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Barack Obama’s Double Bind

Awhile back, RonKSeattle challenged us to find out about Barack Obama.  Who is he really? 

Obama is the unknown quantity. He’s a big deal, but is he the real deal? In his meteoric rise, the usual questions haven’t been faced. The usual record hasn’t been demonstrated. Will his bubble simply burst, leaving Wolcott’s puddle of melting iridescence? 

For an individual approaching the presidency at a defining moment — not to mention leadership of our Party at a critical juncture — we know precious little of Obama the man, or Obama the plan.

I’d like to explore this with the help of the rest of you wonderful Conflucians.  For the first time in long time, I feel that I’m in a place and among people where I can safely express my real thoughts and feelings about Barack Obama.  This post is a starting point only.


For months now, I’ve tried to get a clear sense of Barack Obama.  I’ve read articles and books and I’ve searched all over the ‘net for insight.  Yet no matter how much I’ve learned about his life and career, Obama still seems to me like a cipher, a blank page, an empty suit.  I know I’m not alone in this.  Why doesn’t he just stand up and tell us who he is and what he stands for?  Why does he insist on being so vague about his goals for our country?  What are the principles that he believes in so strongly that he would go to the mat for them?  Damned if I know. Here is what I do know. 

I know that Barack Obama is running for president of the U.S. as a supposedly post-racial, post-partisan candidate whose platform consists largely of vague concepts like “hope” and “change.”  He is running a campaign based not on ideology or policy, but on personality.  He argues that his life story alone can be the inspiration for a transformation of American life and a complete turnaround in the way our country is viewed by the rest of the world.

I also know some darker facts about Obama.  I know that he has run a campaign based on vicious race-baiting of Hillary Clinton, her husband, and her supporters that has divided the Democratic Party and has been emotionally exhausting for those of us who have been paying close attention.  Why has he chosen to do this, despite his supposed message of “unity?” 

I know the basic biographical facts about Obama. He is the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas.  His father abandoned the family when Barack was only two years old, went off to study at Harvard, and then returned to Kenya.  His father returned only once for a visit, when Barack was ten.

Barack’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham (known as Ann), remarried and took him to live with her new husband, Lolo Soetoro in Indonesia for several years. 

Unlike his father, Ann was devoted to Barack and to his future.  She believed that education and hard work were the keys to success.   When he was attending an Indonesian school that she viewed as inferior to American schools, she woke her son up every day at 4:30AM to tutor him and help him keep up academically.  Then she sent him to live with his grandparents in Hawaii so he could attend an exclusive prep school.

After prep school, Barack went on to Occidental College in California and then transferred to Columbia University, where he earned a degree in political science. 

Clearly, Barack’s white mother and grandparents were instrumental in Obama’s academic success.  But he still longed for an authentic black identity and for the father who had abandoned him.   

In his fascinating and insightful book about Obama, A Bound Man, Shelby Steele argues that Obama’s search for his black father and for a black identity ironically led him further away from authenticity.  In order to be truly black, he had to at least partly deny the white part of himself and the white relatives and friends who had helped to form his character and personality.
Steele writes:
On the one hand, he begins life with so many strikes against a transparent black identity that it is almost inevitable that he would long for one.  The absent black father, the mixed-race background, the privileged education, the geographical and cultural remoteness of Hawaii from any large black community—all this makes a kind of identity vacuum out of which one can only yearn.  But on the other hand, there is the price he will have to pay for a transparent black identity.  There will be parts of himself—family values, beliefs, ambitions, loves—that he will not be able to take with him into the black identity he longs for.


After he graduated from Columbia University, Barack Obama fell in love with a white woman.  They were extremely close for nearly a year.  Barack was welcomed into this woman’s family.  But during a weekend at the family’s vacation home, Obama came to the realization that if he married this woman he would end up living in “mainstream” white society, and would lose the black identity he had been searching for.

And so he began to push her away. They fought one night outside a theater after seeing an “angry” black play. She couldn’t understand why “black people were so angry all the time.”  In the car afterward she cried, saying she would be black if she could, but she couldn’t.  She could only be herself, and wasn’t that enough….He [Obama]confesses that when he thinks of what she said that night, “it somehow makes me ashamed….Little wonder. He rejected her because of her race.

In search of a black identity, Obama went to Chicago to work in a poor black Southside neighborhood as a community organizer.  He joined a local Afrocentric church with a militant preacher, Jeremiah Wright, who became a mentor and a close friend–and perhaps a father figure–to the young Barack.

Eventually, Barack would follow his father to Harvard and would travel to Kenya in search of his African heritage.  Ann had built up a heroic mythology about Barack Obama, Sr.; but when the young man finally met his relatives in Kenya, he learned that his father hadn’t been the heroic figure Ann described. Instead his long-lost father turned out to have been a failed civil servant, a drunk, a bigamist, and a wife abuser.

Thanks at least in part to his Midwestern white mother and grandparents, Obama has become a mainstream American success story. He is a member of the U.S. Senate, a member of this country’s ruling class.  He is running for President with the support of powerful corporations and political leaders.  But at the same time he longs to fit into the black community, even though the American black community does not reflect his own life experience.  He sat in Wright’s church for 20 years listening to sermons that often denigrated white people like his mother and grandparents and blamed them for the problems of the black community.  How was he able to do this?  How could he sit in that church week after week with his children, listening to sermons that denigrated part of who he is?  Steele again:

…Obama is…the kind of man who can close down the best part of himself to belong to this black church and this black identity.  This is the sort of habit that, over time, can leave a person without much of a self. 

Strong convictions seem to be anathema to Barack Obama because he is a bound man.  He has fit himself into the world by often taken his own experience out of account.  If he takes his actual experience into account, he will lose the black identity—the cultural specificity, the sense of groundedness and belonging—that he has worked so hard to secure.  So he simply cannot acknowledge the full truth of his own experience.  He is bound against himself.

Is this why it is so hard for us to get a handle on what Obama believes, what he thinks?  Is this why he avoids committing himself fully to any ideology or policy goal?Is this the truth of Barack Obama?  Is he someone who does not really know himself?  He is claiming that in his person, he represents racial unity.  But if he is divided against himself, no wonder he is dividing us. And how could he possibly lead our country out of its racial divide?

Since I am a psychologist by inclination and education, I can’t help but think about people in psychological terms.  What I see in Obama is a man who has a longing for a father figure to replace the father who abandoned him.  I also see a man who has some serious issues with his mother that may have led to conflicts about women in his life. 

How have these psychological conflicts led to the racial and gender issues that have arisen in the campaign for the Democratic nomination?  How much of Obama’s hostility toward Hillary Clinton and her older women supporters is a reflection of his conflicting feelings toward his mother?  Obviously, we can’t answer these questions definitively, but I think they are still worth asking.  What do you think?




111 Responses

  1. BB: Maybe some traits are heritable after all. From what I have read of his father, he was an ambitious man, one who took advantage of the opportunities handed to him and not particularly concerned with his wives and children. He was already married in Kenya when he met Obama’s mother. He married her without telling her of his other wife. When he got an opportunity to study economics at Harvard, he went without her and Barack. They were simply footnotes along the way.
    There seems to have been a disconnect in Obama Sr. for the lives of others in pursuit of his own goals. That’s the sense that I get from Obama the son. The reason I think he was able to sit in Wright’s church for 20 years is because he needed that community. He made connections there. It helped him advance. I don’t know if he embraces black theology of liberation. It’s not really a bad concept although Reverend Wright might have gotten carried away. But how much of that appeal to emotionalism whether genuine or manipulative did Obama learn from Wright as a tool to rally support to him?
    As for his mother, I totally get his mother. She was an iconoclast but they can sometimes be difficult to live with and also connect to. She was an original, highly intelligent and uncompromising.
    The whole feeling I get with Obama is that he is very good at using emotion to get what he wants but that that goal has changed over time from serving community to serving himself.

  2. My background is in history, political science, and law. I will defer to you on the psychological stuff, but if I am understanding you correctly, Obama himself doesn’t even know who he is.

    Is that the gist?

  3. riverdaughter,

    Barack’s father was not only married before he left Kenya, but he also married several more times after that. He remained married to several wives at once, and fathered numerous children. It is hard for me to fathom how a parent could leave his 2-year-old child like that and simply never return. It must have been incredibly painful for Barack and for his mother.

    Shelby Steele provides a lot more analysis of Obama and why he is so manipulative. I hope to write more about it soon. As ronkseattle intuited, I believe the time at Harvard is very interesting.

    It does seem that Obama is able to separate off whole parts of himself. I agree with you that he is most focused on achieving his own goals and getting what he needs, regardless of the consequences for others, even those closest to him.

    What I have tried to lay out here is the conflicts that Obama clearly has about race and about women. I think Wright represented a way for Obama to really feel “black.” He could have chosen to join another church, but he chose this one. This man has a lot of anger inside him, but he puts it off on others. He is very passive aggressive–always attacking people in such a way that he can deny responsibility later.

    I do not think he is any more ready to be president than George W. Bush was. Maybe even less ready than Bush. It’s frightening, really.

