May 3, 2012

Weigel on Obama's autobiography

Dave Weigel writes in Slate:
Politico's attempt to clean up after yesterday's botched Drudge-bait* is a thoughtful, odd, meditation on the political impact of David Maraniss's new Obama bio. "This is a dangerous book for Obama," they write, "and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with Dreams from My Father." 
The oddity is in the assignation of roles -- whose job was it to create a true portrait of Obama? From 2004, when Obama was winning a U.S. Senate race in his state, dogged local reporters like Lynn Sweet noodled about how weird Obama's bio was -- facts mushed up with musings and lessons from un-named or composite characters. But after Obama became a star, the rawness of Dreams got lost. There was no great desire, by most political reporters, to dig into the thousands of words Obama had written about "the almost mathematical precision with which America's race and class problems joined." There was no great desire to dogpile on the first credible black presidential candidate by presenting his decade-old autobiography as a source of controversy. 
"The media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama's own exquisitely written autobiography," wrote the conservative author Steve Sailer in 2009. "Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our natonal blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies."
Obama's been president for three years now, and the rules have changed.  

I doubt that we'll see much in the way of people finally digging into Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. We're more years down the pike, plus the book is simply too difficult of a read. The prose style is pleasantly trance-inducing and unquotable, plus, it's pretty boring. For example, there are quite a few pages about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but they are duller than Rev. Wright is in real life.

To understand Dreams, rather than to be just lulled by it, you have to cynically put yourself into Obama's state of mind about his ambitions as of 1995:

He wanted to prove he was black enough to be a black politician in Chicago, and he wanted to impress cultured white people in Hyde Park, but he didn't want to provide many quotes that could someday be used against him from any angle. 

He largely succeeded on the last count. He likely succeeded somewhat on the second in terms of impressing a handful of rich people. (I wonder how many pages of Dreams billionairess Penny Pritzker made it through? Probably enough to become convinced that backing Obama would raise her social standing even higher). On the first goal, I can't imagine the book did him much good in his failed race against Bobby Rush in 2000.

As I pointed out in VDARE.com in 2008, most of the attacks on Obama's background (he's foreign-born, a Muslim, an Arab, the secret son of a Communist poet, etc.) are motivated by the urge to say, "It's not about race," when the whole Obama phenomenon really is about race. If he weren't part-black, he wouldn't be very interesting. 

22 comments:

vandelay said...

Weigel seems to mention Steve every once in a while. And every time, like clockwork, his readers respond with comments like, "Steve Sailer? Wait, isn't that the racist guy?"
This is then followed by variations on the "point and sputter" routine.
I hope Weigel keeps citing him though.

Anonymous said...

Have you got a Google Alert for whenever someone writes "Steve Sailer?" (not that Drudge or any other D.C. 4th-estater is any different)

a very knowing American said...

There is a pretty entertaining audiofile floating around called "Son of Strelka, Son of God." A guy (Dan Warren) has sampled bits of Obama reading from "Dreams of my Father" to create a weird apocalyptic myth of the creation of the world, and the rise and fall of civilization, narrated by a doglike mutant with Daddy issues. Obama's lofty style lends itself to this: the general impression is that we've elected a Leonard Cohen impersonator as President.

Oh well, we could have done (and have done) worse.

Anonymous said...

All idols have composite feet.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he himself is all that interesting: it's the media's reaction to him and to his candidacy that's interesting...and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but Andrew Breitbart was apparantly on the trail of some really concerning things about Obama and in general Breitbart was highly effective, almost like a Saul Alinsky of the right wing. Certainly not a simple goyish kopf like Hannity or O'Reilly who pose no real threat of truly changing the game or upsetting the applecart. He died at 43, seemingly healthy as a horse. Now one of the coroners who was involved in Breitbart's autopsy has died of poisoning. Not sayin', just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I love how Sailer fact-checks next to nothing, including (not)cross-referencing material for 'Half-Blood Prince' (Harry Potter? Really?), then simply announces that he's "cracked the code" on exactly who Obama is today and why.

The issue with Obama is how little is known, not how much. But Sailer locked on to the official narrative, seemingly out of self-satisfied laziness, and having written his only book with this conceit-as-"truth" he has to continue pushing the party line for all it's worth.

For those of us following this blog, Steve's bluster over Obama's woefully lacking paper trail is somehow more ridiculous than the official narrative itself.

Obama's a "lonely night dweeb" and racial "volcano god" that is, really, a lot like Steve Sailer, except not as fascinating and thoughtful.

Tell us more, Steve -- frankly your phony deconstruction of a transparent political puppet is telling us more about you than it is him.

Oh. 'Dreams' was written by Ayers. The more you dance around that and try to back-pat yourself the funnier it is. Particularly the un-ironic bragging about reading "Obama's" book; unfortunate that you didn't actually study the prose-style of the real author, or you'd know that Obama didn't write the book at all.

Now you're stuck with it, because you rushed your book out for the last election. Risible.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Hiding in plain sight.

Whiskey said...

Anon at 7:00 pm nailed it. And let me add, the media itself is debased and decadent. Mostly semi-hereditary, inbred, its a mile away from the ink-stained wretches of H.L. Mencken. Rather, more like a "respectable vocation" given the lesser sons and daughters of the aristocracy, or the minor aristocracy.

