March 17, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Sailer on Obama

Andrew Sullivan on my Obama article: Sullivan writes:


"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.


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

40 comments:

MarcZ said...

Is it just me, or has The American Conservative been getting a lot more interest lately?

dobeln said...

Well, with the other parts of the conservative establishment either failing or on life support, they are bound to pick up a lot of both readers and interest. Unless they go bonkers, etc. of course.

Jacques said...

Sullivan should know about callus. He probably has several on his pecker.

marcz said...

Jacques, was that really necessary? The less I think about Andrew Sullivan's pecker, the better I feel.

joshrandall said...

Obama obsessed with his father,OK;But recall my comment in a prev post where I refer to the Obama mama sending him away at the age of 10! My theory is that he feels rejected by his white world(mama) and so seeks to be the leader of the black side. Just weird how so many "mulattoes" seem to reject their white MOTHERS (a little known actress named Cree Summer got a little fame in the 90's--she had a white dad/black mom,and seemed OK with her mix),as opposed to a mix like Tiger who seems very healthy emotionally(unlike Obammy)and who is devoted to his Asian mom. :0 ????

Jess said...

I can see how this will be spinned: Sailer unconcerned if Obama dies from lung cancer.

Anonymous said...

We are both fascinated by "race and inheritance," whereas almost all white pundits try hard not to think about these interrelated topics.

Steve:

These things are probably true.You know it, we know it, the American people know it. However, this preening that you do is really unbecoming. -K.

Ron Guhname said...

Like most people who frequent Sailer's blog, I find discussion about racial issues to be fascinating, but I feel self-indulgent. We're talking about Obama, meanwhile the MSM is picking a moderate candidate for the Republicans. The choice may very well be sewn up by the fall. You could drive a semi through the hole on the Right; we've got fill it with someone.

FishFace6000 said...

My theory is that he feels rejected by his white world(mama) and so seeks to be the leader of the black side. Just weird how so many "mulattoes" seem to reject their white MOTHERS

Let's get real here: in the American context people of mixed European/African origin are rejected by whites, in the sense that they are seen to be non-white, more specifically they are seen as black. Whether or not they 'embrace' their European heritage is irrelevant, because very very few white Americans will see them as white in any real sense. Personally, I don't see that there is any real case for Obama to answer here; he has had to construct a Black American identity because there isn't another one available to him. Tiger Woods is an exception, no more (and his reasonably Asian features probably help in this regard).

Having said all that, I think Steve is correct in the central point of the article, which, as I interpret it, is: Barack the black man is not the same thing as Barack the post-racial vessel of utopian dreams.

Anonymous said...

Fishface -- my gosh you could not be more wrong.

Halle Berry? The dream of every horny guy regardless of race? Mariah Carey?

Guys divide women into two categories, hot and not. Nothing else matters. Same for women who will drool over hot guys regardless of race.

Marriage between blacks and whites is quite common and doesn't elicit a bit of comment in the military. Look around Crystal City or Alexandria VA malls and see white men with black women and black men with white women. No one cares.

What is important with Obama is Black Separtism. It runs throughout everything he's written, all his personal choices, and his political career. Unlike say Ice T who went from legit ghetto dweller and hard-core rapper to an assimiliated identity playing a conservative, law and order Cop on ... Law and Order SVU, and married Coco the whitest woman on the planet (and former Playboy centerforld), Obama "chose his friends carefully" to retain racial and cultural separtism.

African Americans face the same choices that Jews, Irish, and Italians face: the attraction of the mulatto character of American Culture and personal re-invention outside social controls (think Marshall Mathers aka Eminem, the blackest guy in America culturally) and that old devil sexual attraction (the person is hot!! Who cares what race they are?)

Obama is the ultimate in "anti-Americanism" ... anti-assimiliationist, anti-individualist (putting group identity over individuals and his own romantic choices), and anti-integrationist.

