April 17th, 2010

More on Remnick and Obama

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.

29 Responses to “More on Remnick and Obama”

  1. Thomass Says:

    “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.”

    When he gets going he sound like Denzel Washing… a lot.

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Intellectual dishonesty is only a meaningful concept when the underlying concept of objective reality is accepted.

    When not, the end always is rationalized to justify whatever the means needed.

  3. Charles Reardon Says:

    I simply cannot trust any book about Obama commissioned by the MSM. The MSM’s pro-Obama bias is so heavy handed and so unprecedented as to basically disqualify any kind of analysis they may have about “The One’s” life or policies.

  4. Tom Says:

    Neo: Granting the benefit of doubt has a very great deal to do with how we got where we so regretfully are today. Self-doubt plus beneficial doubt, a recipe for societal disaster.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Tom: It’s not just the benefit of the doubt—perhaps I should not have used that phrase but should have explained more fully.

    I had done a little search, and had found one review of Remnick’s book that mentioned that the book discussed the Palmer incident. There were indications in that review that Remnick had gone into into greater detail about Obama and Palmer than he did later in the Telegraph interview (can’t find the link to the review now because I’m in a hurry).

    I didn’t link to it in my post, however, because it was third person; I still don’t know what Remnick actually wrote, because I have not read his book. But I consider the article to be evidence that he did cover the facts of the Palmer incident in his book, at least somewhat. So that’s why I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he did cover it to a certain extent—a larger extent than he mentioned in the interview. But in the interview he certainly misrepresented it.

  6. Tatyana Says:

    In the morning I went to an Atlantic Avenue Tunnel tour and passing a B&N on Court St I saw Remnick’s book in the window.

    People like him (especially – Jews like him) disgust me. He’s one of the propaganda hacks – much like several waves of Stalin’s “cadres”, each thinking their shameless forgeries in praise of the Dear Leader will get them power and riches…it did, for a while.
    Cue: besides lesser known “Pravda” propagandists, there are notorious Yagoda, Yezhov, etc… Maybe someone should have sent him these links, as memento mori…

  7. Gringo Says:

    It’s only mystifying if you pay no attention to that Frank Marshall Davis behind the curtain.

    Bingo. This blog has already had extended discussions about Mr. Davis, assisted by his purported son.

    The more I think of it, the more I think that it was not mere coincidence that Vernon Jarrett, Valerie Jarrett’s future father-in-law, had a commie-tinged relationship with Frank Marshall Davis back in the 1940s in Chicago. (As I and others already documented that in this blog, I am not going to repeat the link unless requested). And that Valerie Jarrett later said that she and others had been keeping an eye on Van Jones.

    (At the least, Frank Marshall Davis could have provided young Obama with some contact numbers for a future Chicago-based career.)

    Granted, strange coincidences will accidentally turn up in life. When I was working in Venezuela, I accidentally met someone who had been a friend of someone from my high school who had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Venezuela.

    But with the POTUS, there are so many strange coincidences from his past that make me think that our local conspiracy theorist, artflgr, may be right after all.

    Remick’s portrayal of Obama’s learning the Southside Chicago vernacular supports Spengler’s portraying Obama as an anthropologist studying the Americans, a portrayal that John Podhoretz at Commentary did not like. (I suspect that Podheretz didn’t read the original article where Spengler made that observation.)



  8. NeoConScum Says:

    You can search all day in that vast-bleak testicular concavity of Bamster’s and never(NEVER)find an atom of Balls. Trust me.

  9. expat Says:

    Remnick made it sound as though Obama became a community organizer after law school. Didn’t he, in fact, go to law school because he failed to accomplish anything as a community organizer?

    Re. Michelle: my take is that she is dumb enough to think he is smart.

    Last comment: Why is learning phony street talk so important? Have Blacks been totally conditioned not to hear what anyone says, only how they say it? Obama is not a typical inner city or rural Southern Black. Seems like the first thing he tried to learn as a politician was lying about who he was.

  10. Steve G Says:

    Obama spent 20 years in Wright’s church. What better classroom to learn the vernacular- – – and gain street creds. A twofer.

    I finally figured out his foreign policy when dealing with outlaw regimes. It’s relatively simple. Your ass, my lips.

    With our friends he puts out his ass but so far has not gotten any lips. Although Gordon Brown has been trying.

