may not win, but at least he can knock that halo off your head.'” (AOH, p. 209.)
Whether or not that was the strategy it certainly flustered Mr. Obama. First, he could not play the race card. Secondly, he had an opponent who was not afraid to attack him personally. Here is a sample:
Alan Keyes, deployed a novel argument for attracting voters in the waning days of the campaign. “Christ would not vote for Barack Obama,” Mr. Keyes proclaimed, “because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.” (AOH p. 209.)
Mr. Keyes was probably referring to support for abortion rights, but Mr. Obama does not say. But perhaps most cruelly, Mr. Keyes played the reverse race card as it were:
There was no doubt that the man could talk. At the drop of a hat Mr. Keyes could deliver a grammatically flawless disquisition on virtually any topic. On the stump, he could wind himself into a fiery intensity. . . . He accused me of taking a “slaveholder’s position” in my defense of abortion rights and called me a core, academic Marxist” for my support of universal health and other social programs–and then added for good measure that because I was not the descendant of slaves I was not really African American. (AOH p. 210.)
Mr. Obama did not know how to respond. In an unusual admission of defeat he writes:
And yet, as the campaign progressed, I found him getting under my skin in a way that few people ever have. When our paths crossed during the campaign, I often had to suppress the rather uncharitable urge to either taunt him or wring his neck. Once, when we bumped into each other at an Indian Independence Day parade, I poked him in the chest while making a point, a bit of alpha-male behavior that I hadn’t engaged in since high school and which an observant news crew gamely captured; the moment was replayed in slow motion on TV that evening. In the three debates that were held before the election, I was frequently tongue-tied, irritable, and uncharacteristically tense–a fact that the public (having by that point written Mr. Keyes off) largely missed, but one that caused no small bit of distress to some of my supporters. “Why are you letting this guy give you fits?” they would ask me. For them, Mr. Keyes was a kook, an extremist, his arguments not even worth entertaining. (AOH p. 211.)
This political pantomime of putting up a black to fight a black has its comical side, and I suspect Mr. Obama will be rattled again by Michael Steele, the newly appointed first black leader of the Republican Party, or any other black person who challenges him. But it is also a pitiful thing that no white mainstream politician would tackle Mr. Obama honestly.
Near the end of the 2008 campaign for president, some of John McCain’s advisors told him his only chance of beating Mr. Obama was to spend his remaining television money reminding voters of his opponent’s close ties with Jeremiah Wright. Mr. McCain refused to take this advice for fear he would be accused of “playing the race card.”
I suspect that anyone who really went after Mr. Obama would find he has a very thin skin. He has not been toughened because he has always had a smooth ride both from the media and political opponents.
Mr. Obama has rarely met with mainstream political or media opposition, and he handles it badly. In this passage he is reacting to criticism for making a speech about free expression that implied he might not be entirely unsympathetic to some form of censorship:
You would have thought I was Cotton Mather. In response to my speech, one newspaper editorial intoned that the government had no business regulating protected speech, despite the fact that I hadn’t called for regulation. Reporters suggested that I was cynically tacking to the center in preparation for a national race. More than a few supporters wrote our office, complaining that they had voted for me to beat back the Bush agenda, not to act as the town scold. (AOH p. 61.)
In April 2005, Mr. Obama wrote an article for Time in which he noted that “in Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat–in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles.” He thought highly enough of this sentence to repeat it in The Audacity of Hope (AOH pp. 122–23) and records his astonishment to find that journalist Peggy Noonan was not impressed. He quotes her as follows:
“This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time Magazine and explaining that he’s a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better.” She went on to say, “There is nothing wrong with Barack Obama’s resume, but it is a log-cabin-free zone. So far it is also a greatness-free zone. If he keeps talking about himself like this it always will be.” (AOH p 123)
Mr. Obama has a high opinion of his wife, Michelle, too–so high it begins to sound suspicious:
Most people who meet my wife quickly conclude that she is remarkable. They are right about this–she is smart, funny, and roughly charming. She is also very beautiful, although not in way that men find intimidating or women find off-putting; it is the lived-in beauty of the mother and busy professional rather than the touched-up image we see on the cover of glossy magazines. Often, after hearing her speak at some function or working with her on a project, people will approach me and say something to the effect of “You know I think the world of you, Barack, but your wife . . . wow! (AOH p. 327.)
We also learn that “her employers loved her, and everyone remarked on what a good mother she was.” (AOH p. 341.)
Needless to say, only a supremely attractive and wonderful man could get such a beautiful and talented woman.