  4. myiq2xu,

    That seems to be what Shelby Steele is arguing. What do you think?

    The contrast between Hillary and Barack is so stark. I feel I know who Hillary is and I know what issues she will fight for. She isn’t afraid to talk about issues and programs specifically and in detail. But Obama is so cautious–always ready to walk back anything he says. Remember WORM (thank you Vastleft!)? Someone always has to explain what Obama really meant. That doesn’t happen with Hillary.

  5. I agree, RD. One of the most frustrating things about Obama’s candidacy is that it could have been used to really heal some–though most likely not all–of the racial divisions. Obama chose not to really even address much of the issues that have devestating impacts on black youths: the increasingly seggregated schools (see for example Jonathan kozol’s The Shame of the nation), housing seggregation (part of what made NOLA so disgusting to watch), racial profiling, disenfranchisement, etc. Or just the fact that sometimes it just sucks to be a person of color going to a high-end store because you feel watched. (I personally avoid certain stores after getting the “special treatment” or being completely unserviced.) Obama only chose to tepidly mention this when he was absolutely forced to. That makes me skeptical.

    The way he has changed his views so dramatically since 1996, when it was the politically calculating thing to do. I don’t mind people changing positions as they mature. Heck, I have changed a lot since I was 18 and continue to evolve. But doing so during a campaign makes me question sincerity, which is why I never fully trusted John Edwards.

    In a nutshell, I don’t think I can say Obama is a cynical politician almost entirely motivated by ambition. But I can’t say he isn’t with any degree of confidence. Little outbursts here and there (attacking Krugman, “the claws”, giving hillary “permission” to campaign, etc.) scare me. It is a sad, sad situation when he is so close to the nomination (I’m pretty sure he’ll get Mondaled in a general) without knowing anything about him.

  6. BB: I had read some of Steele’s stuff on Obama and thought it was insightful, but not necessarily 100% correct.

    I am a “typical white person” so I can’t say what it’s like to experience America as a person of color, but I know that most minorities describe it as “living in two worlds.”

    That might be a useful or even necessary coping mechanism/strategy, but we’re talking about the Presidency.

    I don’t want the occupant of the White House to be working out issues.

    Like G-Dub’s issues with his father. That hasn’t worked out so well for us.

  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mayhill-fowler/obama-says-no-to-foreign_b_95357.html

    Found this through a link somewhere, then did some, like, work, came back forgetting where I found it.

    But, interesting reporting on Obama–this reporter has not, apparently, “seen the light,” Quite interesting–don’t miss the link to her earlier report on Obama showing a bit more cockiness than usual.

    (5:18–Obama up at the foreign affairs committee quesitoning–Nelson of FL gave his spot to him so he could get to another commitment.

    “Are we sure if we succeed against Al Q in Iraq, are we sure they could not reconsitute themselves. Gen. Petraeus said, well, d’iuh, but nicely. How measure that they can’t reconstitute themselves? And Iraqis can handle any AQI situations. Gen. Pet–Keep chipping away. Okaaay.

    Obama keeps asking whether we’re going to erase all AQI — or just get to point where Iraqis can handled them. Gen. Pet–The latter.

    Bill Nelson in camera shot during all of BO’s questioning–keeping pleasant noncommittal expression.

    BO asking question I lost the point of–something about integrating different groups into Iraqi security forces. Gen. Pet–not easy, but that is the objective.

    Now, BO on Iran– Our objective to nor erase all traces of Iran in Iraq, right? Amb. Crocker–No problem with “good, contructive” relationship between Iran and Iraq. [Where is BO going with this?]

    BO on Kuds Force directing aid to insurgents, militias– Amb Crocker says no question. Now, why Ahmedinejad welcomed into Iraq? Amb Crock– Well, they are neighbors.

    BO asks for more time–key points: 1) Want successful resolution to Iraq. Believes going in massive strategic blunder. Believes increased influence of Iran in Iraq direct result of what was done by BushCo. Sees Basra as Shia v Shia jockeying for power. Believes more likely to resolve if measured but increased pressue on Iraqi govt. If Maliki can talk to Iran, so should US. 2) Resources finite. Bipartisan consensus. Money bleeding budget. Must define goals tightly and modestly. Final whatever–question–would status quo in Iraq right now but without US troops, would that be a success?? Would that meet criteria?

    Amb C–Can’t see current status quo achievable if troops removed. [I don’t get what BO’s question really is either, Amb! The guy looked completely perplexed.]

    Didn’t listen closely enough–and it’s hard to follow BO when he gets going on one of his rambles. Hard to get clear an answer as we would like. Well, d’uh, dood! Your meandering comment/question not too finely honed.

    Amb C gets back to prior talking points.

    Amazing that BO is being given all the damn time he wants!!!

    Not good quesioning, but tried to hone in–in my opinion. )

  8. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I saw Shelby Steele on Bill Moyers’ show a couple of months ago, right before the SC primary and the Obama campaign’s playing of the race card. I think that Steele has a good perspective on Obama because he, like Barack, is the product of a bi-racial marriage.

    I see Barack as an empty suit. He’s not comfortable in his own skin; he seems like an actor playing a role. He’s great in front of a teleprompter, but stumbles in debates and interviews. I agree with the point that he seems to have closed off part of himself.

  9. Mostly Obama gave a bit of his stock speeches.

    Tweety has guy (Time?) on saying Obama had to show he had command of issue. Needed to say something intelligent and focused on how we get out of Iraq. Reporter said Obama showed degree of sophistication he had not shown before (!??!)

    C’mere, Fluffy! Good puppy!

  10. Ooops! Thought I was on a different thread–I think.

    BTW–the typeface in the main post area has changed, or something? Looks like typewriter typeface.

    Comments font is the same.

    Others seeing this?

  11. Jawbone: I think that is what happens when you do some cut and pasting from different documents.

  12. The more I see and hear Obama, the more I see him as a product, assembled by Chicago politicians, who want their hands in the pie…


    Trust me.

  13. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01112008/watch2.html

    Shelby Steele discussed Obama on Bill Moyers’ Journal–intriguing. View here.

    I live-blogged it in comments–I’ll see if I can find that comment and see if there’s anything worth reading there.

    Steele said Obama wore a mask so that people could not tell what he actually felt and they could also project onto him their wishes for what he should be.

  14. myiq2xu–

    I’m sure that Steele is not 100% correct. Who is? He is also a conservative. But I find his ideas very interesting. What he finds troubling about Obama is the fact that he has denied the white part of his heritage and devalued it in order to “fit in” with people like Wright.

    There is nothing wrong with living in two worlds, but with Obama it has been sacrificing the half of himself that really made him what he is. Steele argues that Obama could use himself as a model for black youth–showing the need to work hard and have goals, study hard and get a good education. Those are values that came from Obama’s mother and grandparents, not his father.

    But Steele argues that Obama chose to accept Wright’s view of the the world–in which African Americans are victims of white power and privilege and the solution is not hard work and self-reliance, but influencing the white power structure. As I said, Steele is a conservative.

    What cannot be denied is that Obama has adopted an American black culture that he did not grow up in–that was not his experience. He chose to adopt this culture in a search for identity. In doing so, he had to cut off a huge part of who he is.

    So, no, I don’t think he knows who he is. And that is why it is so hard for us to get a handle on him. The people who love him are the ones who are projecting their own hopes and dreams on him. They don’t know who he is either. They just want to believe.

  15. I’d say heavy (childhood) abandonment issues, malignant narcissim and possible sociopathy (lies) plus ability to dissociate at will (like the Wright affair).

    a bad combo, overall—

    ps: riverdaughter! — the place you are in exile from?
    o, brother — talk about helping to “rig” things in one direction…
    what an ass that guy is.

  16. rd–

    I’m sorry about the typeface. I tried composing directly, but I lost what I was doing a couple of times and had to cut and paste.

  17. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-0703270151mar27,0,5157609.story?page=1

    When I first tried to learn more about Obama, back in January, I came across this Chi. Tribune piece about his Kansas relatives and a tiny bit about his father.

    The description of Obama’s father as a man who felt he deserved great things has stuck with me.

  18. Re: font–For me, the font doesn’t go back to normal until the next “page” of the blog–post about Hillary’s breast cancer research plans.

    Of these things I know nothing! Just worried by browser was doing something. At Digby’s all of a sudden the Haloscan comment box now covers almost the entire screen, making for long lines of print to scan across the screen. And at Atrios, my comment box keeps popping up in a place it never was before! Smack dab in the far upper left corner, so I have to move it to use my search box or do other things with the address line.

    So, when I saw the typeface look, I wondered what in the world the intertubes were doing to me!

    No big problem. Just curious.

  19. Boomer
    Do you see any significance to O picking Chicago as the place to get his minority credibility. My background is government, specifically fraud and theft investigations in agencies.. Chicago is well known for corruption and it appears that he immediately fit in with the political culture as did Mrs. Obama. I have read a site called Rezkowatch which is detailing the corruption trial and it is revealing graft practiced by masters.
    Your observations are astute and troubling.

  20. What I see in Obama is a man who has a longing for a father figure to replace the father who abandoned him. I also see a man who has some serious issues with his mother that may have led to conflicts about women in his life.

