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On GoTrackTownUSA, 3 time All-American female distance runner Alexi Pappas writes:


By Alexi Pappas / TrackTown USA

EUGENE, Ore. – My family stood together in the small waiting room just outside the Oval Office, nervously smiling like a group of kids waiting their turn at the top of a waterslide. My brother Louis stood at the front of our pack, ready to walk in first – he had spent the past few years working on President Obama’s staff, and this was his last day on the job. The Oval Office door cracked open and laughter spilled out into the waiting room. The family ahead of us walked out, and there he was: the President of the United States, standing just a few feet away.

We shook his hand one by one. Louis introduced me as a professional runner from Eugene, Oregon. The President’s attention then focused directly on me. First, he told me about his visit to Hayward Field during his 2008 campaign. A wonderful place, we agreed. At that moment, Mr. Obama looked me directly in the eye. “You have a gift,” he said. “You were born with a body that was meant to run long distances, more than the average human.”

I was taken aback. Right away I knew what I wanted to say in response … but dare I risk embarrassing my brother and disagree with Mr. Obama? I started by thanking the President, and then I couldn’t help myself – I added that my performance in the sport is actually a result of hard work, motivation and support from my community.

This was not the answer the President wanted to hear.

“No, no,” he said, “Your body is able to flush out lactic acid better than the average person – running is what you were born to do.” Mr. Obama’s energy and tone were so confident and convincing that he could have told me the moon is really made out of cheese and I would have agreed with him. I nodded and thanked him. Besides, our five-minute meeting time was up. I left the Oval Office feeling very honored, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about what the President had said.

The idea that I was meant to run, that I was born with a special ability, felt like it subtracted from my own willpower and motivation to pursue something to the fullest and at the highest level.

A couple of Christmas-shopping seasons ago, the President was seen buying Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein’s explicitly HBD book The Sports Gene. The Los Angeles Times reported:

But most of Obama’s choices lean more toward pure escapism.

“The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance,” by Sports illustrated writer David Epstein, tries to dispel common myths about what makes athletes great.

Personally, I think that studying sports for patterns that are revealing about humanity in general, such as the roles played by nature and nurture, isn’t pure escapism.

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A Justice Department press release:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Monday, August 24, 2015

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Nebraska-Based Meat Packing Company

The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with Nebraska Beef Ltd., a meat packing company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The settlement resolves an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) into whether the company was engaging in employment discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In particular, OSC investigated whether the company was requiring non-U.S. citizen employees, because of their citizenship status, to present proof of their immigration status for the employment eligibility verification process.

The department’s investigation found that the company required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from making documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying an employee’s authorization to work. …

Under the settlement agreement, Nebraska Beef Ltd. will pay a $200,000 civil penalty to the United States and will establish an uncapped back pay fund to compensate individuals who lost wages because of the company’s practices. The settlement also requires the company to undergo compliance monitoring for two years, train its employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and to review and revise its office policies. For more information on the back pay fund or to make a claim for lost wages, please call 202-616-2603 or email

OSC is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation. Trial Attorneys Katherine E. Lamm and Silvia Dominguez-Reese of the Civil Rights Division investigated this matter.

The basic question in politics is: Whose side are you on?

#BlackJobsMatter, but not to the Obama Administration.

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Africa over Europe, with Libya as the plug

Africa over Europe, with Libya as the plug: you can’t fight gravity!

As you’ll recall, the 2011 destruction of the internationally recognized Libyan government by United States airpower in effect pulled the plug that had been bottling up 1.1 billion Africans from draining into Europe. Col. Gaddafi had contracted with Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to limit transit through Libya of sub-Saharan Africans. But the murder-by-sodomy of Col. Kaffafee by roving bands backed by the U.S. military removed that impediment to the current mass migration.

With a demographic inundation of Europe by Muslims, Africans, and Muslim Africans looming (absent clear-eyed pro-European leadership), it’s worth listening to what a key international player — the President of the United States — has told us in his own words about his deepest feelings regarding Europe and Africa.

Thus, this passage from Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama may be of historical rather than just literary interest:

I FLEW OUT OF HEATHROW Airport under stormy skies. A group of young British men dressed in ill-fitting blazers filled the back of the plane, and one of them–a pale, gangly youth, still troubled with acne-took the seat beside me. He read over the emergency instructions twice with great concentration, and once we were airborne, he turned to ask where I was headed. I told him I was traveling to Nairobi to visit my family.

“Nairobi’s a beautiful place, I hear. Wouldn’t mind stopping off there one of these days. Going to Johannesburg, I am.” He explained that as part of a degree program in geology, the British government had arranged for him and his classmates to work with South African mining companies for a year. “Seems like they have a shortage of trained people there, so if we’re lucky they’ll take us on for a permanent spot. Best chance we have for a decent wage, I reckon–unless you’re willing to freeze out on some bleeding North Sea oil rig. Not for me, thank you.” I mentioned that if given the chance, a lot of black South Africans might be interested in getting such training.

“Well, I’d imagine you’re right about that,” he said. “Don’t much agree with the race policy there. A shame, that.” He thought for a moment. “But then the rest of Africa’s falling apart now, isn’t it? Least from what I can tell. The blacks in South Africa aren’t starving to death like they do in some of these Godforsaken countries. Don’t envy them, mind you, but compared to some poor bugger in Ethiopia–”

A stewardess came down the aisle with headphones for rent, and the young man pulled out his wallet. “’Course, I try and stay out of politics, you know. Figure it’s none of my business. Same thing back home–everybody on the dole, the old men in Parliament talking the same old rubbish. Best thing to do is mind your own little corner of the world, that’s what I say.” He found the outlet for the headphones and slipped them over his ears.

“Wake me up when they bring the food, will you,” he said before reclining his seat for a nap.

I pulled out a book from my carry-on bag and tried to read. It was a portrait of several African countries written by a Western journalist who’d spent a decade in Africa; an old Africa hand, he would be called, someone who apparently prided himself on the balanced assessment. The book’s first few chapters discussed the history of colonialism at some length: the manipulation of tribal hatreds and the caprice of colonial boundaries, the displacements, the detentions, the indignities large and small. The early heroism of independence figures like Kenyatta and Nkrumah was duly noted, their later drift toward despotism attributed at least in part to various Cold War machinations.

But by the book’s third chapter, images from the present had begun to outstrip the past. Famine, disease, the coups and countercoups led by illiterate young men wielding AK-47s like shepherd sticks–if Africa had a history, the writer seemed to say, the scale of current suffering had rendered such history meaningless.

Poor buggers. Godforsaken countries.

I set the book down, feeling a familiar anger flush through me, an anger all the more maddening for its lack of a clear target. Beside me the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose. Was I angry at him? I wondered. Was it his fault that, for all my education, all the theories in my possession, I had had no ready answers to the questions he’d posed? How much could I blame him for wanting to better his lot? Maybe I was just angry because of his easy familiarity with me, his assumption that I, as an American, even a black American, might naturally share in his dim view of Africa; an assumption that in his world at least marked a progress of sorts, but that for me only underscored my own uneasy status: a Westerner not entirely at home in the West, an African on his way to a land full of strangers.

I’d been feeling this way all through my stay in Europe–edgy, defensive, hesitant with strangers. I hadn’t planned it that way. I had thought of the layover there as nothing more than a whimsical detour, an opportunity to visit places I had never been before. For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality.

