Who is Barack Obama?

VFR reader Paul K. offers a plausible explanation for the mystery of Obama:

I watched Barack Obama on Anderson Cooper’s program being questioned about his association with Jeremiah Wright. He looked more uncomfortable than I’ve ever seen him. At the end of the interview, Cooper asked Obama, “Just for the record, you have no problem singing “God Bless America”?

Obama indicated he had no problem with that, then flashed his dazzling smile and said, “I don’t want to sing it here, because … (laugh) … people might question my talents.”

For a moment there, Obama was back on his game, disarming Cooper with his charm and self-deprecating wit, two qualities that have brought him a long way. Watching him, I had a sudden realization of who Obama reminds me of: a con artist. I was once conned and know several other people who were, and in all cases the con artist was a nice looking, well-spoken, and extremely manipulative black man. The classic example would be the David Hampton character in “Six Degrees of Separation,” about a young black man who claims to be Sidney Poitier’s son and ingratiates himself into the household of a white liberal couple. It is perhaps not coincidental that the most admired hero in African folklore is the “Trickster,” who is a sort of con artist.

With a Google Book search of academic publications, I quickly found a number of quotes about the Trickster that sound eerily like Obama.

In African Myths and Tales Susan Feldman wrote:

[The trickster’s] amorality is not that of the anomic, presocialized individual, who has not yet matured to a sense of responsibility. Suave, urbane, and calculating, [he] acts with premeditation, always in control of the situation; though self-seeking, his social sense is sufficiently developed to enable him to manipulate others to his advantage.

Matomah Alesha wrote in Sako Ma: A Look At The Sacred Monkey Totem (p. 103-4):

Trickster charisma is infectious. Due to this animal magnetism, he/she is usually appointed the people’s guru, the people’s favorite. She/he helps people to seek greatness in their spiritual and emotional lives…. The trickster … hates boundaries and usually has the magic-like ability to ignore them and live in a world where skirting them is the norm. Being a walker from one world to another, the trickster can shape shift, choosing identity and sometimes gender when and where it is convenient…. African tricksters have as a chief characteristic “superior cleverness.” …. In America among African Americans … trickster-like tales spun around the concept of an underdog who with “superior wit” is able to overcome a stronger and sometimes more destructive foe.

From A Pepper-Pot of Cultures: Aspects of Creolization in the Caribbean (342-43):

In most tales, Anancy [the trickster] compensates for his physical weaknesses or lower class status with well-crafted, premeditated acts of trickery…. Anancy always displays a keen awareness of his victims’ expectations, which enables him to manipulate them at will.

The difficult balance Obama has successfully struck so far has been to make white voters comfortable with him while assuring blacks that he has their agenda in mind. One way to do the latter is by belonging to Rev. Wright’s congregation. Another is to have his angry wife represent that message. Another is by the use of certain codes familiar to black voters. On March 11, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Barack Obama accused rival Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday of trying to “hoodwink” and “bamboozle” voters into thinking that she was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination….”

Interestingly, these same unusual words are used in a speech delivered by Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s film, which is popular with black audiences:

Why you can’t even get drugs in Harlem without the White Man’s permission! You can’t get prostitution in Harlem without the White Man’s permission! You can’t get gambling in Harlem without the White Man’s permission! Every time you break the seal on that liquor bottle, that’s a Government seal you’re breaking! Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had! Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled!

(This YouTube compares Obama’s rhetoric with the rhetoric of Malcolm X and others and will make you see him in a different light.)

There are probably a number of other such tricks. At any rate, it may be that Obama’s “superior cleverness” is no longer sufficient to maintain the contradictory image he has constructed.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

This makes a lot of sense. But if it’s true, Obama is the most plausible con artist I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t feel like a con artist. He is just too together, too relaxed, too secure—too likable. He doesn’t seem to have the inner drive to fool and manipulate. So if he is what Paul K. is suggesting he is, he is something frightening. His very naturalness and niceness become something unnatural and sinister.

But that conclusion no longer seems impossible to me, not after taking in the full draught of Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American hate speech that Obama has been uncomplainingly absorbing for the last 20 years (I had seen some of it before, but not all the stuff that’s come out in the last few days), and seeing the flat-out lies Obama is now telling about it. A man who listened approvingly to those sermons for his whole adult life, who subjected his children to those sermons, and who told the biggest lies I’ve ever heard in my life about his relationship with those sermons (he never heard them, doesn’t agree with them), is not the nice person he seems to be.

