Ever since Barack Obama burst onto the political stage in 2004, pundits have taken to calling the junior senator from Illinois a rock star. He inspires, they say, with his youth, intelligence, and soaring oratory. He transcends race.
This flattering picture, which makes even the senator blush, has seldom been challenged by political commentators or the public. And as of mid-March 2007, no one had tried in earnest to subvert the idea that, as president, Obama could help ease America’s racial tensions because his mother was white and his father was black.
But that’s exactly what Steve Sailer, a columnist for the anti-immigration site VDARE.com, tried to do in a piece he submitted to the American Conservative magazine, where, at the time, I was assistant editor. Using quotes from Obama’s 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Sailer portrayed the senator not as a unifying figure, but as an angry black nationalist who completely rejected his white racial heritage as a young man and might do the same as president.
Well, we can't have people going around reading and even quoting a potential President's autobiography, now can we? Some things, such as Obama's image, are just too sacred to "subvert."
Now, much as I would like to take credit for being the only journalist to notice the blatant contradictions between Obama's campaign spiel and his autobiography, quite a few others have noticed it too. I quote three of them here. Further, Obama's account of his Hawaiian upbringing has since been exploded by the many reporters during the late winter who made the supreme sacrifice of taking an expense account trip to Hawaii to interview Obama's schoolmates.
The Washington Monthly doesn't even bother providing a link to my article, which might allow readers to judge it for themselves.
Jim Antle comments in the American Spectator blog:
This kind of groundbreaking investigative reporting is why I read the Washington Monthly. I confess: When I went to work for the American Conservative, I was shocked to discover it was a conservative magazine. Then I came to The American Spectator and quickly learned that by some strange coincidence, it too was a conservative magazine!
With all this conservatism being published in conservative magazines, I don't know what critics of the liberal media are talking about. Fortunately, we can read informative articles about this shocking experience. (Hat tip: The Corner, the blog of yet another conservative magazine.)[VDARE.com note: Meh.]
Konetzki claims Obama's book "flatly contradicts" my article, but, predictably, he can't document that lie. As for what little that is even allegedly substantive in Konetzki's piece, he disputes my contention:
The happy ending to Dreams is that Obama’s hard-drinking half-brother Roy–”Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage”–converts to teetotaling Islam.
Allow me to suggest opening up Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and reading the last page and a half of the book (pp. 441-442 in the paperback), beginning with the sentences:
"The person who made me proudest of all, though, was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage.”
Of course, reading Obama's book is not something many of my critics, such as Matt Yglesias (whose attack on me Konetzki approvingly cites), have actually gotten around to doing.
Back in 2000, we elected President a pig in a poke. How'd that work out for us? This time, with Obama, we at least have a non-ghost written autobiography of some literary merit, so we don't have the excuse we had with Bush that he's too boring to think about. But, when it comes to Obama, lots of people just want to hope, not read or think.
[Crossposted at Isteve.com]