    BBoomer, do you feel Obama resents his mother for having married a man outside her “world”? Thereby presenting her son with this dichotomy he has had to deal with his entire life–and being half white, half black, she also took him out of the country with yet another foreign man. She took him to Indonesia where he did not know the language (there’re some discrepancies about whether he did pick it up or not; Indonesian teacher says he did not do well with the local language), then, sent him to HA to live with her parents during his high school years.

    This had to have been difficult.

  21. Escoffier,

    Obama apparently picked Chicago simply because he saw a classified ad for a job as a community organizer. I do think that he wanted to develop some street cred as an AA to advance his political career. I don’t know if had any specific connections to Chicago. Maybe someone else does. I read that Obama regularly read the classifieds looking for opportunities and sent out his resume all over. The place in Chicago offered him a job.

    Shelby Steele calls what Obama did “a gesure of identification–the act of going along with something that we may not entirely believe in to show our identification with our group and our militant disregard for mainstream society.” Steele himself worked in a poor neighborhood in St. Louis in the ’60s in order to get a sense of belonging in the AA community.

    Again, Steele is a conservative and I’m not black, so obviously this is all new to me too. But father and mother issues cross all cultures–and Barack seems to have them. I tend to agree with vbonnaire that Obama could be a “malignant narcissist.” He’s so much like George W. Bush, it’s scary.

  22. jawbone,

    I don’t know the answer to that, but if I had to guess I’d say Barack more likely resents his mother for the reasons riverdaughter described. She wrote:

    “As for his mother, I totally get his mother. She was an iconoclast but they can sometimes be difficult to live with and also connect to. She was an original, highly intelligent and uncompromising.”

    I’m guessing that Hillary arouses emotions in Barack that remind him of his mother. And so “periodically…he lashes out” at her. I’m really just pulling this out of my ass, but I love to try to figure people out. I just can’t help it.

  23. Obama gave a superb speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004. We all stood and applauded. He was new to the game and was running against Alan Keyes, an easy win. Someone must have whispered into his ear that he was presidential material and he started running in 2006. In my opinion he is not ready yet. He won caucuses which I do not think truly reflect the vote because of the way they are designed. However, he did have good organization that got those voters to the caucuses and it appeared that he was the lead candidate. I personally do not think he is ready. I also do not appreciate the “race” card that was promulgated against the Clinton’s which was unfair and untrue. It merely gave an opening to those black supporters who were sitting on the fence because of their loyalty to Hillary. All hell broke loose and the MSM, who really dislike her, jumped on board.

    Also, the youth looked upon him as a rock star and that is where a lot of his strength resided. Along with the white voter who felt a sense of guilt and a feeling of high mindedness in being able to vote for a black man. The trashing of Hillary and the refusal to consider the issues instead became a race of popularity.

  24. rd– it does look like I messed up the whole front page with my font. I don’t know how to fix it. No more cutting and pasting from Word!

  25. jawbone,

    That Chi Trib article about Obama’s mother is really good. It’s actually linked in my post. I think I would have liked his mom.

  26. Are you sure that it was Sen. Bill Nelson of Fl. who gave up his seat on the committee today for BO or was it Sen. Ben Nelson of Ne.? Sen. BILL Nelson is a Clinton supporter & Sen. BEN Nelson is a BO supporter

  27. BB:

    As a lawyer, if I was representing Obama I would say that when he found Trinity UCC and met Rev. Wright, he felt that he had finally found the place where he belonged.

    IOW – That was when his identity issues ended.


  28. vbonnaire – “I’d say heavy (childhood) abandonment issues, malignant narcissim and possible sociopathy (lies) plus ability to dissociate at will (like the Wright affair).”

    You hit the nail on the head. This explains the malipulativeness too. There a many political leaders who wrestle with all kinds of demons from the past, but they are able to move beyond the emotional turmoil. Obama is nowhere near ready to be President.

    He’s a serial politician. (See Bundy, Ted.)

  29. vbonnaire – “I’d say heavy (childhood) abandonment issues, malignant narcissim and possible sociopathy (lies) plus ability to dissociate at will (like the Wright affair).”

    You hit the nail on the head. This explains the malipulativeness too. There a many political leaders who wrestle with all kinds of demons from the past, but they are able to move beyond the emotional turmoil. Obama is nowhere near ready to be President.

    He’s a serial politician. (See Bundy, Ted.)

  30. BB: you and Kbird have to stop apologizing for everything. You never see ronk saying he’s sorry about formatting problems. It was very readable. If you go into html mode in the editor, you can probaby adjust the fonts. But save your apologies. No biggy.
    Ughhhh, Word, the bane of our existence. Damn you, Bill Gates!

  31. myiq2xu,

    I’m not sure I understand your point. I think Obama still has identity issues. It does seem like he felt a sense of belonging with Wright. He stuck around long enough. Again, this is totally a guess, but I wonder if Obama would like to be able to express his anger in the way Wright does? But he can’t do it. He’s too caught up in being a people pleaser. Once he gets into the WH, he’ll be in a position to act out a lot of those feelings though.

  32. Boomer,
    I am admiring hairstyles for prom so I am reading with one eye.

    Obama seemed rather rootless at a young age so looking for a place and identity makes sense. I am really concerned with the corruption in Chicago being identified with O in the general election. Even if he did not participate, people are going to wonder why he was hanging out with so many crooks. It is the Wright situation all over again. It seems like a pattern in which he separates himself from the people with whom he is closest.

  33. Escoffier,

    I don’t think it’s possible for any Chicago politician to avoid participating in the corruption to some extent. We already know that Obama had a close relationship with Rezko and that he was buddy buddy with lots of lobbists in both IL and DC. He’s just a pol without enough experience to be prez.

  34. BB: Bingo! This is what I fear. He’s going to accept the assistance of the Democratic power elite in order to get to the WH. Then, he’s going to want to run things his own way. No one gets into this just so they end up taking orders. So, the first time there is a conflict the Congress will push back hard and teach him a lesson or he will send out his attack dogs. Actually, I can’t see where he wins in any way. The Villagers are going to skewer him after a very short honeymoon and he will be completely at the mercy of the Congress that got him installed. Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck. He’s going to be a very weak president unless he goes all unitary executive and you can bet Pelosi isn’t going to put up with that anymore.

  35. rd–

    There is only one thing wrong with your prediction. Obama cannot win the general election. And, like you, I don’t think he will win the nomination in the end either.

  36. The Clintons were the first to play the race card and they were the first to go negative. And yes we all know who Hillary is. She’s a woman that can’t seem to speak the truth about anything. Instead of being so judgemental, why not give the guy a chance? As far as him not being able to win in the general election, have you checked the polls lately??

  37. Which polls are you talking about, Linda? The national popular vote polls or the state by state ones? Thank you for your comment. Keep drinking the kool-aide and have a nice evening.

  38. RD:

    I want a President who will fight for principle (and whose principles I am sure of) so that when they compromise (as Presidents always have to) I’ll know he or she was getting the best deal they could.

    I don’t want to find out too late what their principles are (or if they even have any.)

  39. You are way over analyzing Barack Obama. Why don’t you stop this and simply look at what we know about him.
    He is a truly remarkable human being who happens to have an extraordinary ability to attract a large number of people who believe he is really special. He is a great orator who can attract large crowds whereever he goes. He’s bright, he loves his wife and two daughters, he ia a two-time best selling author. He dresses well and has a good sense of humor. Between his books and his website, it is really pretty clear where he stands on most every issue. He uses good grammer and was insightful enough to oppose the Iraq war. He has good manners and posture. He can pronounce nuclear. He is known and loved throughout the world-because he represents a possibility of reason and sanity from the US. These are things I know about him-and I really don’t care about his search for a father figure or what his pastor said in his sermons. The guy is, by any benchmark, one of the most exciting and dynamic young leaders to come along in many years, and I am more that willing to give him my vote and sit back and watch what happens.

  40. RonK: I’m trained (Masters degree) in psychology, too. I’m not presumptuous enough to try to make a diagnosis based on your well written and interesting post, but I do think Barack Obama has huge identity issues, and he may well displace his abandonment rage at his father on the “safer” target of his mother (who in his mind may have “driven his father away”). Alice Palmer, the “typical white person” granny, the white girlfriend you described above, Hillary (he never denounces the sexism targeted at her)…seems like he collides with women a lot, doesn’t it?

    What bothers me, though, RonK, is that he seems like a textbook narcissist–one who holds a dual sense of entitlement and shame at the same time. Entitlement at being “special” but also shame at being “different.” This is the bedrock of narcissistic personality disorder. Read James Masterson on narcissism (you probably already have).

    The lack of identity, the feeling we have that there’s no “there” there, combined with his need for power and control…as a psychologist I’m sure you have seen this in your office. The scariest thing about narcissists is their lack of empathy and their lack of a core identity, along with their need for perfect mirroring–the adoring crowds, the cult-like followers (sorry Digby), the applause are like air and water to a narcissist–they do not feel fully real without that mirroring. Many people are drawn to that kind of power because it makes them feel safe. Until they get burned.