By way of comparison with Obama, I have several times in the past described Mark Steyn as a trickster, a con artist (specifically, “the Global Con Artistry Provider”), and a Pied Piper. But Steyn’s tricksterism—his restless manipulative energy, constant contradictions, and bad faith with which he has fooled conservatives into thinking he’s a defender of the West—is obvious to me. Obama’s trickterism, if that’s what it is, is not so obvious to me. Yet the fact remains that over the last couple of days he’s told the biggest personal lies I’ve ever heard.

Paul K. replies:

I agree with you that if Obama is con man, he’s extremely convincing. I find myself liking him, if not trusting him. But when you look at his abnormal background—his father who deserted his family, his mother who dumped him on her grandparents, his confusion about his own identity—these are factors that often go into creating strange psyches. In a person as intelligent as Obama, the results could be like what we see. Just think of the kind of person his father must have been, marrying women bigamously, charming his way into an American university, and then ask yourself if the son may have inherited some of those qualities.

Of course, I don’t know that I’m right. It’s just an idea that struck me as I watched him last night, very ill at ease under questioning and then instantly regaining his confidence with a joke, as if that made everything fine again. He had made everyone laugh, they liked him, so Rev. Wright could be brushed aside. It was a strange moment. But then, I’m beginning to think that most politicians are wired differently than the rest of us. Napoleon said that to be a great leader, one had to be aware of the effect of one’s every public move, one’s every gesture. Can you imagine having the self-consciousness to live that way?

LA replies:

His mother did not exactly dump him on his grandparents. The accounts are not clear, but it seems that he insisted on going back to Hawaii for his schooling, while she remained in Indonesia with her husband, and she was unhappy at being separated from him. Then, according to the insufficiently clear account in yesterday’s NY Times, after leaving her husband, she returned to Hawaii for a while, but then she returned to Indonesia. So I suppose that when she returned to Indonesia, though no longer required to because she had left her husband, at that point it could be called abandoning him. But again, the accounts of his life are frustratingly vague—as he is.

Leaving aside the question of Obama’s con artistry, can we make it a general rule that it is not a good idea to elect as president of the United States a person of such a marginal and undefined background, simply because we don’t know who he really is?

LA continues:

Another comparison is to Eliot Spitzer. To paraphrase the title of this blog entry, who is Eliot Spitzer? Was there any person there, any human being there? Or was there just a blind driving appetite—which finally crashed?

Daniel P. writes:

I think a problem people are having with seeing Obama for what he is, is they assume con men to be petty. Obama doesn’t have the persona of say a crooked used car dealer because he is not petty, but that doesn’t mean he is on the up and up either.

Often the more antisocial someone is, the better he is at hiding it. While anger causes a person to snarl outright, hatred enables a person to smile at his intended victims. Thus the wickedest people you are likely to meet will usually also be the most likeable.

LA replies:

I don’t know. I’ve encountred my share of unethical, dishonest, and treasonous behavior in my life, and sometimes the people who are most effusive and full of praise turn out to be the most unethical and treasonous. A classic example of this character type in literature is Valentine Gersbach, in Saul Bellow’s Herzog. But I haven’t seen the kind of behavior you are describing, in which a person conceals actual hatred under a friendly smile and a winning personality. I just haven’t seen it. Have you?

The Gersbach type is warm and friendly because he wants something you have, in Gersbach’s case, Herzog’s wife. He’s not acting out of hatred, but out of selfishness. But perhaps that’s getting close to the kind of thing Daniel is talking about.

David B. writes:

This afternoon, I was in a store and glanced at a copy of Obama’s second book. It was supposed to be about his political philosophy. Most of it was liberal boilerplate, but he would give the “conservative side” and say that some would find it attractive. He likes parsing words and “either or.” In some ways, he’s like Jimmy Carter in 1976. Especially here in the South, much was made of “electing a Southerner as President.” It was a one-time thing, but it helped Carter in 1976.

Regarding con men, in a recent thread you mentioned the black reaction to O.J. Simpson’s acquittal. When we remark on how “likable” Barack Obama is, we should recall that O.J. Simpson was the most popular American athlete of his time, largely on his TV persona. This is largely forgotten now. I can’t tell you how many people who knew Simpson in the sports media world said that he was the “nicest guy they ever met.” You should always look closely just where someone really comes from rather than relying on surface impressions.

