Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Michelle Obama and the Gospel of Bitterness


Scott Johnson at Powerline lays out a compelling thesis on the "gospel of bitterness" that drives Barack Obama and his wife's politics.

The key here, though, is that Barack's stump speeches are more polished than are Michelle's. She spews bitterness, of course, and as a power couple, the Obamas are representative of the elite thinking among many "what's the matter with Kansas" Democrats:

Michelle Obama seethes with bitterness. While she preaches the gospel according to Barack, she wears resentment and bitterness on her sleeve. It is therefore painful to listen to her. She's apparently even still angry about her SAT scores. She didn't test well in school, she explains. Somehow, she has overcome.

Mrs. Obama seeks to convey convey the impression -- she expands on the theme at great length -- that Senator Obama's campaign is, to borrow Joe McCarthy's formulation, the victim of "a conspiracy so immense..." It is not clear whether the Obama campaign can overcome the power of these sinister forces.

According to Mrs. Obama, the Obama campaign has been constrained by nameless forces constantly changing the rules of the game and thereby preventing Senator Obama from securing the nomination. Who are "they"? Mrs. Obama says just enough about these nameless forces for us to infer that "they" include the Clintons and their supporters. "They" seem also (incredibly) to include the mainstream media. These nameless forces have approximately the same specificity as the names on Joe McCarthy's list.

In her North Carolina speech Mrs. Obama reiterates the condescending political sociology that she elaborated in her Fort Wayne remarks and that Barack Obama preached at his closed-door fundraiser with the San Francisco Democrats. Given the modesty of her and her husband's family backgrounds, Mrs. Obama denies that she or her husband could be elitists.

Yet Mrs. Obama's political sociology comfortably fits the What's the Matter With Kansas? school of thought held by the Demoratic Party's liberal elite. Indeed, it was an elite group of wealthy San Francisco Democrats to whom Barack Obama was preaching the gospel of bitterness in San Francisco.

Mrs. Obama mocks the notion that she and her husband are elitists. She implicitly asserts that only those born to wealth are capable of looking down their noses at their fellow citizens. She does not think highly of those of us who want to be left alone by advocates of the administrative welfare state such as she and her husband. Moreover, she finds us guilty of making our children the victims of our fears. We are raising "young doubters." (I confess!)

But aren't those in her audience afraid of the sinister forces struggling to hold the Obamas down? Apparently not any more than she is. If her remarks were to be believed, they would by themselves instill deep fears. Her audience seems to understand that her impassioned whining is not to be taken seriously.

She says that she and Barack were born to parents of modest means, not with "silver spoons" in their mouths. Nobody knows the trouble they've seen. The burden of paying for her undergraduate education at Princeton and her law school education at Harvard has scarred her. It remains a motif of her stump speech. No one is accorded a chance to ask her if she thought about attending the University of Illinois, or if she's grateful for any of the financial assistance that facilitated her and her husband's attendance at the finest institutions of higher learning in the United States.
Note too, Christopher Hitchens' post yesterday, where he warned that we're getting two-for-the-price-of-one in Barack's presidential bid:
What can it be that has kept Obama in Wright's pews, and at Wright's mercy, for so long and at such a heavy cost to his aspirations? Even if he pulls off a mathematical nomination victory, he has completely lost the first, fine, careless rapture of a post-racial and post-resentment political movement and mired us again in all the old rubbish that predates Dr. King. What a sad thing to behold. And how come? I think we can exclude any covert sympathy on Obama's part for Wright's views or style—he has proved time and again that he is not like that, and even his own little nods to "Minister" Farrakhan can probably be excused as a silly form of Chicago South Side political etiquette. All right, then, how is it that the loathsome Wright married him, baptized his children, and received donations from him? Could it possibly have anything, I wonder, to do with Mrs. Obama?

This obvious question is now becoming inescapable, and there is an inexcusable unwillingness among reporters to be the one to ask it. (One can picture Obama looking pained and sensitive and saying, "Keep my wife out of it," or words to that effect, as Clinton tried to do in 1992 when Jerry Brown and Ralph Nader quite correctly inquired about his spouse's influence.) If there is a reason why the potential nominee has been keeping what he himself now admits to be very bad company—and if the rest of his character seems to make this improbable—then either he is hiding something and/or it is legitimate to ask him about his partner.

I direct your attention to Mrs. Obama's 1985 thesis at Princeton University. Its title (rather limited in scope, given the author and the campus) is "
Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be "read" at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language. Anyway, at quite an early stage in the text, Michelle Obama announces that she's much influenced by the definition of black "separationism" offered by Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton in their 1967 screed Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. I remember poor Stokely Carmichael quite well. After a hideous series of political and personal fiascos, he fled to Africa, renamed himself Kwame Toure after two of West Africa's most repellently failed dictators, and then came briefly back to the United States before electing to die in exile. I last saw him as the warm-up speaker for Louis Farrakhan in Madison Square Garden in 1985, on the evening when Farrakhan made himself famous by warning Jews, "You can't say 'Never Again' to God, because when he puts you in the ovens, you're there forever." I have the distinct feeling that the Obama campaign can't go on much longer without an answer to the question: "Are we getting two for one?" And don't be giving me any grief about asking this. Black Americans used to think that the Clinton twosome was their best friend, too. This time we should find out before it's too late to ask.
I've noted many times - after first hearing Michelle Obama's comments that she's never been proud to be American - that I cringe at the thought of having Mrs. Obama as first lady.

Some have suggested that we elect the president and not his wife, but the office of the first lady has always been a integral component of any presidential administration, and over the last few decades first ladies have often served as powerful political actors in their own rights. Just this morning
First Lady Laura Bush spoke out on Myanmar, urging the government to allow humantarian relief teams into the country; last fall Mrs. Bush called on Myanmar's ruling junta to step down.

Hillary Clinton's claims to expertise on healthcare derives from her experience spearheading health policy reform as first lady in the Clinton administration. We could go back at least to Edith Wilson to look at historically powerful first ladies.

Michelle Obama, reflecting on the
possible "emulation" of Hillary Clinton's precedent as first lady, suggested a potentially activist role in a Barack Obama administration:

I never think in terms of her or anybody else, because I don't know Hillary Clinton … I don't think I can honestly emulate somebody else. I think I can only be who I can be in this role. And that's going to come with all the pluses and minuses and baggage and insecurities and all the things that I'll bring into it, plus my hopes and dreams along with it.
All the pluses and minuses, the baggage and bitterness.

All the more reason to vote McCain.

Phote Credit: Newsweek