Here’s a long interview in the Telegraph with Obama biographer and New Yorker editor David Remnick. I already wrote about Remnick and his book here, but the interview provided a few more glimpses into the Remnick (and the general liberal/left media) style of dealing with Obama.
I was struck by the fact that, although Remnick is not only admiring of but even awed by the president (I watched another TV appearance with Remnick where he clearly conveyed this), he manages to let slip a couple of inadvertent truths in his Telegraph interview. For example, he makes it clear that Obama had to learn the Chicago black vernacular and style that was not native to him in order to fit in and present himself as a bona fide black leader there. The second is Remnick’s use of the words “gall” and “ballsy” to describe Obama (he might just as well have said “narcissistic” and “arrogant,” although he certainly doesn’t):
…[W]hat is the first major address that Barack Obama gives to the African American community after he is announced for the presidency? He goes and gives a speech in Selma, Alabama, this resonant place of the civil rights struggle, and he talks about the Moses generation – the generation of civil rights, the generation of King – and about himself and the Joshua generation. He is giving himself an enormous task and with great gall: he is placing himself at the head of a generation; and I’m going to take you where? To the Promised Land. That’s an amazingly ballsy thing to say.
The third is that Remnick gives an entire lengthy interview focusing on the formation of Obama’s identity as a black man without ever once mentioning Frank Marshall Davis, the man hand-chosen by Obama’s grandfather for that very task (and who was mentioned in Obama’s biography as such, although solely by his first name). Instead, Remnick says [emphasis mine]:
He grew up in Honolulu and went to a highly privileged school where there were a couple of other black students, and in a place with no black people around, except for the occasional soldier on the basketball court or at a party. So, where does he get it from? He watches TV, he reads books; I mean, it’s a really mystifying, difficult thing.
It’s only mystifying if you pay no attention to that Frank Marshall Davis behind the curtain.
But Bobby Rush, the man who beat Obama in his only campaign defeat (and who happens to be black as well), seemed to know something that Remnick didn’t get. Rush is quoted as saying [emphasis mine]:
So, here he is in his congressional office: it’s very nice that Barack has won finally, and he’s mocking him, and then he gets up and he just sashays across the office. And he said, you know, back then he didn’t walk like that when he ran against me. You know, he’s accusing him, even to this day, of inauthenticity; as if we all don’t learn, as if we are born with walks and all kinds of things.
Then again, since Remnick has just spent most of the interview describing how the already-adult Obama (we are not born with walks, but we usually learn them in childhood) had to imitate and adopt a black identity as he went along, a person could be forgiven for thinking that Remnick is failing to see that his own words prove Rush is correct.
Then there’s the nuanced, Clintonesque language Remnick uses to describe Obama’s treatment of Alice Palmer [emphasis mine]:
When he ran for [Illinois] state senator he committed an act of impiety against the long-standing regulars there by refusing to step back from [incumbent] Alice Palmer, who had a much deeper relationship to the community than he did.
Remnick makes it sound as though Obama’s only offense against Palmer was to run against her and/or criticize her, and that that was what angered the Chicago regulars in the community. This is a duplicitous insinuation of Remnick’s, more for what it leaves out than for what it says. I haven’t read Remnick’s book, so perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he may have told more of the truth about Obama and Palmer (or Obama and Frank Marshall Davis) in it. In fact, he probably did at least go into those incidents somewhat. But if so, his interview was purposely misleading.
If you don’t recall the story of Obama and Palmer, let me help refresh your memory. Read the whole thing, because it’s a complicated and hair-raising story. But here are some excerpts [emphasis mine]:
…[I]n that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.
A close examination of Obama’s first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.
One of the candidates he eliminated, long-shot contender Gha-is Askia, now says that Obama’s petition challenges belied his image as a champion of the little guy and crusader for voter rights.
“Why say you’re for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?” Askia said. “He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?”…
Palmer served the district in the Illinois Senate for much of the 1990s. Decades earlier, she was working as a community organizer in the area when Obama was growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. She risked her safe seat to run for Congress and touted Obama as a suitable successor, according to news accounts and interviews.
But when Palmer got clobbered in that November 1995 special congressional race, her supporters asked Obama to fold his campaign so she could easily retain her state Senate seat.
Obama not only refused to step aside, he filed challenges that nullified Palmer’s hastily gathered nominating petitions, forcing her to withdraw.
“I liked Alice Palmer a lot. I thought she was a good public servant,” Obama said. “It was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently.”
His choice divided veteran Chicago political activists.
“There was friction about the decision he made,” said City Colleges of Chicago professor emeritus Timuel Black, who tried to negotiate with Obama on Palmer’s behalf. “There were deep disagreements.”
Had Palmer survived the petition challenge, Obama would have faced the daunting task of taking on an incumbent senator. Palmer’s elimination marked the first of several fortuitous political moments in Obama’s electoral success: He won the 2004 primary and general elections for U.S. Senate after tough challengers imploded when their messy divorce files were unsealed.
Perhaps some of that latter business of the divorce records was “fortuitous,” but perhaps not (I wrote more about that incident and others here). But there is no question that in the Palmer fracas—which was the very first primary in Obama’s very first run for any public office—Obama already amply demonstrated a combination of traits we have come to know him for: ruthless and cynical coldness, disloyalty (you might say Alice Palmer has the place of honor under the Obama bus), and unctuous BS excuses that disavow responsibility (“That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently”). He also exhibited a fierce determination to use his knowledge of the legal system to oust all rivals and eliminate choice for the Democratic voters of Chicago (remember, Obama didn’t just successfully get Palmer booted from the primary ballot; he did so to all four of his challenges and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, which in that Chicago district was tantamount to being elected).
All of this information is not only in the public domain now, it was in the public domain long before the 2008 election. I wrote about it all at length while Obama was running for president, as did other bloggers and journalists on the right. But the MSM barely touched it, and hasn’t done so even now. The mythmaking continues.