And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine. I felt as if I were living out someone else’s romance; the incompleteness of my own history stood between me and the sites I saw like a hard pane of glass. I began to suspect that my European stop was just one more means of delay, one more attempt to avoid coming to terms with the Old Man. Stripped of language, stripped of work and routine–stripped even of the racial obsessions to which I’d become so accustomed and which I had taken (perversely) as a sign of my own maturation–I had been forced to look inside myself and had found only a great emptiness there.

Would this trip to Kenya finally fill that emptiness?

Has anyone ever asked the President if the main result of his Libya policy, the current Camp of the Saints in the Mediterranean, strikes him as a bug … or as a feature?

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From an interview with Saturday Night Live supremo Lorne Michaels in a New York Times article on SNL’s plans for the election:

But Mr. Michaels acknowledged that Mr. Obama has been a challenge. What is his comedy hook? “So far we haven’t found it. My joke is always that he’s the first Canadian president,” said Mr. Michaels, a Toronto native. “He wants to think it through, do it in the fairest way possible and be thoughtful. And be a little distant, which I totally identify with, obviously.” 

Mr. Romney? “He’s easy to play because of that caution of his.”

The sad thing is that I doubt if Michaels gets why it’s funny that he uses one word (“caution”) to describe why Romney is easily spoofable, and 39 words to describe the identical trait in Obama, which SNL hasn’t figured out how to make funny after years of trying ever so hard.

Is Obama the most boring President ever? At least with Gerald Ford, you were allowed to make fun of him.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Obama 
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(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Access Journalism, Obama 
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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

Obama’s sudden rise from part-time legislator/part-time lecturer to Presidential Timberhood was conventionally interpreted as the triumph of his supreme personal merit over discrimination’s crushing weight. A less-popular suggestion was that in 21st-century America, identifying as black is good for your career. 

One way to test this question is by looking at the phenomenon of people changing their racial identification, AKA “passing.” Traditionally, mixed-race people tried to socially separate themselves from the black masses, and some tried to pass as white. Is that still true? Or has the flow reversed in recent decades, with racially ambiguous people now asserting their blackness? 

Passing is back in the news because of the curious onslaught that famed novelist Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint) mounted last week against Wikipedia over its allegation that one of his better novels might have been inspired by the glamorous man of letters Anatole Broyard (1920-1990), one of the last Americans known to have passed as white for career reasons.

Read the whole thing there.

Are there any celebrities since Broyard who are now known to have passed for career purposes?

I’m thinking of “passed” in the active rather than the passive sense, of cutting ties with tell-tale kin to change one’s racial identity. I’m sure there are people today whose, say, 1/4th black grandparent switched and now they are 1/16th black and don’t make a big deal about it. That’s what I would call the passive sense of passing.

Also, I’m sure there are people who insist they are all white for personal rather than career reasons — such as mom cheated on her husband with the saxophonist, but eventually they reconciled and decided never to mention that one child doesn’t the really look like the others.

Broyard told, I believe, his daughter that he switched to white because he didn’t want to get stuck being the Negro literary intellectual, that he really wasn’t that interested in race stuff and wanted to follow where his tastes led him. That sounds a slight bit high-minded. Or maybe he did it just for the girls.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Books, Obama, Race 
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From an interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Kelly Candaele of John Heilemann, New York magazine’s main political correspondent.

KC: You say that Obama doesn’t like needing people. Other than a normal feeling that many people have of not liking to ask for things, what is that about? 

JH: Obama is an unusual politician. There are very few people in American politics who achieve something — not to mention the Presidency —in which the following two conditions are true: one, they don’t like people. And two, they don’t like politics. 

KC: Obama doesn’t like people? 

JH: I don’t think he doesn’t like people. I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’ve known the guy since 1988. He’s not someone who has a wide circle of friends. He’s not a backslapper and he’s not an arm-twister. He’s a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities. He’s incredibly intelligent, but he’s not a guy who’s ever had a Bill Clinton-like network around him. He’s not the guy up late at night working the speed dial calling mayors, calling governors, calling CEOs. People say about Obama that it’s a mistake that he hasn’t reached out more to Republicans on Capitol Hill. I say that may be a mistake, but he also hasn’t reached out to Democrats on Capitol Hill. If you walk around [the convention] and button-hole any Democratic Senator you find on the street and ask them how many times they have received a call [from the President] to talk about politics, to talk about legislative strategy, I guarantee you won’t find a lot of people who have gotten one phone call in the last two and a half years. And many of them have never been called. 

I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know what the root of that is. People have theories about it. But I know in practice he is a guy who likes to operate with a very tight circle around him, trusts very few people easily or entirely. He ran his campaign that way in 2008, he runs his White House that way, and he’s running his campaign that way in 2012. President Obama just doesn’t talk to too many people.

One totally unshocking revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book is that the June 2011 “golf summit” where Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner played golf together helped the two men forge a personal bond. That’s … what people always tell you golf is for, isn’t it? The number of rounds of golf the President has played (104 at last count) is hardly excessive — when healthy Eisenhower would come close to that number in one year — but Eisenhower played with big shots to forge personal ties. Obama almost always plays with junior staffers. 
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: 2012 Election, Obama 
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From ABC’s description of Bob Woodward’s upcoming book on the 2011 national debt ceiling negotiations:

Obama’s relationship with Democrats wasn’t always much better. Woodward recounts an episode early in his presidency when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were hammering out final details of the stimulus bill. 

Obama phoned in to deliver a “high-minded message,” he writes. Obama went on so long that Pelosi “reached over and pressed the mute button on her phone,” so they could continue to work without the president hearing that they weren’t paying attention. 

As debt negotiations progressed, Democrats complained of being out of the loop, not knowing where the White House stood on major points. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is described as having a “growing feeling of incredulity” as negotiations meandered. 

“The administration didn’t seem to have a strategy. It was unbelievable. There didn’t seem to be any core principles,” Woodward writes in describing Van Hollen’s thinking. 

Larry Summers, a top economic adviser to Obama who also served as Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, identified a key distinction that he said impacted budget and spending talks. 

“Obama doesn’t really have the joy of the game. Clinton basically loved negotiating with a bunch of pols, about anything,” Summers said. “Whereas, Obama, he really didn’t like these guys.”

Summers said that Obama’s “excessive pragmatism” was a problem. “I don’t think anybody has a sense of his deep feelings about things.” Summers said. “I don’t think anybody has a sense of his deep feelings about people. I don’t think people have a sense of his deep feelings around the public philosophy.” … 

Woodward portrays a president who remained a supreme believer in his own powers of persuasion, even as he faltered in efforts to coax congressional leaders in both parties toward compromise. Boehner told Woodward that at one point, when Boehner voiced concern about passing the deal they were working out, the president reached out and touched his forearm.

“John, I’ve got great confidence in my ability to sway the American people,” Boehner quotes the president as having told him. 

But after the breakthrough agreement fell apart, Boehner’s “Plan B” would ultimately exclude the president from most of the key negotiations. The president was “voted off the island,” in Woodward’s phrase, even by members of his own party, as congressional leaders patched together an eleventh hour framework to avoid default. 

Frustration over the lack of clear White House planning was voiced to Obama’s face at one point, with a Democratic congressional staffer taking the extraordinary step of confronting the president in the Oval Office. 

With the nation facing the very real possibility of defaulting on its debt for the first time in its history, David Krone, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told the president directly that he couldn’t simply reject the only option left to Congress. 