LA replies:

You’re right. I (and others) have forgotten about that. The truly likable and popular O.J. Simpson (more popular with whites than with blacks), who turned into a savage murderer.

Still, that wasn’t the kind of deliberate concealment of hate under a warm persona that Daniel P. was talking about. Simpson was not concealing hatred for the public or for white people or whatever. He had a violently jealous relationship with his wife, then ex-wife, that finally became murderous.

David continues:

During the 1970s, I was a very big football fan. I saw Simpson interviewed on TV many, many times. He really could win you over with a handsome face, pleasant baritone and a sincere manner. Also, a lot of his popularity was from being black. The ad agencies were looking for a major black endorser of products around 1969-70. White people WANTED to love O.J. Simpson.

However, Simpson was not as impressive in large doses. He did well in short interviews and 60 second commercials. As an announcer on Monday Night Football, he failed. Simpson was uneducated with poor grammar which showed up the longer you listened. Still, he could have easily conned someone if he wanted to.

Daniel P. writes:

“But I haven’t seen the kind of behavior you are describing, in which a person conceals actual hatred under a friendly smile and a winning personality. I just haven’t seen it. Have you?”

Yes, in the prison I work at. The inmates running the show are usually model inmates who never seem get their hands dirty and are generally pleasant to deal with, yet will order a hit in a heartbeat. Also, as a general rule murderers seem to be easier to deal with, with far fewer hassles, than petty crooks; petty men do petty things I reckon.

I should mention that there usually is some minor feeling of being ill at ease, e.g. a sensation that something is wrong or off, but I don’t know whether that is from something they are giving off or knowing about their past behavior.

Also, I am not saying that Obama is a homicidal maniac, just that something about his character is off and not what he is presenting.

Adela G. writes:

LA writes:

“But if it’s true, Obama is the most plausible con artist I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t feel like a con artist. He is just too together, too relaxed, too secure—too likable. He doesn’t seem to have the inner drive to fool and manipulate. So if he is what Paul K. is suggesting he is, he is something frightening. His very naturalness and niceness become something unnatural and sinister.”

I don’t think Obama is a con artist. (Though to my mind, his not feeling to others like a con artist is hardly proof that he isn’t one.) I see him not as someone who has an inner drive to fool and manipulate but instead as one who has a strong need to be liked and to be perceived as likeable. Thus, if he does try to fool and manipulate people into liking him, it’s not so much for material gain as it is personal satisfaction.

This would fit in with his being bi-racial, too. A person who can be said to belong to two different groups is often viewed by each as really belonging to the other. Lack of acceptance isn’t easy for anyone. In Obama’s case, it would include questions of ethnic and racial identity and almost certainly cause inner tension and conflict. Being well-liked generally would offset the negative experience of not readily being accepted by one or both groups and of having an ambiguous racial identity . I can see where such a person would be determined to win people over as a way of compensating and would therefore cultivate a manner—or, more likely, various manners—likely to prove popular.

In this context (which I realize is just speculation on roughly the level of Lucy Van Pelt’s psychiatry), it’s no wonder Obama was nervous when answering Anderson Cooper’s difficult questions but relaxed once he was able to crack a joke. Once he was able to use self-deprecating humor to defuse the question, he was back on familiar ground, doing something he’s very good at—getting people to respond positively to him.

I don’t think he’s any more power-mad than anyone has to be to run for POTUS. Rather, I think he’s driven by a need to be liked. Of course, the notion that he isn’t some sinister con artist doesn’t at all mean he’s any less unqualified to be president. His background and formative influences have been, insofar as I can determine, blatantly anti-American where it is not vaguely non-American.

I guess it’s the optimist in me that wonders if, since Obama was willing to jettison his anti-American preacher, could his grievance-mongering spouse be next? I sure wish videos of her true sentiments toward America would go on sale.

LA replies:

He hasn’t jettisoned him, that was a two-step they both agreed on a long time ago, as indicated in the NY Times story from last April.

But Miss G.’s theory makes sense too. When Obama goes along with Wright’s anti-white hate-mongering, it’s because he wants to be liked by blacks. When he puts out his “beyond race” persona, it’s because he wants to be liked by whites. Everything he does, his purpose is to be liked.

LA writes:

“For a moment there, Obama was back on his game, disarming [Anderson] Cooper …”

Given that Anderson Cooper has the IQ of a parakeet, I must say that disarming him is not like opening a breach in the Great Wall of China.

