January 3, 2007

Is Barack Obama's first memoir "a blueprint for negative attacks"?

"Dreams From My Father" was written 11 years ago, after Obama was approached by a publisher interested in his success at Harvard Law School. It's "not the kind of book you would ever expect a politician to write,"one GOP consultant says. I think it's a good thing if he revealed himself as a real person back before everything had to become a political calculation. (Or was it a political calculation, even then, just an unusual and sophisticated one?)
Obama writes extensively about his struggle to come to terms with being a black man whose African father returned to Kenya when he was 2, leaving him to be raised by his white Kansas-born mother and grandparents in Hawaii. He describes an identity crisis arising from his realization that his life was shaped by both a loving white family and a world that saw in him the negative stereotypes frequently ascribed to young black men. He recounts a search of self that took him from high school in Hawaii to Columbia University, and then to the streets of Chicago as a community organizer.

"We were always playing on the white man's court . . . by the white man's rules," he writes. "If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher . . . wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had the power and you didn't. . . . The only thing you could choose was withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage.

"And the final irony: should you refuse this defeat and lash out at your captors . . . they would have a name for that too. Paranoid. Militant."
Most of the talk thus far has been about the confessions of drug use -- not just marijuana, but cocaine. I don't see him losing a lot of votes because of that. But presumably, people will now pick over the book looking for other sorts of character flaws. Is he paranoid? Militant? Anyone making such insinuations -- not Hillary, surely! -- will have to worry about what they say about the one doing the insinuating.

36 comments:

R2K said...

: )

R2K said...

Too many people will confuse his name with Osama. That is his biggest issue, other than being black, that will prevent him from winning. Pretty sad right?

Anonymous said...

Call me old fashioned but I think smoking a little weed is very different than blowing coke up your nose. It wouldn't affect my vote, but I can definitely see it having an effect in the 'red' states, if you know what I mean. All this talk about Obama in 2008 is ridiculous anyway, total media hype. The election in '08 is Al Gore's to lose--please see why I think so at www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

"not Hillary, surely!"

That is not even a question. One lesson of the Clinton years she surely remembers is the effectiveness of having attack dogs go on television and repeat the same talking points over and over.

Also, remember the book is merely the start of opposition research by the Clinton team. She is going to have more money than any other candidate in the history of Presidential elections. Sleazy private detectives will get their fair share.

I fully expect Obama to be road kill should he attempt to go up against Hillary. He has far too many things in his past that can be manipulated and shaded. They'll fill his empty suit soon enough. The impression her team will create of him will hinder him the rest of his political career.

Don't call me cynical or anti-Hillary. I just have a good memory.

David said...

At some point Mr. Obama must have realized that he was responsible for his own attitude. He chose to break the cycle of dependence on the victim theocracy he espoused and reinforced through drug and alcohol abuse.

Hawaii is a bastion of multiculturalism. Must have been rough there growing up. He made a choice that many others of his race, and other races, have made. Learn to play well on the "White-Man's court." That court generally rewards intelligent work.

He was extremely prescient in getting the skeleton's out of the closet early. His cathartic revelations were pragmatic and well thoughtout.

He had a "Dream" and made it happen!

R2K said...

Right bush won after he was not able to say if he had used coke or not. And not being able to say means yes.

dklittl said...

Hawaii is a bastion of multiculturalism. Must have been rough there growing up. He made a choice that many others of his race, and other races, have made. Learn to play well on the "White-Man's court." That court generally rewards intelligent work.

First, you obviously have never spent any real time in Hawaii because the picture you paint sounds like something from "Lilo & Stitch". Hawaii has a number of people who are from different cultures but it really doesn't represent much multiculturalism. You live there for any period of time and you'll quickly realize that you are either native Hawaiian or not.

Second, that's great BS about the "White man's court" rewarding intelligence. Capitalism rewards intelligence, the "White man's court" has tended to reward subservience and loyalty to the white man.

sonicfrog said...