    We’ve had one in the White House for the past 7 years. Hasn’t worked out very well, has it?

  41. chris – What about the Michelle Obama and Donna Brazile? What kind of figures do they represent to him? Are they the mothers he wish he had?

    i saw a photo of Obama’s mother as a child. She was sitting with her mom and dad. (Obama’s maternal grandparents.) Obama looks very much like his white grandfather – stunningly so.

  42. Hi John,

    “You are way over analyzing Barack Obama. Why don’t you stop this and simply look at what we know about him.”

    To answer your question, I really like analyzing people, so that’s why I’m not going to stop doing it. Thank you for your comment though.

  43. Sorry – this part of my comment got cut off. Chris said:

    “What bothers me, though, RonK, is that he seems like a textbook narcissist–one who holds a dual sense of entitlement and shame at the same time. Entitlement at being “special” but also shame at being ‘different.’ ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t such a person secretly loathe the people who love him? The narcissist feels like a fraud – he knows he’s empty inside. People who love him are scorned and feared for being too stupid to see behind the “mask of sanity.”

    From the get go, Obama reminded me of a serial killer. I’m serious.

  44. Escoffier: Do you see any significance to O picking Chicago

    1. Harold Washington

    However, the Washington phenomena did provide hope that black-led, multiracial coalitions were politically viable.

    2. As once explained to me: “Baltimore, Chicago and LA is where everyone has people (relatives).”

    If you’re looking to establish political cred in the Black community, Chicago is a high-profile option.

  45. Wow someone hit a nerve. Whenver the Kool Aid drinkers come out someone is on to something.

  46. Chris,

    Those are really interesting points. I was particularly struck when I learned that Obama broke up with a woman he loved because she was white. He has made “being black” paramount in his life; yet in this campaign, he has avoided events where he would be seen in the role of an African American leader–such as Tavis Smiley’s event in Louisiana and the anniversary of MLK’s murder in Memphis.

    And Obama really is like Bush in so many ways. It makes me wonder what is going on in the minds of so many Americans.

    BTW, I’m the author of the above post. I quoted RonK at the beginning, because he has encouraged us to try to figure out who the heck Obama really is.

  47. I urge all of you to visit No Quarter and read what they have to say about Barry.

    None of it is good.

    But if you don’t you won’t be doing your duty as a citizen to find out as much as you can about someone who wants to be President. We, the people, fell down on that job twice with Bush.

    I submit we can’t afford the mistake Barry would be for our nation.

    Check him out at No Quarter and the Wright affair is the least of the issues Barry has.

    The least…..

  48. Boston boomer I love your well researched, thought out post – just the way it is .. the content is fantastic .. the font etc. is great for me 😉

    He really is a disturbed person and that is why we see him so many times not making a stand against our progressive principles .. conflicted ? .. boy I guess – raygun and poppy bush to Obama equals great foreign policy , oh really ??? maybe he hasn’t even
    read his history , that is hard to believe though with his education . Thanks again for your very fine diary and for giving us your time, I find it extremely valuable.

    always rides the fence, loyal to no one , we used to call people like that people pleasers .. honestly , I do not even think he has learned how to say no, maybe to his children but most likely Michelle does that for him also ..

  49. bostonboomer – Good for you! I hope I don’t get banned for all my comments, but this is a discussion I’ve been eager to see.

    Obama strikes me as epicene. Look at the photo of Obama, Hillary, and two other candidates standing in front of a row of American flags (on big flag poles!)
    This is the photo where Hillary and the other two figures have their hands placed over their hearts for the Pledge of Allegienced. Obama does not have his had over his heart. His hands are loosely claped in front of his crotch. Never mind the symbolism that may or not be in this pose – men look really wimpy when they stand that way.

    OK – I’ll be quiet for a while. Thanks for the conversation.

  50. John: We’re not talking about our new next-door neighbor or the new guy at work.

    We’re talking about the person who may be the next occupant of the White House.

    You said: “Why don’t you stop this and simply look at what we know about him.”

    We don’t know enough about him yet. I want to know what he’s like before he gets the job, not when it’s too late.

  51. John: I’m relieved that there is a place that this discussion can take place. If the NYTime can write articles about the Clinton’s sheet stains (or lack thereof) I can write about Obama staning in front of a row of towering flag poles with his hands covering his crotch. Boy, do I love the blogs.

  52. I think that Barrack has no idea who he is.

    I am sure that despite being loved by this mother and grandparents, his life was hard and that he did feel like an outsider.

    What is the story with his mother sending him to live with his grandparents at eleven (or so)? Was there stress in the relationship between him and his step-father or did she just see a better opportunity in Hawaii? I have an eleven year old son– I could never send him off and if I did I could see where it would not be a good thing. Boys that age hold a lot of stuff in. I’m not so sure that his grandparents were warm and huggy.

    How about his mother’s name “Stanley Ann”– because her father wanted a son!!! Great self-esteem builder for Ann.

    Finally, you have to look at his wife. I am sorry, but she is one angry women. I am sure that even though we feel that we see an angry individual, we see only a small percent of her anger.

    I have no idea what any of this means, but I know that I can not vote for Obama. I am really upset, because I can not write Hillary in (and have it counted) in Maryland, unless Hillary registers to run as a write-in candidate ( which she will not do). I have to figure out a way for the DNC to know that I am not voting for Obama because I love Hillary!!!

  53. Gawd!

    I step away from the internets to actually get some work done and you guys start the most fascinating discussion?

    Why does everybody hate me?

  54. Honora: I have no idea what any of this means, but I know that I can not vote for Obama. I am really upset, because I can not write Hillary in (and have it counted) in Maryland, unless Hillary registers to run as a write-in candidate ( which she will not do).

    I also like that little trick of the write-in not counting if you don’t enter it EXACTLY in the registered format.

  55. Honora,

    You should read the article about Obama’s mother from the Chicago Tribune. Here is the link:


    Obama’s mother and grandparents were/are really fascinating people. They were all free-thinkers, very nonconformist.

  56. MABLue–

    You are loved here! Don’t say that. I’d love the hear your thoughts.

  57. Arabella Trefoil,

    Epicine. Whew! I had to go look that one up. Why do you think that? Are you saying you think Obama is androgynous?

  58. sddf

  59. Check this out:


    Michelle has a huge chip in her shoulder. She beneifitted from afirmative action initiatives, but never felt that she could measure up. Her older brother was a high school athelte, and she was overshadowed by him during her childhood.

    During “the troubles” at the Boyz Blogs, I did a lot of research on both Obamas, longing for the day when I could comment about them. Who are they?

    Michelle’s has a huge sense of entitlement. Bigger than Obama’s. The only black family Obama has is the one he and Michelle created.

  60. “The only black family Obama has is the one he and Michelle created.”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. Also Obama does have family in Kenya, why ignore them?

    I do *not* support Obama, I hope he loses, but I don’t think insulting his race or his family circumstances is helpful.

  61. Epicine. Whew! I had to go look that one up. Why do you think that? Are you saying you think Obama is androgynous?

    I’m having a hard time coming up with the right word. He seems to have no sexual presence at all. None. I’m not talking about whether he’s ‘hot.’ Did you see his photo in Texas wearing the cowboy hat? This is disturbing photo. I wish I could explain myself here.

    I hope somebody wll comment about Michelle and Brazille and the roles they play. Two strong black mamas who support and protect him? Or two women who he fears and resents?

    I go back the the point about a narcissist unknowing hates the people he’s close to for not seeing the truth. Obama, for all his bravado, is empty at the core. He may feel contempt for people close to him. That is “You admire me and defend me, but you are stupid enough to fall for my act. Your admiration is meaningless, laughable really, becuase you are stupid for being a dupe.”

  62. I just have to share this from Melissa .. I love it !

    Feminism is an integral part of progressivism.

    If you’re not a feminist, you’re not a progressive.

    No matter how much you hate Bush.

    No matter how much you hate the Iraq war.

    No matter how much you hate our current torture policy.

    No matter how much you want to restore habeas corpus.

    No matter how much you’re totally going to vote for the Democrat in November.

    If you’re not a feminist, you’re not a progressive.

    You’re a fauxgressive.

    End of story.


  63. Biography isn’t destiny, and I am profoundly incurious about Obama’s parents and his upbringing, I do resent his freeloading upon African-American history in support of his candidacy when it’s not his own (as I understand it, his autobiography is largely about how he picked that identity and went with it, much as I’d pick vegetarianism or Unitarianism), but in the end everyone makes their own identity in our crazy country. My real problem with Obama is that when you scratch the surface, it’s more surface, all the way down.

  64. Here’s another Tribune article about Obama: “The Not So Simple Youth of BO.”

    Not knowing your father and having a skin tone that constantly sets you apart from your relatives and community in multi-cultural Hawaii (mostly Asian/Pacific Islander) is guaranteed to send a bright person on a quest for identity.

    Had Barack been healthier (or smarter politically) and walked away from Wright and joined a more moderate church, or had he had the conviction to not take money from a slumlord who was exploiting poor blacks in his district, I would have some respect for him.

