March 23, 2008

Obama reporters go back to the beach

Whenever the winter drags on, political reporters start getting interested in Barack Obama's warm-weather upbringing, so Newsweek now has a long article focusing on his youth: "When Barry Became Barack."

Keith Kakugaa was a close friend of Obama's at the Punahou School. (He appears in "Dreams" as a revised character named "Ray" who may be a composite of more than one Obama friend.)

In the book, "Ray" is one of Obama's only black friends at Puhahou School and he's very sensitive to anti-black discrimination. But the real Kakugawa, who appears to be the main (and perhaps only) model for Ray is, as you might guess from his name, half Japanese as well as half black.

He says that Obama, being a dark-skinned kid growing up in a white household, sensed that something was amiss. "He felt that he was not getting a part of who he was, the history," says Kakugawa, who is also of mixed race. He recalls Obama's reading black authors —James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes—looking for clues. Keith didn't know at first that Obama's given name was Barack. "We were in the library and there was a Malcolm X book," Kakugawa tells NEWSWEEK. "He grabbed it and looked at it and he's checking it out, and I said, 'Hold on, man. What you gonna do? Change your name to something Muslim?' He said, 'Well, my name is Barack Obama.' And I said, 'No it isn't.' And we got in an argument about that in the library and they had to tell us, 'Shhh'".

Back in Hawaii in the 1970s, it could seem that everyone was some kind of a minority. The fact that Obama was half-black and half-white didn't matter much to anyone but Obama, Kakugawa says: "He made everything out like it was all racial." On one occasion, Obama thought he'd gotten a bad break on the school basketball team because he was black. But Kakugawa recalls his father's telling the teenager, "No, Barry, it's not because you're black. It's because you missed two shots in a row." (Here, Kakugawa's memory is different from Obama's. The Ray character in the book is the one obsessed with being discriminated against.)

I wouldn't trust Kakugawa's word because he's an ex-con, but what he says is much more in line with what his non-jailbird classmates say than what Obama writes in his autobiography, so the evidence suggests that we should trust the low-life's word over the Presidential candidate's in this case.

There's a reason Obama leaves Ray's mixed heritage out of the book. In general, Hawaii's high degree of racial mixing is an unwelcome complicating factor in the story Obama is conjuring up about himself as a black kid in a white world. It's an easy story for most Americans to understand, but it doesn't make much sense to Obama's Hawaiian friends. Dreams from My Father tries to ignore just how common non-white and mixed race kids were in his privileged social circle at Punahou. I looked at one of Obama's class pictures, and of the 21 children at this expensive private school, at least 7 and perhaps 10 weren't wholly white.

Darin Maurer, another buddy of Obama's in Hawaii, never noticed any internal struggle. The two met in seventh grade, drawn together by a shared interest in basketball. Both Darin and his mother recall Obama as very integrated. Suzanne Maurer recalls that Barry and her white son, who had very curly hair, both sported Afro-style haircuts at one point. Mostly, both Maurers remember how smart Obama was. "He could whip out a paper that was due the next day the night before, while all the other kids were spending weeks writing," recalls Suzanne. Darin remembers some racial tensions in Hawaii at that time—expressed by Native Islanders against both whites and blacks. There were derogatory native words for both races. "I wouldn't be very surprised about any sort of derogatory stuff about a black person," says Darin, a pastor who now lives in Texas. "I knew that's what you had to accept … It wasn't like it was debilitating. It was just a challenge."

Interestingly, Barack Obama Sr. mentioned anti-white discrimination in Hawaii in a newspaper interview when he was a college student there, but the topic doesn't interest Obama Jr. Just as the anti-black beatings he suffered at the hands of Indonesian boys don't show up in his memoir. They just don't fit in his black and white mental universe.

The absence of his father taught Obama the importance of stories. These tales helped him make sense of who he was. (At least two acquaintances in his postgraduation years thought he was on a track to become a writer.) Stories made the murkier aspects of life coherent, or at least gave him confidence—that he could author his own life story, and thus become a master of the tale and not a victim.

As I've frequently noted, Obama is much more interesting than the typical politician, in sizable part because he's a creative artist, perhaps best described as an "identity artist" reminiscent of David Bowie in his ability to mold and change his own persona. For example, here's a wonderful video of Obama giving a 2007 speech to a conference of black clergy, where he has a much different accent and body language: languid, cocky, florid, and Southern. Here, Obama sounds and looks like the preacher who has the biggest church and the biggest Cadillac in Tupelo, Mississippi. (He does a shout-out to Rev. Wright between 1:00 and 2:00 of the 36:00 video).