It's about time the politicos stop trying to pretend to have been perfect in their young lives, especially the baby-boomers. I am an early model Gen X'er (born in 65) and I know many of us have done stupid things when we were coming of age or when we were in college, and we were not nearly as "free spirited" as the boomers. We had already learned from some of their mistakes... or not.

And yes, Bush tried to dance his way around the cocaine question, and he revealed he has clumsey feet. But at least he didn't try the "didn't inhale" bit! How can you try pot without smoking it? (pot brownies maybe) Hillary, most likely, will face the same issues with the same dodginess her husband did, and will have shown she has learned nothing from that episode.

So he used drugs when he was younger. Big whoop! I think it's refreshing to have that out in the open. This can be, if cards are played right, an example of how a next generation fresh face can change politics. He might appear to be the most honest of the nominies when things start to heat up in a year or so.

paul a'barge said...

How do you think his white family, the one that stuck by him, loved him and didn't dump him, felt when they read his book?

You just have to wonder about the native intelligence of someone of mixed race who would write something like this?

Sure, I'm certain there were racists over there in Hawaii, and I'm certain Obama had more than his share of undeserved bigotry. But to write something so bleak and so stark in its color centeredness that is bound to insult those who spent a lifetime loving and raising you, has to put you at the top of the gall pole.

David said...

dklittl;

I lived on Oahu on and off for two years from 1968-70 in Waialua while working in Wahiawa.I started out as a haole and attained the rank of kamaaina from my neighbors.

I experienced first hand discrimination primarily from the Samoans. Other than that, the University of Hawaii attracted people from all around the Pacific Rim countries.

Get a sense of humor. My quoted reference to "White Man's Court" was his choice of words. I was raised in Compton, California and played basketball in Watts. That was definitely the "Black Man's Court" if you will.

How many cultures does it take to qualify for multicultural status? Back then we still practiced "Melting Pot-E Pluribus Unum" assmilation culture.

If Obama understands the Melting Pot theory he stands a chance of succeeding. If he goes the multi-culuralism route he will be disappointed in his aspirations.

Troy said...

I'd not vote for him for outright lying about coaches spitting in someone's face because he CAN. That shit works for Bobby Knight perhaps, but he's Bobby Knight and perhaps (and not rightly can get away with it -- sort of). ANY gov't official (call 'em coaches) would have his stretchband shorts sued off if he even got spittle -- and that litigiousness has been around since Obama was a teenager. And I agree -- it is even more unlikely in Hawaii -- which, if anything, is anti-white of late.

Richard Dolan said...

Those who brush off Obama's admission that he used cocaine are missing the real political bind it puts him in. Obama wants to present himself as a new kind of politician -- one who is open, honest, interested in getting past the old partisan divides, willing to speak the truth regardless of its impact. His drug use, particularly as it involves cocaine, puts him in an awkward spot for someone taking that tack. Under current law (in effect for many years now), the possession or use of cocaine is a major felony. Many thousands are in prison today having been convicted only of that. By his conduct, Obama is necessarily committed to the view that the recreational use of drugs, including cocaine, should not be criminalized. Thus, current drug laws are unjust, those languishing in prison for having done what he did should be freed, and the entire 'war on drugs' needs to be rethought.

To take that stand would require political courage, and for a candidate (especially a Dem), it may be a form of political suicide. Not to take it risks exposing him as a fraud.

Obama's comments about "white man's court" have a dated quality to them. Today, that sort of '60s rhetoric is provocative without any real point anymore. I don't think we'll hear any of that on the campaign trail, and I suspect he will (rightfully) treat it as part of his growing up, not part of his present outlook on life or America.

In general, I think he needs to get past his long "song of myself" phase, and show something more than an interesting biography -- he needs to show some reason why the rest of us should want him to be prseident. If he can get past the critical national security concerns that any candidate must satisfy today, how he handles the contradictions presented by his drug use will go a long way towards answering that question.

Anonymous said...

Trying to quote an author out of context is not likely to fly (as Ann points out.) Just ask [former] Presidential candidate George Allen.

troy:

He said if the coaches wanted to spit in someone's face, they could. That's different from saying they did.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Judging from Ruth Marcus's column today, the attack line on Obama will be clean, juvenile, and psychoanalytic, much like Hillary's attacks on Rove described him as an obsessive stalker and her attacks on Bush reduced him to Mad magazine's mascot.