    Did he turn down Rezko’s $1000 for his second campaign? (Don’t forget that his was the first with any competition since Obama’s hired election official challenged the nominating papers of Obama’s opposition so he could run unopposed).

    The $1000 check came while Rezko’s tenants were freezing that Chicago winter because Rezko’s company didn’t have the money to pay for heating. The papers covered this and the City of Chicago sued and settled for $100, but Obama continued to take money from Rezko.

    And, yes, the reason that he super delegates exist is to prevent another McGovern from being nominated, but now that the media is out “Al Goring” itself to kill Hillary’s chances (before it falls in love with McCain), the supers are told t hey have to vote the party line.


    The Daily Mail (U.K. tabloid) has supposedly exhumed a different story about Barack’s father. A few paragraphs follow. His father was killed in an auto accident, supposedly drunk. He had lost his legs in a previous auto accident.


    “At 18, he married a girl called Kezia. But Obama Snr was more interested in politics and economics than his family and his political leanings had been brought to the notice of leaders of the Kenyan Independence movement.

    He was put forward for an American-sponsored scholarship in economics, with the idea being that he would eventually use his Western-honed skills in the new Kenya. At the age of 23 he headed for university in Hawaii, leaving behind the pregnant Kezia and their baby son.

    Relatives say he was already a slick womaniser and, once in Honolulu, he promptly persuaded a fellow student called Ann – a naive 18-year-old white girl – to marry him. Barack Jnr was born in August, 1961.”

  65. anne – I am not insulting Obama. From what others have said, Obama is torn between two identities. His attachment to Wright is a symptom of a man looking for his roots. I’m new here, so I don’t want to rattle any cages.

    By the same token, Obama himself has started the dialogue about race. I am glad that there are people here who are ready to discuss Obama’s own self-discovery.


  66. Hi, sorry for leaving that little blip up above, but nothing like writing for ten minutes to find out that you can’t post where you were trying to.

    So… thank you for writing this piece. It centers around something I’ve been trying to grapple with for months now… and that is “who is Obama.”

    I’ve noticed that people (and myself included) keep toying with his name (and names for his slavish followers). It’s almost like we’re engaged in some kind of sweepstakes to see who can tag him right.
    … and no one seems to be able to come up with just the right moniker for the guy. (and I’m sure I’ve spelled that word wrong, but I like it so…)

    Here’s what I’m thinking. And this is a little weird… but hey, you have to admit everything around this guy is a little weird. A friend of mine told me many years ago that in matriarchical religion or old testament there is this law that is “if you can name something, you can take it’s power away.” Supposedly this is why in the old testament, the god there does not want his name spoken. you know… speaks in all sorts of non-descript ways about who he is.

    Trust me, I am not comparing Obama to any god (geesh- haven’t we put up with enough of that crap from his worship-ful drones). But I think that there is an element of that law of nature that applies here.

    Name him, and you strip him of his power.

    So, I say… good for you…. let’s name this guy. I know it hasn’t happened yet… But you can feel it’s there. You can intuit something–and frankly, it isn’t good. But it’s not just in psychological descriptions, nor sociological variables… there is an essence to this guy… and I’m telling you, it really is not good… but I still don’t know how to name it.

    Actually, to really go off the deep end…. I do have an idea. And you don’t have to whap me on the head if you find I’m off… I realize it wouldn’t be hard to disagree…. but here goes.

    I’d guess this guy was a murderer. Seriously? Yeah, I think maybe so. Not that I know a hell of a lot about these things, but something tells me…

    Here, I’ll lay it out for you to run with or scoff at: How about Barry Obama killed the openly gay choir master at Trinity Church? You see, I’m guessing that Obama has tendencies (no insult to the gay community here–
    hell I’m a lesbian myself–but everything just FEELS this way). He would know, crafty little scumbag that he is, that this would not help him wing right up to the presidency. Now Larry Sinclair (and who can judge the credibility of this guy?), he says Obama got BJ from him. And seems to be hinting that Obama might have been involved with choir master’s death.

    If you commit murder (I’m guessing) you suppress a huge part of yourself. Say if you commit murder to hide your gay habit– well you’re suppressing 2 parts of yourself– basic connection to other people and suppression of one’s sexuality.

    In effect, this makes you disappear inside. you can function fine on an intellectual level, but synopsis’
    are not firing through your whole being.

    In effect, then you would say stupid, disjointed things like he says. Things that seem abusive (well, of course they are abusive)- weird blips at attempted humor or diplomacy that just come out wrong. He does that in weird ways.

    So here’s my theory. Sure growing up bi-racial might be challenging. So are they 12 billion other challenges that other people have to grow up with. I don’t think that answers Obama’s downright creepiness. It is something HE DID to make himself be so invisible inside. And I think he did something bad to cause him to disconnect.

    My two cents…

  67. hey, I like the typewriter font – nostalgic!!!

    Obama also reminds me of W, specifically in the way he seems to have surrogates say the nasty stuff so he can associate or disassociate himself when he sees how it goes. the buck hasn’t stopped in the oval office for seven years, and if the campaign is any indication, it would not in an Obama administration. it definitely would in a Clinton administration, whether she wanted it to or not. no one cuts her a break. that’s tough on her, but she can take it, and it’s a good thing for us as citizens. she could not get away with running a secretive administration as Bush has; nor, I think, does she want to. I think Obama could and probably would, judging from what we’ve seen so far.

  68. My Marquess of Queensbury sense of fair play obliges me, gagging all the way, to defend Obama against some of what I’ve read here. I find his voice and manner very annoying, but what’s been called his androgyny strikes me as a very positive trait. I don’t need any more macho men in the presidency, and if he looks silly in a cowboy hat, bully for him. As for his marriage to Michellevita, good for him as well. He didn’t have the notorious skin-color prejudice of many lighter-skinned African Americans, and much as I think he’s singlemindedly pursued the presidency, I don’t think he chose her as part of an image-making plan.

  69. Arabella,

    This is from a long article in Rolling Stone.

    “There is an amazingly candid moment in Obama’s autobiography when he writes of his childhood discomfort at the way his mother would sexualize African-American men. “More than once,” he recalls, “my mother would point out: ‘Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet.’ ” What the focus groups his advisers conducted revealed was that Obama’s political career now depends, in some measure, upon a tamer version of this same feeling, on the complicated dynamics of how white women respond to a charismatic black man. “I remember when we realized something magical was happening,” says Obama’s pollster on the campaign, an earnest Iowan named Paul Harstad. “We were doing a focus group in suburban Chicago, and this woman, seventy years old, looks seventy-five, hears Obama’s life story, and she clasps her hand to her chest and says, ‘Be still, my heart.’ Be still, my heart — I’ve been doing this for a quarter century and I’ve never seen that.” The most remarkable thing, for Harstad, was that the woman hadn’t even seen the videos he had brought along of Obama speaking, had no idea what the young politician looked like. “All we’d done,” he says, “is tell them the Story.” ”

    URL: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/13390609/campaign_08_the_radical_roots_of_barack_obama

    It seems that Obama was uncomfortable with his mother’s attraction to black men. I wonder why? And the implication is that Obama the candidate will appeal to white women in a sexual way. Like you I don’t find him very attractive in that way.

    I get what you mean about the cowboy hat–that was wierd.

  70. Before posting my thoughts about who I think Obama is, I wanted to alert everyone here about this:

    Obama’s unprecedented Pennsylvania ad buy

    Obama is currently spending $2.2 million per week on television here, over twice what Hillary Clinton is spending and an unprecedented ad buy in Pennsylvania, according to Democratic media consultant Neil Oxman, who is not working for a candiadte.

    “Nobody has ever spent 2.2 million in this state: not Rendell, not Specter, not Casey, not Santorum, not Bush, not Kerry,” said Oxman, naming the best-funded candidates to run statewide in recent years. “That’s unbelievable.”

    We have a lot of work to do.

  71. AdrienneJ,

    OK, the murderer thing is too over the top for me. I’ve heard that story and it’s way too tinfoil hat for me to even consider.

    I actually have a lot of sympathy for Obama’s search for an identity and for the terrible traumas he suffered by losing his father so young and and then finding out his idolized father had feet of clay. I don’t think Obama is evil. I just don’t think he’s ready to be president. I think he should go back to the Senate, work hard and maybe run for President after he finds himself and figures out what he really believes in.

  72. As an affordable housing professional who has worked at the community, city, county and state level I do not buy his community organizing credentials in light of his relationship with Rezko. He claims that he did not know that Rezko was in default and financial trouble. What is amazing to me is that no community organizer would not care about what happened to the buildings and the people in the community they worked in. Obama did not care to or did not see the 11 buildings that were boarded up in his own district.

    As a community organizer and or community development person he failed at the job.

  73. Thanks a lot, bostonboomer. I hadn’t seen that article before. I had wanted to say something about the possibility that Obama’s mother love/lust for her husband may have upset him. No kid wants to think about his parents “having sex.” If you grow up in a household where there is a strong sexual bond between your parents, it can cuase fear and confuson.

    If Obama’s mother sexualized African Americn men overtly, Obama must have grown up with a lot of guilt and confusion.