As such he is disqualified from being President because he lacks any agreement on the essential individualism and individual rights basis of the American Dream.

FishFace6000 said...

Anonymous 12:30, you are missing the point. Many white men may see Halle Berry as hot, but that is irrelevant to the point that I was making, which is that they still see her as black, despite her white mother.

By the same token, the question of whether or not Barack Obama rejects his white heritage (which is the one that has been raised) is basically irrelevant - white America sees him as black, thus he has had no option but to take on a black identity.

Integrationist 'colorblind conservatism' of the type you are selling is a fraud anyways. At least the Leftists are more honest about the importance of this stuff. Race has always been one of the central topics in American life, and Americans care very much about these issues in how they actually live their lives (less than before, sure, but still plenty), as can be seen from the masses of data on school segregation, neighborhood segregation, and so on and so forth, much of it discussed by Steve here on this blog, and much of it discussed in the mainstream media, and much of it gnashed over by the Left. Your mall-walking anecdotes are irrelevant.

And Eminem is the 'blackest guy in America culturally'? Borrow a fuckin' clue.

Anonymous said...

fishface, I agree with you about the importance and relevance of race, but it's hard to separate race per se from behavior and social class. This is why Obama is so fascinating. He is, as you say, a black man by any American definition, but he is also completely middle class and - lacking a better word - "white" in his appearance and behavior.

When we talk about de facto racial segregation, how much of the white flight is motivated by pure racism and how much by fear of the problems associated with black neighborhoods and schools? Steve has made the point many times that people use race and ethnicity as a proxy for social class.

Normally, one could argue that it's irrelevant from a practical perspective, but Barack Obama forces the point and raises questions many people - white, black and in between - would rather not think about. Would you (a hypothetic white person, not you specifically) rather live in a neighborhood heavily populated by trailer-park whites or by a collection of Barack Obamas?

Would Obama feel more comfortable in a neighborhood of white academics or a neighborhood of working class American blacks, even assuming no difference in crime?

If Obama were uncomfortable in the white neighborhood, how much of the discomfort would be justified - that is, based on actual behavior and attitude of his neighbors - and how much the result of his own internalized racial sensitivity?

Thus, I think there's a little more to it than just, "white America sees him as black, thus he has had no option but to take on a black identity."

MarcZ said...

If we're going to be anecdotal about this sort of thing, I happen to live in Alexandria and I see very few mixed race couples. Went shopping at Ikea today. It was packed, full of married couples and their kids. I saw one black-Asian pairing, and one kid who might have been bi-racial (she was with her white mom). And I tend to notice these things (in a benign way).

What one does see around here are a good deal of hispanic-white pairings, which is unusual for me. I moved here from Baltimore, where black-white couplings are not at all uncommon, but Hispanics seemed to keep to themselves.

Incidentally, I was riding the elevator this evening with a very well-dressed Italian/German looking guy who had very light skin, thin, wavy brown/red hair down to his cheekbones, and fine Mediterrenean features. He struck up a brief conversation while we were riding and I asked him where he was from, expecting him to say Argentina, since we get a lot of Hispanics in this building and that's the whitest Hispanic country outside of Spain (and why would a Spainard move to Virginia?). I was shocked when he said, "Afghanistan." Clean up a a Tajik, get a European. Who knew? :-)

Totally off topic, but I felt a need to share.

Svigor said...

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.

Whooaaaahh, careful there. He almost makes multiculturalism sound like a bad thing.

Since when is diversity a burden for anyone, anywhere, ever?

Anonymous said...

I will vote for Obama the day affirmative action "quotas" are outlawed. Find out in Chicago how caucasian children are discriminated against when applying to college prep high schools. When Obama gets in, caucasian discriminatrion will go national. All you people who moved to the suburbs are blinded by the media propaganda matrix. Caucasioan chicago public school enrollment is down to 8.8% and dropping.
Down with democrats and neocons!
MARS

tommy said...

marcz,

He struck up a brief conversation while we were riding and I asked him where he was from, expecting him to say Argentina, since we get a lot of Hispanics in this building and that's the whitest Hispanic country outside of Spain (and why would a Spainard move to Virginia?). I was shocked when he said, "Afghanistan."