I like this alternate persona of Obama's quite a bit. I hope he does his 220 pound Baptist minister who loves his BBQ ribs number for visitors to the White House just to freak them out.

(I wonder what other impressions Obama does? Maybe that's the secret part of Obama's diplomatic strategy of personally meeting with rogue foreign leaders. He'll invite Ahmadinejad to a summit conference, then do Borat the whole time they're negotiating. Or invite the Castro Brothers and do Ricky Ricardo: "Fidel, you got some 'splainin' to do!")

Still, it's a little disconcerting to see a potential President of the United States suddenly morphing into a different person. It's too reminiscent of the great 1996 "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Kodos" Simpsons episode where at the Presidential debate, Clinton and Dole rip off their masks to reveal they are the space aliens Kodos and Kang:

Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool, an advertisement from Dodge followed the text over from Newsweek. You should send them an invoice.

I wonder if it is a coincidence that they term it "a new crossover" in an article about Obama trying to figure out his own identity?

Anonymous said...

Steve that's kind of dumb.

Guys like Ahmadinejad would roll over Obama. While Obama is telling stories, Ahmadinejad made his bones killing people. Power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but also the willingness to use it.

Obama ... is a lightweight. His Sybil-like personality changes indicates a willingness to please, rather than determination of character. He's weak and anti-American and has most of all a weak mind. He can't comprehend an anti-American set of forces or person being motivated by greed, envy, hatred, ambition, power etc. that have nothing to do with "evil white racism" and everything to do with their own brutality.

Frak, at least McCain had an up close and personal view of power in it's absolutes. When he was tortured, he got a real good look. Obama is pathetic.

He can't even stand up to Rev. God Damn America. How can he stand up to Ahmadinejad? Much less an even tougher, more dangerous guy like Putin (who has all the deadliness of Ahmadinejad with ten times the smarts). Putin's enemies all end up with massive dose of Polonium tea, or fall out of windows.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Dole doesn't need this."

"...always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom."

"I am Clin-Ton. As overlord, all will kneel trembling before me and obey my brutal commands. [crosses arms] End communication"

"Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others."

"Mumbly Joe"

gendergappers said...

Interesting how he was obsessed with being discriminated against way back when he was Barry. Seems the man hasn't changed much from the boy.

Anonymous said...

Steve: See the "botched solution" thread on Friday, where several of us (led by me) complained you were obsessing about Obama.

Can nothing get you back on to what matters? I never thought that you of all people would become one more monomaniac bore fixated on chickenshit, and with nothing more to say about it than a hundred MSM chatterers.

Elections, presidencies, parties just don't matter much. Smart people have not taken these charades seriously for decades.

If this droning goes on, you go off my bookmarks.

Svigor said...

Something finally clicked for me with this piece. I had a flash of insight and I think I finally "get" Obama, insofar as I think it's possible to get anyone by reading a few articles about him.

It sounds cheesy, but this flash of insight afforded predictive power because as soon as I read this:

Whenever the winter drags on, political reporters start getting interested in Barack Obama's warm-weather upbringing, so Newsweek now has a long article focusing on his youth: "When Barry Became Barack."

Keith Kakugaa was a close friend of Obama's at the Punahou School. (He appears in "Dreams" as a revised character named "Ray" who may be a composite of more than one Obama friend.)

In the book, "Ray" is one of Obama's only black friends at Puhahou School and he's very sensitive to anti-black discrimination. But the real Kakugawa, who appears to be the main (and perhaps only) model for Ray is, as you might guess from his name, half Japanese as well as half black.


...I imagined/predicted this:

At least two acquaintances in his postgraduation years thought he was on a track to become a writer.

...before reading further. The whole thing fits now. Obama is a dreamer. He 's a dreamer, and has spent his whole life seeking to become a somebody. He rejects his mixedness and his whiteness because that's his background - it's his normality, his everyness. He embraces his blackness because that's what he perceives as his "ticket," his entre into legend and myth, his escape from mundaneness (from just a smart kid to being a somebody). His way to stop being Barry O and start being Barack Obama.

The funny part is that his blackness means the sky's the limit. He probably didn't see that in the library, but no doubt observed it in effect constantly as time went on.

That's the "hook" here; he's living a dream. The problem is I doubt he's had much in the way of restraint or adversity, and so his emotional stability is a big 'ole question mark.