“It is really disheartening that you, that this White House did not have a Plan B,” Krone said, according to Woodward.

My vague recollection is that I didn’t write much about the debt ceiling crisis in 2011 because the whole topic sounded dreary and depressing and I’d rather think about other stuff. So, I can totally sympathize with Obama. I would have botched the whole thing up at least as badly as he did for pretty much the same personality-based reasons. I don’t like politicians, I don’t like negotiating, I don’t like face-to-face politicking, I’d rather, say, walk to the bookstore by myself than call up a whole bunch of conniving people and try to bend them to my will. 

Of course, I haven’t wanted to be President since I was a child, either.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Obama 
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At the VDARE blog, James Fulford has contrasting videos of Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson reading Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham

Jackson’s version is great. I didn’t make it through Obama’s version, but I did like the part at 0:24 when he’s stumbling around and Michelle starts clapping, perhaps in the hope that everybody will join in and put an end to this ordeal before it gets started.

Much of the palpable disappointment with Obama among youngish voters who got so excited about him in 2008 is that for their whole lives they’d been informed that black guys are cool. So what could be cooler than electing President Will Smith? But then President Obama turned out to be, the more you got to know him, nowhere near as cool as he thinks he is.

We could have guessed that long ago from the way Michelle treats him. According to Jodi Kantor’s book The Obamas, Michelle still very much believes in Barack as “transformational” for the rest of us. But, her body language always suggested that she never really got Obamania, and in fact resented the hoopla over her husband, who, if you know him the way Michelle knows him, isn’t all that.

Kantor discovered that Michelle’s initial reaction to his election was to demand a separation — he could go bach it in the White House while she and the girls stayed in Chicago through the rest of the 2008-2009 schoolyear. Eventually, aides talked her out of what would have been a PR cataclysm, and her mood has improved as her husband’s poll ratings came down from the stratosphere.

Comparing Obama to Jackson is particularly germane because Michelle was Jesse Jackson’s babysitter. It’s hard for people familiar only with the grandiose wreck of 70-year-old Jesse Jackson to grasp what he was like in the 1970s. I found this anecdote:

In June 1971, LOOK magazine recorded an encounter between Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rev. Jesse Jackson. 

Kennedy “stuck out his hand and exchanged banalities [with Jackson]. Kennedy acted like a man running for the Presidency. Jackson, typically, acted like a man who is President.” The article went on to say Jackson is “the closest thing to a national leader that has surfaced on today’s fragmented civil rights scene. Tough talking, fast-stepping Jesse Jackson is as different from the conventional notion of a black minister as a Maserati is from a Dodge.”

Imagine being 15-year-old Michelle showing up Saturday evening to babysit. The 38-year-old Reverend Jackson, dressed magnificently, comes down the stairs of his 15-room house, heading out to some banquet to receive yet another award and give another galvanizing oration, and, yet, he takes time from his busy schedule to chat with the suddenly shy girl … 

How can poor Barack compete with that?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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In the New York Times, veteran White House reporter Jodi Kantor dogwhistles desperately about the President’s psyche: 

The Competitor in Chief 


As Election Day approaches, President Obama is sharing a few important things about himself. He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks “a really mean chili.” He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is “a surprisingly good pool player,” he informed an interviewer — not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill. 

All in all, he joked at a recent New York fund-raiser with several famous basketball players in attendance, “it is very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person.” 

Four years ago, Barack Obama seemed as if he might be a deliberate professor of a leader, maybe with a touch of Hawaiian mellowness. He has also turned out to be a voraciously competitive perfectionist. Aides and friends say so in interviews, but Mr. Obama’s own words of praise and derision say it best: he is a perpetually aspiring overachiever, often grading himself and others with report-card terms like “outstanding” or “remedial course” (as in: Republicans need one). 

As he faces off with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Obama’s will to win — and fear of losing — is in overdrive.  

Even by the standards of the political world, Mr. Obama’s obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the best are remarkable, those close to him say. … When Mr. Obama was derided as an insufferable overachiever in an early political race, some of his friends were infuriated; to them, he was revising negative preconceptions of what a black man could achieve.

But even those loyal to Mr. Obama say that his quest for excellence can bleed into cockiness and that he tends to overestimate his capabilities. … 

For someone dealing with the world’s weightiest matters, Mr. Obama spends surprising energy perfecting even less consequential pursuits. He has played golf 104 times since becoming president, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who monitors his outings, and he asks superior players for tips that have helped lower his scores. He decompresses with card games on Air Force One, but players who do not concentrate risk a reprimand (“You’re not playing, you’re just gambling,” he once told Arun Chaudhary, his former videographer). 

His idea of birthday relaxation is competing in an Olympic-style athletic tournament with friends, keeping close score. The 2009 version ended with a bowling event. Guess who won, despite his history of embarrassingly low scores? The president, it turned out, had been practicing in the White House alley. 

When he reads a book to children at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, Mr. Obama seems incapable of just flipping open a volume and reading. In 2010, he began by announcing that he would perform “the best rendition ever” of “Green Eggs and Ham,” ripping into his Sam-I-Ams with unusual conviction. Two years later at the same event, he read “Where the Wild Things Are” with even more animation, roooooaring his terrible roar and gnaaaaashing his terrible teeth. By the time he got to the wild rumpus, he was howling so loudly that Bo, the first dog, joined in. 

“He’s shooting for a Tony,” Mr. Chaudhary joked. (He has already won a Grammy, in 2006, for his reading of his memoir, “Dreams From My Father” — not because he was a natural, said Brian Smith, the producer, but because he paused so many times to polish his performance.) 

… Even some Democrats in Washington say they have been irritated by his tips … 

Those were not the only times Mr. Obama may have overestimated himself: he has also had a habit of warning new hires that he would be able to do their jobs better than they could. 

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” 

… No matter what moves Mr. Romney made, the president said, he and his team were going to cut him off and block him at every turn. “We’re the Miami Heat, and he’s Jeremy Lin,” Mr. Obama said, according to the aide.

Notify the Asian vote.

… When local campaign staff members ask him what they need to do better, he talks about himself instead. “I need to be working harder,” he recently told one state-level aide. 

By the way, I wonder if he’s having his doctor give him a little synthetic testosterone top-off?

Back in February I wrote in my Taki’s Magazine review of Kantor’s book, The Obamas:

Kantor is struck by the less flagrant but still marked swings in Obama’s mood and energy level. These mostly correlate with his approval ratings, but they sometimes go off on random jags of their own. For instance, Obama’s reaction to his party losing the House in 2010 was blithe. He assumed he might be better off without all that Democratic dead weight holding him back, only to be predictably disillusioned in the disastrous debt-ceiling showdown. 

Oddly, Obama’s down spells never seem to undermine his ego, which in Kantor’s telling remains bizarrely expansive for such an otherwise rational individual. Perhaps as a metaphor for a lifetime of affirmative action’s warping effects, Kantor is fascinated by this middle-aged politician’s obsession with competing on his White House basketball court against invited NBA superstars. Whether Obama can keep clear in his head that they’re just letting him score remains unclear to the author. 

Kantor’s most intriguing finding is that Barack and Michelle’s mood cycles are generally out of sync. … As her husband’s popularity declined, however, Michelle’s attitude improved …

Do you ever get the impression that Democrats who write books about Obama, like Kantor and David Maraniss, generally wind up not liking him very much? Of course, all they are allowed is this kind of passive-aggressive toting up of facts, which 99.9% of readers won’t get. But, at least, Jodi and David, you can take comfort in knowing that I feel your pain.