Mr. Obama devotes a chapter of AOH to his family, and he seems more than ordinarily keen to acknowledge his wife’s support as a wife and mother. Page after page is filled with minute details about how Michelle organizes the house, arranges children’s parties, etc. Here is a sample of his minutely tedious description of his family life”
When I can, I volunteer to help, which Michelle appreciates, although she is careful to limit my responsibilities. The day before Sasha’s birthday party this past June, I was told to procure twenty balloons, enough cheese pizza to feed twenty kids, and ice. This seemed manageable, so when Michelle told me that she was going to get goody bags to hand out at the end of the party, I suggested that I do that as well. She laughed. “You can’t handle goody bags,” she said. “Let me explain the goody bag thing. You have to go into the party store and choose the bags. Then you have to choose what to put in the bags, and what is in the boys’ bags has to be different from what is in the girls’ bags. You’d walk in there and wander around the aisles for an hour, and then your head would explode.”
Feeling less confident, I got on the Internet. I found a place that sold balloons near the gymnastics studio where the party would be held, and a pizza place that promised delivery at 3:45 p.m. By the time the guests showed up the next day, the balloons were in place and the juice boxes were on ice. I sat with the other parents, catching up and watching twenty or so five-year-olds run and jump and bounce on the equipment like a band of merry elves. I had a slight scare when at 3:50 the pizzas had not yet arrived but the delivery person got there ten minutes before the children were scheduled to eat. Michelle’s brother, Craig, knowing the pressure I was under, gave me a high five. Michelle looked up from putting pizza on paper plates and smiled.
As a grand finale, after all the pizza was eaten and the juice boxes drunk, after we had sung “Happy Birthday” and eaten some cake, the gymnastics instructor gathered all the kids around an old, multicolored parachute and told Sasha to sit at its center. (AOH pp. 349–50.)
One gets the impression that it is Michelle wears the trousers, which suggests Mr. Obama is something of a subordinate personality. Subordinates should never be in positions of power because they are inherently weak and prone both to making no decision when one is needed and being pushed into reckless decisions because of a lack of will.
The Obama Intellect
Mr. Obama is always portrayed as highly intelligent, though this is not readily apparent from his books. DMF is essentially a prolonged retailing of racial anxiety and victimhood. These subjects are largely expressions of emotion and do not test the intellect. The book says little about Mr. Obama’s views on non-racial matters.
AOH is different. Here Mr. Obama does address matters of policy, but he still cannot do so without a fair bit of DMF-style agonizing. The problem is that when Mr. Obama deals with policy he trots out cliché after cliché and often fails to come to any conclusion. Reading AOH is like being locked into an interminable Guardian editorial (The Guardian is the leading liberal left paper in Britain): on the one hand this, on the other hand that, on the third hand this. Here is a good example in a speech he gave on freedom of expression:
I recently gave a speech at the Kaiser Foundation after they released a study showing that the amount of sex on television had doubled in recent years. Now, I enjoy HBO as much as the next guy, and I generally don’t care what adults watch in the privacy of their homes. In the case of children, I think it’s primarily the duty of parents to monitor what they are watching on television, and in my speech I even suggested that everyone would benefit if parents–heaven forbid–simply turned off the TV and tried to strike up a conversation with their kids.
Having said all that, I indicated that I wasn’t too happy with ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs popping up every fifteen minutes whenever I watched a football game with my daughters in the room. I offered the further observation that a popular show targeted at teens, in which young people with no visible means of support spend several months getting drunk and jumping naked into hot tubs with strangers, was not “the real world.” I ended by suggesting that the broadcast and cable industries should adopt better standards and technology to help parents control what streamed into their homes. (AOH pp. 60–61.)
A United States senator might be expected to have firm views, but this type of flaccid waffling is classic Obama. He neither defends free speech nor advocates censorship. Instead he offers the non-solution of self-policing.
Mr. Obama’s specialty is supposed to be constitutional law, but even on this subject he is capable of nothing more original than this passage:
When we get in a tussle about abortion or flag burning, we appeal to a higher authority–the Founding Fathers and the Constitution’s ratifiers–to give us more direction. Some, like Justice Scalia, conclude that the original understanding must be followed and that if we strictly obey this rule, then democracy is respected. Others, like Justice Breyer, don’t dispute that the original meaning of constitutional provisions matters. But they insist that sometimes the original understanding can take you only so far–that on the truly hard cases, the truly big arguments, we have to take context, history, and the practical outcomes of a decision into account. According to this view, the Founding Fathers and original ratifiers have told us how to think but are no longer around to tell us what to think. We are on our own, and have only our own reason and our judgment to rely on. (AOH p. 89.)
