Senator Barack Obama's image as a "racial reconciler" seems to rest largely on the happy mixed race home in which he grew up, where young Barack worked on grooving his golf swing under the stern but caring tutelage of his ex-Green Beret dad while his anti-Communist immigrant mom washed his golf shirts so he'd look nice in the tournament.
Oh, wait … sorry, that's Tiger Woods' upbringing! Like so many people, I get them confused …
Obama's actual home life engendered a stew of inchoate resentments over his father and mother choosing not to live with him. These psychological scars have played out in complicated fashion over his entire career.
Idealizing his unknown Kenyan father while resenting his white mother for alternately nagging him and leaving him, Obama grew up desperate for acceptance by an ethnic group he knew only from television: African-Americans.
Indeed, Obama's lifelong "Black Guilt" over not, personally, being "black enough" helps explain his otherwise weird codependency upon his angry and outspoken "uncle" (more accurately, surrogate father), Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. (who, by the way, being from the fair-skinned African-American upper middle class, has his own issues with proving himself black enough).
I have long expected that America would soon have a black President. But I assumed he would come from a background of objective, non-racial accomplishment—a military leader, perhaps a football coach turned governor, or a mayor of a mostly non-black city. Instead, the Hawaiian-raised Obama, with all possible careers open to him, chose (repeatedly) to make himself a race man. For Obama, it's always been all about "race and inheritance," to quote the subtitle of his 1995 autobiography.
That's why, despite Obama's (reasonably well-deserved) reputation for thoughtfulness, his policy stances on actual racial issues seem to be about the same as most every other black politician's, as I will detail in an upcoming column.
Why isn't Obama's true nature better understood?
First, more than anybody else in recent politics, Obama has internalized the rule in all the self-help books on how to win arguments: Restate your opponent's argument respectfully to show you understand it. Since most people assume their rival disagrees with them only because he is too stupid to understand their reasons, this instantly disarms much opposition. Indeed, Obama's intelligence and verbal skills allow him often to summarize his opponents' ideas better than they could themselves.
What his opponents don't realize is that, although Obama is more than smart enough to grasp their logic, he just doesn't care about what they care about.
Obama reminds me of a famous incident in Charles De Gaulle's career. When in 1958 he journeyed to war-torn French Algeria, where the French Army's mutiny had propelled him back into power, he stared out for a long moment at a waiting throng of European residents, then pronounced four words: "Je vous ai compris—I have understood you."
The mob went wild with joy.
De Gaulle understands us! He will make everything right.
Nonetheless, much to the surprise of the pied noir Europeans who cheered De Gaulle that day, the French president then proceeded to give Algeria to the rebels, dooming Algeria's one million Europeans to exile for life and their Arab allies to death.
He understood them fine, better than they understood themselves. He just had other priorities.
Obama also reminds me of De Gaulle in that he's thought longer and harder about the key issue of his age than any other politician. De Gaulle spent his out-of-power years of 1946-1958 pondering what the French want in a leader. He determined that the French felt demeaned by their parliamentary system's partisan squabbling and wished instead to be ruled by an updated, elected version of King Louis XIV. This insight was both correct and highly convenient to De Gaulle, who happened to be best equipped by personality, record, stature (he stood almost six and a half feet tall), and even name to play the role he invented: Republican King.
Obama has likewise brooded for three decades on the central issue of American life, race, a topic that most white people with careers to protect have given up thinking about. And Obama has come to exactly the same conclusion as De Gaulle: the solution is to rise above all this partisan squabbling and make me President!
Obama understands acutely the various personae that Americans want in a President. His record of accomplishment is shorter than De Gaulle's (to say the least), but he has something else: a protean heritage that can be read whichever way the voter desires.
Obama has taught himself to play the various roles that white Americans have hungered for. Tens of millions, for example, want a Celebrity-in-Chief to be their pretend friend, a longing brilliantly exploited by Obama's supporter Oprah Winfrey. Others want Will Smith to be their Hero-in-Chief or Morgan Freeman as their Spiritual Presence-in-Chief. Some want James Earl Jones, the Lion King himself, to be their Father-in-Chief.
And many more millions of whites want Barack Obama to be the Role Model-in-Chief for Blacks, whose example will (in some unspecified way) persuade blacks to speak proper English, study, obey the law, and work hard; to "Act Less Black—Act More Barack!"