On the subject of Obama’s vanity, Jonathan Last’s 2010 article in the Weekly Standard, American Narcissus, remains canonical.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Books, Obama 
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From a New York Times profile of empty pantsuit / most important Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett:

A Chicagoan who helped Mr. Obama navigate his rise through that city’s aggressive politics, Ms. Jarrett came to Washington with no national experience. But her unmatched access to the Obamas has made her a driving force in some of the most significant domestic policy decisions of the president’s first term, her persuasive power only amplified by Mr. Obama’s insular management style. 

From the first, her official job has been somewhat vague. But nearly four years on, with Mr. Obama poised to accept his party’s renomination this week, her standing is clear, to her many admirers and detractors alike. “She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House,” said one former senior White House official, who like many would speak candidly only on condition of anonymity. 

“She’s there to try to promote what she understands to be what the president wants,” the former aide said. “Ultimately the president makes his own decisions. The question that is hard to get inside of, the black box, is whether she is really influencing him or merely executing decisions he’s made. That’s like asking, ‘Is the light on in the refrigerator when the door is closed?’ ”


I have a question about the code for unsourced allegations, such as “aid one former senior White House official.” When I was a kid during the Nixon Administration, I used to assume that quotes from “a senior White House foreign policy official” actually meant somebody pretty junior. I mean, in a sense, everybody in the White House is pretty senior, right? But, eventually, I found out that most of the time, it really meant Henry Kissinger.

So, does this attribution imply former Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel?

A funny thing with Obama is how much the Chicagoans in his White House hate each other. With Jimmy Carter, the Washington old-timers complained about his Georgia Mafia that he had brought with him to the White House. But my recollection is that the Georgians mostly stuck together. With Obama’s Chicagoans, though, they always seem to be out to stab each other in the back. It’s not like they are a team, they are just some local bigshots that a small time local politician, Barack Obama, happened to know. A recurrent problem Obama has as in his first try at being an executive is that he doesn’t know very many people and he doesn’t really want to know more. I can empathize, but still …

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Obama 
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I wanted to highlight another excerpt from my long VDARE review of David Maraniss’s biography of the President:

One of Maraniss’s minor themes is Obama’s fascination with superheroes. For example, one of Obama’s white girlfriends in New York, Genevieve Cook, sensed that comic book characters might provide a key to understanding Obama’s opaque personality: 

Genevieve knew that he harbored faintly articulated notions of future greatness, of gaining power to change things. Once, when they were in Prospect Park, they saw a young boy in costume playing out a superhero role. They started to talk about superheroes, the comics he enjoyed as an adolescent in Honolulu, and intimations of “playing out a superhero life.” She considered it “a very strong archetype in his personality,” but as soon as she tried to draw him out, he shut down “and didn’t want to talk about it further.” 

This may offer an explanation of the resilience of Obama’s gigantic ego, “his irrepressible belief that he was the smartest person in the room,” his confidence that he would someday lead millions despite the relentless evidence that even his friends wouldn’t follow him around the corner to get a newspaper. 

The comic books provide a whole mythos in which nobodies have fabulous secret identities: mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is actually Superman, while shy student Peter Parker is Spider-Man. 

The irony is striking. Obama opponents have frantically tried to piece together the secret identity of this seeming international man of mystery: Is he Muslim? Kenyan? Arab? Gay? Frank Davis’s son? 

But, in contrast, Maraniss goes to great lengths to reassure Obama’s supporters: relax—there’s nothing interesting about Obama! 

Yet, all the while, Obama himself was convinced that he wasn’t as boring as his friends assumed. Deep inside, he had a secret identity … President Man!

In general, I think Obama is somebody with some literary skills who half figured out, half stumbled into certain quasi-mythic hopes in American culture that were ripe for exploitation by a Presidential candidate of the proper background.. Thus, I think you can get a better handle on figuring out this guy’s sudden rise by thinking about superhero movies, Star Wars, Harry Potter books, Morgan Freeman movies, and other modern mythology.

By the way, I don’t see Obama as being particularly brilliant at figuring out that nice white people really wanted to elect a black President who was a nice white person on the inside. As far as we can tell, up through about his 40th birthday, Obama was much more focused on rising up out of the black slums to become mayor of Chicago as his hero Harold Washington had done in the Council War years, an ambition that seems remarkably stupid of him today. It wasn’t until about 2001 that he realized that black people were never going to like him more than real black politicians, so his natural career path was as the quasi-black politician for white people to vote for.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The question of leadership and Obama’s biography, as laboriously compiled by David Maraniss of the Washington Post (see my review here), is a puzzling one. We have a President who had every opportunity to exert leadership as a young man — everybody who knew him considered a cool dude, he was tall, decent-looking, fairly athletic, kind of funny, quite popular — but he made few efforts to get things organized and accomplished at a group level.

Maraniss doesn’t believe Obama’s account of race working against him, and I have to believe that in Honolulu/L.A./NYC circles in the 1970s and 1980s, it had to work for him. 

To take one random data point, in the summer of 1975 when I went to Boys’s State in Sacramento (this kind of mock election convention sponsored by the American Legion — Bill Clinton was huge in it when he was in high school), we all worked hard and succeeded in getting this black guy in our dorm elected Governor out of about 800 delegates. He was a good guy and had a good story — from a nice church-going family in a tough neighborhood — but being black in 1975 in California was clearly an advantage in this kind of pseudo-election among ambitious teens. 

This is not to argue whether or not being black in California in 1975 would have been a net plus or minus for, say, Tom Bradley running for governor of California in the adult real world (being black likely was a moderate minus for Bradley). But in 1975 Boy’s State in California, being black helped this one kid I knew be Gubernatorial Timber. And Obama was three years behind me in school. 

But, to get back to the young Obama, he didn’t seem to want to be a leader of any group modest enough to accept him as their leader. Maraniss describes him as having the observant, disengaged personality of an anthropologist or writer. He didn’t want to get caught in “life’s traps” by getting too involved in anything (such as actually finishing his short stories and getting them published or writing scholarly law articles for the Harvard Law Review or when he was at the U. of Chicago law school).

Is this a typical career path for a future university president: a recessive personality when young, then blossoming into leadership in maturity? I mention this because Obama’s family tree is full of academics. His white grandmother’s sister was a statistics prof, his ne’er do well white grandfather’s brother got a Berkeley Ph.D, then went into federal government work in Washington. 

On the other hand, most of the college presidents who have caught my attention for their ability to gladhand their way to big donations are obvious balls of fire who would have quickly risen to Executive VP of Sales at all the corporations I’ve worked for. I recall reading one dynamic college president’s account of how he’d promised himself that for his 61st birthday he’d take on this physical challenge he’d always dreamt of? I’m thinking, yeah, if I were 61 and as rich as this guy, I’d … play Pebble Beach without taking a cart, get a caddie and walk all 18 holes! 

Instead, this 61-year-old climbed the tallest mountain in Antartica, 16,000 feet. (Sounds cold. Personally, I’d think a less unpleasant way to celebrate your 61st birthday would be to go camp inside a frozen meat locker for two weeks.) Coming down, he met one of the college’s biggest donors, some self-made tech zillionaire, going up. The president reported that two did some major high-altitude low-temperature bonding (ca-ching, ca-ching).