Tim W. writes:

I’m not enough of a psychoanalyst to determine if Obama is really nice or only pretending, but it doesn’t take an expert to realize that many whites are obsessed with finding a black person to elevate to a position of authority. Go to any mainstream conservative website and see how many people are pushing Condi Rice for VP. Until his falling out with President Bush, Colin Powell was often advocated for the presidency. This past week Bill Kristol recommended Clarence Thomas for VP. At least Thomas is a conservative, but it would be insane to remove him from the high court to put him on a ticket that may lose (which, in turn, would mean Thomas would be replaced on the court by a liberal). Michael Steele and J.C. Watts are often mentioned, even though they’ve only held minor offices which would be disregarded if held by a white male.

If conservatives are this obsessed with finding a black person to elevate, it’s no surprise that self-styled “independents” have gone crazy over Obama, not to mention leftists. Just as there was the search for “great white hope” for years in boxing, there’s now the search for “great black hope” in politics. Many conservatives and moderates truly seem to believe that a black man as president would end racial strife in America, particularly if he seems like a nice guy who wants to be fair to everyone. Liberals are more devious. They want a leftist black to transform America into a Third World nightmare. Nine more Democrat delegates announced for Obama after the revelations about his association with Jeremiah Wright.

Much of elite and pop culture America is obsessed with electing a black president. The proverbial silent majority of average folks who get up and go to work every day is the one thing so far that has stopped them, and will likely do so again this time. Like most such obsessions, it’s politically necessary for the PC crowd to deny its existence even as it wallows in it. Thus, Geraldine Ferraro was castigated for noting the obvious, that Obama is riding high only because he is black. Does anyone seriously believe that a white man with so little experience would be capturing the imaginations of millions of people and winning so many elections against the powerful Clinton machine? If Obama were white, he’d have gotten about as many votes as Dennis Kucinich.

LA replies:

I strongly disagree with the idea, and I think it’s very unfair to say, that only Obama’s race has advanced him, and that without his race he would have close to zero popular support. The white equivalent of Obama, with the same personality, talents, and message as Obama (adjusted of course to the fact that he was white), would be a phenomenon, just as Obama is a phenomenon, and would have been seen by Democrats as the fresh, clean, uplifting, and more leftist alternative to Hillary. To say that without his race Obama would be nothing is to reduce a very talented person to nothing but his race.

Sam H. writes from the Netherlands:

Again and again you and your readers provide some of the best reading available on the Internet. Congratulations, and please keep going.

I just wanted to add a brief contribution to the very interesting debate on Obama’s character. My wife, a neuroscientist with extensive training in psychology, is one of the best judges of character I have ever met—especially when it comes to making “snap judgments” based on limited information. Like many conservatives, despite sharing none of his actual policies, I initially found Obama likeable and a very attractive alternative to a restoration of the House of Clinton. My wife (who spends a lot less time than I following public events) instantly disliked Obama. Her judgment was that he seemed very “arrogant” and enamoured of self. She has continued to dislike him every since.

Robert W. writes:

So you find Obama a “very talented” individual? That race has not gotten him where he is?

Your advocacy of an anti-McCain vote leads you to lauding Obama with absolutely no proof of his talents. From one extreme to the other. I suppose you need to see Obama as “very talented” in order to push an “Obama anti-McCain” ticket. Sad to see where your “rationality” leads you…

LA replies:

First, I did not say that “race has not gotten him where he is.” Obviously it’s a major factor in getting him where he is, in the lead for the Democratic nomination.

What I said was that it’s wrong to say that he has no talents and that without his race he would be a political cipher. To deny that this manifestly talented politician has any talents is an expression of prejudice, whether it’s prejudice against Democrats, or prejudice against blacks.

Second, I have not advocated an anti-McCain vote, i.e. a vote for Democrats. I have said, oh, 300 times, that I will vote neither for the Democrats nor for McCain.

Third, the reason I say that Obama is talented is not that I oppose McCain, i.e., it’s not that I’m pushing Obama in order to put down McCain. The reason I say that Obama is talented is that I think Obama is talented. Saying something because (gasp!) one thinks it’s true is a motive that some people, like Robert W., have a hard time grasping.