  11. Gringo Says:


    Last comment: Why is learning phony street talk so important? Have Blacks been totally conditioned not to hear what anyone says, only how they say it?

    It isn’t just the Southside of Chicago. Here is Bob Dylan from I Shall be Free.

    Now, the man on the stand he wants my vote
    He’s a-runnin’ for office on the ballot note
    He’s out there preachin’ in front of the steeple
    Tellin’ me he loves all kinds-a people
    (He’s eatin’ bagels
    He’s eatin’ pizza
    He’s eatin’ chitlins).

    Voters want politicians who can connect to them. Moreover, it isn’t just voters.

    My cousin in Oklahoma once had a trainee from Massachusetts. My cousin informed the trainee after a while that he would get along better with the plant workers if he spoke a little “good old boy.” The reaction of the trainee from Massachusetts was, “That ain’t gone do no good no how.” My cousin’s response: “Now you’re talking.”

    Similarly, when I worked on a rig in Guatemala, I picked up some of the Kekchi language, even though all the rig workers spoke Spanish. They related better to someone who took the effort to learn what was the first language of most of the rig workers. Similarly, I drank the yerba mate passed around on rigs in Argentina. When in Rome…
    Obama was an anthropologist trying to assimilate himself to the Southside of Chicago.

    It ain’t just the Southside of Chicago.

  12. Gringo Says:

    expat: Yes, Obama went to law school after a lackluster record as a community organizer.

  13. Kaleokualoha Says:

    As the “purported son” of Frank Marshall Davis, I also find it strange that my father was not mentioned. Perhaps the author overcompensated for wingnut disinformation, which only compounds the error.

    Frank Marshall Davis had significant influence on Obama’s racial values, and insignificant influence on Obama’s political values. To portray it otherwise is significant misrepresentation.

    My father had highly significant influence on my racial values, and little influence on my political values. I doubt his fractional contact with Obama would have made Obama Marxist because it certainly never made ME Marxist after 18 years! I am a retired Air Force Intelligence Officer!!

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Kaleokualoha: well, Remnick certainly made no mention of Davis in the interview, and since the subject matter was the formation of Obama’s racial identity, I found that very strange, too.

    That said, I have not read the book. Perhaps Remnick mentions Davis in the book, which is extremely long. However, I did some Googling for things like “David Remnick “The Bridge” Obama Frank Marshall Davis” and could find no articles that mention it. You’d have to go to the book itself to discover what Remnick may have actually written about Davis, I suppose.

  15. Gordon Says:

    Assuming Kaleokualoha’s biography is true and accurate, it suggests that Frank Marshall Davis wasn’t much more than a CPUSA member, as were many thousands of Americans at the time. For Mark to have been an intelligence officer, he would have had a very extensive background investigation. Believe me, they are very thorough–for mine, they talked to my high school’s janitor, among many others (he told them I used to wear my baseball spikes indoors, scratching up his carefully waxed floors).

    If the investigators had any suspicions about FM Davis’ activities, they would have checked it out. That Mark Davis was cleared for intelligence work suggests that his father was not a significant party member.

  16. Gordon Says:

    As for Obama learning the vernacular, it’s interesting, but not significant. Chef Anthony Bourdain mentions in his books that a smart chef will learn not only the native language of his staff (usually Spanish) but also about the cultural differences among his staff.

    BHO can, I assume, perform street talk when he wants to. Michelle can do it even better, I’d bet. But neither of them can pull off the mannerisms and style. BHO especially can’t quite shake the prissiness.

  17. Tom Says:

    Neo: I just used your “benefit…doubt” phrase to pitch my etiologic thought as to why we got to this point in our history. FWIW….

  18. Amused Observer Says:

    So does the scene from the old movie “Airplane” where a request is made over the intercom for any passengers fluent in speaking jive and the little old lady steps up come to anyone else’s mind?

  19. Gringo Says:

    Actually, Frank Davis is mentioned in Remnick’s book, on page 95. As Google Books view is limited, it takes a while to piece together what is there. Here is what I have gotten thus far.

    Frank Davis was a raconteur, capable of expounding on everything from the Harlem
    Renaissance to the various charms of the surfer girls in…In the nineteenth] rties and forties, Davis wrote four collections of poems about black life — Black Man’s Verse, 1 Am the American Negro, Through Sepia…

    From fooling around with Advanced Google Book Search. Given that description of Frank Davis, it is obvious that Frank Davis= Frank Marshall Davis.