Actually, a lot of Iranians and Afghanis are hard to distinguish from Europeans; especially compared to those of Mediterranean descent. Look at Iranian-born Rudi Bakhtiar, here and here. (I'm tempted to say that Iranians are some of the most beautiful women I've seen. Talking with many Middle Eastern bloggers, I'm not alone in that assessment.) The Lebanese, particularly Lebanese Christians, are also often indistinguishable in appearance from Europeans.

Anonymous said...

Rudi Bakhtiar is hot. She used to be on CNN Headline News (HNN). Now she's on Fox.

Fox also has the anchor chick who's half Nepalese and half white -- her name escapes me at the moment. Very pretty as well.

Dave

Anonymous said...

MarkZ:

Afghanistan in olden times was a home of both the Tocharian people, Indo-European Asians who often had blonde or red hair, and the Bactrian Greeks, so it stands to reason that you'll have some pretty fair, European-looking people there.

For example, look at this picture of a young girl from the Nurestan province (famous as Kipling's Kafiristan) and tell me she'd look out of place in Rome, Athens, or even Hamburg.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Nuristani_Girl.jpg

Steve Sailer said...

You can count on iSteve readers to get bored with discussing the hot political personalities that obsess everybody else and get onto the much more pressing subject of what the Afghan Kafiristanis in Kipling's "Man Who Would Be King" really look like!

According to Kipling (and to physical anthropologists), they look quite a like Europeans. That's one of the things that persuades Daniel Dravot that he can make a civilized people out of them with some enlightened kingship.

He turns out to be wrong.

John Huston's movie production tried to find a a location in Turkey with enough fair-haired people, but a US-Turkey dispute over poppy-growing interfered, so they went to a place in Morocco where the locals were pretty dark, and ended up having to leave this theme of Kipling's out of the movie. That allowed them to use Michael Caine's very dark Indian model wife as Sean Connery's chosen bride Roxanne.

tommy said...

While we are on the topic of exotic looking peoples, here is incontrovertible proof that Ashkenazic Jews must have Khazar blood.

Compare this picture of Steven Segal to this picture of ex-president of Turkmenistan Niyazov and then tell me this isn't the smoking gun. ;-)

Val said...

I wasn't aware Seagal was Jew-ish, but, via Google, I found this revealing profile:

http://www.lukeford.net/profiles/profiles/steven_seagal1.htm



He struck up a brief conversation while we were riding and I asked him where he was from, expecting him to say Argentina, since we get a lot of Hispanics in this building and that's the whitest Hispanic country outside of Spain..

I believe the Argentinians are mainly of Italian descent and appear to be less ethnically mixed than the rest of South America.

Richard said...

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.

Steve, would this be due to your own conflicted background? :

For an extreme example of how pro-Semitism can come about within an individual merely through genes alone, consider me. Although I'm Catholic, I became very pro-Semitic at the age of 13 when my powers of logic kicked in(and my hair turned curly). I quickly noticed that a high percentage of the thinkers I either agreed with (e.g., Milton Friedman) or whom I considered it a worthy challenge to argue against were Jewish. Since I was adopted, a few years later I concluded that it was likely that I was half-Jewish biologically, (which indeed appears to be the case based on evidence my wife dug up when I was 30). It's important to understand the chain of causation: having a very Jewish-style brain (e.g., enjoying logical argument), I sought out the best logical arguers to read, very many of whom were Jewish. (You may object that my political views today don't sound much like those of the majority of American Jews, but I was enormously influenced by Jewish neoconservatives in the 1970s and 1980s. Having gone to some lengths to expose myself to Jewish thinkers (not because they were Jewish per se, but because those who most stimulated my kind of mind more than writers from other ethnic groups), I absorbed from them a lot of typically Jewish political stances: e.g., pro-Israel and pro-immigration.