Tim W. replies:

I would have to disagree with you on this. I can’t imagine a talented young leftist making this kind of headway against Hillary if he was white. If there was no Obama in this race, the black vote would have gone to Hillary overwhelmingly and she would have wrapped the nomination up after South Carolina. Blacks wouldn’t have rallied to a young white leftist with two years of Senate experience against the wife of Bill Clinton. Many of the trendy white leftists who have been supporting Obama in places like Iowa or Vermont would have stuck with Hillary as well. The clarion call to elect the first woman president would have been too strong. Only the race card is powerful enough to trump it among people with that mindset.

The entire aura around Obama is that he’s black and can either transcend race or validate race (some voters want the former, others the latter). It’s why Oprah violated her long-standing neutrality to support Obama. It’s why college kids are drooling over him.

This isn’t to say that he’s nothing other than a black man and that he has no talents. He clearly has many talents and a ton of charisma. But a white leftist with little actual experience and equal talents would have fizzled out a long time ago against the Clinton operation. I suppose one could argue that there are no young white leftists with Obama’s charisma, but conversely, couldn’t it be argued that the fact that Obama is black is the primary factor in his charisma?

LA replies:

Tim W. says he disagrees with me. In fact, Tim has altered his previous statement and now he is in agreement with me. Previously he said: “If Obama were white, he’d have gotten about as many votes as Dennis Kucinich.” Since Kucinich is a by-word for a no-talent mediocrity, the meaning of the comment was to deny that Obama has any talents. But now Tim acknowledges that Obama “clearly has many talents and a ton of charisma.” So Tim is agreeing with me.

To repeat, I did not say that if Obama were white he would now be the front runner for the Democratic nomination. I did not say that if Obama were white, there would have been the phenomenon of Obamania that we’ve had among young liberal whites. I said that if Obama were white he would still be a talented and appealing politician who would attract a lot of support.

Adela Gereth writes:

I agree with Larry A. that it’s very unfair to say that only Obama’s race has advanced him and that to say so is to reduce a talented person to nothing but his race. I have no doubt that he is, by any standards (or indeed, standardized testing), highly intelligent.

But I think his talent resides largely in his ability to cultivate and apply his personal charm. Recently I read a profile of his years in the Senate (in the NYT online, I think) and I was struck by how little legislative work he’d accomplished as contrasted with how much networking he’d gotten done. I gathered he’d gone to DC as much to win friends and influence people behind the scenes with an eye to running for president as he had to do the work of being a senator.

I use the word “charm” rather than “charisma” because it seems more apt. When I recall JFK’s speeches, or even some of Clinton’s performances, I think of charisma, the sense that this person is somehow larger and grander than the rest of us. When I watch Obama, I marvel at the sense of intimacy he can bring to shaking hands in a crowd. He seems like the rest of us, only brighter and nicer—to me a far more disarming presence than that of JFK or Clinton, who undeniably exuded a larger-than-life sense of power, rather than Obama’s more human but no less powerful personability.

He reminds me of another charming, rather light-skinned black man who also appeals widely to whites: the actor Forest Whitaker. I notice they use similar facial expressions particularly the way they lift their eyebrows, very non-threatening. (When Forest Whitaker plays a villian, he’s especially effective, because he’s playing against type, not to it.)

Despite Obama’s obvious intelligence and affability, and despite a very canny ability to defuse his critics’ charges (again, a sign of that working to be liked), I think his race is a sizable factor in his success so far. He is black in a particular way that meets the need of white people to be able to like a black man. If he appealed only to blacks, he surely would not have got as far as he has. His “crossover appeal” is his biggest asset.

Ben W. writes:

LA: “To say that without his race Obama would be nothing is to reduce a very talented person to nothing but his race.”

In which area has Obama demonstrated this remarkable talent? You describe him as “very talented.” His legislative record is unremarkable.

Perhaps you could explain to VFR readers why you have been going out of your way to laud Obama and give him the benefit of the doubt? It’s very unbecoming for a Lawrence Auster to have become an Obama ass-kisser.

LA replies:

When I got this e-mail from Ben W., I immediately wrote back to him: “Ben, do you want to re-write this?” That was over an hour ago, so I guess the answer is no.

That Ben would think that the reason I said that Obama is very talented is that I’m trying to curry favor with Obama, rather than that I happen to think that Obama is very talented, and, further, that Ben (who has been a regular commenter at VFR and e-mail correspondent of mine for a couple of years) would say it in such a personally insulting and vulgar way, is disheartening. But so be it. At VFR, valued and respected commenters come, and they sometimes go. It seems as if Ben has just gone.