But these mile-a-minute college presidents tend to get appointed heads of less prestigious colleges that need cash fast. Are old-line colleges typically headed by more Obama-like personalities?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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In, I have a long review of famed biographer David Maraniss’s gigantic, obsessively researched book on Barack Obama’s early years. It is supposed to be a pro-Obama book, but …

Perhaps Maraniss’s most striking revelation: virtually nobody who knew Obama in the first quarter of a century of his life ever thought of him as their leader in anything. When he got to Harvard Law School at age 27, he was instantly proclaimed The First Black President. But before then, those who knew him found his passivity and disengagement frustrating. …

Consider Obama’s role in the “Choom Gang” of a dozen potheads at Punahou Prep. You might think that a future Leader of the Free World would inevitably, through sheer force of charismatic personality, exert a disproportionate influence on his fellow teens in their debates over, say, which drug to take next. That’s a pretty low hurdle for leadership skills, right? However: 

“There was not even a designated leader. …. The other members considered Mark Bendix the glue; he was funny, creative, and uninhibited with a penchant for Marvel Comics. … Without exerting himself in overt ways, Barry Obama held as much respect as anyone within the group.” 

Got that? The future Nobel Peace Prize laureate was among the most respected dudes in the Bong Brothers. Granted, Barry was not the glue in the Choom Gang like Mark Bendix was. But he was right up there with any of the non-Bendixian Maui Wowie tokers.

By this point, you may be wondering: “Who was Mark Bendix? And what does this Bendix fellow’s penchant for Marvel Comics have to do with anything?”

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The new revelation that President Obama spent his teen years thoroughly baked is not really that new. As I wrote in in March 2007:

I particularly like how Obama rationalized his preppie drug use as “something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind . . .” His classmates, in contrast, in these articles seemed to find his explanation puzzlingly gratuitous. Many of them smoked dope on the beach, too, but they didn’t need a racial identity crisis caused by the white power structure to justify their getting high. It was, like, Hawaii in the 1970s, you know? Maui Wowie, dude!

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The late Robert Fitch, a veteran critic of New York real estate insiders, gave a speech to the Harlem Tenants Association on November 14, 2008 applying his brand of analysis to the history of Obama’s rise in Chicago. 

In fact, as Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there’s been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park [i.e., Harlem] like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop—Chicago’s midtown central business district—where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. Their neighborhood is called the Gold Coast. For almost a hundred years in Chicago, blacks have lived on the South Side …

And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed to be demolished and the people moved back into private housing. For a while, the election of the city’s first black Mayor, Harold Washington, blocked the demolition. But Washington died of a heart attack while in office, and after a brief interregnum, the Mayor’s office was filled in 1989 by Richard M. Daley—whose father had carried out the first urban renewal. Daley was his father’s son in many ways. By 1993, with subsidies from the Clinton Administration’s HOPE VI program, the public housing units began to be destroyed. And by 2000 he’d put in place something called The Plan for Transformation. It targeted tens of thousands of remaining units. 

With this proviso: That African Americans had to get 50% of the action—white developers had to have black partners; there had to be black contractors. And Daley chose African Americans—as his top administrators and planners for the clearances, demolition and re-settlement. African Americans were prominent in developing and rehabbing the new housing for the refugees from the demolished projects—who were re-settled in communities to the south like Englewood, Roseland and Harvey. Altogether the Plan for Transformation involved the largest demolition of public housing in American history, affecting about 45,000 people—in neighborhoods where eight of the 20 poorest census tracts in the U.S. were located. 

But what does this all have to do with Obama? Just this: the area demolished included the communities that Obama represented as a state senator; and the top black administrators, developers and planners were people like Valerie Jarrett—who served as a member of the Chicago Planning Commission. And Martin Nesbitt who became head of the CHA. Nesbitt serves as Obama campaign finance treasurer; Jarrett as co-chair of the Transition Team. The other co-chair is William Daley, the Mayor’s brother and the Midwest chair of JP Morgan Chase—an institution deeply involved in the transformation of inner-city neighborhoods thorough its support for—what financial institutions call “neighborhood revitalization” and neighborhood activists call gentrification. 

William Daley went on to serve as Obama’s second chief of staff, following Rahm Emmanuel, who is now mayor of Chicago.

If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs. 

Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit “give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.” Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. …

Yes, Obama worked with Ayers, but not the Ayers who blew up buildings; but the Ayers who was able to bring down $50 million from the Walter Annenberg foundation, leveraging it to create a $120 million a non-profit organization with Obama as its head. Annenberg was a billionaire friend of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Why would he give mega-millions to a terrorist? Perhaps because he liked Ayers’ new politics. Ayer’s initiative grew out of the backlash against the 1985 Chicago teachers’ strike; his plan promoted “the community” as a third force in education politics between the union and the city administration. Friendly FIRE [i.e., liberal, multiracial Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate interests] wants the same kind of education reform as FIRE: the forces that brought about welfare reform have now moved onto education reform and for the same reason: crippling the power of the union will reduce teachers’ salaries, which will cut real estate taxes which will raise land values. 

Is Obama a minion of Richie Daley? It’s true that Obama has never denounced Daley. He actually endorsed him for Mayor in 2007. Even after federal convictions of Daley’s top aides. After the minority hiring scandals. And after the Hired Truck scandal which showed that the Daley machine shared its favors with The Outfit. But the Daley dynasty has expanded far beyond wiseguy industries. The Mayor’s brother, William Daley, who served on Obama’s transition team, also serves now as a top executive of J.P. Morgan Chase. He heads the Midwest region. And chairs J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, the core of friendly FIRE. Here’s an excerpt from a recent report: “…[we] achieved significant progress toward our 10-year pledge to invest $800 billion in low- and moderate income communities in the U.S.—the largest commitment by any bank focused on mortgages, small-business lending and community development. In 2006, we committed $87 billion, with total investment to date of $241 billion in the third year of the program. Played a leadership role in the creation of The New York Acquisition Fund, along with 15 lenders and in conjunction with six foundations and the City of New York. The Fund is a $230 million initiative to finance the acquisition of land and buildings to be developed and/or preserved for affordable housing.“ 

It’s also true that key Black members of the Obama inner circle are Daley Administration alumnae—but they’ve moved up—now they’re part of Chicago FIRE. Like Martin Nesbitt. Obama is Nesbitt’s son’s godfather. He’s the African American chairman of the CHA. But his principal occupation is the vice presidency of the Pritzker Realty group. Although they’re not well known outside of Chicago, the Pritzkers rank among the richest families in the U.S. There are ten Pritzkers among the Forbes 400: Thomas is the richest at2.3 billion. Anthony and J.B. are next at $2.2 billion; Penny in fourth, at $2.1 billion—Daniel, James, Gigi, John, Karen, and Linda weigh in with $1.9 billion. Penny is finance chair of the Obama campaign. Martin is the treasurer. 

Daley saw Obama as a potential rival for the mayor’s office. After Daley brushed aside Rep. Bobby Rush’s challenge for his job in 1999, Daley turned around and provided some quiet aid to Rush in 2000 to help turn back Obama’s challenge to Rush. Daley saw Rush, a former Black Panther, as easy to beat, but saw Obama as potentially a greater long term challenge.