Of which we have had plenty since around 1968 (the revolt of the Nobles) and to whom they owe their position not to brains and genetics but simple inheritance of position.

Whiskey said...

The Ulsterman Report has some interesting pictures of Obama sitting V-E-R-Y close to some guy on a couch. Uncomfortable!

Meanwhile his supposed girlfriend looks like Sandra Fluke who looks in turn like (as Ulsterman observed) ... Journey frontman Steve Perry. Genvieve Cook reportedly married an Egyptian man three years after dating Obama; conflicting reports if they divorced or not. Conflicting reports as to Ayers and Cook attending the same college at the same time.

I can say this: if that was Obama's real girlfriend, yeesh! Not much in the femininity department, which hurts him I think with White women voters like "Julia" who unmarried, because it screams beta male loser "settler" not the big-man winner.

This is really weird that all of a sudden, out of the blue, we get "I'm in love with this woman ... what's her name! I'm very, VERY straight! I'm not gay!"

Shades of couch jumping.

Is this point where Obama jumped the couch?

Anonymous said...

Steve, have you ever called Obama a Marxist? You seem to equivocate on Obama instead of roasting him.

Not a Glen Beck fan, but it was refreshing to hear him today absolutely bbq-ing the ludicrous fraud in the Whitehouse.

The Emperor has no clothes as never before.

Did you ever comment on Denninger's investigation of the birth certificate? The document is an obvious fugazi.

I think you know damn well that all of Obama's college records are sealed because he matriculated as a foreign student.

Anonymous said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0504-20120504,0,4611577.column

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, that vocative case thing you almost did in your last paragraph failed to compile.

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

Is Weigel Scots-Irish?

If so, then that would go a long way towards explaining why Komment Kontrol has this thread locked down like a damned chastity belt.

Ray Sawhill said...

Sailer in the mainstream! Well-done, well-deserved.

IMHO, an angle on Obama that doesn't get made enough of is Obama as typical Ivy Leaguer. That combo of smart (but not as smart as he thinks he is); a sense of destiny; self-absorption; a drive to find HUGE significance in the forces that led him/her to where he/she is; an overwhelming need to make it into the ruling class while pretending (especially to oneself) that one is doing good ... Completely typical of many Ivy Leaguers. I knew dozens like him during my own Ivy-indoctrination years. (I would never call it an education.) Spotted Obama (despite his unusual background) as typical of the breed, African-American subcategory, right away, and he hasn't deviated from the type yet.

Whiskey's right about the media, btw.

slumber_j said...

Ray Sawhill is right.

Dennis Dale said...

On the first goal, I can't imagine the book did him much good in his failed race against Bobby Rush in 2000

Cue Chris Rock's shreik: "put it in a book!"

pat said...

I have been accused myself of being a little self absorbed. Often when I try to make a political point I couch it in a autobiographical anecdote. But I have never been so focused on my self that I felt the need to write a full autobiography - much less two.

Writing two autobiographies is rare. It must mean something. I can think of only one other celebrity who did so - the great American baritone Robert Merrill.

But in Merrills case it makes a little more sense tha'n in Obama's.
Merrill as a nice Jewish boy wrote sweet and sentimental story about how much he loved his mother and what it was like to be a Jew growing up in Brooklyn.

His other autobiography had a different tone. He tells lots of racy stories like how Ramon Vinay - Toscanini's Otello - locked himself in a hotel room with three hookers for three days. He describes Mario Lanza's reaction at the Copacabana when not recognized by the Maitre d'. Lanza whipped out his manhood and laid it on a table. Even today that sort of thing will get you noticed.

So I think if you need to write two autobiographies that's fine if the tone and themes are different. Indeed I'd like Obama to write a third autobiography where he discusses his girl friends, test scores, and grades.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Political Build-a-Bear

Paul Mendez said...

There is a pretty entertaining audiofile floating around called "Son of Strelka, Son of God."

Thank you, Very Knowing American! That is absolutely the coolest thing I have listened to all year! Great stuff.

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3422981

Anonymous said...

Ray Sawhill:

"IMHO, an angle on Obama that doesn't get made enough of is Obama as typical Ivy Leaguer. That combo of smart (but not as smart as he thinks he is); a sense of destiny; self-absorption; a drive to find HUGE significance in the forces that led him/her to where he/she is; an overwhelming need to make it into the ruling class while pretending (especially to oneself) that one is doing good ... Completely typical of many Ivy Leaguers. I knew dozens like him during my own Ivy-indoctrination years. (I would never call it an education.) Spotted Obama (despite his unusual background) as typical of the breed, African-American subcategory, right away, and he hasn't deviated from the type yet."

You've captured him, but I'd add a few more schools to the list beyond the IVs, like Berkeley, and I'd specify that such people are liberal arts majors..

Do we know what Obama's undergrad major was? No, of course not. Silly me. I was thinking that he was like other POTUSes who release records of simple things like majors.

Anonymous said...

It would be highly productive to simply get at a week by week account of the facts of the life of President Obama, of his mother, his maternal grandparents, their siblings, and Harry and Gabrielle Armour and their children. Enough is known about trait psychology, the dynamics of traints, human heritability, etc., to make the psychological profiling of the President more a technical accomplishment than a personal biographical accomplishment. All that is required is just a central blog devoted to the old Joe Friday (early tee vee ) pitch--"Just the facts, please"