April 30, 2011
Race, Fantasy, and the New Yorker's EditorBy Jack Cashill
A New Yorker article by editor David Remnick gives away the game in the headline, "Trump, Birtherism, And Race-Baiting."
According to Remnick, the "irrepressible jackass" Trump has inspired idiot America to believe a series of fantasies about Barack Obama: "There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote "Dreams from My Father"; the fantasy that the President has some other father, and not Barack Obama, Sr.; the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam." Remnick adds as a Harvard subset the fantasy that Obama is "intellectually incapable."
"The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies," Remnick continues, "is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning." Bottom line, concludes Remnick, these fantasies "are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father."
Forgive me for taking this personally, but Remnick considers me one of the purveyors. Trump is at least worthy of his public scorn. I am apparently not. From the perspective of our Ivy-educated, Pulitizer Prize-winner, I and others like me are "the Other," unmentioned and unmentionable. To set the record straight, let us tackle these "fantasies" in reverse order.
The intellectually incapable fantasy
Curiously, it is Remnick himself in his Obama biography, The Bridge, who has best substantiated the charge that Obama did not deserve to get into Harvard. He tells us that Obama was an "unspectacular" student in his final two years at Columbia and at every stop before that going back to grade school. He quotes a Northwestern University prof who says of Obama, "I don't think he did too well in college." Remnick admits that Obama has inexplicably not contributed a single signed word of legal scholarship ever, anywhere, despite being president of the Harvard law Review.
How such an indifferent student got into a law school whose applicants' LSAT scores typically track between 98 to 99 percentile and whose GPAs range between 3.8 and 4.0 is a subject Remnick chooses not to explore. In another context, however, an unwitting Remnick quotes Obama who, when at Harvard, described himself as "someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career." Undoubtedly, yes.
The Saudi prince fantasy
In late March 2008, the venerable African American entrepreneur and politico Percy Sutton appeared on a local New York City show called "Inside City Hall." When asked about Obama, Sutton calmly and lucidly explained that he had been "introduced to [Obama] by a friend." The friend's name was Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, and the introduction had taken place about 20 years prior. Sutton described al-Mansour as "the principal adviser to one of the world's richest men."
What Sutton said made perfect sense. Khalid al-Mansour is an attorney and an excitable black separatist who has advised Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. Three months before the election, this should have mattered, but the story died a quick and unnatural death.
Moving in swiftly for the kill were Politico and Media Matters for America. Although they could not deny what Sutton had said, they took the word of an alleged family spokesman that Sutton "misspoke in describing certain details and events in that television interview." When Sutton's son and daughter protested that they did not even know this alleged spokesman, the media ignored them. Sutton has since died.
The some other father fantasy
Remnick unwittingly fueled this theory as well. In reviewing the poem "Pop," published under Obama's name as a college sophomore, Remnick says "'Pop' clearly reflects Obama's relationship with his grandfather Stanley Dunham."
The poem does no such thing. For starters, if the poem really were about "Gramps," Stanley Dunham, why didn't Obama simply call it "Gramps." The word "pop," after all, has obvious implications of paternity.
One line in the poem fully disqualifies Dunham: "he switches channels, recites an old poem/ He wrote before his mother died." Thirty seconds on Wikipedia would have informed Remnick that Dunham's mother died when he was eight years old. Frank Marshall Davis's mother died when he was twenty and had already established himself at Kansas State as a poet of promise.
In one of those hot flashes that give liberalism a bad name, Remnick describes Dunham's later introduction of his grandson to the bi-sexual pornographer and Communist Party member, Davis, as "one of the more thoughtful and consequential things Stanley did in his role as surrogate grandfather," almost as thoughtful perhaps as when mom introduced her 13 year-old to Roman Polanski.
When an insider like Remnick gets something this obviously wrong, I begin to suspect disinformation, not mere misinformation. Still, after reviewing the possibilities, I conclude in Deconstructing Obama that Obama Sr. was the most likely father of the president.
The Bill Ayers authorship fantasy
Of course, Bill Ayers served as Obama's muse and then some. Ample evidence abounds that Obama is and always has been a barely adequate writer. If Remnick read Deconstructing Obama, he would know why this case is closed. Celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen confirmed the same in his Obama-friendly book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage. Ayers himself has taken unprompted credit on several occasions, admittedly with just enough irony to preserve the emotional health of the American literati. I would be happy to debate Remnick on this subject any time, any place. In the meantime, I would ask him to look at my Book-TV presentation posted at Cashill.com.
The birther fantasy
In the American Thinker piece The Obama Lie That Drove the Birther Movement, I explain the media's role in suppressing that lie -- namely that the Obama family lived together for the first two-plus years of the president's life. This is no incidental data bit. Obama's "signature appeal," says Remnick, was "his the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal."
But here too, Remnick deserves to be singled out for fanning birther fires with his inexcusable misreporting of Obama's early years. What birthers have known for some time is that the little Obama family never lived together. Remnick has yet to catch on. In his "definitive" biography, Ann stays home with the baby while Obama Sr. "was in classes, studying at the library, and out drinking with his friends." In reality, by the time Obama Sr. returned to class at the University of Hawaii in the fall of 1961, Ann and the baby had left for Seattle.
As Remnick tells it, Obama Sr. leaves Ann and the baby for Harvard in June 1962 after discussing his options with Ann. This makes no sense. Ann was still in Seattle as Remnick himself later concedes. Worse, Remnick makes no attempt to explain how Obama Sr. could abandon a wife and child who had long since abandoned him. Then, too, Remnick acknowledges that Obama Sr. left before Obama's first birthday, not when Obama was two as Obama has repeatedly said. Again, Remnick calls no attention to the discrepancy.
Likely to sustain the illusion of a real family, Remnick invents a visit by Ann and the baby to Harvard in the fall of 1962. Yet even this detail is contradicted by his admission that Ann had just returned to Hawaii and moved in with her parents. Remnick's botch of Obama's first two years makes more sense as a conscious effort to finesse the reality of Obama's life with his "signature appeal" than as serious biography.
Finally, if there is a racist in the crowd it is surely Remnick himself. He makes more references to the "intelligence" or "brilliance" of his subject than Walter Isaacson does to the subject of his recent bestseller, Albert Einstein. Literally. Although a bright enough guy, Obama was always a mediocre student and hack writer. The always-observant Shelby Steele, himself bi-racial, sums up the thinking of moral poseurs like Remnick: "Blacks like Obama, who show merit where mediocrity is expected, enjoy a kind of reverse stigma, a slightly inflated reputation for ‘freshness' and excellence because they defy expectations."
By what George Bush has called "the soft bigotry of low expectations," Remnick has elevated Obama into the Second Coming incarnate and given him a nativity story worthy of that designation. Unfortunately, little of this saga withstands scrutiny. To protect it, Remnick calls those who would challenge Obama "racist," today, truly, the last refuge of the scoundrel.
See also: The Obama Lie That Drove the Birther Movement