The women in Obama’s life and their effect on his personality and politics

Spengler, writing at Asia Times Online, has one of the more fascinating attacks I’ve seen on Barack Obama, and one that exposes some Obama history about which I was blissfully unaware. I knew that Michelle Obama, in her role as candidate’s wife, has forced herself to speak positively about America, to the point where she even grudgingly admitted that, given the positive response to Obama, she’s actually (and for the first time ever) proud of her country, although in a very limited way. I knew, too, that she likes to put him down in public, speaking denigratingly of his ineptitude at home and his morning breath, points that were perhaps meant to humanize him but that, in fact, just make her look angry.

What I didn’t know, though, was that Obama’s mother comes from the far, far Left, and raised him in a deeply anti-American environment:

Friends describe her [Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother] as a “fellow traveler”, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero’s student visa was revoked in 1967 – the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.

Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia’s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.


Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.

I’m not arguing that the sins of the father should be visited on the children. As I’ve frequently discussed here, my father was raised as a Communist although he was a solid Democrat during my life. He would never have voted Communist, but he did carry with him the anger and pessimism that characterized Communism, and he was really incapable of seeing America’s virtues, which he always viewed as instruments of oppression. However, I am not my father. I have explicitly disavowed those viewpoints and, indeed, I never did support his more Leftist leanings. I loved him dearly and respected him greatly, but I did not agree with his more radical political beliefs.  Further, to the extent that I’ve left my own generic Democratic past, I have attempted to explain where I feel that the Democratic party changed (abandoning me), and where I have changed (abandoning the Democratic party).

Significantly, Obama has never done what I have done; namely, rejected explicitly the more distasteful views of his family and associates.  With regard to Obama’s careful silence on these hot topics, Spengler makes a rather stunning point about Obama’s personality and techniques:

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother’s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama’s methods. “A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,” wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world’s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis’ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power’s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.

Spengler’s language is even stronger than that which I’ve used (I’ve repeatedly called Obama a demagogue, but never a sociopathic), but fundamentally there is nothing in there with which I disagree.  I believe that Obama is a very scary political figure, and I devoutly hope that Americans will look at John McCain’s ebullient energy, his positiveness, if you will, and reject the scarily empty rhetoric that masks Obama’s deep dislike for America and its political and economic systems.

Hat tip: El Gordo