He isn't out for "justice," he's out to play the role of "justifier."

Or maybe I'm full of it... :)

Peter said...

Guys like Ahmadinejad would roll over Obama. While Obama is telling stories, Ahmadinejad made his bones killing people. Power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but also the willingness to use it.

Oh yes, the world trembles at the thought of the mighty Iranian military juggernaut overruning the Middle East!

David said...

The seminal treatise on the sorrows of the mulatto, in modern times, is perhaps Rosie Greer's movie "The Thing with Two Heads."

The titular thing was a man with the head of a white man AND the head of a black. (This was produced in the early 70s.) The white was a bigot, and so was the black. They hollered at each other throughout the very long movie.

That may be Obama's inner dialogue. Picture an inner race war. Imagine Obama trying to suppress his inner cracker.

Will his agony (or ours) be resolved by his election to the heaven-kissing office of President of the Great Republic?

I am put in mind of the infamous press dinner where Bush mocked the weapons of mass destruction. The slide show exhibited the POTUS bending over ponderously, lifting the rug in the Oval Office: "Nope, the WMDs aren't here...or here..." Classic humor!

Now imagine Prez Obama lifting that rug and saying, with a sudden, angry sad-clown frown: "Where is my identity? It's not here..."

Seamus said...

Uh, I was thinking of voting for a third-party candidate.

Anonymous said...

So we're electing "Zelig" as President. Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

What is this? Obama post #1,000,250? Someone needs a new topic.

Dedalus said...

I think it's obscene that silly White people from the MSM and other areas of the Pop Power Elite trip over themselves with admiration for Obama and his quest for identity.
See? This is what happens when they don't teach Cultural History in schools. The quest for identity has been going on in the West since Goethe's "Sorrow for young Werther". But these White's have NO identity crisis. Not because they went in search for one and found it, but because they are monads; Sentimental dumbells. Plus, anyone interested should read the single greatest work on the quest for identity (that’s the subtitle of the book in fact). “Beyond the Tragic Vision” by Morse Peckham.

But back to History. Just as the Catholic church has yet to make "the great leap out of the Middle Ages", so too has the USA and Europe yet to make the great leap out of the 18th Century.
That's the West today, ie; a bunch of crazy historical illiterates frantically, arrogantly, obnoxiously, applying worn out models to new and complex problems, stupidly, dishonestly looking at each other in amazement that their “solutions” aren’t working. Which, of course, means that someone else is to blame. Guess who?

Obama is just the most recent symptom of this. But more than this, what he represents to me is the straw that is going to break the camels back. The Camel being, all of this desperate clinging to the past, ones personal past, and our cultural past.

Obama and the whole Left-Liberal-Neocon Leviathan reminds me of some college buddy who used to be funny when he would cure hangovers with a drink first thing in the morning. Only now, years later, they are still doing it. It's obvious they need help, and you want to tell them. But they are surly, mean drunks. So, you don't say anything. Well now it's obvious we need a massive intervention. But that will come, if at all, only AFTER the whole thing hits bottom - and it will. Of that I have no doubt.

Anonymous said...

I dsagree with the assertion that Obama would roll over for Ahmadinejad or Putin. On the contrary, Obama could look them in the face and tell them things that will reassure them while having the pentagon prepare for a first strike against either. In fact, he might even put on the face of a liberal peacenick while doing so. Obama's entire public life has been a concealment of his true emotions and identity.

Obama might be as good a political chameleon as Bill Clinton was, telling you what you want to hear while knowing he is going to stab you in the back. I think he is telling the establishment journalists what they want to hear, while actually planning on being about as lefty as LBJ was.

Anonymous said...

Paul Craig Roberts has an interesting take on "polonium tea", http://www.vdare.com/roberts/080323_bomb.htm

David said...

Someone needs a new topic.

Someone needs a new candidate.

weston said...

Steve,

It may be because I attend a very liberal law school in a very liberal city, but I enjoy your constant Obama posts as a necessary counteractive the Obama-worship I'm surrounded by everyday.


Don't listen to the anonymous whiners.

Anonymous said...

Saudi trembles Peter. What you don't get is that modern warfare doesn't need big armies anymore than the battleship Missouri. Obsolete. Terrorism, and ballistic missiles are enough. Look at Hezbollah vs. Israel. True Israel did stupid things, was unprepared, poorly supplied, and had bad tactics. But the mighty Merkiva tanks were destroyed by dug in Hezbollah fighters with state of the art anti-tank missiles. Israel suffered more casualties than Hezbollah.