Here is Mr. Obama doing his “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” routine, but he does take a position. “Ultimately, though, I have to side with Justice Breyer’s view of the Constitution–that it is not a static but rather a living document and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.” (AOH p. 90.)
In other words, Mr. Obama wants the Constitution to mean whatever he thinks it should mean.
As for his admission to Harvard Law School, the racial preferences granted to blacks are well known, and any black Harvard graduate is sure to get a job as a lawyer. He is surprisingly reticent about this part of his career, however, even though he often boasts about other aspects of his life. One wonders just how successful he was. He does make clear that his work was about black victimhood, suing companies and public bodies for violation of civil rights. Such cases are favored by judges in politically correct America. Nor is it very clear why he decided to drop this career.
Mr. Obama’s decision to re-take the oath of office after he and the chief justice muffed their lines at the inauguration takes on a certain interest in light of recent revelations that he is more dependent on teleprompters than any previous president–he cannot even manage a six-minute talk without this crutch. Here is a man who clearly wants everything scripted, right down to the last comma. This helps explain why he had so much trouble debating Mr. Keyes.
The manner in which he re-took the oath is curious. There were no cameras present, and he did not take the oath on the Bible. The Constitution does not require a Bible, but this was an odd choice for a man who was persistently battling claims he is a closet Muslim. The official explanation for the absence of a Bible was that none could be found in the White House–again, a curious state of affairs for someone who claims to be an ardent churchgoer.
Whatever Mr. Obama’s writing may say about his intellect, it is full of passages he clearly thinks are examples of “writing”:
Old faces and young faces all glow like jack-o-lanterns in the shifting lamplight . . . (DMF p. 389.)
Perhaps I just find the ways of the heart too various, and my own life too imperfect, to believe myself qualified to serve as anyone’s moral arbiter. (AOH p. 336.)
I know that tucking in my daughters that night, I grasped a little bit of Heaven. (AOH p. 226.)
This sort of thing is less a sign of real intellect than of trying too hard.
Another way to judge a man’s intellect is to look at what he has actually achieved. Mr. Obama has been immensely successful in gaining high position but once in them he has done nothing considerable. Peggy Noonan’s passage quoted above about the “greatness-free zone” is still true. We have yet to know the results of his presidency, but his record up until his inauguration is very close to zero.
Even Mr. Obama’s own description of his few years as a community organizer is a litany of failure. He is constantly trying out initiatives that fail; he organizes meetings to which few people come; his attempts to deal with local politicians and bureaucrats bear no fruit; even his relationships with the “brothers” and “sisters” are far from smooth.
Mr. Obama’s second careers as an academic and lawyer are also curiously lackluster. He produces no academic work of note nor acts in any significant legal cases.
When Mr. Obama gets his foot on the political ladder in the Illinois legislature he is bored with local politics and does nothing of note. His transition to the Senate has also resulted in a legislative career of stunning banality.
There are two other points worth noting. Before becoming president he never held an executive position. Nor has he held any of his jobs for very long; his longest stint is as a part-time academic. That is reminiscent of his father and maternal grandfather, who were never able to stick to anything.
The Peculiarity of Mr. Obama’s Election
To understand how odd Mr. Obama’s election was, one need only imagine a white politician who was equally obsessed about race, but from a white point of view–if it is even possible to imagine such a person. He would not have managed to get into the intellectual mainstream, let alone be elected to public office. We can certainly wonder, however, what a man who is deeply suspicious and resentful of whites will do as president.
Mr. Obama’s racial paranoia and deep-dyed sense of victimhood should have been enough to disqualify him as president, but DMF and AOH provide evidence of other character defects that also make him a dangerous choice.
The man is insecure. He is constantly scrutinizing his behavior and wondering how others respond to him, and constantly wavering over where he stands on important questions. Mr. Obama’s insecurity is also evident in his frequent boasting. Such a man is unlikely to be an effective executive.
I challenge anyone to find a passage in either DMF or AOH that gives evidence of a mind which is either first rate or capable of independent thought. The books are filled with three things: Mr. Obama’s novelistic re-constructions or imaginings (take your choice), his racial paranoia, and a thoroughly pedestrian retailing of conventional opinion.
Mr. Obama’s grasp of economics seems to go no further than the belief that solutions to every social problem are found by spending more taxpayer money. He seems to have no serious thoughts as to how the money is to be found or knowledge about the record of such public spending efforts in the past. The books leave me with real doubts about his intellectual capacity, especially when it comes to economics and finance.
An emotionally insecure president who doesn’t really understand political realities, especially economic ones, represents a great danger to both America and the world–and we are saddled with him for another 46 months.