  20. Gringo Says:

    I Googled ”frank davis” “david remnick” (with quotes) and the first hit was Google Books.

    What’s interesting from an information search perspective, is that when I went to Google Books Advance Search and looked for “Davis” in author= david remnick and title= the bridge, I got a very limited view- only 1-2 lines at a time.

    When I Googled “frank davis” and “david remnick,” I got complete page views. Saber…
    Remnick’s book covers nearly four pages on Frank Marshall Davis.

  21. rickl Says:

    Jack Cashill has a new article up at American Thinker:

    Barack Obama’s Missing Girlfriends

    He writes about Remnick’s book but is more concerned with what it leaves out, compared with Dreams From My Father.

  22. A_Nonny_Mouse Says:

    Interesting about the “missing girlfriends” thing. Hadn’t thought about it.

    I HAVE thought about the fact that nobody, anywhere, has come up with any publicity-seeker article of the type “Gee I knew Barry at Occidental and we used to sneak beers into the dorm”. You’d think SOMEBODY who knew him would try to get their 15 minutes of fame-by-association. But nobody who knew him years ago has surfaced. Seemingly, nobody remembers him. He’s got no past (except what his autobiography purports to reveal). This nobody-has-come-forward thing really bothers me.

    (And how did the same press that could tell us within 24 hours that Joe the Plumber’s real first name was Samuel, and he was divorced, and owed back taxes, and didn’t have a license… how could that same MSM not bother to look into Dunham’s/ Soetero’s/ Obama’s history at all? I mean, NOT EVEN ONE ARTICLE??? Nothing AT ALL, not ONE curious reporter??? Zip, Nada, Zilch??? It makes me feel like a freaking conspiracy nut… but THAT’S DEMONSTRABLY WHAT HAPPENED. Kind of like “even paranoids can have enemies”: even Freaking Conspiracy Nuts have to acknowledge the reality of The Dog That Didn’t Bark [-in Sherlockian terms] or in plain English, The Press That Didn’t Question Anything. )

  23. stan Says:

    I still think that the most interesting Obama story will turn out to be who the puppeteer was/is. Maybe Ayers/Dohrn. Maybe someone in that circle. But it was somebody who was a somebody who could send somebody to make sure whatever needed to be done got done.

  24. G6loq Says:

    We should spend most of our time examining Bark Obama’s retinue and assorted enablers.
    He’ll be gone, they’ll stay.
    They’re the true traitors and Kapos.

    All a repeat of events depicted and documented and footnoted in Ann Coulter’s book: Treason.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    I still think that the most interesting Obama story will turn out to be who the puppeteer was/is. Maybe Ayers/Dohrn.

    No. Ayers/Dohrn are themselves puppets.

    Soros and his ilk would be my bet.

  26. Occam's Beard Says:

    I HAVE thought about the fact that nobody, anywhere, has come up with any publicity-seeker article of the type “Gee I knew Barry at Occidental and we used to sneak beers into the dorm”. You’d think SOMEBODY who knew him would try to get their 15 minutes of fame-by-association.

    I agree- this is truly amazing/incredible. Any normal person leaves has some impact on those around him. Friends, enemies, roommates, teammates, girlfriends, teachers, somebody who remembers him from back in the day. WTF is Obama’s Occidental roommate? Who was his landlord when he was at Columbia? At Harvard Law? No girlfriends? NONE??? Or has He since his Immaculate Conception (hah!) exclusively associated with people of first-rate tradecraft who keep their mouths shut?

    Guys in witness protection have more back story than this.

  27. Sergey Says:

    The most influential Obama’s puppeteer is, probably, his wife. A very poignant and poisonous person, IMHO. I wonder why so much attention is paid to her dresses and so little – to her personality.

  28. will Says:

    I just wanna know, is ham ever served in that White House?

    Pork, now more than ever!

  29. geeegee Says:

    er….as a friend and lover at a certain point in my life….I hung out with Frank and was never influenced to become anything other than what I was…hahaha!
    Frank was a poet, editor, hipster, a man of clarity and vision, and I never saw or heard him being other than a consummate gentleman and a very kind and wise man. He was a humanist.
    If he wrote a soft porn book under a different name…well, alot of famous writers were into doing that at the time…it was sort of an avant thing to do.
    You write as if you knew him. Those of us those who did, knew he was a treasure.

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