James R. (not VFR’s usual James R.) writes:

You write, “The reason I say that Obama is talented is that I think Obama is talented.” Nowhere in my perusal of VFR have you shown that Obama is indeed talented. Exactly where does his talent demonstrate itself in his legislative record or his policy proposals?

[LA replies: Are we on the same planet? Obviously Obama is a very talented speaker, very talented rhetorician, and is very good in replying to attacks. He is also a personally appealing individual. Since nine tenths of politics is speaking ability and the ability to get people to like you, a politician who speaks very well and gets people to like him is, ipso facto, a very talented politician.]

Again you write, “Saying something because (gasp!) one thinks it’s true is a motive that some people, like Robert W., have a hard time grasping.” On the contrary, many other people find Obama shallow and untalented. Geraldine Ferrarro’s remarks have been confirmed by many other writers.

[LA replies: I think Ferraro said that Obama is the front runner because of his race, a statement I agree with. She did not totally deny his talents, which some commenters in this thread have done. Further, Ferraro, who is not a participant in this discussion, did not, as Robert W. did, attack my motives, so Ferraro is irrelevant to my exchange with Robert W.]

“To deny that this manifestly talented politician has any talents is an expression of prejudice, whether it’s prejudice against Democrats, or prejudice against blacks.” How is a critique of Obama’s depth a racial statement? You are the one presenting this as a possible motive. In fact what you are doing is exactly the same thing that has been done to Ferrarro the past few days, how ironic!

[LA replies: I’ve already dealt with Ferraro. Ferraro did not deny that Obama is talented, she said that he would not have been the front runner without his race, which I agree with. The statement that I said is an expression of prejudice is the statement that Obama has no talent—the statement that all of his success is due to his race and nothing but his race.]

Ben W. wrote:

Just noticed that you had published my diatribe. Sorry I used those terms, it was in a moment of heat—I personally think Obama is riding on the wave of race and it pains me that he gets 90 percent of the black vote without which he would have lost quite a few primaries. This is not a balanced voting pattern. Once again, my apologies—you have my respect.

LA replied:

Apology accepted.

Adela Gereth writes:

I really have a Freudian block against this man. I usually misspell his last name in my subject heading, often having to retype it two or three times to get it right. This time, I misspelled it as “Oback Barama.”

LA replies:

How about Barack-O-Rama?

Adela G. replies:

LOL! Even better than Michelle’s “Glowbama”.

Oh, great, now I’ve got an updated version of “The Name Game” stuck in my head!

Stephen H. writes:

Now that Wright’s hate filled rhetoric has been seen ad nauseam by millions of people across our country, so what? Now THEY are trying to figure what WE did to make them feel this way. Now black hate is normalized.

Just as disgusting is Fox News putting on guests saying that that they support their “right to free speech.” This was said over and over again.

Free speech? What would any honest person have to say about this vial hatred and free speech? Who was censored? Who was prosecuted for speaking hate? Who was arrested?

This is about having an anti-American, ant-white hate monger in the White House.

If we don’t speak up now this opportunity will be lost forever.

Sorry Larry, this hatred will be accepted infinitum, in what was the United States, if this evil man becomes our president.

No turning back.

LA replies:

I haven’t been watching tv, but if what Stephen is staying is correct, then we’re having another OJ Simpson acquittal, in the negative sense. Meaning: something damning is revealed about black America, namely that blacks hate America and whites; and the media, in order to suppress whites’ normal reactions to this, normalizes the black behavior. Now that could work here, as happened with the media’s manipulations of white opinion after the OJ acquittal. But there are reasons for thinking it won’t work this time. This is not about one black celebrity murderer. This is about a possible black president. Whites, or at least many conservative whites, are never going to accept the legitimacy of a presidential candidate who devoutly followed a white-demonizing Farrakhan-like “reverend” for 20 years. Therefore, even if Obama is elected, the conservatives—or at least many of them—will continue to oppose him, continue to deny his legitimacy, and this means life for conservatism and thus for America.

I repeat that the most important thing for the survival and recovery of our civilization is that the ruling liberal order be opposed. If McCain is president, it will not be opposed. If Obama is president, it will be opposed.

Now consider this: will McCain take a stand on Wright and Obama? Will he say it’s totally unacceptable that Obama has been the follower of such a man and that this disqualifies Obama from the presidency? If McCain does not take such a stand, if McCain only deals with this issue in some low-key way, and dismisses the conservative attack on the Obama-Wright connection, and says that the conservatives are being “divisive,” then that will prove that there’s not much difference between the anti-American McCain, whom conservatives will not oppose, and the anti-American Obama, whom conservatives will oppose, and therefore that it would be better for Obama to be president.

