Grifters on Parade
The nearly simultaneous exposure of the false claims of Elizabeth Warren to Cherokee ancestry and Obama's to Kenyan nationality is an example of two events that are not quite a pure coincidence. While each of these episodes is causally unrelated, what we're seeing is the same process working itself out in two distinct cases.
As all the world knows, an author's bio written in the early '90s stated that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. There is little or no possibility that it was printed without his knowledge. (One of the similarities between the two cases is that the institutions involved simply repeated what the principals said.) The bio made the Kenya claim because that's what Obama told its fabricators to put down. Furthermore, the claim was allowed to stand for over a decade, being edited out only in 2006.
So what are we to make of this? With anyone else, the case would be open and shut. But as we've come to learn regarding Obama, there are always layers beneath layers, going all the way down to the level of the fabled turtle that holds everything up. While Obama could have made the claim because it was true, it is just as likely that he did so because it was convenient at the time or served some purpose not obvious at first glance. The one undeniable axiom concerning Obama is that he lets no opportunity to help himself out slip past unexploited.
I have always been skeptical of the Kenya birth claim because there is no positive evidence for such an occurrence. All the evidence presented thus far has been circumstantial (when not simply fabricated), pointing in several directions and capable of being matched to a number of mutually exclusive hypotheses. As is often true in such cases, the simplest, most spectacular, and most unproveable theory of them all has seized public attention.
An unfortunate side-effect of the birth debate is that it has served to mask the bulk of the undeniable questions surrounding Obama's record, in particular his college records, which have faded almost to invisibility. In the light of the fake bio, they may well have been transformed into the most critical element of them all.
So we turn to Elizabeth Warren. In comparison to Obama, Warren's case is simplicity itself: she was claiming to be something she was not in order to ease her climb up the academic ladder. Warren asserted herself to be an American Indian, a Cherokee (as is usually the case with such assertions; few whites claim to be Sioux or Ute, and never Crow or Modoc), on grounds that have proven to be flimsy to illusory. Her case rests on a document that research by the Breibart sites has demonstrated to be nonexistent. At best, Warren can claim to be a laughably small proportion Indian (1/32 or even 1/64); at worst, she is exactly what she appears to be -- a member of the WASP tribe putting on the war paint to fool her fellow palefaces.
The reasons for this imposture are straightforward. The '90s were the peak of the political correctness craze, which was centered in American academia. At the time, you had to be something apart from white, male, and straight to get ahead in the academic world. The higher the identity tokens were stacked -- African, Arab, immigrant, gay, disabled, transsexual, and so on, ad infinitum -- the greater the benefits (there were a lot of jokes about this at the time). Warren, already female, decided to throw in the Indian card as well to trump the competition. The record shows that she played it for all it was worth, aiming war arrows at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and a number of professional associations, as well as reasserting the claim in print in her cousin's damnfool cookbook. And until only weeks ago, it worked out well for her. Warren achieved the highest academic positions, served as advisor to the president, and was a candidate for a powerful federal position, and now she has a shot at the U.S. Senate. All of this is based on a single untruth about her ethnic background. Clearly, Warren is something of a poster girl for affirmative action.
Warren may also have given us the key to the Obama records conundrum. Obama was making his way through the Ivies at roughly the same time as Warren, during the period when PC was becoming dominant. He dealt with exactly the same environment on exactly the same terms, as a privileged minority among many such, seeking any extra edge available to him. Obama was black -- at least in part -- which represents the hole card as regards diversity, trumping feminism, sexuality, and almost any brand of foreign origin. We know he played that to the hilt. But there were plenty of other blacks breaking into academia at the time. Obama faced a lot of competition, the same as Warren did from other females. But Obama, also like Warren, possessed another card. That is...if you didn't look too closely.
That was the Kenya connection. It's quite likely he didn't even have to make the claim explicitly. In the atmosphere of the time, educational institutions were desperate to pad the roster by any and every means in order to demonstrate their "diversity." All that Obama needed to do was simply mention that his father was a Kenyan political personality, and well-programmed academic functionaries would fill in the rest. From that point on, all that was required of young Obama was to silently agree. Everybody knew that Barack Obama was Kenyan. I mean, with a name like that?
What would status as a foreigner, an African in particular, buy him in the academic environment? Authenticity, over and above all. As an African, Obama embodied something that American blacks could not claim. He was a serious third-worlder, in the pure Frantz Fanon sense, within a milieu where third-world figures are automatically granted sainthood. And beyond that, it may very likely have resulted in financial rewards, in the form of grants or scholarships (his father, after all, was a beneficiary of such a program). Without opening the records, we will never know.
As time went by, he grew more casual about it, and began making the claim in things like an author's bio, secure in the assumption that nobody would question Harvard's imprimatur concerning his status.
Then, when the lie became inconvenient -- when Obama began thinking of the presidency -- the claim was either scrubbed or locked up behind academic privacy walls, all except for oddities like the bio in question. He could depend on the functionaries at Columbia and Harvard to say nothing, and if there were few odd bits and pieces floating around -- as, of course, there inevitably were -- it didn't matter. Because he had, after all, been born in Hawaii, and try as they might, nobody could prove differently.
He must have been awfully pleased at how neatly it all worked out.
I'll be the first to admit that this is no more than another hypothesis. But the parallels between the two cases -- academia, ethnicity, diversity, cheating, false claims -- are enticing and structurally impressive. If this isn't the explanation, I suspect it's very close.
I also suspect that Warren is finished. She has become a punchline, something no politician can afford. And Obama?
Claiming that you're a foreigner is not an impeachable offense, not even illegal, as such. But it is perfectly in line with the squalid personality and record of our hustler president. He has failed as a leader, he has failed as a statesman, and he is now failing as a fraud. It's really too bad he didn't choose to present himself as, say, a quarter Cherokee. Was it something about the cheekbones?
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.