    Talk you all tomorrow.

  74. Folks, this is one of the best threads I’ve ever seen on the internets. Great discussion, a little off track at times, a little troll detour at others, but mostly just right into the deep groove of real discussion. Thank you all! True table-talk!

    P.S. Rich in PA… OT, but do you listen to music much?

  75. Stella: The bigger issue is that the community-organizing trope is largely nonsense. It didn’t work on the South Side, it hasn’t worked anywhere (it’s a big country and I’m sure there are exceptions, in some qualified way), and it’s a crazy trope to bring to the national level. One of a zillion pieces of evidence that Hillary Clinton has the critical intelligence to be president is her much-maligned Yale undergraduate thesis critiquing Alinsky and the whole community-organizing thing,

  76. Actually Obama’s community organizing took place before he went to Harvard. He was only doing it for about 3 years. He didn’t meet Rezko until Rezko approached him at Harvard and offered him a job. After Harvard, Obama worked in a law firm that was connected to Rezko and then ran for office. I agree that he should have known what was going on in the housing in his district though–especially since he had worked for the law firm that helped get Rezko the government funding and since Obama had written letters for Rezko supporting the grants he got.

  77. MA Blue – along with the unprecedented AD buy we know find this – which appears to have been going on all the time ..

    “While the crowd was indeed diverse, some students at the event questioned the practices of Mrs. Obama’s event coordinators, who handpicked the crowd sitting behind Mrs. Obama. The Tartan’s correspondents observed one event coordinator say to another, “Get me more white people, we need more white people.” To an Asian girl sitting in the back row, one coordinator said, “We’re moving you, sorry. It’s going to look so pretty, though.”

    “I didn’t know they would say, ‘We need a white person here,’ ” said attendee and senior psychology major Shayna Watson, who sat in the crowd behind Mrs. Obama. “I understood they would want a show of diversity, but to pick up people and to reseat them, I didn’t know it would be so outright

    Jeralyn Talk Left

    the newspaper

    the point – If Hillary did this ! .. omgosh – a two week news cycle …

    btw – I have no hate for Obama, his tactics I loathe and his cruel supporters I loathe. however He is not the best candidate for President period – we really do need the best and that one is Hillary .

    the Obama supporters have made it quite clear that they need no help from me now or ever and I have not yet heard from Obama that he cares either ..

  78. Very early on I surmised that Obama was a combination of Bill Clinton (aiming to please, lack of a father) and George Bush (big moher problem).

    What a combination, huh?????

  79. Oh man! Oliver Stone will follow up his films JFK and Nixon with a movie about George W. Bush. Filming will begin soon in Louisiana.

    This is hysterical!

    Oliver Stone’s new film,W, portrays George Bush as a foul-mouthed, dried-out drunk with a baseball obsession and a difficult relationship with his father….

    Stone says the film won’t be an anti-Bush polemic. Rather, as he told Daily Variety, it will be “a fair, true portrait of the man that asks the question: how did Bush go from being an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?”


  80. Although it’s true his biological father was a drunk, a failure, and an abuse I would cite another source instead of the Daily Mail. I wouldn’t trust that source to tell me the sky is blue.

    And although I agree he suffers from entitlement issues and has, uh, “issues” with white women, I think it’s best for us to stay away from offering a psychological diagnosis–even in a casual way, because it can come off a bit wrong (Also, I hate when Clinton is put under the same microscope because it usually ends up in projection).

    Again, it is rather tempting, especially since we have all suffered because of Dubya’s obvious daddy issues, but I think it’s best to focus on more standard interpretations (e.g., he is yet another “arrogant politician,” a “product of ruthless Chicago machine politics,” or an “empty suit”).

  81. You can’t get inside Obama’s head, or Clinton’s, or Bush’s from a cut and paste biography, and a few buzzwords from a mediocrity like Shelby Steele.

    The public persona that we see is filtered through thousands of hours of strategizing and the spin of the press.

    Obama may run a vacuous campaign for the same reasons Bush did – as a matter of positioning and style. Or it may be an “identity crisis.” We’ll never know. This amateur pyschoanalysis is a major problem with the MSM and CDS crowd – I thought you were a little better than this.

  82. I personally have never been captured by the “greatness” of Obama. I was happy to see him pop on the political scene and become a star but it was not because of his brilliance: I am always happy to see decent black persons make it to the top because there are so few.

    It’s just like I was happy to people like Dick Parson, Ken Chenault, Franklin Raines, Stan Neil make it to the top of the business world. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Northeast and spent some time in Europe and I have always been one of the very few blacks; in school, in college, in b-school, in the professional world and even when I was wrestler in college.

    But I never thought Obama was presidential material, especially if he’s competing against Hillary Clinton.

    I read Obama’s 2 books and they are very well written. Only, I still don’t understand how people call him the messiah and actually say he should be POTUS based on that.

    To me, the 2nd is a well written campaign manifesto: Vote for me and everything will be great.

    The 1st book is more compelling but, to me Obama comes across as someone who is very inward looking, too self-absorbed and extremely self-involved.
    The other striking observation to me was his search of an identity. I think he has always missed having his father in his life and thought he would never be accepted by whites. He decided that he wanted to belong to the black community and there are some excerpts in his book to that effect. I think he said at some point he had to get rid of his white girlfriend.

    I needed to add his run for the presidency to get a full picture.

    As a politician, Obama seem to lack a core, that’s the reason he is liked ideologically by Andrew Sullivan and Ezra Klein. He is an empty vessel wher people tend to fill in what they like and he also send such signals.

    Furthermore, he is a disturbingly solipsistic politician. He has managed to make everything about him. Voting for him shows that you are not cynical, that you want change, that you are unhappy about how things are going. Hell, how we as a nation feel about race should be a referendum on him.

    bostonboomer, am I off on my psycho mumbo-jumbo?

  83. Oliver Stone should have made that movie eight years ago. we might not be in such dire straits today.

  84. Adrienne J,

    riverdaughter is right. You are in tinfoil hat country. Actually, you have passed tinfoil hat country and have moved onto the entire tinfoil wardrobe continent.


    Everybody does that. That’s how television works. It’s all about the framing. Literally—in this case, who they want in the frame.

    Eddie Izzard has that bit in “Dressed to Kill” about how perception is 60% how you look, 30% how you sound, and 10% what you say. My numbers may be wrong, but the gist is accurate. Damn that Eddie Izzard—he’s a smart fellow.

    Frankly, and from my heart, I’m with Davidson on this entire blog. And some of the comments here are out of line. Wimpy? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who think namecalling and bigotry are wrong?

    C’mon you all, we’re better than that.

    I’ll go away now.

  85. MABlue,

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your insights. I think it is wonderful to have a black man with a good shot at being President. I don’t care for Obama as a politician, but I’m sure he’s a nice guy. His friends from college have stuck buy him. I know some people are offended when people try to understand public figures in a psychological way. For me, it’s just how I think. I really like people and find them endlessly fascinating.

    The sad thing about Obama is that he does have so much talent and potential. He’s obviously very intelligent and thoughtful, but, as you say, he makes everything about him. He seems to be endlessly fascinated with his own life story. He was even lampooned for that when he was at Harvard Law Review.

    But to be President, you have to be more than just a story. You have to have a point of view. You have to make a commitment to a way of looking at the world and to what kind of effect you want to have. I think Obama needs more time to work on himself. I hope it’s not too late. I hope he hasn’t been destroyed by being pushed into this too soon.

  86. I should also add: with the standard political interpretations we can back it up with evidence (e.g., to demonstrate he is an empty suit one can show the utter lack of experience, qualifications and how already he was “made” by an IL Democratic elder who had him take the credit for the legislative work of others). With a psychological interpretation, we’re left with our own biases and a skewed media presentation of him, which we have to realize must have a negative influence on him, thus, exaggerating his vices (e.g., arrogance), ones we all share (read: him buying his own hype; think: celebrities).

  87. Aren’t narcissists frequently epicine? LOL

    wonderful article Boomer, and I’m glad to see this discussion of narcissism picking up.

    I spent four years of my professional life tracking the historical activities of a sexually violent, sociopathic narcissist who wound up committing suicide. Let me tell ya – that was an incredible journey. When I saw Obama speak at the convention in 04, I was impressed though not as much as many others. A short while later, i saw him on the Daily Show and he left me cold. I think he’s deeply narcissistic. I obviously think his dad had problems, but I also don’t understand mothers who abandon young children to grandparents to go study overseas. I think both of his parents were deeply compromised. His mom gets good mojo that I doubt she’s entitled to.

    I think this is an important discussion. All candidates for the president must have massive egos – how else to withstand the battering and once in office, to force the agenda? But I’ve never seen anyone run with such a paltrey resume. After college, there are no accomplishments to speak of. In terms of an editor for the Harvard Law Review, I suspect it’s a genuinely substandard career.

    All of his campaign seems to revolve around how special he is and how special his supporters are. The relentlessly creepy Viral Voice posted a link to this Students for Obama video proclaiming it the defining video of the campaign. YouTube rather than DK link so you can watch it:

    What I find incredibly creepy about this video, it how so much of it is about how wonderful Obama makes you feel when you support him. It’s really weird.

