September 25, 2009

Another thought on "Barack and Michelle"

Having read some more of Christopher Andersen's Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage online, I'll definitely buy it to read the whole thing. It's one of a genre of celebrity biographies where the rule is not scholarly scruples but to tell an interesting story. Being interesting is the exact opposite of almost everything published in respectable outlets about Obama, in which the goal has been not scholarly exactitude either, but to make him as boring as possible. It seems pretty clear that Andersen followed a lot of my book in looking for interesting angles on Obama, and it pays off.

These kind of books compete with novels for females readers, so they use a novelistic omniscient narrator and generally don't slow down to cite sources or to consider alternative explanations. To pick a minor but intriguing example, on p. 139 Andersen writes:
Determined to do something in public service, he resolved to return to Illinois and take the bar exam. He passed on the first try. (Michelle had failed on her first attempt but passed on the second.)

Now, that's what I surmised in in February 2008, although I presented the alternative possibility that she didn't even try to pass the bar exam (which in Illinois is pretty easy -- 81% passed the time Michelle passed) when the rest of her classmates took it:
One problem remained: the Illinois bar exam. It appears that in 1988 she either failed it or was unready even to try it. She eventually passed and was admitted to the bar in May 1989, almost a year after graduation. (In contrast, her husband was admitted only a half year after graduating from Harvard Law School three years later).

But, the question is open whether Andersen has a confidential source that has confirmed what I surmised from the public record, or whether he's merely passing on my inference in a streamlined, omniscient form. We can't tell from his notes.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


David Davenport said...

Will Barry Ritholz mention this in his blog?

Money's Two Cents

Maybe it IS your financial adviser’s fault

Posted by Joe Light
September 25, 2009 1:47 pm

More from Money Magazine

This is sure to make financial advisers cringe, or at least send me a few angry emails. German researchers have found that on the whole, investors who use a financial adviser tend to underperform do-it-yourselfers.

Professors from Goethe University Frankfurt gathered data from a large German brokerage firm that allowed its clients to either run their portfolios themselves or use an independent financial adviser. On the whole, the adviser-led clients did better. But the researchers found that clients with advisers tended to be older and wealthier than average. Once the professors controlled for age and wealth, they found that the clients with advisers did worse.

The professors write, “Advisors actually tend to lower returns, raise portfolio risk, increase the probabilities of losses, and increase trading frequency and portfolio turnover relative to what account owners of given characteristics tend to achieve on their own.”


Anonymous said...

what as surprised me is how quiet and controlled Michelle has been. I thought for certain she would mouth off in some stupid and careless way and become a big negative drag on him....

tommy said...

what as surprised me is how quiet and controlled Michelle has been. I thought for certain she would mouth off in some stupid and careless way and become a big negative drag on him....

I've heard that since becoming the First Lady she has frequently said things that come across as absurdly elitist to crowds in middle America. These statements just don't receive coverage from the MSM. There has been nothing too racial, however, and that is a bit surprising. Maybe she'll get more racial after Obama's days as a politician are over.

Anonymous said...

"...what as surprised me is how quiet and controlled Michelle has been. "

I don't expect the media to report embarrassing things about her.

Anonymous said...

Initially I was of the opinion that the fact that Barack passed the Illinois bar exam on the first try indicated that he might be as gifted as advertised. But he has gotten so much "help" in his life from well-connected people, and Chicago is so completely corrupt, that it would not surprise me at this point if there was a way to ensure that Barack passed the exam on the first try by approaching the right people in the right way.

Melykin said...

"...I don't expect the media to report embarrassing things about her....'

Likely Rush L. and Fox News would be reporting embarrassing things about Michelle if their were any to report.

Anonymous said...

Harvard grads pass the NY bar at about a 96% rate; on average, 78% of those taking the NY bar pass.

I don't think that passing the IL bar on the first try proves much of anything, especially for a Harvard grad.

- bushrod

Anonymous said...

Re Anon "initially I was of the opinion..."
Spending many formative years with his maternal grandfather as his father surrogate, Barry Obama would have imbibed easily the principle that "it's not what you know but who you know" that counts and that "the fix is in" most places most of the time.

Anonymous said...

In the introductory portions of this book is an account that Stanley Ann Dunham, the President's mother, DISCOVERED the power of racism in rural Texas when as a young girl, circa 1951 or so, she violated taboos by playing outside in daytime with Black children. The fact is that in her hometown of El Dorado, Kansas, and in the nearby city of Wichita circa 1945-55, evidence of observed segregation customs was conspicuous and commonplace in segregated restaurants, swimming pools, etc.
There were relatively few Blacks in El Dorado or Augusta and Wichita had a 9th street "ghetto" of small size. But to suppose from the life she observed in El Dorado and Wichita, she would not have known the reaction of playing overtly with Blacks in rural Texas circa 1951-53 is just "creative writing". Somewhere inside all these spin doctored elements of popular biography is a real life history. Are these "creative writing" elements something of comfort to the President and the First Lady?

albertosaurus said...

But, the question is open whether Andersen has a confidential source that has confirmed what I surmised from the public record, or whether he's merely passing on my inference in a streamlined, omniscient form. We can't tell from his notes.

Couldn't you just email him or call him on the phone? I'm pretty sure that that's what the late Robert Novack would have done.

I suspect that you are now prominent enough that most people would take your call especially if they were assured that you kept your sources confidential.

You are real good at certain types of research on certain topics, but there are often other more direct ways of proceeding.

A lot of the left are currently mad and/or disappointed in Obama (e.g. Ralph Nader). Maybe Bill Ayers is ready to "tell all" about their relationship. I predict that some journalist or blogger will acquire some instant fame just by catching a disgruntled former Obama associate at a vulnerable moment.