Now, my pro-Semitism came about even though I was being raised in my (adoptive) family, which has no Jewish relatives, and, in fact, has a slight anti-Semitic mindset. (I realize my case is only a single data point, so I recommend somebody conduct a formal adoption study of Jews and part-Jews adopted by gentile families.) In the future, however, most children of the IQ elite will have Jews in their extended relatives, which will make my kind of pro-Semitism even more widespread in the future.


http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/000770.html

So neither you nor Obama were chiefly raised by your biological parents. Both of you suffer an identity clash between your Catholic/white upbringing and your growing sense of Jewish/black affinity. Neat, eh?

tommy said...

Nothing in your link surprised me, Val. Seagal is a notorious jerk. I've known people who've encountered the guy and nobody seems to like him. Just to clarify my earlier post, I think Seagal is only half-Jewish. I believe he has some Irish ancestry as well. (The Jewish-Irish mix always did strike me as a little funny. Irish-Italian seems normal, so does Jewish-Italian, but Jewish-Irish? Kind of strange. Not that I think that has anything to do with Seagal's behavior or anything. I hope.) A piece of trivia: I've heard that Seagal's name wasn't originally pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. Originally it was pronounced just like Siegel as in "Bugsy Siegel." But having a name that sounds like a bird wasn't hip enough for a Hollywood career apparently.

Another action star I've heard is a real ass is Jean-Claude van Damme. People I've known who encountered Bruce Willis seem to think he is a nice enough guy, however.

Three women I was surprised to learn were Jewish: Alicia Silverstone (actually half-Jewish; her mother was a convert), Sarah Michelle Gellar, and model Caprice Bourret. All very pretty. Along with Natalie Portman. A very beautiful lady, but poor actress, IMO. (Portman acolytes: sorry, don't kill me!)

This brings up one of the questions I've been wondering about for some time. How can there be so many Jews in Hollywood, but so few Jewish actors in the league of, say, Jack Nicholson or Marlon Brando talent-wise?

It seems to me that a lot of Jewish actors are kind of "synthetic" in their style. They look like they are a bit too focused on technical stuff and don't come off natural.

tommy said...

Steve,

But whether he should be President is the real question, and I would encourage American citizens to read his autobiography.

Do you have a bad feeling about something in particular that Obama might do if we were to become president (other than promote the usual left-wing policies we could expect from any Democrat), or is it more of a hunch?

tommy said...

Fox also has the anchor chick who's half Nepalese and half white -- her name escapes me at the moment. Very pretty as well.

Kiran Chetry? Yeah, she isn't too bad, I suppose.

Cato said...

How can there be so many Jews in Hollywood, but so few Jewish actors in the league of, say, Jack Nicholson or Marlon Brando talent-wise?

Where Jewish talent has focused itself has always been interesting. While Jews have had a healthy representation among directors and producers, the lack of big-name actors (Dustin Hoffman is the only one that immediately comes to mind) is conspicuous.

I've noticed the same thing in music. In classical music, Jews have always been well-represented among solo instrumentalists and conductors, but you find very few operatic singers among them. (The relative lack of composers may be due to European anti-semitism during the 19th Century, when the classical canon was being written.) Interestingly, Asian musicians seem to be following this pattern as more of them become involved with Western orchestras. American blacks, on the other hand, regularly produce great operatic singers, but fewer instrumentalists and conductors.

Jewish jazz musicians have similar patterns. Great bandleaders and instrumentalists, but I can't think of any singers off hand.

But if you look at comedians, probably a majority of prominent white American comedians have been Jewish, which is astonishing if you think about it from the point of available populations.

tommy said...

Harrison Ford is half-Jewish; Sean Penn is Jewish. I think Penn is highly overrated though. Ford is a decent actor, but I don't think he is a Nicholson, let alone a Brando.