Marcus: If so, Obama should ask himself: Wouldn't he be more likely to achieve that goal [of becoming a great President] if he had the self-confidence -- the audacity, really -- to choose to sit it out in 2008?

In other words, Obama will prove that he's not a real man by throwing his hat in the ring. And if you need any proof that he has insecurities which plague him, Hillary will say, read his first book. Prior to his decision to run, he admitted it, she'll exclaim. Of course, the sad thing about this tactic is that Hillary will be positioning herself as more "masculine" than Obama. She's the more self-assured, more confident, more poised candidate, Hillary will say. He's the brash, insecure, party-crasher. Except when you look at the differences in their Senate votes, Hillary looks calculating and Obama looks, well, interesting. Claiming that Obama lacks experience would make some sense if the guy hadn't taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

Now, there are some candidates whose ability to get up to speed I worry about; John Edwards, for instance, is totally untrustworthy on foreign policy matters. But Barack Obama just isn't one of those. And there is no reason why Obama should cede the race to Hillary. At the very least he should contribute to the public debate, forcing Hillary to earn her shot.

She has to earn it.

MrBuddwing said...

Earlier poster: "How can you try pot without smoking it?"

Me: As I heard it, President Clinton couldn't bring himself to inhale the smoke because he was (and is) a non-smoker. As a non-smoker who's never tried marijuana, I can sympathize - imagine the difficulty of a first-timer trying to introduce tobacco or marijuana smoke into his or her lungs.

MrBuddwing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I love the way the Post delicately writes that Obama has admitted "trying cocaine."

I've seen this usage before, and it is always intended to protect the person they are writing about. It was said back in the 90s that that Clinton "tried" marijuana.

But what does it mean? What's the distinction between "trying" a drug and "using" a drug? Does the law or pharmacology recognize a "trial" period for narcotic usage? Or is it more like when you were a kid and your parents implored you to "try" beets or broccoli?

Or, is this supposed to mean he never became a full-on "addict?" If that's the case, millions of people could claim they merely "tried" a number of illegal substances. Marijuana and LSD are not addictive, and I would guess the majority of people who've used cocaine didn't end up addicted to it.

Finally, could someone arrested for a DUI defend himself with a claim he was only "trying" four martinis?

I wouldn't hold it against Obama for having used cocaine, by the way. I just think the journalistic convention on this topic is funny as hell.

Jennifer said...

I went to the same school as Obama in Hawaii - granted, he graduated three years after I was born. But, I was there a few years after he left and it was hardly a "White Man's Court". It's more of an "Asian Man's Court". And, actually more of an "Asian Woman's Court" given that most faculty aren't men. But, I suppose that doesn't work well as a slogan.

hdhouse said...

let the swiftboating begin.

don't worry about hillary lashing out at him. worry about the neo-con robots mounting a full attack asap. hillary will be much easier to defeat and you can rest assured that if the neo-con dogs get out of the kennel they will attempt to shred him to keep him out of the race.

so obvious.

Jeff said...

"swiftboating" as in "truth telling"?

hdhouse said...

jeff jeff jeff

so oxymoronic

MadisonMan said...

Finally, could someone arrested for a DUI defend himself with a claim he was only "trying" four martinis?

Of course he could.

There is a difference, I think, between a teen trying drugs and, say, Prof. Ginsburg (one of the other drug-using examples) who was an adult. Or the current President. I don't think anyone should be judged on their behavior as a teen. (I might even extend that to age 23 or 24, depending on circumstances). People trying to find their way experiment with all sorts of wacko ideas.

(I retain the right to change this viewpoint, however, as my kids age.)

Shanna said...

Thus, current drug laws are unjust, those languishing in prison for having done what he did should be freed, and the entire 'war on drugs' needs to be rethought.

If Obama really took some vaguely libertarian stance on the drug war and came out against throwing recreational drug users in jail and overblown SWAT team drug raids based on sketchy information I think he would have some support.

