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Will the Real Barak Obama Please Stand Up?
What we really learned from Tablet
What’s happening, everyone? I’ve recently been trying out the Notes feature that Substack recently implemented, and I am loving it. It’s like the artist formally known as Twitter (X), but specifically for Substack content.
I highly recommend it.
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Thanks…and now on to the Obama autopsy.
Last week, Tablet Magazine’s David Samuels interviewed Barak Obama biographer David Garrow in a wide-ranging conversation, with a focus on Garrow’s 2017 biography of the former president, Rising Star.
If you have heard about the interview, you likely learned about it for the two most salacious details that Garrow puts forward.
The first was the divergent explanations of Obama’s break-up with a girlfriend from his days in Chicago, Sheila Jager. The story Obama tells in his “autobiography” (I’ll explain the quotation marks later) was that his exploration of his black identity caused the rift between him and Jager. However, according to Garrow, she has a different explanation. She claims it was over Obama’s inability to condemn anti-Semitic comments they had heard over the claim that Jewish doctors had infected black babies with AIDS.
The second oft-repeated and more trollish item picked out from the interview was the claim that Alex McNear, Obama’s girlfriend from Occidental College, claimed that Obama fantasized about having sex with men in letters to her.
While the first claim provides additional color to an ongoing concern about Obama’s feelings towards Jews (given what we know about his time sitting in the pews of avowed anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright and his treatment of Israel while President) and the second one is, to me, a shoulder-shrug, they both miss the most intriguing parts of Garrow’s perspective on Obama; which is his belief that what we know about Obama is substantially more carefully crafted myth than reality.
I think the best summary of Garrow’s thoughts on Obama goes something like this: he is a superficial, credential-focused, ego-maniac who has no allegiance to anyone, and even the people closest to him in the world, don’t know the real man because he has so thoroughly surrounded himself in his fabulist invisibility cloak. Think a modern-day Jay Gatsby, but a politician rather than a criminal (if there is a difference).
It’s important to note that Garrow is not simply some muck-racker trying to throw shade at Obama. His biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bearing the Cross, earned him the Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and he clearly believes MLK is a significantly more impressive figure.
Two notes for the below:
When Garrow refers to “Doc,” he is talking about MLK.
In the sections I paste from the interview, the bolded sections are Samuels talking, and the non-bolds are Garrow.
Let’s review as I quote extensively from the Tablet piece:
Obama the Fabulist
We’ll start with one piece of Obama’s story, which has long been suspected, and Garrow reaffirms; that large parts of Obama’s first autobiography, Dreams from My Father, is fiction…
As an example of this fiction, to portray himself as a figure with a rebellious streak, Obama likes to tell the story of once he arrived at Occidental College, how he became fascinated with all types of anti-establishment causes:
If only I had a penny for every “alienated” Harvard student. Amiright?
Certainly, a raconteur, Obama’s story would seem quaint if it weren’t for a couple of inconvenient facts.
The first being that Obama’s best friend at Harvard was a white guy named Rob Fisher. And what did punk-rock, structural feminist loving, neocolonialism discussing Rob go on to do? Start up a communist revolutionary group in the mountains of Chile? Become a Franz Fanon, W.E.B. DuBois college professor at Hampshire College?
Fisher spent the past 20+ years overseeing various functions at the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Secondly, how many haters of “the man” become the president of the Harvard Law Review, as Obama did (even though it appears he was more interested in the credential than the actual work since it doesn’t appear he produced any)?
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Then there is Obama’s inability to separate his politician stage performance from Obama the human being (because we all know politicians, while they are some type of creature, are not human).
And in the most daming section, Garrow claims that Obama is simply an utter fraud.
Obama the User
Garrow’s second observation is that Obama treats everyone around him like tissue paper. Once he blows his nose in you, you’re useless and will be discarded in the trash.
Aside from the previously mentioned Fisher, Obama has no long-term friends. You’d think a guy who has been as civically involved as he has been (or has claimed to be, at least) would be a people accumulator. That he would have deep roots in the communities he supposedly helped organize. What happened to those people?
Even in their times of need, Obama abandoned them.
Whether it was only reaching out to old girlfriends to ensure they would not reveal any of his secrets to the press, ignoring them when he passes them on the street, or even having a commitment to the political party that gave him his career, he cares nothing for any of it if it doesn’t directly serve his interests at the moment.
Of all the low blows, for Garrow to compare Obama’s level of insecurity to that of Trump’s must be a kick in the old structural feminism nuts.
Obama the Superficial Ego Maniac
The final and most evident trait to anyone who has cast a critical eye on Obama over the past 15+ years is his superficiality and narcissism. Here is a passage from the interview that best encapsulates that aspect of Obama’s state of mind:
I obviously don’t know Obama, but I’ve worked with people with this same blind spot in their memories. I unfailingly see in those people that they steadfastly believe they have never failed; they have only been failed by others. I suspect that’s why Obama can’t recall his shortcoming and failures because, much like John Cusack’s character in the early-2000 thriller, Identity, if he admitted to himself that he had either of these, his entire edifice of himself would come crumbling down.
This egotism also infected (and potentially continues to infect, depending on how involved you think he is in the Biden administration) critical policy decisions:
The highest virtue for Obama is that he must look good; all other consequences be damned.
Obama’s sense of grandiosity invaded his most intimate relationships, going as far back as his early college days:
Even look how he treats the guy writing a biography about him:
Managing Obama’s fragile ego was so critical to his cult of personality that his underlings at the White House knew they had to genuflect before it every chance they had. This bit is some Samuels:
Methinks you doth protesteth too much, Mr. Rhodes.
This summary better comprises the key elements of the Tablet interview and provides insights from the man who may know Obama better than anyone else because, unlike the rest of the corporate media, he was interested in learning the truth.
And remember that Restack!