"Sailer is often blunt, and somewhat callous, I think, in refusing to empathize with the real tensions and difficulties Obama has had to grapple with in a very multicultural life. But his essay is stimulating nonetheless."
I would quibble with Andrew's vocabulary. I'd venture that my essay is the most empathetic treatment Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance has yet received because Obama and I are on the same intellectual wavelength. We are both fascinated by "race and inheritance," whereas almost all white pundits try hard not to think about these interrelated topics. Personally, most other Presidential candidates in recent years have bored me, while I find Obama quite interesting.
I would say, instead, that my essay is certainly less sympathetic to Obama than most of the coverage he has basked in so far. Indeed, he has received such glowing press that liberal Slate.com is running a regular "Obama Messiah Watch" citing gratuitously adoring journalism.
Despite the similarities in interests between Obama and me, I'm not going to give him a free pass. That's because the man wants to be President of the United States, and I think anybody who is running for the most powerful job in the world ought to put up with some less than fawning analysis.
I'm tired of Presidential candidates escaping searching study. The most damaging example is that zero George W. Bush in 1999-2000, of course, but the most flagrant was Ross Perot in 1992. The man was clearly undergoing a textbook manic-depressive cycle that year: he suddenly decided to run for President as an independent in the beginning of 1992; by spring he was such a ball of fire campaigning that he was actually leading the race; then, he suddenly went into seclusion all summer, muttering about a CIA plot to destabilize his daughter's wedding; and then he reappeared in the fall full of vim and vigor and won the biggest percentage of the vote for any third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt.
And yet, searching Google, the only other reference I can find to Ross Perot and manic-depression is one Saturday Night Live skit.
Andrew goes on to say:
"The account of Obama's alcoholic, absent, polygamous father is the kind of thing you keep in mind when considering the psyche of a possible president."
I'm not that concerned. The more important question is Obama Jr., not Obama Sr.
Clearly, alcoholism runs in Obama's family (his father killed a man in a drunken car crash, drank himself out of his high-ranking job, then got himself killed in another drunken car crash; and Obama portrays his half-brother Roy as on the verge of alcoholism ... until he changes his name to Abongo and becomes a devout Muslim), but it ran in other Presidents' ancestors too, such as Ronald Reagan's.
I've never heard any evidence of Obama being a problem drinker. He's 45-year-old with a strong record of achievement unlikely in a drunk.
Judging from his autobiography and his literary style, I'd guess it's a more likely that he is prone to bouts of depression than that he is a problem drinker. But, then, scores of millions of Americans have had periods of depression, as have had some great leaders like Churchill and Lincoln. So, I would be totally against a blanket presumption disqualifying depressives from the Presidency.
Clearly, however, Obama's father, whom he spent about one month with after the age of two, is an obsession of the Presidential candidate, as documented at vast length in Obama's book Dreams from My Father, so it's hardly unreasonable to speculate about his father's influence on him. For example, the Daily Mail noted:
A family friend said: "He is haunted by his father's failures. He grew up thinking of his father as a brilliant intellectual and pioneer of African independence only to learn that in Western terms he was basically a drunken lecher."
But whether that knowledge would make him a better or worse President is hard to say.
I would, however, hope that people would halt pressuring Obama to stop smoking. Obama, judging from his first book, is clearly high-strung and moody. No doubt smoking relaxes him. While smoking is very bad for you in the long run, it does very little harm to your short run job performance unless you are, say, a Mt. Everest guide. For the good of the country, I would want a President Obama to be at his best from age 46 to 54, and giving up smoking would not help his performance as President. If he is elected President next year at 46, I don't much care if he gives up cigarettes and lives to be 80 or keeps on smoking and dies at 70. If he loses in 2008, however, he'll have plenty of stress-free time to quit smoking at his leisure.
In recent decades, Alcoholics Anonymous has had a hard time finding places to meet because of the growing bans on indoor smoking, since recovering alcoholics are notoriously dependent on cigarettes. Drinking and smoking are both ways to self-medicate a nervous, unhappy psyche, which is what Obama portrays himself as having in his first book. I'd rather a President Obama smoked than drank.
But whether he should be President is the real question, and I would encourage American citizens to read his autobiography.