You don't have to solely rely on the public record.

James Kabala said...

By buying the book, you've proved yourself a better man than Morris Dees!

Anonymous said...

Being interesting is the exact opposite of almost everything published in respectable outlets about Obama, in which the goal has been not scholarly exactitude either, but to make him as boring as possible.

Steve - You, Spengler, and Jack Cashill are the ONLY people that I know of [who could even plausibly be called "professional" journalists] who have opened up the hood and looked inside and tried to figure out what makes Obama tick.

Now whether VDARE, the Asia Times, and World Net Daily constitute "respectable outlets" - well, we'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Anonymous said...

This book does not indicate that our now President, as a youth ever had any sustained sexual relationship at all with any female. He never, even for a short duration, "went steady" etc. It mentions in his later college years many "one night stands" all rather typical for the time and his then urban circumstance, but none of these ever ripened into even a short affair, as far as the text suggests. The one apparent (?) exception to this is a yet concealed one year affair known of only from young Obama's cryptic references over time about a young white woman of high social status who allegedly came to feel inadequate to capture any of the young Obama's Black experience. That none of his "significant others" in this time period know anything about her, is ...well, noteworthy. It is unclear "how the dots connect" in all this. It's a little like there were no precursor to Michelle. Omit the names here and ask all your counsins if they've heard of anything like it.

Anonymous said...

The name "Stanley" that the Presidents's mother bore is treated in the popular biographical accounts in a way that does not stand scrutiny. School teachers in elementary grades almost always quietly insist in such instances on using some diminutive or other substitution. In fact, the high school crowd that she got with in the Seattle area settled on "Stannie" a nice fusion of Stanley and Ann. Also, kids are teased ABOUT such features as names, or foot size, or pimples, or weight etc.etc. but are teased BECAUSE of their lack of emotional connection to in group members, often coupled with a disguised rejection and hostility toward such members. Stanley Ann appears to have worked her name into prominence in order to reap attention, if in self-defeating ways The significance of the whole issue has nothing much to do with justice or fairness or social discrimination. While Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soweto appears in her life to have made commendable practical contributions to people in need by introducing to remote third world villages skills in weaving and other practical arts, she appears as a youth to have been greatly alienated from American life because of her own emotional and character deficts and indeed because of her own choices. To cloak this all in issues of imperalism, racism, exploitation and so on is more political soap opera than serious biography or fact-laden reporting.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, Barack met Michelle the summer when he turned 29. Who are his previous girlfriends?

Anonymous said...


Michelle Obama's admittance to the bar almost a year after gradution doesn't indicate anything one way or the other and is largely par for the course. Go to almost any law firm website's attorney directory and compare graduation dates with admittance dates: Admittance is almost always the year after graduation. Granted, it could be January of the following or October and you would not be able to tell, but the point is that this is extremely common. In NY for instance, you are required to have a "fitness interview" at a time arranged by the bar admissions authority. That date can be months after you pass the bar exam, and if for any reason (which is not uncommon) you need to reschedule the interview, the rescheduled date could be months again after your originally scheduled date. And because many law firms focus on whether or not you _passed_ the bar exam, they tend not to get too hung up on your actual admission date (assuming it is not absurdly delayed, and as I am noting here, a May 1988 admission date for someone who graduated in May 1988, is not out of the ordinary). Anyway, there may well be something to the story, but the date of her bar admission alone tells us nothing about what happened.

Anonymous said...

Correcting a type: I meant "a May 1989 admission date for someone who graduated in May 1988" doesn't tell us anything.

Anonymous said...

Re Steve Sailer's "previous girlfriends?"
Against the facts of life in "Bible Belt" public high schools I worked in circa 1978-82 or so, it would seem that in an upscale student body like that Barry Obama was part of in Hawaii, there would have been no impediments to relationships with females that appear so conspicuously lacking in the biographical information about young Obama. It's noteworthy that he was popular, considered physically and emotionally attractive, and moved as a welcome member of more than one observable social group. Michelle does not seem exactly to have been attained in the usual progressive socialization/maturation process.

Anonymous said...

That Michelle seems to have "dropped" into place without precursors is noteworthy. To those not captured by the delusion of Blank Slate Theory and open to the facts of life regarding the importance of the genetic dice throw in shaping individual personality, Mr. Fact nonetheless indicates that a male's adult sexual orientation is mostly based on the psychodynamics of his relationship with his mother, modified by whatever confrontation and choices he has brought to bear upon the circumstance. The known facts of the President's biography as regards social-sexual activity are far more suggestive of a gay or bisexual orientation than of a majority orientation. The relevance here is not the privacy of his sexual activity but the question of confrontation by him of the role of his mother in his life. The moreso in the domain not of sexual orientation but of political orientation. It is one thing to have a President who may be on a maternal-set "automatic pilot" rather than one who has made the deep personal confrontations (Mama, not Daddy; Oedipus, not race ) from which very appreciable freedom and awareness can come. It is another, to have a President whose known biographical facts give some assurance of the confrontations basic to his being his own man. The President appears clearly and brilliantly to have confronted the HOW aspect of life. It is less clear what degree of confrontation he has had with the WHAT and WHY aspects. He appears to be most saliently Stanley Ann Dunham's son.
There is a chilling sense in looking at the biographical facts of his life that behind his/Ayers'(?) verbal engineering is a life that, in fact, remains largely unexplored by him. Given that in fact Ann Rutledge had little place in Lincoln's heart or life, Mary Todd dropped into place without precursor,just as Michelle seems to have done. But one gets the sense of Lincoln having confronted about every aspect of his background and being. Preesident Obama appears to be no Lincoln.