    For those of you who are still willing to go to DK, here’s a link to a Vera Lofaro diary that made it to the rec list in which she concludes, that since he answered her letter, he’ll make a brilliant president.

    Here’s a sample for those of you who aren’t willing to go to DK:

    It made me think what kind of President Barak Obama would be. He would be a different kind of President. I believe he would restore competency and hope to the White House, and to America. He would “hire” competent people, as it appears he has done for this campaign. People who take the time to actually do the job they are being paid to do, as this campaign aide did. The campaign not only read my initial letter, they also followed up by checking Daily Kos to see if I lived up to my commitment in the letter to post a Diary about any response I received. They also went one step further and again responded to a comment within that diary. All of this in a little over two weeks time. Could you imagine how different the aftermath of Katrina would have been with Barak Obama as President? (just a thought)

    That is some kind of leap.

    And from there consider how willingly abusive his supporters are of Clinton supporters. Digby and Taylor Marsh have both had to shut down comments because of Obama supporters. Digby! She hasn’t even endorsed anyone. Look at the threats that have been dished out to everyone from Ed Rendell to Tavis Smiley’s elderly mother to whomever that joker was on DK running down people’s personal info. Look at the willingness to lie. Chicago Minx (or one of the Chicago Obama supporters on DK) was trying to hoodwink people early on into thinking that Obama voted against the war authorization. She knew better. She just lied. Look at Dengre’s utterly fictitious assaults taken directly from Byron York about how Clinton accepted dirty money from the Tam’s for her presidential race – what he would never tell people is that the donation came as the minimum wage increases (which the Tams opposed) were being discussed and that Clinton voted against them. I busted him on it repeatedly and Dover Bitch came after me snarling and frothing – ugly woman.

    The egocentricism, the lies, the brutish behavior, and the weird homoerotic undercurrent all strike me as being extremely narcissistic. The lack of personal values on display. The entitlement – what else can you call the demands that Clinton drop out other than entitlement?

    I’m glad to see this discussion of narcissism.

    Oh, as for his issues with women – he once told someone that if he ran against Clinton for the senate from Illinois, he could “take her”. Weird.

  88. MABlue: I am always happy to see decent black persons make it to the top because there are so few.

    I agree. and I’d love to see a black president, just not this one, and just not now, with the bush mess to clean up. I actually have one in mind for the future 🙂 Artur Davis, my congressional representative. I see him everywhere around Birmingham, at panel discussions about health care, about affordable housing, about poverty and child welfare issues, and I’ve met him and spoken with him at a couple of democratic party functions. he’s wonderful, a great speaker and actually has very specific things to say. I feel like he’s going to work his way up and learn as he goes. I think he’s going to go far and I really hope so.

    I’d love to break the white male stranglehold. as a group they’ve really screwed things up. but I have doubts about Obama, and fear that a rush to elect him could actually set AAs back. it’s wrong, really wrong, that every black person gets cast as representative of all black people, but there it is. i think we need to be very careful in electing anyone who isn’t a white male. McCain could be elected and totally suck, and no one will say ‘see? we should never have elected a white man”….they don’t say that about Bush. but they will about Hillary or Obama.

    I’m comfortable that Hillary won’t set the female gender back, and that even though I know the media and right wing will work against her every step of the way. she’s just that tough, and that smart.

    my fear about Obama is that he will set AAs back. he’s plenty smart, but maybe not tough enough or committed enough to represent a race. he shouldn’t have to, but that’s the state of the union here. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the reason I don’t think he’s right.

  89. Lori: I know it isn’t something most American families are used to but in Chinese families, it is not unheard of to send a toddler back to China to be raised by grandparents for a year or two. It may sound heartless but I think it is rather generous. The parents miss their children, of that there is not doubt, but the child benefits from learning their native language at a very young age and the grandparents have a big part in raising another child. All good accrues to the child.
    Now, I’m not Chinese, but when I was a kid, my parents would leave me with my grandparents for months at a time. My dad was career military and when we moved from place to place, it was just easier for my mon to leave me with my paternal grandparents while she made the move. Sometimes this happened in the middle of a school year so I would finish off a semester at my grandparent’s house before I moved with my mom and siblings. I LOVED my grandparents for a variety of reasons but also never felt like my mom just ditched me. It’s just something you get used to when you are a military brat. No, I don’t think his mother abandoned him. She was probably only thinking of what was best for him when she saw how gifted he was. Besides, I lived in Hawaii as a kid at about the same time Barack did and it was like a paradise for a kid attuned to island ways. So much to explore and learn and do. Bliss.

  90. Another dysfunctional male politician with “daddy” issues. Just like Bush. The more I think about Obama, the more he reminds me of Bush.

    His arrogance; his inexperience; his call for unity as he divides; his use of race as a wedge issue; his theatrics. Hell, I’ll probably think of some more similarities later.

  91. Mimi:

    You are spot on. Obama is running the campaign Bush ran in 2000.

  92. This is just fascinating. I have long felt the reason so many of us couldn’t get a handle on who this guy is, was because he doesn’t know himself. Also why he appeals to so many — he can be whoever they want him to be. (Words are going off edge as I type — hope it comes out okay.)

    And this comment is absolutely correct:

    BB said:


    There is only one thing wrong with your prediction. Obama cannot win the general election. And, like you, I don’t think he will win the nomination in the end either.

  93. This was such an interesting post, riverdaughter! I do not know if what you say is true, but certainly it might be, and worth our consideration.

    Do we have to have another president with unresolved father issues like the guy we have now? (Not if I can help it!)

    You know, I am from western PA also, near Pittsburgh, and I think of you as one of my “home girls”. We do think alike on so many of these political issues.

    I would like to complement you on your insights, and the succinctness with which you deliver your arguments.

    …always a pleasure to read!

  94. Bostonboomer,

    A million thanks for your thoughts on the psyche of Barack Obama. As far as I’m concerned, Obama is so ill-defined, it might be appropriate to say, he’s running a POST-PRESIDENTIAL campaign.

    I don’t see charm, or ease and I don’t hear eloquence. I see
    somebody who is prone to petulance and flippancy. I see a man who looks uncomfortable in his own skin, who often speaks in a perfunctory, pedantic and halting manner.

    Even his whole ‘look’ is overtly contrived to evoke the era of Malcolm X: the Nation of Islam close-cropped hair, the black suit, white shirt and skinny tie – all the stylistic nostalgia of the civil rights movement without the activist content.Those of you who saw Obama’s appearance on The View would likely agree that he doesn’t even appear to be comfortable in this get-up. Jay Leno did a painful montage counting the number of times Obama tugged at his pants/jacket/socks, etc. The ladies of The View fawned all over him (with the exception of Whoopi who looked like she’d seen it all before).

    The ladies got played by a fellow who wasn’t even a very smooth player. In fact, Obama did not seem at all comfortable with the attention – and I wondered why. Then I came across the Rolling Stone Article, by Ben Wallace-Wells, which I see you’ve linked to upstream. The actual title of the article is: “Destiny’s Child” – I don’t know why it shows up in the link as: “The Radical Roots of Barack Obama”. (It also does that when I create a link.)

    The passage that you’ve quoted is very telling since it drills down to the role that he expected the trifecta of RACE, GENDER and SEXUALITY to play in his bid for the candidacy. In “Dreams of my Father”, Obama explicitly recounted his discomfort with white women (i.e. his mother) expressing sexual attraction toward black men. Yet his early campaign strategist, Paul Harstad, was thoroughly enthused by the prospect of all those white women’s votes. “I remember when we realized something magical was happening…We were doing a focus group in suburban Chicago, and this woman, seventy years old, looks seventy-five, hears Obama’s life story, and she clasps her hand to her chest and says, ‘Be still, my heart.’ Be still, my heart”.

    Obama must be shocked that this presumed constituency, the older white female, has chosen not to support him. All the more shocking: they actually prefer one of their own. That, in itself, might explain some of the resentment which Obama freely expresses toward Clinton and her supporters. It might also explain why he couldn’t figure out what the hell to do with the abberant, fawning white women of The View.

    The subsequent passage in the Rolling Stone article is equally revealing: “The most remarkable thing, for Harstad, was that… ‘All we’d done is tell them the Story’…From that moment on, the Story became Obama’s calling card, his political rationale and his basic sale”.

    Unfortunately we’re not hearing much from the MSM about the crass manipulation behind, and within, “The Story”. However, the GOP knows all they need to know about “The Story”: it’s a flimsy, fragmentary fabrication; pull one strand and the whole thing will unravel. I’m wondering, what more can we do to pull that string ourselves, before the next round of primaries?

  95. Oh gawd, I had a systems error and the comment posted twice. How do I delete one of them?

    I’m wondering, in retrospect, whether I was too harsh in the wording of my critique of Obama. I still stand by the content, but I was in a certain ‘mode’ when I wrote it . Now I’m having a bit of post-venting remorse. Hope it didn’t put anybody off too much.

  96. Another facet I’ve not seen discussed that much is Obama as smoker. As an ex-smoker, I’d be interested in how he began the habit and his rationale (we all have them) for not completely quitting yet.