Anonymous said...

Let's get real here: in the American context people of mixed European/African origin are rejected by whites, in the sense that they are seen to be non-white, more specifically they are seen as black. Whether or not they 'embrace' their European heritage is irrelevant, because very very few white Americans will see them as white in any real sense.

That used to be true. People today are much more accepting of mixed-race people.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

joshrandall said...

The Jewish-Irish mix? Well you got Bill Maher,a "razor-sharp" comic,(one of the few people to whom this cliche actually applies!) who is hilarious but is quite possibly an alien,Ben Stiller,again very funny,but a little wierd,Harrison Ford...yup,theres a pattern here. Hey you irish and jewish lovers,use protection,awright??? :)PS:To revisit the Tiger Woods thing:Tiger didnt ASK anybody of he could join their group,he just staed he is a Caublanasian!

Anonymous said...

Jews in Hollywood tended to promote a broadly American palette in their movies, to appeal to the largest possible audience. That might partly explain the relative paucity of Jewish actors back in the day, and also why those Jewish actors changed their names (e.g., Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis) while Jews behind the camera didn't.

Some Jewish actors today: Scarlett Johansen (half Jewish), Mia Kirscher (on The L-Word), and Winona Ryder. Tanya Roberts (Sheena) was also Jewish. Same with that blonde actress whose name I forget. Probably in her 50's now. Married a billionaire and then they divorced.

joshrandall said...

What does it mean in ethnological terms that Yasser Arafat looked EXACTLY like Ringo Starr!?

Anonymous said...

What does it mean in ethnological terms that Yasser Arafat looked EXACTLY like Ringo Starr!?

The folk history is this: many Englishmen look like Ringo because they are descended from Roman soldiers.

Conversely, many Muslims of the Levant look a bit European because they have Crusader ancestors and/or are descended from northern European Roman army stock. the Roman Imperial army had a policy of assigning barbarian auxiliaries to foreign locales, so as to discourage disloyalty. It would be historically accurate to cast Teutonic or Celtic-looking dudes as Roman army auxiliaries at the trial of Jesus.

Or perhaps Lebanese, Syrians and whatnot were whiter in days of old than they are now. In this regard, he 19th century view was that classical Romans and Greeks looked more Nordic 2,000 or so years ago than they do now, due to subsequent Muslim invasions.

Anonymous said...

cary grant

tommy said...

Cary Grant was, indeed, a superior actor. Way up there, in terms of talent. But Cary Grant wasn't Jewish. That is just an urban legend. A non-exception that just proves my rule.

Another person often falsely reported to be half-Jewish is Robert DeNiro. He is mixed Italian and Irish. The funniest false claim of Jewish ancestry I've heard would have to be for Bruce Willis. Willis is, in fact, ethnically German and used to be a Lutheran.

Svigor said...

Grant always struck me as having a bit of Balkan blood. What's the word? Dinarid?

joshrandall said...

"...used to be a lutheran". We all grow. :)

tommy said...

Maybe Grant had some Welsh ancestry. The Welsh are occasionally somewhat dark in complexion in skin tone.

Svigor said...

Tommy, I meant his features, not his skin tone.

Anonymous said...

Cary Grant is on record as idolizing Douglas Fairbanks, especially Fairbanks's "healthy tan." For the simple reason that the idol of his youth very tan, Grant was fanatical about suntanning. In some movies ("To Catch a Thief," for example), he looks almost leathery.

Anonymous said...

Cary Grant is on record as idolizing Douglas Fairbanks, especially Fairbanks's "healthy tan."

So for the simple reason that the idol of his youth was very tan, Grant was fanatical about suntanning.

(In some of Grant's movies -"To Catch a Thief," for example - he looks almost leathery.)

The urban legend is that the phrase "tall dark and handsome" was originated to describe Grant and his early popularity, for instance opposite Mae West.