There's no end to the psychological needs of Americans, and Obama is here to fulfill them all. These are not always easy roles for the naturally aloof, introspective, and elitist Obama to play, but he is willing to do whatever it takes.
Granted, many blacks are annoyed by Obama's pandering to white wish-fulfillment fantasies about blacks. But Obama rightly judged that they will fall in line behind him out of sheer racial loyalty.
Of course, America's race problem isn't at all like the Fourth Republic's leadership problem, which could be solved by a new kind of leader. Obama himself likely understands that electing him President is a cosmetic gesture that will benefit Barack Obama far more than anybody else.
The good news about Obama and his radical past: he can probably be deterred. Barack Hussein Obama is more Hussein than Osama, an opportunist rather than a fanatic.
While his heart may be black, his head is quite white, the epitome of the small-town Midwest where his maternal grandparents originated. He's conflict-averse, cautious, polite, eager-to-please, sensitive, and insecure, with a Sally Field-style need to be liked.
So, Obama's radical principles have repeatedly pushed him left … right up to the point where he starts worrying that if he goes any farther to the left, not everybody will like him anymore, and that could endanger his amazing rise to power. Thus, he compromises and accepts promotion to the next level in return for selling out.
Up through now, Obama has been focused on attaining more power for himself rather than on actually using the power he already has to benefit the people in whose name he has promoted himself. He's kept his eyes on the prize: the White House.
For example, Obama was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990 at the height of the ideological tempest in a teapot over "critical legal studies." He could have used his privileged position to plunge into the fray. But I would guess his judgment was:
Who needs the grief? The Harvard Law Review sounds like a big deal, but it's actually just a bunch of opinionated law students. What's the point of getting people mad at me or leaving behind a paper trail that might hurt me if the political winds ever blow in a different direction? The important thing for my career is not what I do as president of HLR, but that I am president of HLR.
So, although getting elected snagged him a book contract, he published nothing under his own name in his own journal. He appears to have let it run itself on autopilot without committing himself, even on issues as minor as pest control. The NYT reported in 2007:
"Another of Mr. Obama's techniques relied on his seemingly limitless appetite for hearing the opinions of others, no matter how redundant or extreme. That could lead to endless debates—a mouse infestation at the review office provoked a long exchange about rodent rights—as well as some uncertainty about what Mr. Obama himself thought about the issue at hand."[ In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice, By Jodi Kantor, January 28, 2007]
Not surprisingly, he didn't accomplish much, objectively speaking. A commenter at Volokh.com claims to have done a massive statistical analysis and found:
"Obama's vol. 104 is the least-cited volume of the Harvard Law Review in the last 20 years."
After his year was up, the students wanted a non-Obama. Another commenter cites p. 11 of a book about Harvard Law School in those years, Eleanor Kerlow's Poisoned Ivy: How Egos, Ideology, and Power Politics Almost Ruined Harvard Law School (1994):
"Obama was friendly and outgoing, but the class succeeding him wanted a tougher editor to lead them. [David] Ellen .. was seen as someone who would be a more rigorous blue-penciler."
In summary, Obama got a lot more out of the Harvard Law Review than the Harvard Law Review got out of Obama.
Once he makes the White House, though, it will be put up or shut up time for Obama. All those compromises he has made to maintain his political viability within the system will have paid off. Now it will be time for him to redeem some of those promises he made to himself, to his wife Michelle, and to his Rev. Wright.
That's a frightening picture … especially when you realize that Obama is not some run-of-the-mill political talent like Jimmy Carter or even Bill Clinton. He might well be a once-in-a-generation superstar, like Huey Long.
The good news, though, is that politics never ends. Much to the disappointment of Obama cultists, January 20, 2009 would not mark Day One of the Year Zero. Obama's inauguration would merely be a brief lull before mundane struggles over seeming minutia such as appointments to federal agencies, struggles in which Obama can be tied up … if enough of the public understands who he really is.
What this means is that, if President Obama's rather timid personality would be confronted by an informed, skeptical citizenry, there would be a chance of keeping an Obama Administration from doing most of the destructive things he's been promising himself to do once he finally got to be President.
But will the American public be up to the task?
The MainStream Media certainly won't be.
VDARE.COM, though, with your support, will be here to help.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]