Parsing young Obama

    Uh, oh. Vanity Fair has posted a long excerpt from a new Barack Obama biography that will surely detonate heads on the paranoid right.David Maraniss, who has chronicled people as diverse as Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi, focuses in the magazine piece on Obama’s lonely, unhappy New York City stint during the early 1980s. He was barely into his twenties, a restless, cerebral kid who had hooked up with a young woman named Genevieve Cook. Let’s have some fun and parse the freakout passages.Maraniss: “At age 20, Obama was a man of the world. He had never been to south-central Kansas or western Kenya, the homelands of his ancestors, yet his divided heritage from Africa and the American heartland had defined him from the beginning. He could not be of one place, rooted and provincial. From his years living in Indonesia, where he was fully immersed in Javanese schools and culture; from his adolescence in Hawaii, where he was in the polyglot sea of hapa and haole, Asians and islanders; from his mother’s long-term commitment to development work overseas; from his friendship with Pakistani students at Occidental and his extended visit to their country – from all of these he had experienced far more global diversity than the average college junior.”Translation: Finally, proof that he’s unAmerican. Or not sufficiently American. Or too internationally sophisticated to be a real American. Plus, he was friends with Pakistanis.Maraniss: “Obama was the central character in his letters, in a self-conscious way, with variations on the theme of his search for purpose and self-identity.”Translation: He’s a totally self-absorbed narcissist who cares only about himself.From Genevieve’s journal: “Distance, distance, distance, and wariness…His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness – and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me…There’s something also there of smoothed veneer, of guardedness…but I’m still left with this feeling of…a bit of a wall – a veil…so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach. Guarded, controlled.” Translation: Finally, proof that he’s too mysterious and creepy to trust with our tax dollars.Maraniss: “When she told him that she loved him, his response was not ‘I love you,’ but ‘thank you’ – as though he appreciated that someone loved him.”Translation: No wonder he keeps betraying the suckered voters who say they love him.From Genevieve’s journal, describing a footrace with her boyfriend, which she won: “The feel of the race was exhilarating, but I didn’t feel very victorious. Barack couldn’t really believe it and continued to feel a bit unsettled by it all weekend, I think…I told him I didn’t feel that good about winning, and he promptly replied probably (because) of feelings of guilt about beating a man. In which case, no doubt, he’d already discovered the obverse feelings about being beaten by a woman.”Translation: What a pig! No wonder he keeps waging a war on women.Maraniss also referenced an incident that appeared in Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father. Obama had written that he and his unnamed New York girlfriend had argued on the street after attending a new play by a black playwright. The play featured black humor, and his white girlfriend didn’t get it. Quoting Obama: “When we got back to the car she was crying. She couldn’t be black, she said.”Maraniss: “None of this happened with Genevieve. She remembered going to the theater only once with Barack, and it was not to see a work by a black playwright. When asked about this decades later, during a White House interview, Obama acknowledged that the scene did not happen with Genevieve. ‘It is an incident that happened,’ he said. But not with her. He would not be more specific, but the likelihood is that it happened later, when he lived in Chicago. ‘That was not her,’ he said. ‘That was an example of compression. I was very sensitive in my book not to write about my girlfriends, partly out of respect for them. So that was a consideration. I thought that (the anecdote involving the reaction of a white girlfriend to the angry black play) was a useful theme to make about sort of the interactions that I had in the relationships with white girlfriends. And so, that occupies, what, two paragraphs in the book? My attitude was it would be dishonest for me not to touch on that at all … so that was an example of sort of editorially how do I figure that out?'”Translation: Smoking gun! By his own admission, he is the pathological liar-in-chief.Maraniss: “Looking back on (his early twenties) from the distance of the White House, Obama recalled that he was then ‘deep inside my own head…in a way that in retrospect I don’t think was real healthy.’ But the realization that he had to ‘absorb all the traditions’ would become the rationale for everything that followed. ‘There is no doubt that what I retained in my politics is a sense that the only way I could have a sturdy sense of identity of who I was depended on digging beneath the surface differences of people,’ Obama said during an interview. ‘The only way my life makes sense is if, regardless of culture, race, religion, tribe, there is this commonality, these essential human truths and passions and hopes and moral precepts that are universal. And that we can reach out beyond our differences.'”Translation: Reach out beyond our differences?! No way, pal.I’m not tryng to be satirical here. Andrew Breitbart’s right-wing website has already parsed the article and concluded, “What we find out about Obama is what we already suspected: he was deeply narcissistic, pretentious, and in his own mind, an outsider to America…Obama embraced his quasi-Americanism not because he believed it, but because it was a tool to the fulfillment of his political aspirations.”But, hey, even if the Vanity Fair piece doesn’t stir the juices for more than a news cycle, that new Obama campaign slogan – “Forward” – is surely grist for a freakout. Did you know that the word was once used by Mao? That “forward” was one of three words in the Red Chinese slogan “Great Leap Forward”? Could this really be, as one expose suggests, “the socialist mind at work in campaign mode”? The sleuths on the right are on the case.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.