Of course, he’d have to have an overall platform (I have always felt that the libertarian’s party overwhelming focus on legalizing drugs hurts their cause) and I think his experience is weak. I don't think he has any executive experience at all. Even if it turns out he ran a company I would be a little more reassured.

However, if a couple of one term Senators are his only major competition the experience argument will matter less. I’m still hoping for some sort of middle of the road democratic governor as the nominee, although I imagine I’ll be disappointed.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Hillary just put a hit piece in the New York Times that suggests her real fear is losing to John Edwards, she thinks she can Harriet Miers Obama with the claim of inexperience, and that she isn't talking to enough left-wing activists on the ground because her playbook is old.

Mrs. Clinton told Democrats that she viewed her two strongest potential Democratic opponents as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina. They said that she viewed Mr. Obama as her biggest obstacle to the nomination, but that she believed the threat of his candidacy will diminish as voters learn how inexperienced he is in government and foreign affairs.

Terie Norelli, who became speaker of the New Hampshire House in December and the first Democratic speaker in 70 years, said she had not heard from Mrs. Clinton. “It’ll only be tricky for her if she stops with those people,” Ms. Norelli said. “Democratic politics has certainly changed since the 1990s, if you look at how many Democrats have been elected to the House, and the two new Democrats going to Congress. It would be wise for any candidate to move on and reach out to many of the new activists that we have.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/washington/03cnd-clinton.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=efef067c40560e2e&hp&ex=1167886800&partner=homepage

Mortimer Brezny said...

Hillary's people also dropped a tip on the article to Drudge Report:

http://drudgereport.com/flash3.htm

The funny thing is, this stuff is called Freak Show, and is straight out of The Way to Win.

Here's what happened: Hillary's people called Ruth Marcus, fed Obama's old book to the WaPo, arranged for an exclusive inside look into Hillary's campaign prep for the NY Times, and dropped a tip to the Drudge Report. They coordinated a New Year's media attack so the message would carry right around "announcement time," just like McCain leaked an outdated Guilani playbook right around New Year's (or Guiliani leaked it himself to media-test his weaknesses). This is to counteract Hillary's recent polling weakness in the 4 states that count and the unequivocal polling showing that she has the worst chance of winning against McCain, Guiliani, or Romney of the following three: Clinton, Edwards and Obama. You can expect a new round of polls to see if this moves the needle; if it restores Hillary's frontrunner status, she's in; if the needle doesn't move, she might make an early announcement and start getting nasty (read: expect her to start pounding Bush on Iraq).

Just my take. The hand-off to Drudge gives it away, especially since he had no idea when the article would be published, just that it existed and was coming.

I would probably even bet Hillary offered Vilsack a position in her administration in exchange for running in 2008. That way, she doesn't have to campaign in Iowa.

ModNewt said...

Richard Dolan said...

By his conduct, Obama is necessarily committed to the view that the recreational use of drugs, including cocaine, should not be criminalized. Thus, current drug laws are unjust, those languishing in prison for having done what he did should be freed, and the entire 'war on drugs' needs to be rethought.

I actually happen to agree that the war on drugs needs to be rethought. Well, not rethought so much as ditched completely.

That said, I don't see why prior behavior of any kind "necessarily commits" anyone to the position that that behavior is moral or should be legal. People change their minds all the time.

Shoot sometimes engaging in the behavior can actually be what motivates someone to change their mind on a position. Just ask Norma McCorvey.

ModNewt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Buddwing wrote: "imagine the difficulty of a first-timer trying to introduce tobacco or marijuana smoke into his or her lungs."

As an ex-smoker, I can tell you. You get used to it.

And as far as marijuana not being addictive, it is more accurate to say that it is rarely addictive.

Finally, I appreciate that Obama told the truth. People his age used drugs. Not all of us, but a lot of us did. Stupid choice, so we quit. I will never forget the footage of Bill Clinton on MTV (I think that is where he was) lamenting and appologizing for the "fact" of his inability to inhale to that audience. "I tried but I just couldn't inhale."

So right now I appreciate Sentator Obama's honesty more than I do his politics.