  97. pie hole,

    I deleted the duplicate comment. I was interested in your comments about the Malcolm X “look.” I’m not sure if I see it, but he did use the “bambooling, hoodwinked” line and I’m sure that was deliberate, because he did it repeatedly. I think riverdaughter wants us to be able to say what we think here. In learning about Obama’s life I have developed sympathy for him. Unfortunately, when I go back to the way he has treated the Clintons, it’s hard for me to maintain that feeling. I do feel sorry for Obama in a way, though, because he has his “unity” schtick has become so transparently meaningless because of his negative campaign.

  98. Mimi Schaeffer,

    Another resemblance to Bush 2000 is Obama’s statement in one of the debates that he won’t be a “hands-on executive,” but will appoint good advisors and delegate responsbility.

  99. Oh gawd. Another President with father issues. Just what we need.

  100. “i vote present”, present, present, etc, etc. How can we possibly know what his beliefs are? What the hell did he ever do for the poverty stricken area of Chicago that he represented. Why are there no records from his stint in Illinois? I recently read Rezkowatch and the story should be on the front page of every newspaper. It says that the developments that Obama helped Rezko and Co. obtain through public financing were in foreclosure while they donated to obama. The poor were set adrift to fend for themselves while Obama and friends made out like bandits on the public dime. People without heat, losing their homes. Who was Obama representing? Only the rich folk who could help him get ahead? Seems so.

  101. BB- most excellent insightful post. Thanks for bundling up all those thoughts I have been having from just the meer snippets we have been getting. As a human being, I ache for BO on one hand – but then my rage comes back against what we are experiencing now through these historic primaries. My rage is directed to the people who held this man up as “the one” – as “ready on day one”. I am not going to list everyone of them since if someone had enough sense to come here they are already aware of the powers that be who are pushing this unqualified candidate.

    Historical primary for the Democratic Party in that we have a black man and a woman running, but also, we have the DNC who has run itself off its tracks pushing an unqualified candidate against a superior one. The DNC has fractured it’s own party – donars are requesting and getting refunds. Millions of us have registered our feelings and cancelled membership. They are disenfrachansing 2.5 millions voters and we have the vid showing who and how this was plannned last year.

    Like I said, on one hand I ache for BO now that I know his history and it does explain some of my gut level feelings when I first heard him. I only speak for myself – this will not end well. My doubts about the party leadership(or lack thereof) are overwhelming.

    I have not been seeking validation but knowledge to make sense of this. No wonder there was no vetting! The truth is rather ugly – shallow and sad.

  102. Excellent post. I’m sure you also thought of the fact that Obama probably views the time that his mother left him in Hawaii with his Grandparents as an abandonment of sorts. Choosing a new husband over her son.

  103. Nothing much to add, but wanted to thank you all for contributing to a site that’s a whole lot better than anything its collective authors may have left.

  104. I must say I read Shelby Steele and his nonsense about the bargainers. As an African American I find his analysis about the bargainers as racial psychobabble.

    from his WSJ oped

    Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him. And whites love this bargain — and feel affection for the bargainer — because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.

    So if I behave in a non-threating assimilated manner in America I guess I’m a bargainer. If I practice the golden rule….bargaimer. If I beleive all men were created equal, endowed ….bargainer. What a crock.

    I once had a job interview with a major corporation right out of college. The position was basically an engineering liason position with major achitectural frims. Big Chicago Buildings and big bucks. They were looking for 3 recent grads. The company CARRIER (part of United Technologies/ Otis,Sikorsky, others) told me that the 4 of the 7 major architectural firms who interact with the technical liason had told then “never to send a N*gger as the liason.” Quite an old boy network shock in an interview in 1990.

    I asked them: “what did you tell them?” After not hearing a response suitable to my sensibilities as an American (let alone a Black man) I left there knowing I would never work there. I also made sure to specify Trane instead of Carrier equipment for the next 15 years whenever I had the chance. I asked my attorney sister what should I do? And even though she told me they could easily have a civil rights issue just for saying something so stupid in a job interview I basically let it go after firing off a letter to the CEO and my congressman. My tax money pays for a ton of stuff from this outfit that wouldn;t send n*ggers to get the contracts.

    how outrageous

    Now was the fact that I did not “lose my Nat Turner mind ” during this riduclous exchange bargaining? I certainly in the interview had no intention of “making the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism”. I was trying to get a good job after graduating as an engineer,

    I didn’t express the justifiable anger Obama talked about in the Rev. Wright flap. At least neven enough to say GD america. I felt like THESE GUYS were without character and resolve to make MY country better. However in Steele’s analysis I was a bargainer I suppose.

    A bargainer? How dirty a concept when all I am applying is the freaking Golden Rule on a daily basis….maybe I should have said God Damn America and Carrier to boot.

    Now I don’t tell this story as a political calculation on the whole Obama comet trial. I ‘m not trying to sell a book with a nonsensical racial theory of my actions aimed at infuencing someone elses subliminal need for racial reconciliation. (I would think a lot of white people would be as offended by Steeles jibberish) I tell it to say that when I read this bargainer nonsense I recognize it for what it is. It’s psychobabble racial BS to sell books.

    I also realize I tell this story as it surprises people that this happened not in the south or in JIm Crow but pretty recently in a major northern city. Lastly I hope at least one person buys Trane instead of Carrier. To this day I wonder if Carrier has EVER hired a Black person for those liason positions. …. and you know I doubt it.

    Fortunately I know this is not the typical experience for a degreed engineer looking for a job. I mean with Afirmative action its Sooooo easy for a Black engineer. Actually there is some truth in that but obviously its situational as well. I personally hate anyone thinking I was ever an Affirmative Action hire anywhere especially being in the top 99% percentile BEFORE I hit the door. I’d rather my hiring NOT be allowed to fulfill their numbers, but I truly digress.

    I do realize any Black person trying for liason at Carrier was going to have 4/7 of the companies he/she could not call on. Good luck right? I think I was a person who despite his best efforts at fariness and “giving the benefit of the doubt” was faced with a situation allowed to linger at my (and any American like me) expense.

    Some bargain.

    I’m sure that this 1990 reality is “no bargain” to hear. But I certainly do not expect or even hope that anyone on the blog feels the need (after hearing me tell this story) to
    “feel shame with America’s history of racism”.

    I hope that we strive to make America better. That’s what I hoped in 1990 and was very disappointed with the wake up call to racial leagcy operating at Carrier.

    I do hope that THOSE bargainers fro cash in that interview did at the time feel some sense of shame…and have since sought to correct their own indifference to such anti_american activity. Better yet to at least stop adding to it.

    now back to politics.

  105. Didn’t Rezko recruit Obama, to Chicago, after Obama became editor of the Harvard law review, offering him a job?

    And seeing the level, the WEB of Rezko’s corruption, starting, at least ,in the Chicago building rehab business, in 1989, it would almost seem as if Rezko recruited Obama straight into graft, looking on it as a whole.

    (I think rezkowatch had the total at 100 million over 10 years, for Rezko, 1989-1999. He recruited Obama in 1993, right?)

    Even the law firm Obama went to work for was related to Rezko’s corruption, in Chicago, helping Rezko obtain many dirty contracts..

    Really interesting, now that you phrase it the way you did.

    Thank you.

  106. Also, just something to think about, Obama’s Dad was a fairly prominent foreign national, from Kenya.

    Look to see who the family friends were, along the way, who may have influenced, or aided, little Obama.

    Was Dad connected, early on, to say, the Nation of Islam?

    Not saying he was, but that’s the sort of thing I would look for…

  107. citydweller,

    I appreciate your comments. I didn’t actually mention anything about the bargaining/confronting thing, or whatever it is, in my post. Actually in the book I read, Steele doesn’t equate bargaining with assimilation at all. Assimilation is what he is pushing for. I found his book interesting, but I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to think about Steele. He is a conservative, and so naturally I disagree with him on many things. In my opinion, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from him. But my point is that the way you describe “bargaining” is not the way Steele explains it.

  108. Shelby Steele is a clown. You’ll look funny quoting him or telling people you read his ‘ahem’ books.
    Go to paid rightwing concern hacks to help form opinions if you like, but it may suggest you don’t know Obama because you don’t know yourselves.
    What a tight little knitting party you guys have going on here….yuck!

  109. Hi again Boomer,

    Just wanted to follow up on my comments about Obama imitating the Malcolm X ‘look’ – “close-cropped hair, the black suit, white shirt and skinny tie”. Here’s a link to a photo of Malcolm X, the similarity is too striking to be coincidental (Tthe only . I guess my point is that even Obama’s outward appearance is inauthentic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Malcolm-x.jpg

  110. yeah kinda like these other politicians look

    or at least the one on the left

    – “close-cropped hair, the black suit, white shirt and skinny tie”.

    I’m afraid your point is not authentic to my ear.

    Just a matter of time I suppose.

  111. I think this post is even more significant now that we are in the middle of the Rev. Wright firestorm. One wonders how Obama must feel today after being thrown under the bus by the only black father figure he’s ever had in his life. It’s a bit tragic.

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