Penny Pritzker herself has had a rocky career as a commercial banker. In 1991, she founded something called the Superior Bank of Chicago which pioneered in sub-prime lending to minorities. Superior was an early casualty of the sub-prime meltdown, though, crashing in 2001 when it was seized by the FDIC. Depositors filed a civil suit against Penny charging that Superior was a racketeering organization. The government charged that Superior paid out hundreds of millions of dividends to the Pritzkers and another family while the bank was essentially broke. There was a complex settlement in which the Pritzkers were forced to pay hundreds of millions in penalties; but the agreement contained provisions that may enable the Pritzkers to earn hundreds of millions. Notwithstanding the Superior bank disaster, Penny is being touted as Obama’s next Secretary of Commerce. 

Valerie Jarrett is another black real estate executive. Described as “the other side of Barack’s brain,” she also served as finance chair during his successful 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. Jarrett was Daley’s deputy chief of staff – that was her job when she hired Michelle Obama. Eventually Daley made her the head of city planning. But Jarrett doesn’t work for Daley anymore. She’s CEO of David Levin’s Habitat—one of the largest property managers in Chicago—and the court-appointed overseer of CHA projects. Habitat also managed Grove Parc, the scandal-ridden project in Englewood that left Section 8 tenants, mostly refugees from demolished public housing projects, without heat in the winter but inundated with rats. Grove Parc was developed by Tony Rezko, who’s white. And his long-time partner Allison Davis, who’s black. 

Let’s look at Rezko and then Davis. It was Rezko’s ability to exploit relationships with influential blacks—including Muhammad Ali—that enabled him to become one of Chicago’s preeminent cockroach capitalists.

Rezko was Ali’s business manager in the 1980s because he was the business manager for the Muhammad family behind the Nation of Islam.

Altogether, Rezko wound up developing over 1,000 apartments with state and city money. There was more to the Obama-Rezko relationship than the empty lot in Kenwood. Rezko raised over $250,000 for Obama’s state senate campaign. While Obama was a state senator he wrote letters in support of Rezko’s applications for development funds. But Obama ignored the plight of Rezko’s tenants who complained to Obama’s office. Rezko’s Grove Parc partner, Allison Davis, was a witness in the Rezko trial, he’s pretty radioactive too. But you could see why Rezko wanted to hook up with him. 

Davis was the senior partner in Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, a small, black law firm, where Obama worked for nearly a decade. As the editor of the Harvard Law Review, Obama could have worked anywhere. Why did he choose the Davis firm? Davis had been a noted civil rights attorney and a progressive critic of the first Daley machine. But in 1980 Davis got a call from the Ford Foundation’s poorly known, but immensely influential, affiliate LISC—the Local Initiatives Support Corporation—that had just been founded. LISC, whose present chair is Citigroup’s Robert Rubin, connects small, mainly minority community non-profits with big foundation grants and especially with bank loans and tax credit-driven equity. LISC wanted to co-opt Davis in their ghetto redevelopment program. He agreed and the Davis firm came to specialize in handling legal work for non-profit community development firms. Eventually Davis left the firm to go into partnership with Tony Rezko. Meanwhile, Obama did legal work for the Rezko-Davis partnership. And for Community Development Organizations like Woodlawn Organization. 

In 1994, the LA Times reports, Obama appeared in Cook County court on behalf of Woodlawnn Preservation & Investment Corp., defending it against a suit by the city, which alleged that the company failed to provide heat for low-income tenants on the South Side during the winter. There were several cases of this type, but as the Times observes, Obama doesn’t mention them in Dreams from My Father. In the 1960s, under the leadership of Arthur M. Brazier, Bishop of the Apostolic Church of God, Woodlawn gained a reputation as Chicago’s outstanding Saul Alinsky-stylec ommunity organization. Mainly, TWO [The Woodlawn Organization] battled the University of Chicago’s urban renewal program. But gradually, Brazier’s political direction changed. Now TWO is partnering with UC in efforts to gentrify Woodlawn. When Barack Obama left Jeremiah Wright’s church, he switched to Brazier’s Apostolic Church of God.

I don’t believe that’s fully true.

Brazier is typical of a much larger group—real estate reverends—who play the Community Development game and in the process have acquired huge real estate portfolios. But it’s really a national phenomenon. Here in New York we have Rev. Calvin Butts whose church has a subsidiary, the Abyssinian Development Corp. In partnership with LISC, the ADC now boasts a portfolio of $500 million in Harlem property alone. Rev. Floyd Flake of the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica, Queens has a sizeable portfolio of commercial property too. Chicago’s disciples of development include Wilbur Daniel. He’s the Pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood who really did exclaim “Give us this day our Daley bread,” meaning free land and free capital for real estate development. Daniel’s prayers were answered in 2001, when with Daley’s help, Antioch was chosen to be the lead church in Fannie Mae’s $55 billion House Chicago plan for the redevelopment of the South Side. How has Obama earned the support and allegiance of friendly FIRE? Where does he stand on the Plan for Transformation? 

Generally speaking, he’s been careful not to leave too many footprints. If you google Obama and public housing, nothing comes up. But in 1995, a year before he ran successfully for state senate seat from South Side, in Dreams from My Father he wrote about his encounters with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama says he was impressed by Wright’s emphasis on the unity of the black community. But he’s a little skeptical of too broad a unity; of achieving unity without conflict. He says, “Would the interest in maintaining such unity allow Reverend Wright to take a forceful stand on the latest proposals to reform public housing?” Here he’s referring to Clinton’s Hope VI—that provided matching federal money for the demolition of public housing. And the corresponding local initiatives, which culminated in the Plan for Transformation. “And if men like Reverend Wright failed to take a stand, if churches like Trinity refused to engage with real power and risk genuine conflict, then what chance would there be in holding the larger community intact?” 

I have to stop now and put Karnak’s envelope to my forehead. What we see is that the Chicago core of the Obama coalition is made up of blacks who’ve moved up by moving poor blacks out of the community. And very wealthy whites who’ve advanced their community development agenda by hiring blacks. Will this be the pattern for the future in an Obama administration? I can’t read the envelope. But I do believe that if we want to disrupt the pattern of the past we have to make some distinctions: between the change they believe in and the change we believe in; between our interests and theirs; between a notion of community that scapegoats the poor and one that respects their human rights—one of which is not to be the object of ethnic cleaning. Between Hope VI and genuine human hope.

Putting this in a larger perspective, it’s reasonable to believe that Obama was drawn to Chicago in 1985 by the excitement of the Council Wars racial struggle between Mayor Harold Washington and the retrograde white leader Fast Eddie Vrodolyak in what seemed like a zero sum racial battle. But Obama found, when he finally got to know real life poor blacks in 1985-1988, that they weren’t as uplifting as he had assumed from watching PBS fund-raising documentaries about the Civil Rights era. But he slowly started to realize that who he really liked were affluent, well-educated blacks. So, he bailed for Harvard Law School, intending to come back and lead blacks back to power in the mayor’s office.

Over time, however, Richie Daley became mayor and he was more than happy to cut reasonable blacks in on the profits that could be made by clearing out Cabrini Green and the like, just as long as they’d play ball with Friendly FIRE. Michelle Obama had a wealth of contacts — she’d been Jesse Jackson’s babysitter, she worked for Daley’s deputy Valerie Jarrett, and she liked money — and Barack Obama was naturally drawn into this little world centered around Jarrett and Penny Pritzker.