Mark K. writes:

The problem with Obama’s candidacy is that the issue of race is ambiguous. One doesn’t know what factor race plays in his rise—and it is this “not knowing” that makes his candidacy difficult for others. On the one hand there is his wife and minister, and on the other his calls for racial transcendence. It’s a seesaw. As others have pointed out, this ambiguity will probably extend into his presidency, and any criticism of his policies will be viewed as racially motivated.

There is also an irony here. Prior to Iowa, Obama was not even viewed as “fully black” in the black community itself. Most elder statesmen in the black community were pro-Clinton. Only after Obama had won the Iowa primary, did he pick up steam and endorsements from the black political community. Is it possible that the black community only came out for him when it saw that the white community had voted for him—and in this sense the white community led the way for the black community?

Tim W. writes:

You wrote:

Tim W. says he disagrees with me. In fact, Tim has altered his previous statement and now he is in agreement with me. Previously he said: “If Obama were white, he’d have gotten about as many votes as Dennis Kucinich.” Since Kucinich is a by-word for a no-talent mediocrity, the meaning of the comment was to deny that Obama has any talents. But now Tim acknowledges that Obama “clearly has many talents and a ton of charisma.” So Tim is agreeing with me.

Well, actually, saying that someone would get as many votes as Kucinich is not to say that that person is a no-talent mediocrity like Kucinich, unless one maintains that every also-ran candidate is a no-talent mediocrity. I don’t consider, for example, Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo to be no-talent mediocrities, yet their performance in the GOP contest was at about the level of Kucinich’s in the Democrat contest. I just see no reason to argue that an inexperienced young leftist who was white, but otherwise had Obama’s talents & charisma, would have become a “phenomenon” in this year’s primary season against Hillary. Saying he would have been a phenomenon implies that he would at least have put in a good showing against Hillary, and I just don’t see that as being likely.

LA replies:

Not to keep beating the issue, but your initial comparison of Obama to Kucinich, who is a stock figure of laughs on the right, suggested a complete dismissal of Obama’s abilities; and that’s what I was arguing against and saying was unfair, though it appears I misunderstood you. Further, a white with Obama’s talents and appeal would have done much better than Kucinich, Hunter, or Tancredo.

KPA writes:

Given Obama’s likable behavior and very successful life amidst people and politics, I get the feeling that he is secretly behaving like a spoiled child who thinks (correctly?) he has been wronged by his parents and feels entitled to his grievances.

He obviously associates strongly with his father’s side, yet has warmth and love for his mother. Reconciling the two must be extremely difficult, and Wright’s “preachings” might be his unconscious way to get it all out “therapeutically” speaking.

Andy T. writes:

Given the ambiguities surrounding Obama’s character, I have a theory of who he is.

Recently I was watching Woody Allen’s film “Zelig.” Zelig becomes a different personality depending on which circumstances he is in. Obama can be whatever the situation entails. If his role is to be the first black president, so be it—he gets an explicitly racial characterization.

If his role is to transcend the racial divide, so be it. His speech eschews any mention of race; others bring it up but not he.

He is the man of the future and not the past. However the past informs the future so if his wife and minister make remarks about the past, this talk is historically valid. Even if the remarks are inflammatory, they are historical markers of an extreme situation that actually did occur in time. If they are unbalanced views, that is OK since myth and emotion as much as fact form one’s speech and discourse.

Obama has become like Paul (1st Corinthians Chapter 9): “I have become all things to all men.” This after all is what transcendence is—the ingathering of all thing in one. Obama is a historical fulfillment (racially and transcendentally). A vote for Obama is like gazing at a crystal—so many angles of reflection and refraction for light. One’s vote is whatever one wants to make of it—very empowering.

Al Capp had a character for that—the Shmoo. Who can criticize the Shmoo? The Shmoo is there for everyone to like and touch—a perfectly rounded ball. As Wiki states, “Li’l Abner stumbled into the Valley of the Shmoon and brought several hundred shmoon out with him to help the citizens of poverty-stricken Dogpatch.”

Shmoo Obama or Barack Zelig…take yer pick because yer vote is anything he can be… We are the change we have been waiting for. We have been waiting for Obama (God Oh) and he is waiting for us!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 15, 2008 09:42 PM | Send

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