Here's an excerpt from my 4,000 word essay on Barack Obama in the 3/26/07 American Conservative. Hilariously, this was already being denounced around D.C. before I even finished it.
By, the way, here's the full article.
(And here's my April 7, 2008 follow-up in The American Conservative on how themes of my 2007 article on Obama only surfaced in the media a year later, after most of the primaries.)
An Excerpt from "Obama's Identity Crisis" - 3/26/2007
When Charles de Gaulle paid his first visit to embattled French Algeria after taking power in 1958, he stepped up to the microphone in front of a vast throng of Europeans and Arabs torn by murderous hostilities, stared out at them, and simply announced, “I have understood you.” The crowd exulted. Christians and Muslims alike broke into grateful tears. De Gaulle understands us! What more do we need?
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has yet to attain that level of oracular ambiguity, but his bestseller The Audacity of Hope shows this wordsmith’s facility at eloquently restating the views of both his liberal supporters and his conservative opponents, leaving implicit the suggestion that all we require to resolve these wearying Washington disputes is to find a man who understands us—a reasonable man, a man very much like, say, Obama—and turn power over to him.
The politician has elicited such fervor among many whites that Slate.com's Timothy Noah runs a regular feature entitled "The Obama Messiah Watch" quoting "gratuitously adoring" articles. (Blacks have tended to be relatively more level-headed about him.)
Early in his run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama’s pollsters discovered that women loved him, especially nice white ladies who like personalities more than politics and definitely don’t like political arguments. Why can’t we all just get along?
Obama has molded himself into the male Oprah Winfrey, the crown prince of niceness, bravely denouncing divisiveness, condemning controversy, eulogizing unity, and retelling his feel-good life story about how he, the child of a black scholar from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, grew up to be editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Gaullism worked out fairly well in France, and so might Obamaism in America. His opposition in 2002 to invading Iraq was sensible and forcibly stated. More characteristically, Obama was a broadly respected Illinois state legislator from 1997-2005 because he searched out minor good government issues and forged bipartisan alliances with technocrats in the Republican ranks. A president, however, can’t pick and choose his issues with the exquisite selectivity Obama displayed as a backbencher—especially not with judicial nominees. So his record as chief executive would likely prove far more liberal.
As we’ve seen with George W. Bush, however, pre-election platforms, such as Bush’s promise to pursue a “humble” foreign policy, matter less than the inner man. Obama is a particularly complicated personality, so he, and the country, deserve a more frank analysis than he has received thus far at the hands of a starstruck press.
Beneath this bland Good Obama lies a more interesting character, one that I like far better—the Bad Obama, a close student of other people’s weaknesses, a literary artist of considerable power in plumbing his deep reservoirs of self-pity and resentment, an unfunny Evelyn Waugh. This Bad Obama, consumed by indignation toward his own mother’s people, has been hiding out on the bestseller lists for the last two years in his enormously revealing, but little understood, 1995 “autobiography”—a more accurate term might be “autobiographical novel”—Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.
... Dreams is an impressive book. The abstract lessons he claims to draw from his life aren’t memorable, sapped as they are by the pervasive insincerity about race that America demands of its intellectuals, but Obama has a depressive’s fine eye for the disillusioning detail. His characters, real or synthetic, are vivid, and he has an accurate ear for how different kinds of people speak.
The book’s chief weakness is that its main character—Obama himself—is a bit of a drip, a humor-impaired Holden Caulfield whose preppie angst is fueled by racial regret. (Obama has a knack for irony, but of a strangely humorless flavor.) ...
There is the confusing contrast between the confident, suave master politician we see on television and the tormented narrator of Dreams, who is an updated Black Pride version of the old “tragic mulatto” stereotype found in “Show Boat” and “Imitation of Life.”
Which Obama is real? Or is that a naïve question to ask of such a formidable identity artist? William Finnegan wrote in the New Yorker of Obama's campaigning: "… it was possible to see him slipping subtly into the idiom of his interlocutor—the blushing, polysyllabic grad student, the hefty black church-pillar lady, the hip-hop autoshop guy." Like Madonna or David Bowie, he has spent his life trying on different personalities, but while theirs are, in Camille Paglia’s phrase, sexual personae, his specialty is racial personae.
His is “a story of race and inheritance,” two closely linked topics upon which American elites have intellectually disarmed themselves. In an era when fashionable thinkers claim that race is just a social construct, Obama’s subtitle is subversive. Although his expensive education—prep school, an Ivy League bachelor’s degree, and then a Harvard professional diploma—has not equipped him with a conceptual vocabulary adequate for articulating the meanings behind his life’s story, the details deliver a message that white intellectuals have all but forgotten: the many-faceted importance of who your relatives are.
A racial group is a large extended family, and Obama’s book is primarily about his rejection of his supportive white maternal extended family in favor of his unknown black paternal extended family.
For the few willing to read all 442 pages, he offers important testimony about the enduring glamour of anti-white anger. It’s a bitter counterweight to the sunny hopes so widely invested in his candidacy as the man whose election as president would somehow help America finally "transcend race." In reality, Obama provides a disturbing test of the best-case scenario of whether America can indeed move beyond race. He inherited his father’s penetrating intelligence; was raised mostly by his loving liberal white grandparents in multiracial, laid-back Hawaii, where America’s normal race rules never applied; and received a superb private school education. And yet, at least through age 33 when he wrote Dreams from My Father, he found solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against his mother’s race.
Even his celebrated acceptance of Christianity in his mid-20s turns out to be an affirmation of African-American emotional separatism. As I was reading Dreams, I assumed that his ending would be adapted from the favorite book of his youth, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which climaxes with Malcolm’s visit to Mecca and heartwarming conversion from the racism of the Black Muslims to the universalism of orthodox Islam. I expected that Obama would analogously forgive whites and ask forgiveness for his own racial antagonism as he accepts Jesus.
Instead, Obama falls under the spell of a leftist black nationalist preacher, Jeremiah A. Wright, who preaches African-American unity through antipathy toward whites. Rev. Wright remains a major influence on the presidential candidate. (The title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, is borrowed from one of Wright’s sermons.) Ben Wallace-Wells notes in Rolling Stone: “This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr.”
In fact, 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 tee-totaling Islam.