On the other hand, let me point out a subtle distinction. I suspect that the secret end game envisioned by the more hardheaded liberal white leaders (I’m looking at you, Mayor Emmanuel) is likely not just to yuppify the Near South Side and move poor blacks to the Far South Side of Chicago where they can still vote in Chicago elections. Instead, the hard men want to use Section 8 rental vouchers to send poor blacks packing clear out of Chicago to hickvilles like Champaign-Urbana, while middle class blacks move themselves to inner ring suburbs, leaving only Obama-like upscale blacks in Chicago. This would slowly destroy black political power in Chicago, leaving behind only token affluent blacks and pockets of black poverty around the worst toxic waste sites in the industrial deep South Side.

For example, last year, Mayor Emmanuel’s Chicago Police Department sent a 40-man SWAT team into just about the last two ungentrified houses in Lincoln Park, only seven blocks from Penny Pritzker’s new mansion, to find pretexts for evicting the owners, an extended family of poor blacks.

Assume you are Mayor Emmanuel, and assume you want two decades or so in office like both Daleys got. Your job is going to be a lot more fun in 20 years if Chicago follows Manhattan and D.C. in whitifying rather than go down the path of Detroit and Cleveland.

But, as of 1995, Obama and his spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright, objected to what was looming on the horizon as a remote possibility: the more massive economic cleansing of blacks from not just the good parts of Chicago like Cabrini Green and the South Lakefront, but from the inland parts, where Wright’s church was and where Obama had done his rather feckless community organizing.

Wright is quoted in Dreams, and Obama echoed Wright’s argument in a 1995 Chicago Reader interview, that middle class blacks shouldn’t flee to the suburbs to keep their sons from being gunned down. They should make a stand in Chicago (at least farther south than the potentially immensely valuable land around the loop and lakefront). Obama said in 1995:

“The right wing talks about this but they keep appealing to that old individualistic bootstrap myth: get a job, get rich, and get out.” … 

So, Obama here is agreeing with Wright’s stance against black flight to the suburbs, which in Dreams from My Father is symbolized by Wright telling his secretary not to move to the suburbs to keep her son safe. But, as Fitch suggests, Obama’s opaque statement in Dreams – “And if men like Reverend Wright failed to take a stand, if churches like Trinity refused to engage with real power and risk genuine conflict, then what chance would there be in holding the larger community intact?” — can be interpreted to mean that Obama wants to play a dual game that Rev. Wright is too stubborn even though it would be in his own interests: Obama wants to play palsy-walsy with people like the Pritzkers, but also to make sure that public housing project blacks are only relocated as far as the South Side, where they can still vote and still attend Rev. Wright’s church, not all the way to exurban hickvilles like Round Lake Beach.

Obama told the Reader in 1995:

“I want to do this as much as I can from the grass-roots level, raising as much money for the campaign as possible at coffees, connecting directly with voters,” said Obama. “But to organize this district I must get known. And this costs money. I admit that in this transitional period, before I’m known in the district, I’m going to have to rely on some contributions from wealthy people—people who like my ideas but who won’t attach strings. This is not ideal, but it is a problem encountered by everyone in their first campaign.

“Once elected, once I’m known, I won’t need that kind of money, just as Harold Washington, once he was elected and known, did not need to raise and spend money to get the black vote.”

Obama took time off from attending campaign coffees to attend October’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C. His experiences there only reinforced his reasons for jumping into politics.

“What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society,” he said. “There was a profound sense that African-American men were ready to make a commitment to bring about change in our communities and lives.

“But what was lacking among march organizers was a positive agenda, a coherent agenda for change. … 

“But cursing out white folks is not going to get the job done. Anti-Semitic and anti-Asian statements are not going to lift us up. We’ve got some hard nuts-and-bolts organizing and planning to do. We’ve got communities to build.”

But, of course, in 2000, Obama’s plan to follow Harold Washington’s career path to the mayor’s office by first getting elected to the House of Representatives was derailed by the whupping he got from ex-Black Panther Bobby Rush in black districts. When he recovered from his depression, he gerrymandered his district to include the rich white Gold Coast north of the Loop that, culturally, is his natural base. When Michelle threatened to leave him unless he came up with a workable career strategy, he gave up on winning major power in the callous world of Chicago politics, where voters expect their politicians to be more than just elegant symbols of the electorate’s own refinement, but instead to deliver the goods. Obama thus reworked his goals to winning statewide and even national office by taking his ethereal everything-to-everybody act on the road to the more naive parts of white America.

One big question is what precisely was Obama’s role in real estate driven changes in Chicago that Fitch outlines. The answer appears to be: eh, not that much. He was there, he looked dignified, he uttered sonorous speeches, he was friends with the players, he tried to foster compromises that would advance the interests of the rich, white and black, without damaging the interests of demagogues like Rev. Wright by driving blacks all the way out of Chicago.

But, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t appear to have been a major player himself. He doesn’t seem to have been a driving force in the dealmaking. Was this out of scrupulousness (ethical, racial, or careerist)? Or is Obama, on the whole, just more decorative than dynamic?


To flesh out this subtle point about black flight to the suburbs, it’s worth quoting from Dreams from My Father at length about Obama’s first meeting with Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

Eventually a pretty woman with a brisk, cheerful manner came up and introduced herself as Tracy, one of Reverend Wright’s assistants. She said that the reverend was running a few minutes late and asked if I wanted some coffee. As I followed her back into a kitchen toward the rear of the church, we began to chat, about the church mostly, but also a little about her. It had been a difficult year, she said: Her husband had recently died, and in just a few weeks she’d be moving out to the suburbs. She had wrestled long and hard with the decision, for she had lived most of her life in the city. But she had decided the move would be best for her teenage son. She began to explain how there were a lot more black families in the suburbs these days; how her son would be free to walk down the street without getting harassed; how the school he’d be attending had music courses, a full band, free instruments and uniforms. 

“He’s always wanted to be in a band,” she said softly. 

As we were talking, I noticed a man in his late forties walking toward us. He had silver hair, a silver mustache and goatee; he was dressed in a gray three-piece suit. He moved slowly, methodically, as if conserving energy, sorting through his mail as he walked, humming a simple tune to himself. 

“Barack,” he said as if we were old friends, “let’s see if Tracy here will let me have a minute of your time.” …

“Some people say,” I interrupted, “that the church is too upwardly mobile.” 

The reverend’s smile faded. “That’s a lot of bull,” he said sharply. “People who talk that mess reflect their own confusion. They’ve bought into the whole business of class that keeps us from working together. Half of ’em think that the former gang-banger or the former Muslim got no business in a Christian church. Other half think any black man with an education or a job, or any church that respects scholarship, is somehow suspect. 

“We don’t buy into these false divisions here. It’s not about income, Barack. Cops don’t check my bank account when they pull me over and make me spread-eagle against the car. These miseducated brothers, like that sociologist at the University of Chicago [William Julius Wilson], talking about ‘the declining significance of race.’ Now, what country is he living in?” 

But wasn’t there a reality to the class divisions, I wondered? I mentioned the conversation I’d had with his assistant, the tendency of those with means to move out of the line of fire. He took off his glasses and rubbed what I now saw to be a pair of tired eyes. 

“I’ve given Tracy my opinion about moving out of the city,” he said quietly. “That boy of hers is gonna get out there and won’t have a clue about where, or who, he is.” 

“It’s tough to take chances with your child’s safety.” 

“Life’s not safe for a black man in this country, Barack. Never has been. Probably never will be.” 