Technology gives everyone an even shot, regardless of size of the economy.

And Obama could certainly give away the store against a tough guy like Ahmadinejad. Dinner Jacket could run the US out of the Persian Gulf, our presence there a National Security objective since FDR. Dinner Jacket and Iran want oil much higher than it is now, we want it lower. Whoever controls the Gulf militarily has a good shot at getting their way. So yeah, Obama's weakness matters. Along with say, missile defense. Which Putin hates.

Let's review: Obama made his way talking, the other two by killing people. Putin is also highly intelligent and educated (speaks several languages, is good at judo). Obama is a drama queen.

Ded -- the Catholic Church certainly *HAS* moved out of the Middle Ages. That's why the Pope's critique against Islam riled them up so much (the Pope argued Christianity requires both faith and reason, Islam merely submission to God as a "Master" and therefore interfaith dialog was pointless).

Your larger point that the cultural heritage of the West has been debased or ignored is correct though. About half of Britons think Sherlock Holmes and Biggles were real, while Winston Churchill was fake.

Svigor said...

On the contrary, Obama could look them in the face and tell them things that will reassure them while having the pentagon prepare for a first strike against either.

Nah. Obama would do whatever best contributed to the Obama Legend in his own mind.

Drawbacks said...

Zelig as President? Could well be. Although, if he doesn't make President maybe Steve should write him and suggest he stars in Meet The Klumps 2.

Truth said...

Hey guys:

Check the bottom right hand counter on the homepage. It now seems that 'Obama' is third most popular topic her according to the Sail-O-Meter. It trails only 'immigration' and 'politics'.

That's pretty cool when you consider that the #1 and #2 topics have a 50,000 year head start! (Or 4,000 years for you Huckabee supporters.)

Dedalus said...

You're right Anonymous, I should have qualified that remark about the Catholic Church.

As far as the subject of History goes, I became convinced after graduating from college that the 19th Century held the key for an understanding of the present. The passing of time has only reinforced that conviction. And I went to a State College. From this perspective, given his cushy schooling Obama is a Sham in a suit.
When this stuff gets to be too much I got to the 19th century for some clarification. Something that will hit the nail on the head and remind me I'm not crazy or alone. Because, well, speaking for myself, even though the MSM is phoney and dishonest, their incessant denial can get to you every now and then. Recently, during one such ocassion where I found myself standing mute in front of their incredible inability to admit what is right in front of their eyes, I reached in my library for something that would set me straight. And here's the beaut I found.
It's from Nietzsche.
"There comes a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and doese thsi quite seriously and honestly....this is now called - "progress"."

Bingo!

Well Said Fred.

nsam said...

Obama is a rorschach ink blot.. people project their own fantasies onto him and he politely agrees whenever possible.. explains much.

http://tinyurl.com/3ao6aq

Reg C├Žsar said...

Interracial coupling was once one of Steve's big topics, but he's letting something pass unnoticed here-- is Kakugawa's father the amazing one-in-a-million Japanese who married a black woman?

Or does he have a black father but carry his mother's name, like Sachio Kinugasa, the ballplayer who broke Lou Gehrig's endurance record? (And still holds it, as far as I'm concerned. Going on strike should disqualify Cal Ripken.)

rast said...

Guys like Ahmadinejad would roll over Obama... Power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but also the willingness to use it..... at least McCain had an up close and personal view of power in it's absolutes. When he was tortured, he got a real good look... an even tougher, more dangerous guy like Putin

Hi, EvilNeocon!

Jums24 said...

"Steve: See the "botched solution" thread on Friday, where several of us (led by me) complained you were obsessing about Obama."

"Led by me"?? Anonymous wants to claim credit for being a trend-setter? You people are as nauseating as you are boring. Sailer talks about what he wants to. Deal with it.

big bill said...

Weston, if it's any help, tell your law school classmates that Barry had no interest in the Black law students association.

Tell them that he was nowhere near the demonstrations and sit-ins for a tenured female 9nlack) law professor. Tell them that he did not speak out for Prof. Derrick Bell when Bell struck for more black profs at HLS. And be sure to tell them that Barry hung out at Law Review World Headquarters with the dweebie grinds, junior neocons, and and investment banker wannabees on the Law Review, grooming his resume and connections with the best of them. Nope, Mr. Counterculture Obama was AWOL for all the leftie doings at HLS.