Trey

Joe Baby said...

hdhouse said:

don't worry about hillary lashing out at him. worry about the neo-con robots mounting a full attack asap. hillary will be much easier to defeat and you can rest assured that if the neo-con dogs get out of the kennel they will attempt to shred him to keep him out of the race.

You clearly underestimate Hillary.

Her biggest difficulty in derailing him will be that Obama was probably too unknown to have an FBI file that made it's way to the WH while Bill was in charge.

Anonymous said...

How is it that Mrs. Clinton can claim some vastly superior knowledge of government and foreign affairs, when she's been a senator only four years longer than Obama? If she's counting her tenure as First Lady -- is that really a qualification she intends to bring to the table? She would have to elaborate at some point on that subject. "Mrs. Clinton, what was your role in foreign policy as First Lady?"

Other than "I'm famous and I can raise the most money," I really don't know what Hilary Clinton's campaign is going to be about. She's lucky she's got Obama and Edwards to hit with negatives; maybe no one will notice what a nothing she is.

The partisan moderate said...

I don't care about his past drug use and in some ways appreciate his honesty, I do care about his racially tinged comments. Perhaps there is some context to his comments regarding playing by "the white man's rules" but it is highly offensive. I wasn't aware of any rules that apply only to those of one race in this country.

Furthermore, he was raised by whites so I am not sure where this comes from.

Under "the white man rules" that he speaks of, his father, a black man who wasn't a citizen of this country got a scholarship and a place in arguably the finest higher education institution in the world. His father repaid this country by ditching his child and wife.

Despite this, Obama was able to go to the finest private school in Hawaii and despite not being a great high school student and his troubled youth, he was able to go to two very distinguished universities (Occidental and Columbia) and a top law school.

Rather than bemoan "white man rules", he should be exceedingly greatful for the opportunities that were afforded to him that wouldn't have been possible in his father's native country of Kenya.

Perhaps there is some context to his statements but his statements do leave a lot to be desired.

Anonymous said...

"We were always playing on the white man's court . . . by the white man's rules," he writes. "If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher . . . wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had the power and you didn't. . . .

Such moving lines. And lovely imagery. Yeah, that will play well in Peoria. Real unifying stuff, that is. A sure sign that Obama will solve all of our racial problems once elcted.

Imagine the fun to be had with this while making commercials. Exit Obama.

Ben Masel said...

Obama doesn't have to come out for "decriminalizing" or "legalizing," but would do well to show leadership in the Senate on rolling back the worst excesses of the Drug War.

Repealing Mandatory Minimum sentences would be a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Your ignorance is played all across this board. Obama is not a full African American. He is mixed 50% black and 50% white. I am tired of hearing this rant of an African American running for president, he is as much White ethnicity as he is Black ethnicity. Why aren't people saying another white person running for president? Please get your facts straight before you rant and rave about and African American losing the presidential race due to ethnicity. As far as the drug allegations, I do not appreciate anyone experiencing drugs representing my country, I feel that a true leader needs to be a prime example, no one is perfect, but cocaine is a little extreme when it comes to drugs these days. This is not the 1960's or 70's, 80's...this is the year 2007, let's pull for a leader who represents us proudly.

LaFemmeGamer said...

Osama,Obama, too close for comfort for me and we lost SO many on 9/11 and I personally lost many airline comrades.

However, this country is not going to elect a black man or a woman (sad to say..of ANY color) ..we are going to do what we always do: be the slack-jawed country that talks the big talk, listens to dipshit zeros in the media that talks about their candidate that "does this, says that, wants to change this, I think this is the one," blah de frick'n blah!!!
(Frack that!!! for my Galatica fans!)

I wish we were still the country were every vote mattered, but we are not. And it isnt even were I can choose the preference of the sand before getting screwed...it is all middle eastern. God, as of today, I am a three dollar to the gallon whore.

LaFemmeGamer said...

did I post twice? God, what a pot headed thing to do!!! And I had some seriously Vader things to say!!! LOL! I am looking forward to spring when I can grow white petunias in my Vader helmet!!!