A secretary buzzed, reminding Reverend Wright of his next appointment. We shook hands, and he agreed to have Tracy prepare a list of members for me to meet. Afterward, in the parking lot, I sat in my car and thumbed through a silver brochure that I’d picked up in the reception area. It contained a set of guiding principles-a “Black Value System”-that the congregation had adopted in 1979. … There was one particular passage in Trinity’s brochure that stood out, though, a commandment more self-conscious in its tone, requiring greater elaboration. “A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness,” the heading read. “While it is permissible to chase ‘middleincomeness’ with all our might,” the text stated, those blessed with the talent or good fortune to achieve success in the American mainstream must avoid the “psychological entrapment of Black ‘middleclassness’ that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest and teaches them to think in terms of ‘we’ and ‘they’ instead of ‘US’!”

It’s informative to quote that “value” in full from Trinity’s website, much of which Obama left of Dreams:

8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness.” Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control. 

Those so identified are separated from the rest of the people by: 

Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another. 

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons. 

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which, while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us.” 

So, while it is permissible to chase “middleclassness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method – the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness.” If we avoid this snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary” contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright: the leadership, resourcefulness and example of their own talented persons.

Keep in mind that Senator Barack Obama donated $26,770 to Jeremiah Wright’s church in 2007, according to his tax return. That’s while he was running for President.

How do we make sense of all of this seemingly conflicting information about Obama? I suspect the simplest answer is that Obama never quite made sense out of it all either.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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I keep reading about this incident in a Tinley Park, IL restaurant, in which a bunch of leftist white thugs armed with hammers attacked a small group of diners who say they are part of a “European Heritage” organization. But I keep getting distracted by the thought that I’ve heard of Tinley Park not that long ago. Who lives in Tinley Park who used to be in the news? 

Oh, yeah, Mr. Officially Not News. The Rev. He Who Must Never Be Mentioned Again lives in a 10,000 square foot house he built in 2008 in a golf course development in Tinley Park. 

Speaking of the man whom all right-thinking folks recently decided must never be spoken of in polite society, former New York Times Magazine chief editor Edward Klein says that the Unmentionable Personage was offered $150,000 hush money by Dr. Eric Whitaker, one of Barack and Michelle Obama’s four closest friends. 

As I blogged on April 29, 2008, when The Occluded One had returned from his cruise and derided the honesty of Obama’s mellifluous race speech of March 18:

One little-mentioned aspect of Barack Obama’s on-going fiasco involving his spiritual mentor is that it makes him look feckless. 

Rev. Wright has been a problem Obama knew he was going to have for, roughly, ever. But what has he done about it, besides giving a 5,000 word speech? Did he switch to a Washington D.C. church when he was elected to the Senate in 2005? Did he persuade Trinity to stop selling Wright’s sermons on DVD? Did he provide any sort of narrative about the evolving ideological differences between the young and mature Barack Obamas? 

In contrast, do you remember how in February 2004, Democratic frontrunner John Kerry was rocked by rumors that he was having an adulterous affair with a young woman? You probably don’t remember because, although for about a day it looked like it might derail Kerry’s victory march through the primaries, the story quickly went away — when the young lady went away, leaving the country. 

Problem dealt with. 

I have no idea if the rumors about Kerry were true or if the girl’s timely departure from America was a coincidence or what. But, let’s assume the worst about Kerry: he wrote a big check from the allowance his wife gives him to his mistress in return for making herself scarce. What can you then say about Kerry? 

Well, one thing you can say is that he had a problem and he dealt with it. All else being equal, I’d rather have a President who had a problem and dealt with it than a President who had a problem and failed to deal with it. 

Wright should not have been an unsolvable problem for Obama. Wright likes the spotlight, but he also likes other things. (He drives a Porsche, for example). 

So, Wright likes money. Obama has friends with money. Right there, you have the makings of a deal. (The payoff didn’t have to be crass — just that in return for Wright maintaining a low profile all year, in December 2008 Obama’s supporters would start up a charitable foundation for Rev. to run. Obama could have asked Bill and Hill for advice on the fine points of foundations.)

Then, in August 2008, New York magazine reported that Rev. Wright was going to publish a book in October 2008 (as I had predicted on April 2, 2008). Big Trouble.

But, quickly, that news was denied. As I blogged at the time:

Update: Now, Rev. Dr. Wright’s daughter says that isn’t true. She asserts her father is in an electronically inaccessible region of Ghana and will issue a statement when he emerges from “email hell.” 

I must say, the news that Rev. Wright is currently hanging out with Dr. Livingstone and Mr. Kurtz makes Obama look much more Presidential than did the endless Obama-Wright psychodrama of last spring. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From the Washington Post:

Obama’s military connection 

By David Maraniss, Friday, May 4, 3:15 PM 

… On a personal level, Obama seems at ease in the presence of soldiers and sailors … He is an avid viewer of the television show “Mad Men” and told me that some of the characters remind him of his grandparents, with whom he lived as a teenager.

Headlines of upcoming parts of David Maraniss’s series:

How Watching “The Sopranos” Makes Obama More or Less Italian 

How Watching “The Walking Dead” Strengthens Obama’s Connection to Crucial Zombie Swing Vote

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Dave Weigel writes in Slate:

Politico’s attempt to clean up after yesterday’s botched Drudge-bait* is a thoughtful, odd, meditation on the political impact of David Maraniss’s new Obama bio. “This is a dangerous book for Obama,” they write, “and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with Dreams from My Father.” 

The oddity is in the assignation of roles — whose job was it to create a true portrait of Obama? From 2004, when Obama was winning a U.S. Senate race in his state, dogged local reporters like Lynn Sweet noodled about how weird Obama’s bio was — facts mushed up with musings and lessons from un-named or composite characters. But after Obama became a star, the rawness of Dreams got lost. There was no great desire, by most political reporters, to dig into the thousands of words Obama had written about “the almost mathematical precision with which America’s race and class problems joined.” There was no great desire to dogpile on the first credible black presidential candidate by presenting his decade-old autobiography as a source of controversy. 

“The media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama’s own exquisitely written autobiography,” wrote the conservative author Steve Sailer in 2009. “Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our natonal blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies.”

Obama’s been president for three years now, and the rules have changed.  

I doubt that we’ll see much in the way of people finally digging into Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. We’re more years down the pike, plus the book is simply too difficult of a read. The prose style is pleasantly trance-inducing and unquotable, plus, it’s pretty boring. For example, there are quite a few pages about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but they are duller than Rev. Wright is in real life.

To understand Dreams, rather than to be just lulled by it, you have to cynically put yourself into Obama’s state of mind about his ambitions as of 1995:

He wanted to prove he was black enough to be a black politician in Chicago, and he wanted to impress cultured white people in Hyde Park, but he didn’t want to provide many quotes that could someday be used against him from any angle. 

He largely succeeded on the last count. He likely succeeded somewhat on the second in terms of impressing a handful of rich people. (I wonder how many pages of Dreams billionairess Penny Pritzker made it through? Probably enough to become convinced that backing Obama would raise her social standing even higher). On the first goal, I can’t imagine the book did him much good in his failed race against Bobby Rush in 2000.

As I pointed out in in 2008, most of the attacks on Obama’s background (he’s foreign-born, a Muslim, an Arab, the secret son of a Communist poet, etc.) are motivated by the urge to say, “It’s not about race,” when the whole Obama phenomenon really is about race. If he weren’t part-black, he wouldn’t be very interesting. 

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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